What Are the Changes to the Google Search Terms Report?

September 28, 2020


Before I talk about what changes Google has made to the Search Terms Report in September 2020, it’s important to understand fully what the report is and how to use it in your Google Ads campaigns.


What Is the Google Search Terms Report?

The search terms report is a list of search queries that users have typed in, which resulted in your ads being displayed and eventually, clicked on. The main objective of the search terms report is to see how your Google ads performed when triggered by actual searches.

If you are not already competent in running the search terms report, it would be valuable to get familiar with the Google ads search terms report.


How to Use the Google Search Terms Report?

When you regularly run, review, and analyze the results of your search term report, you can get an idea of the traffic quality being driven to your landing page from your Google Ads efforts.

To fully understand Google search term reports, it’s necessary to first look at the way Google works. Search terms can be described as the exact word or set of words somebody enters when searching on Google.

When a person completes a search, the Google algorithm instantly shows a list of results that are closely related to the content of the search. For example, if someone searches for “pest control in Atlanta”, Google will display a list of pest control companies (but also other relevant websites) ranked by their websites’ authority as per Google.

It is possible to use the search terms report to identify not only potential negative keywords but also new keywords with high potential. It’s because the search terms provide insights into what customers are actually looking for.

If a search term triggered your ad but it is not relevant to what you’re offering, this is an indicator that you should add this term to your negative keyword list. This dramatically helps avoid wasting your budget on search terms that are irrelevant and showing your ad to people who are not interested in it.

In addition, you are able to refine your keyword match types as soon as you determine what match types are working well for particular keywords and searches.


What Impact Do the Changes to the Google Search Terms Report Have for Google Ads Managers?

If you’ve been managing Google Ads campaigns, you are most likely aware of the Google Search Terms Report changes that have been recently announced by Google.

The notification states that starting in September 2020, search terms without a “significant” amount of data will no longer be shown in the account’s search term reports.

To understand it better, advertisers will have reduced ability to see which search queries have triggered their ads, even if they receive a click or conversion.

And only time will tell and prove what the “significant” number of users really means and what are the criteria being used.

When questioned by some of the flagship marketing sites such as Search Engine Land, Google was claiming that this particular search term report change is related to privacy. With this update, Google is trying to maintain its standards of privacy and reinforce user data protection.

This unwelcome change is leaving PPC managers with less control over their accounts, and far less helpful information from Google.

The report will be limited to search terms that get only significant clicks and thus, will be updated to show fewer search terms. It will consequently exclude queries that were not searched by a considerable number of users.

As Google is taking away this data from you, it is going to have a staggering impact on accounts of all sizes.

It has been estimated that accounts can lose at least 30% and some will lose even more than 50% of their ad spend. This is because a great percentage of the accounts’ budget goes to search terms that are likely to be clicked on just once or a couple of times.

The major concern is for industries that have high Cost Per Click rates (e.g. legal, insurance, real estate, or finance) and will be paying for search queries that are irrelevant.

When doing your Google Ads campaigns you are directly paying money to Google, and thus, the company should be 100% transparent and obliged to report every search term that you have paid for.


So What Can You Do About It?

A good solution would be to choose Smart Bidding, which is an automated bid strategy, instead of manual bidding strategies.

Because Google has started limiting how much long-tail query data you can view in your report, a smart bidding strategy seems to be a better choice for you.

However, using this strategy will have an impact on how much search term data you’ll be able to extract for review and analysis.

Google has already been withdrawing traditional keyword targeting with Smart Campaigns and Dynamic Search ads.

So it feels like Google is relentlessly pushing its automated bidding strategies by reminding us that smart bidding algorithms do factor in search queries and user intent into their signals.

With reduced search term visibility within standard search campaigns, many Google Ads managers foresee further changes to keyword targeting in the future.


Listen to the PCIM podcast episode where I explain and react to the Google Search Terms Report changes.


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