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The Importance of Ad Quality and Marketing Congruence for Converting Customers


June 16, 2022


June 16, 2022

The difference between hitting or missing your marketing goals is ad quality and the congruence between your target audience, the ad experience, and landing pages. Incorporating signals related to how consumers engage with your outbound marketing is critical to making the informed decisions needed to create a flywheel focused on driving media efficiency at scale.

Diagram depicting congruence between on- and off-platform marketing levers.

Understanding Ad Quality

Marketing channels like Google or Meta provide metrics for marketers to better understand their ad quality. Google has a metric called Quality Score for keywords and ads, which is an estimate (a score out of 10) of how relevant your ads, keywords, and landing pages are to a person who sees your ad. Meta’s Ad Manager (f.k.a Facebook Ads Manager) has a similar metric called quality ranking, which is their method of quantifying ad quality relative to other ads targeting the same users. 

Although the specific calculations and models involved with measuring ad quality are a black box, these tech firms have provided high-level guidance into the key signals. These signals include the target audience, creative itself, bidding and budget parameters, and, of course, the landing page.

Both platforms factor in different signals and weights from the advertiser(s) and users, but overall, a higher quality score leads to two outcomes:

  • Advertisers pay less to serve ads to consumers.
  • Consumers see more engaging and relevant ads from advertisers.

When these two are in sync, everyone wins. However, it’s not always that easy. Achieving congruence between the target audience, the ad experience, and the landing page experience requires detailed effort and experimentation. What makes sense for a Facebook Customer Acquisition campaign may not translate well for a campaign running on Google’s Display Network.

How ad quality affects your campaign performance

Whether you are in charge of customer acquisition, retention, or branding, relevance will dictate how well your campaigns perform. A common pitfall with media optimization is starting with a channel-led view vs. a customer-led one. Sometimes decision-makers will focus on only media metrics, such as CTRs or CPCs, which don’t always tell a complete story of how well a campaign is resonating with the target audience.

To win with consumers, key decision makers should provide thoughtful ad experiences throughout the customer’s journey and assign metrics that correlate with those moments. But as we know, the customer’s journey is not linear, so marketers need to take a human-centric approach, similar to design principles in their creative strategy, supporting the ad experience (on-platform) and landing page (off-platform) experience.

Focusing on both the ad and landing page experience will allow your message to resonate better with consumers and move them down their purchase journey.

Below are some starter considerations to discuss with your direct team and cross-functional partners to explore how to measure and optimize your creativity to achieve higher ad quality across your marketing channels.

How to Track and Monitor Your Ad Relevance Scores

Marketers should establish a baseline and measure changes moving forward to get started. In addition to general industry benchmarks for CPCs, CTRs, and CPMs, marketers should complement these insights with ad quality-related diagnostic metrics to hone into actionable next steps.

Platforms such as Google Analytics or Meta’s Ads Manager provide a great starting point to understand how your current marketing efforts are performing from an ad quality perspective. Some metrics to observe and explore are bounce rates for awareness focus media or average dwell time post-click. These metrics can help tell a complete story versus only looking at your CPMs or CTRs. Many of these platforms allow you to export data, so you can quickly build an internal view if you prefer.

Beyond overarching site analytics, platforms such as Google and Meta offer plenty of diagnostic resources and information to understand how your ads perform within campaigns.

For example, in Meta’s Ads Manager, ad quality (or quality ranking) measures a combination of signals, such as ad feedback, predicted click-through rates, hiding, etc., and general creative best practices (e.g., avoiding clickbait messaging), to estimate a ranking.

For the last 35 days, Meta’s Ads Manager will provide advertisers the following values for quality ranking, where average represents the 35th to 55th percentile:

  • Above Average
  • Average
  • Below Average (Bottom 35% of ads)
  • Below Average (Bottom 20% of ads)
  • Below Average (Bottom 10% of ads)

Similarly, Google Ads’ Quality Score is another diagnostic data point calculated based on expected CTRs (perceived customer value), ad relevance to the keywords, and landing page experience.

Excluding these data points can lead to higher-than-expected media costs and are worth incorporating into your overall evaluation. Please note these data points should not be your only source of truth toward understanding ad quality. As you continue to learn more about your customer and how they engage with your brand across various media channels, your data points and analysis will evolve.

Now that you know how to find your ad quality, how do you go from Below Average to Above Average?

Landing Page Strategy for Media Optimizations

Let’s take a look at the importance of landing page strategy to your overall approach to media optimization. At Airbnb, optimization best practices included both on-platform levers and off-platform levers in collaboration with cross-functional teams across SEO, design, data science, and creative to improve conversion rates, which improved ad performance.

