AdWords Bidding, Targeting & Quality Score

Posted on March 9, 2012

In a previous article titled Introduction to Pay Per Click Advertising, we outlined many of the basic concepts involved with PPC campaigns.  If you are just starting out and have not already done so, we highly recommend a thorough reading to gain a firm understanding of these ideas before continuing.  In this tutorial we will be taking a more in depth look at two of the main aspects of setting up Google AdWords PPC—targeting potential clients and setting bids.  Although the principles in this article can be applied to almost any product or service, specifics will be discussed in the context of dentistry.


Geographic Targeting

When creating a new campaign in AdWords the very first option is to target locations, and the goal here is to choose all the places from which potential patients may be searching for you.  For service based businesses such as dentistry you will always want to select the ‘Let me choose’ option to enter specific cities.  Obviously at this point you need to pick the city where your practice is located, but you will also need to do a bit of analysis on additional locations that patients may be coming from.  There is no hard and fast rule for surrounding locations because trends will vary from market to market, and you yourself will probably have the best knowledge about what traveling distance patients are willing go.  It is advisable to select ‘Advanced Search’ and then the option for ‘Radius Targeting’.  Once entering your city, this will bring up a list of all locations within a selected radius that you can include or remove at your discretion.

Keyword Targeting

After you have completed the bidding options (discussed below) the next step in targeting potential patients is choosing the keyword(s) and/or keyword phrases they will be searching for.  This is the crux of AdWords’ usefulness as a marketing tool, but you will need to clearly define what exactly your goals are.

If a practice is using PPC to increase exposure to a wide variety of patients, they may choose very broad keywords such as ‘dentist’ or ‘San Francisco dentist’.  These get the most searches and will reach the greatest potential audience.  (Remember that even terms like ‘dentist’, without a location modifier, will still be limited to those people searching from the geographic areas selected in the above step.)

Conversely, if a practice is interested in targeting a niche of dentistry or even a specific procedure, the keywords chosen should reflect that.  Terms like ’emergency dentist San Francisco’, or ‘dental implants San Francisco’ will garner impressions and clicks from only those potential patients who have shown interest in that topic.  Since these specific terms typically receive far fewer overall searches, this is a great way to reduce overall costs while ensuring that the traffic you do receive is very valuable.


Under the ‘Bidding and Budget’ section there are several different ways to set up your campaign, and the two basic options are manual and automated bidding.  Under the automated bidding system, Google’s AdWords platform sets your bid price to maximize clicks within your daily budget.  This is the advisable route for those who are new to AdWords, since Google has much more data about historical search trends and can maximize your bids very efficiently.  If this is the option you choose, then the next step is to simply set the amount that you are willing to spend on a daily basis in the ‘Budget’ field.

If you are a more experienced user (or once you have gained more knowledge and data on your campaign) you can select the option to manually set your bids.  This will display a field in which to place a default bid for your ads.  The amount you should bid in this step will vary depending on historical campaign data, market size, keyword competitiveness, and your daily budget. Depending on these factors, for the profession of dentistry a decent default bid price should be anywhere in the range of $2.00 – $7.00, given that you have a high Quality Score (this is detailed in the next section). Remember that this is not exactly what each click will cost, it is the maximum cost you are willing to pay for a click. Again, the next step here is to simply set the amount that you are willing to spend on a daily basis in the ‘Budget’ field.

The final step you may want to take is to schedule start and end dates for your campaign.  The option is all the way at the bottom of the page under ‘Advanced settings’.  Setting an end date can be a good way to prevent you from forgetting about your campaign and then suddenly seeing large unexpected costs. Typically a month long trial is a good timetable to gain data and evaluate results. You can always remove the end date if your campaign is providing a return.

Quality Score and Its Effects

A Quality Score is metric calculated by Google that reflects the cumulative relevancy between 4 aspects: your advertisements, keywords, and website or landing page, and the term that was searched to trigger your ad.  It is measured on a scale of 1-10.  Every time a potential patient searches a term that triggers your ad, the Quality Score is instantaneously calculated and then multiplied with the bid price to determine Ad Rank.  The ads with the greatest Ad Rank are the ones that will appear (or appear in the higher positions).  Increasing bid price will result in more exposure and clicks, however it will also raise costs.  You would be much better served to increase Quality Score, as it will result in achieving higher positions at a lower overall cost.

Quality Score can be increased by manipulating certain aspects of your campaign such as: keywords, ad text, grouping, and your website or landing page.  But in many instances (if you have been diligent in selecting keywords and writing your ad) the contributing factor for low Quality Score could be narrowed to your website or destination URL.  This can be easily improved by utilizing a custom landing page.  From the ‘Ads’ tab click on the text of your ad to edit it, then set the destination URL to the most targeted page on your website.  For example, if your keywords are targeting a specific procedure like teeth whitening, then it would be more relevant to send visitors to a teeth whitening page.  This often requires adding new pages to your site, but it will have duel benefits of decreasing the cost of your ads as well as increasing the conversion of visitors, since they will be more likely to contact you once they find the specific information they were searching for.

Final Thoughts

With perhaps the two most important aspects of pay per click being successfully targeting your clients and choosing the right bidding scheme for your needs, it is definitely worth your time to become as familiar with these ideas as possible.  With this guide you should have a firm grasp on your local search market, as well as how you can manipulate bidding and increase your Quality Score.  Check back soon for our next article, in which we’ll discuss the ongoing management and optimization of your campaigns.

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