Google Ads Search Query Report Change & What it Means for Small Advertisers

Last week, an extremely huge announcement came down the line from Google Ads. As you may have seen in your account, there was a message from Google:

Using actual search terms reports is probably one of the greatest tools that we use to evaluate campaign performance, click-through rates, ad copy, extensions, and conversions. With the continual blend of keyword variations and matching, these actual query reports are critical for finding good keyword variations and utilizing negative keywords. What this means now is that for keywords that don’t fall into this vague “significant” number of searches category, we are going to lose this data.

As a refresher, this report is available when looking beneath the data of the blanket keyword variations you are bidding on. It is available in the Search Terms section in two places within the Google Ads interface:

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Google is officially citing privacy concerns, much like they did when announcing the highly controversial change to organic keywords going away in Google Analytics to the “(not provided)” category. The change came 10 years ago. They are also being very opaque on what the definition of significant is, but we can guess that this is going to have a negative impact on budgets for long-tail keyword campaigns where the advertiser is trying to go after a narrowly searched keyword. There is a not set, stated threshold for a “sample” number of users searching on a popular keyword. There is already a lot of speculation about what this means for percentages of click budgets that will now be essentially blind at the large advertiser level, as pointed out by industry leader Ginny Marvin’s latest Search Engine Land article. 

Given that many small and medium advertisers are bidding on a group of keywords with smaller demand, or perhaps in a small geographic area, the search terms report could be painfully limited. This has a huge impact on those advertisers using the Google Ads platform since they are going to lose important keyword intelligence about where their click dollars are going.

What should small advertisers do about Google Ads search query change?

Well, it’s hard. Four tricks come to mind when evaluating what you may now be paying for in terms of clicks.

Google Search Console

First, use your Google Search Console query reports. While this is organic data, it may lend insights as to what your target market is typing in, including various meanings and variations.

Keyword research tools

Second, keep using keyword research tools, beyond Google Keyword Planner. SEMrush, for example, can generate good keyword query reports (for now) as to keyword variations your competition is bidding on which you can use to your advantage. The downside is obviously you have to pay for that service.

Google autosuggest

Third, evaluating Google autosuggest can help you see what is getting combined with your targeted queries. Use this data to expand your variations, change match types, (which also don’t matter as much anymore apparently), and looking for negative keyword opportunities. In addition, using a Google Suggest Keyword Tool such as https://keywordtool.io/google-suggest can also help.

Bing

Fourth: Bing. Yes, Bing. There is still some share of the market that is searching on Bing. And for now, Bing is still offering search term reports. So, if you use a mirror of your Google campaign in Bing, you can hopefully gain keyword intelligence from those query reports and transfer it over to your Google keyword strategy.

In summary, another critical tool for maximizing your ad budget has been stripped away. In addition, word is starting to spread that manual CPC bidding will be going away soon. These two developments mean that in order to push search revenue (oh, by the way, it was down in Q2 of 2020 of the first time ever….coincidence…NO) Google is turning to A.I. and taking away the advertiser’s power. Clearly, this is the trend, in what will probably be a push towards eliminated keywords for advertising to moving to audience-based advertising.

Frankly, if I were more versed in law, I would have actually spun this post to be a call for anti-trust. But I didn’t go to law school or even take more than 3 economics classes in college. The bottom line for advertisers, keep looking at whatever search term data you can, stay on top of keywords with other toolsets, and perhaps take a look at moving budget over to Bing.

Bottom line: This sucks and is on the same plane as the organic keyword Not Provided announcement 10 years ago So much for do no evil.

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Joseph Ford

Joe Ford is a Managing Partner at Netvantage Marketing. In addition to overseeing day to day business operations of Netvantage, he directs paid search strategy and management. Ford is on the Marketing Committee for Impression 5 Science Museum, and the Executive Board of the Capital Area IT Council. He was previously a member of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Board of Directors for 8 years. Additionally, Ford is an adjunct faculty member in the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University.

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