Quality–not quantity–drives paid search at VistaPrint

Attention to quality scores on Google drives bigger orders for VistaPrint.


For VistaPrint Ltd., quality scores on Google play a major role in ensuring the best return on paid search advertising. The online retailer of print products and print-related services competes in a number of vertical markets, with products such as business cards, postcards, brochures, address labels, holiday cards, customized logos, web sites, e-mail marketing, signage and promotional products. That means it must carefully hone its ad campaigns if it wants to qualify for top positioning on search result pages.

Key to getting a top position is crafting ads to generate a high quality score, the metric Google uses to rank the relevancy of an ad to a given search query. “In general, a higher quality score means your keyword will trigger ads in a higher position at a lower cost per click,” says Christopher Kenney, associate manager for search at VistaPrint Ltd.

 Quality scores are part of Google AdWords, the Google search ad bidding system. Google, which only gets paid when someone clicks on an ad on a search results page, uses quality score to determine which ads are most likely to generate clicks. Google looks at a variety of factors to measure how relevant an ad is to a user’s search query, and Google updates the score frequently.

Google also takes into account how much an advertiser is willing to bid to have its ads displayed on the results page for a particular keyword. An ad that Google ranks as low in quality can still appear on the first search results page—but it may cost

10% and 150% more per click than an ad that garners a high quality score, , Kenney says.

When creating paid search campaigns, VistaPrint focuses on strategies that have proved successful in the past.

“We’ll go out and we’ll bid on all the keywords we want to check out and we’ll put them into ad groups that will be highly targeted,” Kenney says. “Then we’ll write ads based on basically what we’ve learned from all our other campaigns—what performs well.”

For example, VistaPrint will vary ad copy based on whether it is being written for a product or a service. “If it’s a product, we’ll write it one way, if it’s a service, we’ll probably write it another way, depending on what we’re trying to tell the customer in a limited amount of characters,” he says.

Then the retailer designs landing pages to be highly relevant to whatever item or service the user is searching for. “If the user is searching for one of our business card products, when they hit that landing page, they’re going to have business cards on that landing page prominently featured,” Kenney says. “And our site load time is usually very, very strong.”

By testing, VistaPrint, No. 36 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide often can sway click-through rates by 10% or 15%, Kenney says. “That can really make a difference in not only quality score, but also it can get us extra conversions and all that additional traffic,” he says. “So click-through rates or ad copy testing is probably the biggest lever for us in maximizing our quality score when we see low ones.”

Higher quality scores tied to paid search are helping VistaPrint generate bigger tickets and more repeat business, the company says. In the third quarter of fiscal 2010 ended March 31, 67% of all customers were repeat buyers, compared with 66% in the prior year. The average ticket—$31.01 in the third quarter of fiscal 2009—increased 12% to $34.80 in Q3 of the current fiscal year.

“Quality score assessment tells you at the keyword level if you are just churning to get results or if the campaign and landing pages are really relevant,” Kenney says.


Google AdWords, paid search, quality scores, VistaPrint.com