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Google Ads Set to Limit Search Term Reporting

Google Ads Set to Limit Search Term Reporting

Written by enCOMPASS Agency

Advertisers thrive on access to clear, actionable data. For example, Google provides advertisers with a treasure trove of metrics and analytics that allow them to determine who’s seeing their ads and why; this information, in turn, can lead to more informed budgeting, targeting, messaging, and beyond.

As such, it may come as a small disappointment to learn that Google is now restricting some of the data that it provides to advertisers. Specifically, Google has informed advertisers that it will soon stop showing them which search queries triggered their ads when there is not “significant” enough data for it.

The full message from Google reads: “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.”

A Matter of Privacy

As for why Google’s making this change, it all comes down to issues of privacy. An extended version of the Google statement affirms their commitment to safeguarding user data. The thinking seems to be that, if Google’s Search Terms Report only reveals search queries shared by a wide number of users, then they’re at low risk of giving away any personally identifiable information.

Defining “Significant”

The specific word that Google uses is significant; they’re only showing advertisers search terms that are shared by a significant number of users. Obviously, then, the full impact on this decision depends on how that specific term is defined.

At this point, there’s really no telling what Google means here, though it’s worth pointing out that the Search Terms Report has historically shown search terms even if they only have a single click or impression. It seems likely that this will no longer be the case going forward. Beyond that, it’s hard to speculate just how much this change will impact the reporting shared with advertisers.

Implications for Advertisers

Again, the intentions here seem noble enough: Google is limiting their search terms reporting to ensure that advertisers don’t have access to queries that contain personal information, or that could be used to single out a specific user. This advocacy for consumer privacy is laudable, though the specific approach Google is taking may cause some consternation among advertisers.

After all, Google already limits the query data that’s available in the Search Console, for this exact reason. The difference is that, when a user clicks on an ad that’s triggered by their search query, the advertiser actually pays for it. So, losing this data could have significant financial effects for anyone who advertises on Google.

To be clear, Google may simply be removing private or sensitive queries from their reporting, which is perfectly reasonable. However, their statement suggests broader, bolder action. They may be removing search queries that are low volume but actually come with no real privacy risks. And if that’s the case, it would be an unwelcome development for advertisers.

Negative Query Management

One specific reason why these changes to Search Terms reporting may prove so consequential is that they can impact advertisers’ capacity for negative query management.

Over the last several years, advertisers have had to shift from a positive keyword management approach to a negative keyword management approach, all to ensure proper keyword optimization. As such, having access to full search terms data can be extremely impactful.

But if Google’s proposed changes severely limit the information that advertisers have at their disposal, it could leave them unable to determine which terms need to be added to their negative keyword lists… and thus, make it hard for them to run their campaigns as efficiently as possible.

Simply put, the ability to negate a single low-volume search term may not amount to much, but these low-volume terms can really add up; in aggregate, they can cost advertisers a lot of money. So again, depending on how “significant” Google’s changes really are, this could have major fallout for Google Ads campaigns.

Our Take

One note that we’ll add: The kind of data we’re talking about here really is important for running cost-effective ad campaigns, but if you’ve been working with the same SEM company for many years, access to historical data can really be priceless. Here at enCOMPASS Agency, we have many clients who’ve been with us for a good long while, and we’ve been able to build large bodies of data related to their search queries. This information helps us shrink waste in their campaigns and maximize their bang for buck… and, that information may now be more precious than ever before.

We’ll keep you posted on any further developments on this issue. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’d love to chat with you about effective Google Ads optimization any time.