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Keeping Up With Google: What Changes to the Search Terms Report Mean for Retailers

Mike Perekupka

In September 2020, Google made search terms report changes in Google Ads. The search terms report, which highlights advertisers’ paid keyword performance across Google, now only shows data for search terms that reach a specific volume threshold.

Google has updated its support page on the search terms report to include the following message: “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.”

Those with access to a Google Ads account will receive a notification with similar messaging below:

Source: Google

This search terms report changes will have a very real impact on tactical strategies any advanced advertiser and/or marketer employs. In this installment of Keeping Up With Googlea series that helps you stay up-to-date on the latest changes shaking up Google Adswe dive further into the reduced visibility of the search terms report and how this may affect your performance marketing strategy.

Release Date:

Google announced changes to search terms report visibility on September 1, 2020.

What It Does:

The search terms report allows Google Ads users to review the performance of specific search terms that triggered ads to appear. Until September 2020, users could see the match type, ad group, and KPIs of each of these search terms.

Google’s latest search terms report changes eliminate performance insight of low-volume search terms. This means users will now only have access to data involving their top search terms. What’s more, Google has not revealed what constitutes “a significant number of users” searching these top terms.

Which Channels:

The search terms report encompasses performance of search terms triggering ads within the Search Network. This includes Google Shopping, paid search, and websites of Google search partners.

What This Means for Your Business:

According to Google, the search terms report changes are a move to “maintain [its] standards of privacy and strengthen protections around user data.” However, limiting performance views will likely have adverse effects on advertisers across Google. While low-volume search terms may seem useless to track, each term requires a cost per click, and it’s extremely useful to understand where wasted ad spend is going. By eliminating low-volume search terms, Google prohibits advertisers from making remedial tweaks to their accounts.

Additionally, this update may be Google’s latest attempt to sway advertisers to Smart Shopping campaigns and dynamic search ads. By limiting how much data it shows, Google is forcing advertisers to take a step towards automated bidding. Ultimately, it hopes to convince advertisers that they don’t need a bevy of data after all.

You can track how impactful this limited report visibility is by taking note of overall spend in your account. Compare overall spend to how much spend is attributed in your search query report right now. Continue doing so every few weeks, or at least each month. This will give you a measurable way to determine how significant the change is to the search terms report.

If performance (i.e. ROAS, revenue, or CPA) dips month over month while tracking, it could indicate wasted ad spend due to the update. Related to this news, I’d like to take a moment to explain how this challenge with Google’s reporting is an ideal use case for what we call an n-gram analysis. While queries are the full text that users enter into the search bar, n-grams are portions of those queries—for instance, just one, two, three, etc., words contained within.

By creating an n-gram analysis, (which I touched on a RetailX TechTalks webinar in March 2020), you can see how search queries that contain common words perform. For instance, how does a query perform that contains the words “best” or “near me” coupled with a brand name? This data is a key value-add in Sidecar Connect via our Search Query Explorer tool.

The Search Query Explorer lets you view query data from Google and Amazon—no matter the search volume, unlike these ad networks’ native reporting. This tool also lets you see the Shopping and Paid Search data in tandem.

The Search Query Explorer can also determine the value of bidding on more- or less-specific queries and terms. This is data that, again, Google has removed from its search terms report. We provide this data because our customers ask for it. It’s important to understand your data and ensure you have access to it.