Evading the Google Adwords Slap – Guide to a Great Quality Score

This post was guest blogged by Jonathan Volk, a 20-something internet marketer focusing on affiliate marketing.

Is Adwords getting you down with the dreaded “Poor” quality score? Here are some tips I use to coerce Google into giving me a great (or OK) quality score.

Tip Number 1: If your keyword list has been slapped with POOR across the board, it’s time to delete the entire campaign and restart using some of the tips below. Rebuild your campaign and if it still does not work, look at the last tip for a solution.

Tip Number 2: I have found many times that the poor quality score was from trying to stick too many broad keywords into one group. Try breaking your keywords up into related groups. If you have a ton of long tail keywords (meaning keywords that are more specific: IE “Find local singles California”), try to find two or three words in common for each adgroup.

Tip Number 3: Start your campaign bidding high. Find the eCPC of the offer you’re trying to promote by asking your affiliate manager for the average of the offer. Next, bid ~ 40% of the average eCPC. This will keep your Click through rate up while you have a chance to refine your ads.

Tip Number 4: Split test your ads. Use A/B testing on your ads. This will dramatically increase your click through rate (CTR) and eventually your quality score can go from OK to GREAT.

Tip Number 5: If you still are getting a POOR quality score, try removing all the BROAD keywords and readd them using phrase and exact match. To add the keywords as phrase and exact match you just re-add the keywords with the following format “keyword1” and [keyword1].

Tip Number 6: If after everything you’re still getting a POOR quality score, you’ll need to optimize your landing page a bit more. Use the phrase and exact match keywords and sprinkle them throughout your landing page a bit more. It doesn’t take a ton of keywords to raise it just that little bit. Perhaps just adding a keyword or two into your title tag could help. Add some ALT tags and TITLE tags.

Tip Number 7: If you’re STILL getting a POOR quality score, you’ll need to do some *special* optimization. Using a special tool called MOD_REWRITE for apache (which most servers have installed by default), we can trick Google into thinking we’re more relevant than we actually are.

First, we need to create (or append) some code to a .htaccess file. If you already have a .htaccess file in the public_html folder on your webserver, download it and append the following code to the end. Otherwise create a new text file in notepad and save it as htaccess.txt. Once you upload it to your server, rename it to .htaccess

For this example, I’m going to pretend we’re making a dating site.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteRule ^([^/]+)-dating/$ /index.php?keyword=$1 [L]

So what does this do? Now we can assign each keyword a special url that looks something like: “mysite.com/California-dating/” Notice the similarity to the .htaccess? We’re essentially replacing the ([^/]+) with whatever keyword we want.

This will load the index.php page as if you had typed in “mysite.com/index.php?keyword=California.” We have just dynamically redirected the url without Google ever knowing. πŸ™‚

You can change “California” in the url to anything and it will automatically load the new page with the new keyword.

Now, on your landing page at the very top add this code:

$keyword1 = $_GET[‘keyword’];

Next, anytime you want this keyword (in this example, California) to show on your landing page, simple add the following code.


Now you have a great way to optimize your landing page dynamically! Google loves this!

TIP Number 8: If you’ve tried all the above and still cannot get the quality score to get off of POOR, you can try buying a new domain. From my experience you can buy a new domain name and transfer the same content onto the new domain. In every case I’ve done this the result has been an OK or GREAT quality score.

This works because Google’s quality score can sometimes get so bad on a particular domain that all hope of redeeming the domain back to an OK quality score is faint. Buying a new domain essentially is giving you a fresh slate.

54 thoughts on “Evading the Google Adwords Slap – Guide to a Great Quality Score”

  1. Actually, it’s getting me down with the “excellent” score!
    As silly as that sounds the keywords I have at 5 cent minimums still return the “bid not high enough to be shown” message. Whats the point of getting a 5 cent minimum if they don’t show against others paying 30 cents+ ?!?

    The ads seem to work just fine anyway so I’ll chalk it up to a mistaken error message. Good tips Mr Volk.

