On September 9th this year, Google changed the way it reports Search Terms in Google Ads (Adwords).

In a notice to advertisers, Google announced that it will soon stop showing search queries that triggered their ads when there is not “significant” data.

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.

The impact of this change and effect on your Google PPC campaigns and budgets will largely depend on how Google defines “significant”, but already we are seeing an estimated 27% of search terms will no longer be reported. This is not quite the hammer blow that some experts were anticipating, but 27% of terms may mean up to 15% of Ad spend – which could seriously impact the way we and others manage your Google Ads campaigns going forwards.

A recent study by Seer Interactive found that $40MM+ of inefficient spend was contained in mostly low-volume search terms over the past 3 years.

Seer mined 5.1 million data points across 30+ businesses running paid search campaigns and found 15% of budgets were spent on mostly hidden, low volume, search queries that weren’t driving conversions.

These small (but frequent) matches result in tons of unintentional clicks from users trained to click through multiple results at the top of the SERPs.

That’s real money that can be reinvested into high ROI campaigns. That shouldn’t be a “cost of doing business” with Google.

How we use search terms reporting to save clients money and improve campaign efficiency.

For years, the Google search term reports in Google Ads has been a pillar of our ongoing war on wasted clicks and ad spend.  By analysing the search terms reports we can easily find irrelevant terms and add them to the negative phrases list.

It is all too easy to add keywords to campaigns with broad matching that can result in irrelevant clicks and wasted spend. By filtering these phrases with the search term report, Jerram has been able to save clients many thousands of pounds year on year – and drive conversion efficiency higher.

So, how can we work around this problem and continue to drive Google Ad efficiencies?

Site search

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to include site search in your Google Analytics tracking to reclaim some valuable query data on your own terms.

If an on-site search tool isn’t already present at the top of every page on your website we’d recommend adding one as soon as possible. Tools such as Funnelback offer significant and intelligent search capability – but you don’t have to go mad. Standard search tools found in most WordPress themes are just as suitable – you just need to be able to track their results in Analytics.

So, make certain that your site search query tracking is set up on your analytics platform. For most people, this is a quick settings change in Google Analytics.

Seer Interactive found in previous analyses that up to 25% of visitors search the the same or a similar query they had already searched in Google, a second time, after they click through to a site.

According to Econsultancy, for e-commerce sites, up to 30% of visitors will use the Site Search tool, and those visitors convert at a 1.8x higher rate than visitors who don’t use Site Search.

But Site Search isn’t just about user experience – it provides indispensable data to website owners and marketers about user intent. We can view the pages that a visitor viewed and make reasonable assumptions about what they’re looking for, but Site Search data can tell us exactly why they viewed those pages, and exactly what they were looking for, in their own words.

Adopt smart bidding strategies

Even though this will have an impact on how much search term data we can extract to work with and analyse, Google is always eager to remind us: Smart Bidding algorithms DO factor in queries and search intent into their signals.

Smart Bidding is a subset of automated bid strategies that use machine learning to optimise for conversions or conversion value in each and every auction – a feature known as “auction-time bidding”. Target CPATarget ROASMaximise conversionsMaximise conversion value and Enhanced CPC (ECPC) are all Smart Bidding strategies.

With Smart Bidding, Google’s aim is to help you save time and improve your return on investment, and while it may feel like we are losing control over Google Ads management – in theory Smart Bidding helps us to gain significant ROI.

To evaluate results accurately, Google currently recommend measuring performance over longer time periods that have at least 30 conversions, such as a month or longer (50 conversions for Target ROAS). With Smart Bidding, relevant keywords can be added to low volume campaigns to expand targeting and increase conversions.

Clearly aimed at e-commerce stores and higher traffic sites, Smart Bidding can significantly alter the performance of any campaign, and it is important to understand the comparisons with traditional bidding strategies – so experimentation is going to be the order of the day.

Get fast, dedicated help

If you want to discuss your Google ads management with us, please get in touch today. Give David Jerram a call on 0118 328 2291 and he can help you set up site search, smart bidding and other techniques to better understand and optimise your Google Ads spend.