What the Search Terms Report Is and How It Works

The search terms report is a list of search terms that people have used and resulted in your ad being shown, according to Google. “Use the search terms report to see how your ads performed when triggered by actual searches within the Search Network. The search terms report is a list of search terms that people have used, and that resulted in your ad being shown and clicked.” A common question is “why do the Search Terms Report results not match the keywords in my account?” The answer is search terms listed are dependent on your keyword matching options and therefore, the search terms listed might be different than your keyword list.

Those well-versed in PPC may be familiar with the Google Ads Search Terms Report but if you are not involved in the day-to-day management of your Google Ads account or you are not as knowledgeable as you’d like, it’s valuable to become familiar with the report.

Why It Is Useful

Search terms show insights into what customers are actually looking for. You can use the Search Terms Report to identify new keywords as well as potential negative keywords. If your ad is being triggered by a search term that is not relevant to your ad, this is in indicator you should add it to your negative keyword list. This helps avoid wasted spend on irrelevant search terms. You can also determine which match types are working well for which keywords and searches. This enables you to refine your match types. As mentioned earlier, the search terms your ads that trigger your ad depends on the match type selected.

There are multiple match types and ways you can utilize them in paid search.  Exact match is the only match type that ensures you are not triggering variations of the keywords you are bidding on.

Using the “Match type” column you can view how closely the search terms that triggered your ads on Google are related to the actual keywords in your account. By seeing which match types are working well for which keywords and searches, you can refine match types for all your keywords so that only the right searches cause your ad to show.

You can also utilize the “Keyword” column to learn which of your keywords matched someone’s search term and triggered your ad. According to Google, this information can help you see your keywords “in action” by showing you how they are matching to actual searches. You can use the data in the “Keyword” column to improve your keyword list. Google shows you here how to view the keyword column, as it is not automatically displayed.

As you export and explore your search terms report it is useful to first filter by Added/Excluded. This will save you time as you determine which classification is more useful for your efforts. “Added” are search terms that match with a keyword already in your account. Excluded are search terms you’ve already excluded and should be in your negative keywords as well. Added/Excluded are keyword conflicts that need to be resolved by removing a keyword. The biggest question in the Added/Excluded column surrounds search terms labeled “None”.  According to Clix Marketing, “this is where you should focus your attention. These search terms aren’t already keywords in your account, and you haven’t excluded them either. It will include new terms that Google matched you to. This is where you are looking heavily at the relevance of queries..This is area is where the bulk of your search term cleanup should focus. It’s also a great place to look for new keywords that would benefit from having their own ad group and the customized ad copy that goes with it.”

If you are not regularly running the search terms report, you are not getting a sense of the traffic quality being driven to your site from your PPC efforts. Work together with your agency, or internal team, to ensure everyone understands which search terms are and are not relevant to your business. Request your agency, or someone on your internal team, provide a search terms report on a quarterly basis, at least, so you can review the report together, analyze the results and determine next steps. If your business is affected by seasonality you will need to run your search term reports accordingly.