Google Ads Search Terms Report Update


Last week, Google alerted advertisers that the search terms report is being updated to include only the terms that were searched by a significant number of users.  In other words, the report will stop showing queries that prompted ads when there is minimal data, or not enough to meet the as-yet undefined measure of ‘significant.’  

In a statement to Search Engine Land, a Google spokesperson said that this change is about maintaining privacy standards and protecting user data. The implications for search engine marketing are too large, however, for advertisers to be placated by Google’s somewhat obtuse communication thus far.  

Frustrations in the advertising world are centered on: 

A) the lack of budgetary transparency – advertisers will potentially pay for irrelevant search terms but will lose the reporting piece that helps them trim the fat. According to some, advertisers could lose visibility into what amounts to a quarter or more of their ad spend.  

B) the impact on negative keyword management – advertisers had been using low-volume keyword data to compile negative keyword lists to optimize campaigns.  

C) Google hasn’t yet defined ‘significant’ – we don’t yet know the threshold for inclusion in the search terms report. The impact to ad campaigns and budgets will largely be determined by this measure.

Some advertisers are already seeing significant impacts. From one day of data collection from their clients, digital agency Seer Interactive found that Google Ads now “hides search terms for ~28% of Paid Search budgets and removes search term visibility of 20.4% of PPC clicks.” 

Justin Salazar, Paid Search Strategist for Location3, writes, 

It’s a story as old as the digital marketing world itself: Google giveth, and Google taketh away. At Location3 we regularly use search terms data to gain insight into searcher intent and optimize to improve campaign efficiency by ensuring that we’re showing the searcher an ad that is relevant, timely, and helpful. With the removal of a large chunk of this data, Google is potentially limiting our ability to dig into the data at the local level for valuable, market-specific insights that drive our campaigns and benefit both our clients and searchers on Google. Given that we live in a Google-centric world, we as search marketers must adapt to this new environment, and that might mean that we have to trade in our optimization scalpel for a battle axe.

We are looking to Google for further clarification and in the meantime, Location3 will continue to adapt our methodology and strategy to optimize campaigns for the greatest returns for our clients. Transparency for digital ad spend is important to us. 


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