Last month, we posted about upcoming Quality Score improvements -- and today, we're following up to notify you that these changes will take effect in all advertisers' accounts over the next few days. In addition, we'd like to answer a number of the more common questions we've recently heard from our advertisers.

To briefly summarize our earlier post, we have incorporated three main improvements to Quality Score:
  • Quality Score is now more accurate -- because it is calculated at the time of each search query

  • Keywords are no longer marked 'inactive for search' -- all keywords are active because they are evaluated for every relevant query

  • 'First page bid estimates' replace 'minimum bids' in your account -- providing a more actionable and useful metric to advertisers
Below are answers to the most common questions we've heard, in each of these three areas:

Quality Score

Many advertisers wanted to know specifically how this launch affects the way we calculate Quality Score.

We will still consider your account's history, which consists of the clickthrough rate (CTR) of all the ads and keywords in your account. We will also consider your landing page quality. Although your overall Quality Score is evaluated at the time of each query, landing page quality is evaluated less frequently.

Inactive for Search Status

We received three main types of questions about Inactive for Search Status. You've asked why we were doing this, how this would affect your traffic levels, and how this would affect the number of ads shown.

Through all our Ads Quality changes, our goal is to improve the search experience by showing only the highest quality, most relevant ads -- and this change further enables us to meet this goal. By making all keywords active we will be able to evaluate keywords for any query where they may be relevant. Previously, keywords that were marked 'inactive for search' would never show ads on, even if they would have been a high quality match for certain queries.

Most keywords that are 'inactive for search' today will continue to accrue very few (or no) impressions due to their low Quality Score. For some currently inactive keywords, however, we may find that they perform very well for certain queries or in certain circumstances -- in which case, these keywords may begin to receive impressions.

Stated another way, this change does not mean that that every ad will be shown or that every query will show ads.

First Page Bid Estimates

Finally, for first page bid estimates, many of you were interested in learning how these would compare to your old minimum bids.

For queries without many advertisers competing for placement, the first page bid estimate should be relatively close to your existing minimum bid. However, queries with a high level of advertiser competition may have significantly higher first page bid estimates, because you'll likely need to bid above the old minimum bid to rank higher than your competition and show on the first page. Remember that you can bid less than your first page bid estimate and still show on subsequent pages -- as long as your keyword is relevant to our users.

Advertisers familiar with the competitive landscape for their keywords may indeed notice that the first page bid estimates provided are in line with the CPCs that they had been bidding to appear on the first page prior to the release of these Quality Score improvements, although this is not a given.

We hope this information helps answer your questions. And, as you become acclimated to these changes, we hope you will keep in mind their underlying purpose. These improvements are part of a continuing effort to deliver relevant ads to our users, and also to provide you with more control over your bidding and more insight into the quality of your ads and keywords.

For further information, please see these frequently asked questions.