Page Load Times Affect AdWords Quality Score

    March 5, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

Thanks to the diligence of a marketer (i.e., not to an announcement from Google), it is now known that Google instituted a new factor in determining the quality score for AdWords ads: landing page load time. In brief: slow landing page load times negatively impact quality scores, which increases minimum bids and ad placement rankings.

Google Logo Google Logo
(Photo Credit: Google )

Google made the change around February 8th, but it would be a month before a WebmasterWorld forum member discovered the change by sifting through several hundred pages of the AdWords FAQ. What would drive a person to do such a thing? Jkwilson78 says it was because of a poor keyword quality score, which means more money for not as good placement.

Judging by the suffering ROIs expressed by commentators in a previous article regarding Google’s new quality initiatives, not everybody is convinced cracking down on advertiser quality will help Google’s bottom line, or advertisers’. MSN, with its significantly higher ROI may be looking mighty attractive to advertisers lately, even if the volume is less.

But lower click volume for higher ROI is Google’s apparent goal. The philosophy: high quality advertisers provide higher incentive to click and better relevancy to searchers, and justify not only higher cost-per-click, but also an elitist placement scheme.  

Google’s relative silence about the change, though, leaves lots of room for speculation. They’re usually much more upfront about things that are not their core algorithm. It makes one wonder if Google is better-dealing smaller search marketers, who helped propel Google to glory well in advance of major brands, for big-budget clients. They do have shareholders to think about these days, and also the leverage of market share to make demands even in open auction settings.

I suppose it was inevitable.

At any rate (that being a higher rate), search marketers will from now on have to not only pay special attention to their web sites for organic search reasons, but also for paid search reasons. Load-time requirements shouldn’t be that much of a surprise—it’s been an algorithmic factor for some time.

The quality score is either negatively impacted or not impacted by load time—not positively influenced. It’s determined once a month, which leaves an obvious question: If my quality score is lowered, but then I fixed the load time, will I have to wait another month to see my quality score raised back to normal? Or, can load time, a good score for which doesn’t raise my quality score, restore the score to the original at all?

Google issued some tips for improving load times, which is all we get for now:

· Use fewer redirects.
· Reduce the page size by using fewer, smaller, and more highly-compressed images.
· Do not use interstitial pages.
· Minimize the use of iframes on your landing page.
· Contact your webmaster or webhosting provider to discuss other ways of improving your website’s load time.

A word of warning from Barry Schwartz: Watch out for dubious claims from hosting companies guaranteeing faster page load times, especially if they’re based on geographical proximity to Google’s servers. "Watch the hosting space, companies may be marketing higher Google AdWords quality scores guarantees with their hosting agreements."

Where there’s opportunity, there are opportunists. Some of the more skilled of them are working for el Goog these days.