The core principles in Airbnb’s landing page strategy were site speed performance, visual clarity, and minimalism. This carried over into our creative design for ads. Over time, we ensured that the ad was essentially an extension, or preview, of the landing page. One of their iconic landing pages for a guest showcased a unique listing in the background, further emphasizing Airbnb’s value prop of impressive inventory.

Screenshots of Airbnb landing pages demonstrating ad quality best practices.

To complement the site’s human-centric design, marketing (at the time) ensured that creative assets (imagery, videos, etc.) were also featured above the fold on the landing page. This unity between the ad experience and landing page experience was crucial in improving conversion rates, especially for prospecting and returning guests. However, a simplistic design featuring images above the fold or leveraging dynamic product ads didn’t occur to the team overnight. There were multiple permutations of the creative (including multiple calls-to-action, imagery, and copy variant testing) on the landing page. An experimentation roadmap kept the team focused and continuously learning to get meaningful insight.

A tip for making this scaleable is to leverage feed-based creative, such as Meta’s Dynamic Product Ads. If feeds are too complicated for your team, even multi-image Carousel Ads can do the trick. 

Simply ensure the images showcased in your ads, whether dynamic or static, are congruent to prevent friction on the consumer’s end. The less friction (thinking, searching, etc.) the consumer has to do, the easier it is for them to move down your marketing funnel.

Test, Learn, Iterate, Repeat (TLIR)

With an understanding (observed baseline) of how relevant your ads are to your target audiences, creating a backlog of hypotheses focused on the impactful optimizations will be easier. Once you start experimenting, you’ll be pulled into the flywheel of continuous learning and optimizations.

If you’re still stuck on where to focus, typically, marketers begin with understanding if their outbound marketing needs a refresh. Creative fatigue, or creative saturation, is an excellent starting point to address and can help inform and develop a systematic approach toward refreshing non-seasonal creative. 

Leading indicators for creative fatigue will vary by brand, audience size, and campaign objective. For example, for a given prospecting (or awareness) campaign on Facebook for a CPG product, the audience is generally large. And creative wear-in can take several weeks, if not a couple of months. 

A key metric(s) to monitor over time would be the site-visit rates from the campaign or an increase in bounce rates. Understanding when your collective creative reached an inflection point of gradual decline can paint a clear picture of when creative fatigue occurred for that particular audience. 

Again, one set of signals won't explain all the variation in creative performance. Historical site visit rates, or conversion rates for direct response tactics, platform ad quality, and share of voice (ad reach / total addressable market (TAM)) can help inform a creative refresh. The threshold for the metrics above will vary from brand to brand, so running this exercise is strongly recommended to give you a baseline.

The good news with isolating creative fatigue is you will start to visualize this creative and audience dynamics. Understanding how your consumers respond to your creative over time helps get to the root of your media problems. Furthermore, you can schedule resources to perform creative refreshes before the next inflection point of decline settles in.

If you want to incorporate creative testing into your creative refresh, here is a template that can be used to help guide an experiment.

Tackling ad creative fatigue

Creative fatigue testing and optimizations can be paralleled with an off-platform experiment focused on the landing page. At Airbnb, we tested lightweight versions of our site to see if site speed had a statistically significant impact on Facebook and Google conversion rates. Similarly, landing page optimization was also a core optimization lever at Walmart. There, we tested and iterated a great deal before the peak holiday season to determine which types of category landing pages would yield the best conversion rates just in time for the biggest spending period of the year.

Remember that timing is everything. You can have the soundest experiment ready, but launching during the wrong time can skew your results. As you gather insight into what makes the most sense to test, organizing your experiments based on timing is critical.

Key Takeaways for Improving Ad Quality and Congruence

  • Ad quality is more than just having the correct copy and images paired together. Ad quality ensures the customer has a positive experience with your brand. If the customer is engaged and finds your content relevant, there will be less friction throughout their journey.
  • Establish a baseline and gather insights from your marketing partners. Before demanding more creative resources, or changes, leverage diagnostic tools and internal data to create a baseline and share that more broadly within your team.
  • Test, Learn, Iterate, Repeat (TLIR). Connect with measurement experts (internally or externally) to put together experiments that will have statistically significant results.

Create a roadmap for your experiments once you have a sense of where you can dedicate your team’s resources to both on- and off-platform experiments. This is also an excellent opportunity to create an artifact that helps gain internal buy-in.

Do you want to improve the performance of your paid ad campaigns? Right Side Up can help! Drop us a line at growth@rightsideup.co to talk with one of our expert growth marketers.

Chuck is a product marketer with experience in media planning and buying for brands across eCommerce, Retail, and CPG. He has worked for large tech companies such as Google, Meta, and Walmart and advises early-stage startups on their growth marketing strategy. He is currently studying for his MBA, focusing on product management entrepreneurship.

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