Google Ads has started informing advertisers that they will begin limiting search term reports, due to privacy concerns. 

Google’s Statement:

“In order to maintain our standards of privacy and strengthen our protections around user data, we have made changes to our Search Terms Report to only include terms that a significant number of users searched for. We’re continuing to invest in new and efficient ways to share insights that enable advertisers to make critical business decisions,” (Per Search Engine Land)

What Does This Mean?

Now, the one word in this statement that will stick out to every PPC marketer is, “significant”. 

I’m assuming what the word “significant” means that we will no longer be seeing search terms with one impression and one click as we have become accustomed to. Now, the question I, and I assume most of us, will be pondering is what is the line of significance?

Is it 5 impressions? 
Is it 50 impressions?
Is it 100 impressions?
Or even more? 

We will have to wait and see what this “significant” means, and learn to adjust. 

How Will This Affect Our Accounts?

Many brands do not have large monthly Google Ads budgets, where 50 clicks on unqualified queries can really damage month-over-month performance. For larger brands, running many campaigns with broad match modified keywords, those unqualified queries can add up to a significant cost. Now, add the issue of not knowing exactly which queries are driving the wasted spend. Suddenly, account management might be more difficult moving forward.

Coming from the point of view of a brand, we are an entity paying to advertise on Google’s search engine, as a medium to; 

  1. Drive traffic to my domain and sell a product, or our information
  2. Collect data on those who interacted with my ads, so that I may optimize my advertising strategy to searchers who are interested in the product or information that my business provides.

All of us account managers have opened up a search query report, and said, “how did this get here?”, then immediately added said term to our negative keyword list. 

We work in Pay Per Click marketing, and now we must accept paying for clicks without always knowing what the searcher typed into the Google search bar?

How Does This Affect SEM As A Whole?

This update is creating a significantly more difficult advertising environment, for advertisers who must provide our brands with a tightly aligned list of successful keywords and negative keywords.

That said, this change is being made in the name of privacy. I believe we all stand for more control of our personal information. I also believe that it would behoove Google to provide their customers (us) transparent information regarding our purchases (or clicks).

This change comes in a wave of many other similar changes over the last year that give advertisers less control over what queries can and will trigger our ads. This will push the importance of managing our negative keyword lists to one of our top priorities.

What We Need To Do To Prepare

As this change has already taken effect, we need to take an aggressive approach to our negative keyword mining. I am doubling (and might even triple) the amount of search query reports that I am running for each brand that I work with. You can also expand your comprehensive account negatives based on your brand’s industry. This could include adding negative keywords for:

  • Keywords related to “jobs”, “reviews”, etc for your brand i.e someone looking to work for your brand, not someone looking to buy from your brand. 
  • Phrases that broadly match your keywords but are NOT part of your industry. For example, to us, “PPC”  = pay per click. However, “PPC aluminum” is a common “ppc” search query because “ppc” is also an acronym for Polyester Powder Coating.

For more data regarding this update, check out this post:

From PPC Hero author Matt Umbro, for Practical Ecommerce – Google Ads Decreases Search Terms Visibility. Matt shares some really interesting search query data from varied accounts that he manages to compare the month-over-month change in volume of clicks on “hidden” terms. 

Matt also makes a great point that advertisers can run identical campaigns in Microsoft Ads and learn from those search query reports, in order to generate negative keywords for both ad accounts.

For more info on the close variants update from late 2019, check out this post: 

From PPC Hero author Zach Bruner, for PPC Hero – Close Variants Diluting Match Types – What You Should Know 

For all other updates coming in the PPC landscape read Will Larcom’s blog, September 2020 Udpates to Paid Media Platforms.