    1. Another tip, related to #5. Plan your FIRST ad copy VERY carefully in any campaign, it seems the entire campaign gets weighted on that first ad. I’ve found that when I write a laser acurate copy I get great scores on my following ad copies that have the “sub:” command. On the flip side when my first ad copy IS the “sub:” etc the entire campaign suffers with higher prices for a long while. Take the time to write out a very accurate 1st ad version if you plan on using the “sub keywords” method later.

      1. Steven says:

        In response to your 5 cent min bid… often times after google requires you to run at a very high bid, it starts to go down as your quality scores among other factors goes up. Even if your quality score doesn’t improve, sometimes Google will lower the bidding after you’ve run the campaign for 2-3 days. I realize that it can be costly to get there but unfortunately that is the way it is sometimes.

        On another related note, it also depends on your account with Google. People who have 2 accounts have ran and tested this theory before. Say you have 2 accounts, account1 and account2. In both accounts you are running the SAME EXACT campaigns. Same keywords, same ads, same adgroups, same everything. One will possibly be much lower in terms of bid price than the other. This could be due to history with your google account having age, overall high quality score, etc… Sometimes its the other way around, your new account does better for whatever reason probably because your older account had a bad history or Google is out of whack.

        Don’t concern yourself too much on the initial bids because when done correctly, they will fall.

        1. If it is a brand new account, then quality is usually starting to build up after about 3 days. Also, even though google allows you to post live with a review, your ad still goes through a review processes. If your account does not have a history or a good one then they will start off high until your ad is reviewed and determined valid. They allow you to post immediatly but there is still a review process.

          Quality score is assigned at multiple levels. At the account, the adgroup, the text ad and the keyword. So if you start a brand new campaign on an account that had an old campaigns before, your CPC will be lower than a brand new campaign with identical “everything”

      2. Will says:

        really? I’ve never taken note on that. I will keep that in mind. Also, do you mean “sub:” as in {KeyWord:}?

      3. Alan Johnson says:

        I agree that your first ad copy is extremely important so that simply trowing something together for the sake of it is not an option.

        Alan Johnson

  2. Thanks for the tips on optimizing your pages dynamically with the little php tricks. I’ll have to try that out the next time I do some PPC.

    1. Yup! πŸ™‚ Use it wisely! Hehe

  3. About #7, Google knows all, I’d suggest not using that method if you’re in it for the long haul.

    1. I’ve had campaigns working for months all with great quality scores.

      There is nothing against rules of using mod_rewrite.

  4. krillz says:

    just a small advice, when you use for example $_GET[‘keyword’] without taking necessary safety precautions before handling the data in that variable can be very dangerous for you site.

    You should add that people shouldn’t just go ahead and use that without applying some security checks to exclude exploit attacks.

    Otherwise, good list.

    1. Yea. This is a good point. I recommend people adding security measures to the code. It’s a just a “shell”

    2. Will says:

      Could you elaborate on how this could be exploited?

      1. That might encourage someone, but it would be good to know because I have no idea.

  5. I would slap the technique as semi-black hat.

    Fact remains that if you generate content that is ONLY search engine friendly, you may earn a short income.

    If you create QUALITY CONTENT you will attract living human beings who come back, follow through RSS and buy.

    Face it. Look at this very blog. Do you come back because it ranks high? No way! Take a look at Google. It doesn’t….
    You’re coming back because there is good content on the site… πŸ™‚

    PS: Even though the question about who has won the Ruff pc among John Chow comment-writers is STILL an open question. πŸ˜€

    1. Yea John, what happened to the Ruff PC contest? Maybe you haven’t received the laptop yet?

  6. this is really bad advice. I posted a rebuttal to all these tips as to why they are all wrong. I am sure a trackback will show up shortly

    1. I have to disagree with your rebuttal on point 1 because in my own experience I have seen that deleting a campaign and rebuilding it has completely changed the bid prices. It has been several months since I’ve done this so it may not work now, but I have seen it work.

      1. Kabatology says:

        That’s very true, cancelling to rebuild with Adwords is not always advantageous. 😯

  7. ok i dont see the trackback so here is the link to my blog with the rebuttal to all these tips


  8. I am considering Adwords as advertising means. Don’t know yet if it’s worth it and I am checking multiple sources. Good thing I found a great difference of opinion down here!:) I have more options to pick and test.

