Changes to the Google Ads Search Query Report

Changes to the Google Ads Search Query/Term Report

This month, Google is stirring unrest amongst the Google Ads community by implementing serious changes in the way we can see search queries. Up until now, we were able to see every search query that triggers your ads. However, Google is now limiting this to only show queries that are “searched by a significant number of users”.

As PPC Specialists, we heavily rely on the Search Query Report. We use it to:

  • understand the way users search for our clients’ products and services,
  • find new keywords opportunities, and
  • reduce wasted ad spend.

We are already experiencing the limitations just a couple of weeks post-implementation. 

Cons of the new Search Query Report (SQR) limits

Less control over what we’re paying for

Gabrielle notes that this is another step that Google has taken towards limiting the control we have over campaigns. With this change, we have less control over which search queries are triggering our ads, and importantly, what we’re actually paying for.

Google’s update apparently excludes low search volume terms. Unfortunately, Google is seemingly disregarding the fact that it can take just a few clicks to generate large amounts of ad spend, especially in accounts where the bids are highly competitive. 

What if there was one specific word that we could either include or exclude in our campaigns that would affect future performance? We’ve already noticed that we’re not able to see some search queries that have converted. If it’s not searched a “significant number” of times, we’ll apparently never know what it is.

Fewer opportunities to find new keywords based on converting search terms

Lachlan explains that usually when a conversion is recorded in an account, his first action is to go to the search query report to see which query triggered it. He can then add it back into the account as a targeted keyword to increase the campaign’s performance. However, since Google’s SQR changes, sometimes the converting query is not available. So, without being able to know what the query was, he has to rely on the keyword that triggered it to keep bringing conversions in.

DSAs (Dynamic Search Ads) can be a valuable tool for finding new keyword opportunities. In fact, Courtney has some campaigns with budgets dedicated to DSAs for this very purpose. 

In the past 14 days, one particular client received two quality leads from this kind of campaign. Courtney noted that it’s a quiet campaign which doesn’t often receive much traffic nor conversions, so she was intrigued to see what search queries had triggered these clicks. But, there weren’t any search terms available for her to view. This same client had another ad group with 18 clicks from the past 7 days, but only 6 of those 18 clicks had viewable search queries.

This same issue applies to regular (non-dynamic) search campaigns and ads – it is already more difficult to find converting search queries to add back in as targeted keywords.

Higher difficulty to optimise campaigns to be as relevant and targeted as possible

Kristen points out that one of the imperatives of running a successful PPC campaign is ensuring that the traffic you attract is relevant to the services and/or products you’re providing. 

Our specialists can manage what keywords your ads show for by building and maintaining lists of “negative keywords” – keywords to be excluded from your campaign targeting. Regular reviews of the Search Query Report are how we identify irrelevant search queries which should be added to the exclusion list.

This helps create a more streamlined, cost-effective account. But without the ability to see all of the search terms, we run the risk of budget wastage with no way to optimise this. It’s harder to tell if we’re showing to the right audience or not.

Coupled with the continued expansion (and muddling) of what Google considers “close variant” matching, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ensure that campaigns are targeting the most relevant keywords.

Going forward

Google’s aim to “maintain standards of privacy”

Apparently this limitation on SQRs is to maintain Google’s standards of privacy. However, it’s unclear as to what this really means. It’s great if Google can keep personally-identifying information (PII) private. But, hiding masses of low search volume keywords doesn’t seem to be the best way forward.

Courtney has opined that if Google is committed to protecting privacy, one way could be to choose not to show for sensitive topics. This could help advertisers to stay in line with Google’s policies regarding topics such as abortion, sexual content, gambling, and so on.

Google’s push for automated campaigns

We’ve spoken with one of our associates who is in a similar boat. They’ve noted that Google seems to be pushing everyone to automation and smart campaigns. The effectiveness of automated campaigns is a whole other conversation. But, in a nutshell, it’s a system that’s far from perfect. It’s still incredibly important to carefully manage and cultivate campaigns – by hand, not by machine – to help them perform highly. 

Future effects

At this early stage, some of our staff haven’t noticed a massive impact to account performance. More so that it’s annoying that Google is limiting one of the most important features of Google Ads. Apparently, Google is investing in new ways to share insights with their advertisers. We have yet to see a clear picture of what this means and how it will affect the PPC landscape. Time will tell.

Now, more than ever, your campaigns require an experienced eye to make sure they’re at their best. Feel free to get in contact if you’ve got any queries and/or concerns!

Written by the team at Vine Street Digital