Google announced some changes to the search term reports in Google Ads, which were rolled out at the beginning of September. Their statement reads: 

‘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,”

In this article, we review what this means for Google Ads management.


ongoing PPC optimisation  

One ongoing optimisation task for all PPC account managers is to mine your search term reports for relevant and irrelevant search terms. The search term report gives you transparency on what people are searching to trigger your ads. It tells you exactly what you’re paying for.

Using this data to limit irrelevant searches with negative terms, and grow your account by adding more target keywords from relevant search terms is a simple but effective optimisation task. But what can PPC managers do now? 


what effect does the change actually have? 

Before the changes to the search terms report, you would have been able to see around 80-90% of the search terms that triggered your ads. Now, some people have reported seeing their search term visibility decrease by 20%.

Across the accounts that we manage, we are now seeing around 65% of search terms in reports as opposed to the 80-90% we are all used to. It’s not clear how much this will change or if this is now the new normal: Google has not defined what a ‘significant number of users’ is. It’s not the first time Google has made a big change like this (who remembers average position?), so we’re not that surprised. 

The main effect will be on how Google runs its Ads business. It’s slowly been making steps towards a more automated system through bidding changes, smart campaigns and responsive ads. Removing the ability to see search queries means relying more on Google’s machine learning around bid types. Which could lead to different strategies emerging, such as a change to heavier usage of phrase and exact match keywords. 


how does it change Google Ads Management? 

When it comes to ongoing PPC account management and running successful Google Ads, there are many tasks that affect the overall performance of campaigns – using data in search term reports is just one of them. This update just means we have to adapt and continue to be proactive in our approach to PPC management. 

Where before we could look at search term reports to understand what and how people are searching for our product or service, we now have to look elsewhere. The Google SERP will always give you a list of related searches at the bottom of each search you make, and this can be used to identify different ways people could be searching for your product or service. We can also look at organic results for what we are targeting and the landing pages. We could crawl these pages for terms that could be used and add them to our campaigns. 

Collaborate with your team and your clients to brainstorm and understand all the different ways people could search. Have meetings with clients and discuss all the ways they have ever heard people talk about their product or service and how they word it – however strange it might be – test it. This approach can also be used to build negative lists; what phrases or words could be used that would make this search irrelevant? 

Overall, we have to be more sceptical about the search term reports and take actions like the above to fill in the gaps brought about by this change. 


good account management means being proactive

There are a few ways that we can adapt management tasks to accommodate this change. Successful Google Ad management requires a proactive approach with a finger on the pulse of search behaviour at all times – and so with a good PPC account manager, this change shouldn’t have a negative effect on the performance of your campaigns. 

Google Ads are still and will continue to be a leading platform for businesses to advertise on and can be very profitable when done right. We manage a wide range of accounts and have confidently adapted our management tasks to continue to bring our clients great results through Google Ads.

If you would like to talk to us about Google Ads management for you or your business, we would love to hear from you.