    1. Alan Johnson says:

      Be sure to try other networks on for size as well and see what works for you. It’s hard to speak in general terms and it’s not a matter of which network is the best one. The real issue is finding out which network is the best one for you.

      Alan Johnson

  9. rb post says:

    I basically agree with all the suggestions with the exception of Suggestion# 8. Buying a new domain name should only take place if someone never achieved a decent ranking in the first place. Take John, for example. He managed to go around Google and maintain a high-ranking site. There’s not many who have done that.

    I think it makes much more sense to simply revitalize and work within an existing site.

    Just my two cents.

    1. Buying a new domain name more applies to those in affiliate marketing in which their only traffic source is Pay per click. Just though I’d through that in there. πŸ™‚

  10. Surfer Sam says:

    I checked out the affiliate sign-up page at http://www.ttzmedia.com.
    Firefox displays the page correctly, but IE6 on my computer garbles the page and hides the field names in the sign-up form for affiliates.
    I wish you much success with your undertaking.
    Surfer Sam

  11. Seriously i am confused. πŸ˜₯

  12. Some good tip’s mentioned here, for “newbies” to the cpc market.

  13. David Chew says:

    Nice post, really useful.

  14. Kym Huynh says:

    Hmm I need to get into the Google Adwords thing. Never really looked into it too much myself.

  15. Thanks so much for the great article, I am considering using adwords to promote my webmaster discussion community but I am unsure if its really worth it or not? But I will keep this in mind if I do decide to go the adwords route! πŸ˜€

    1. What you need to do for that is find the Value per visitor on average. Find how much money you make per person you send and then use that information to bid on your keywords.

      Perhaps use the google analytics “Goal conversion” code and put it on your registration page to track how many visits of a particular keyword convert to registered members.

      πŸ™‚ Hope that helps.

      1. Alan Johnson says:

        Exactly, your PPC campaign should be treated as an investment and, as such, making more money than you invest is the name of the game, it’s really all trial&error.

        Alan Johnson

  16. Googlelady says:

    You can check my free e-book:

    to prevent to get slapped! ❗

  17. Ruck says:

    @ How to rule the world – Your right. Jonathan doesn’t know what he’s talking about yet just had his first 3K day with PPC and consistent days of 2K. It’s actually sound advice and would be curious to know how your doing in PPC. There are whities and blackies and it will come down on to how your run your business. Yours is obviously slow.

    @ rb post – We are talking about PPC not SEO here. Your confused.

    Looks like this post flew over most of everyone’s heads. Congrats on the 3K Jonathan, wait till the 5K days bro…your going to get there quick!

    1. I am a PPC strategist and analyst for fortune 50 companies. I manage budgets that spend more in a day then you make in a year. Trust me, I know what I am talking about, and advice like this will lose a client by the end of a month.

      I am glad he has a successful affiliate campaign going, good job on that, but this is bad advice to avoid the google slap.

  18. Matthew says:

    Every time I think that I’ve got a full grasp on Adwords, I find that I have much to learn. Adwords is one of those things that no one will ever truly “master” since the variables that are involved are seemingly infinite. Great post.

    1. Alan Johnson says:

      You have a lot of testing and tweaking ahead of you since sure, it is important to gain knowledge but it is even more important to put it to good use, try everything on for size and learn from your own mistakes as well.

      Alan Johnson

    2. You’re right. There is no one way that guarantees anything in Adwords. A lot of it is testing and just getting a “feel” for it.

  19. Will says:

    I’ve got to say that this is one of the best posts I’ve read in awhile.

    1. Thanks! πŸ™‚ I appreciate it.

  20. rachid says:

    I’ll definitely have to try out that mod_rewrite trick πŸ™‚

  21. brad says:

    lol, excellent tips. i don’t know how you keep posting great content. Day after day. I run outta ideas so fast.

  22. Ryan says:

    Very good post! I gave your code a shot and for some reason I am getting no change at all. My urls are appearing just like your example “mysite.com/index.php?keyword=California”. Am I possibly doing something wrong?

    1. iBusiness says:

      I was wondering same thing..any more tip to fix that?

  23. Gringo says:

    Nice tips! Interesting article!

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