Google Limiting Search Terms Reporting

Ben Lund
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Search Terms are now Limited within Google Ads

For any Google Ads advertiser, you likely saw this alert within your account, what this means is that Google is limiting the search terms reported, that are matching to search ads. Within this blog post I’ll break down what exactly this means, what the impact is, and best practices, considering this major move.

Google Search Term Notification

“Starting September 2020, the search terms report only includes terms that a significant number of users searched for, even if a term received a click. You may now see fewer terms in your report.” (Google Ads Message).

What this means to your Google Ads account?

In my opinion, this is a major, major move.  For experienced search advertisers, the search term report (also known as search query report) is the one of the most impactful reports to pull. It’s important as you can see how your search keywords are mapping to actual search queries. Given Google is constantly changing its keyword matching algorithm (often in a move to more broadly matched terms), the search term report is crucial to understand the queries matching to keywords and to identify negative terms to upload into the account. For those who aren’t familiar, negative terms are keywords uploaded to Google, to avoid mapping to specific queries.

We don’t know how much Google is limiting its search term reporting, but we do know it is limiting the reporting. This is a concern as advertisers won’t be able to see the queries for 100% of the traffic they’re paying for. Even major industry leaders like Christi Olson, Head of Evangelism for Search and Advertising at Microsoft, is calling this move ludicrous.

The bottom line, this is going to hurt performance of the account.

So now what?

The best advice I can offer, is four fold.

  1. Search Term Report. As always, continue to use the search term report. While the reporting is limited, it still has some valuable data and you should be able to see major trends of search queries that are mapping to your search keywords. Use this report and optimize appropriately (i.e. finding new keywords to add to the account, and keywords to upload as negatives).
  2. Reviewing search term data in GA. Thanks to our friends at Pathfinder Alliance. There is a workaround, we don’t know how long it will last, but if you connect Google Ads to Google Analytics, you can see search term / query data in Google Analytics. Here’s a workaround  article Pathfinder Alliance published which shows how to find these queries.
  3. Move away from Broad Match.  Consider moving away from broad match keywords. This is likely way too risky, if the search term reporting is limited. Instead, focus more heavily on exact, phrase and even broad match modified keywords.
  4. Adopt Automated Bidding.  While Google is saying it’s doing this for privacy concerns, I believe it’s doing this to drive more revenue from their search product (by hiding potentially irrelevant queries) and push users to use their automated bidding (i.e. maximize conversions, tCPA, etc.). With less data at the advertisers disposal, they are more likely to give the keys to Google.  Now, automated bidding actually works really well, I just don’t agree with forcing advertisers to use it. However, to maximize performance with limited search term data, I would recommend to leverage conversion based automated bidding. Google will factor in search queries when optimizing bids, and will automatically filter out queries that aren’t profitable.
  5. Consider focusing on other Channels. Google is great, but there are many other channels. Microsoft has a solid search product, and there are many other digital channels to add to the portfolio.

As always, the only constant within digital ads is change. This is another change and advertisers need to be flexible and have strategic thinking of ow this will impact performance and work-arounds, given this move.

Best of luck on your efforts. If any of you have comments based on your experience, please leave them below – I would love to hear them!

-Ben

By Ben Lund

Ben Lund is a 14+ year digital advertising vet who founded Rise Marketing Group. Outside of managing his agency, he offers advertising courses on SkillShare and routinely shares his best practices on DIYDigitalStrategy.com

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