Google Search Terms Report Changes

September 22, 2020


In this month’s episode of the Pest Control Marketing podcast, Andy is talking in depth about Google Search Terms.

Google has recently started coming out with changes and if you currently run Google Ads, then you might have seen this notification.

The notification is titled Changes to the Search Terms Report, and here’s what it says: “We are updating the search terms report to only include terms that were searched by a significant number of users. As a result, you may see fewer terms in your report going forward.”

First, Andy goes on to retouch on what the search terms are.


What Are Search Terms?

In Google ads, you have to specify your keywords with different keyword match types, such as a broad match modifier or exact phrase match.

Essentially, search terms are the actual terms, the actual search keywords that the user has typed in. So for example, if your keyword is broad match modifier, plus “pest” plus “control company near me”, then Google may find a variance of that and still show your ad for companies that offer pest control services in a particular Zip Code.

Even though that’s not your keyword, it’s a search term that is related to your keyword. This search term is the actual term that the user, your potential customer, typed into the search engine. And it’s important for you to know this information because should know exactly what you’re paying for.


Coming back to the “Changes to the Search Terms Report”, Google is saying that the keywords where the search terms have only one or a couple of clicks, are not going to be shown in your search term report. And this is very bad news for Google Ads managers, experts, and marketers.


Andy goes on explaining it further and he takes his client, Peachtree Pest Control, as an example.

Andy ran a search term report and looked at all his search campaigns and all the keywords in these campaigns. When looking at the data for the first 2 weeks of August, Andy had 1492 clicks and the number of search terms was 1527. As you can see, there are more search terms than clicks. So, why is that? Shouldn’t the numbers be the same?


It was great before because, especially in the pest control space, Google showed you a lot of search terms that weren’t clicked on, or were clicked on but you might have got credit for, as they realized it was an invalid or not relevant click. You were able to see all the search terms that were clicked on, search terms that had just one click, and even some search terms that have, five or six impressions and no clicks, but your ad got still served.

And this is great information because the more search term data you have, the better since you know exactly what you’re paying for and it really helps you build a solid negative keyword list.

You need to know what you’re paying for, how much you’re paying for that, and then you want to make sure that you’re not wasting money on bad clicks. And that’s really what a search term report is.


In order to compare, Andy ran the same report for the first 14 days of September. There were fewer clicks, 1,351 clicks, which is about 175 less than in August, however, Google only displayed 1,174 search terms. That means there are almost 200 search terms that Andy’s client, Peachtree Pest Control paid for, got clicked on, but there’s no way to find out what they are.


And this is certainly not good, you could be wasting money, especially if you’re just starting off in Google Ads and you don’t have a solid negative keyword list. For example, you had 100 clicks and Google only shows you about 60 of them. Then what about those other 40 clicks? Even though it was only one click, you should know what it was so that you are not wasting money on those clicks again.

So, if you are currently running Google Ads, make sure you take the necessary steps on building a negative keyword list.


Andy explains another major issue that’s been around for the last couple of years but is highly related, and that is Google’s Close Variance.

If you use a keyword’s exact match for “pest control company”, this is all you want. However, Google actually has loosened on the close variance and they are very relaxed on what they show even on the exact match keywords. Even if you add a bunch of exact match, Google will still show you that. It honestly feels like people are being forced to go into a smart campaign, which is because Google is really pushing automation. And thus, you’re probably wasting a lot of clicks because you don’t have any control.


So what can you do?

Andy thinks that the most important thing is to focus on your negative keyword list and be a little bit more proactive. If you’re starting off or you’ve just recently started off, you may have to really overcome this.

Andy has two ideas on how you can go about it:

You’ve just started a Google ads campaign and you’ve entered your keywords to build a negative keyword list. In your search term report, you’ve got 100 clicks and you added some of the 60 search terms to your negative keyword list but you know that 40 keywords or search terms weren’t displayed.

First, you could possibly put yourself in the mindset of a potential customer, a DIYer, or even a child searching for pictures for their school project. Try to think of words that may come up, search around on Google, and do a bit of research. Would you show up for this word? For this certification, or for DIY? Try to get one step ahead of the game in that sense.

Another one is to insert synonyms of that word. When building a negative keyword list, open up a thesaurus, and search for all synonyms for that word. It is a great way to limit the negative keywords or the bad search terms coming in.


If you are running Google ads, you need to make sure that your money is optimal, and that you’re only paying for the clicks that are relevant to you. Unfortunately, Google is starting to take that away.

Thus, you must keep on building negative keyword lists, continue to see ROI, and make sure to focus on ads, conversions, and landing pages.


Listen to the full PCIM podcast episode on the changes to the Google search terms report here.



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