Those that successfully advertise using Google paid search know that the most effective way of doing so is by limiting your spend on unrelated search terms. Effective marketers also know that the number one method to block unrelated and unwanted search terms is with the use of negative keywords.
Especially important for Google Shopping ads where there are no specific targeted keywords. Instead of targeted keywords, with Google Shopping your products are eligible to appear based on Google’s algorithm matching keywords in their product and descriptions with user searches.
This makes monitoring search and continuing to add negative keywords critical to the success of Google Shopping campaigns.
When you first launch a Shopping campaign you should have a list of initial negative keywords to block generic searches.
I have a generic list that I add to new accounts and campaigns which include negative keywords using a phrase match. Examples of these terms include terms such as cheap, knockoff, fake, etc.
However, once you begin running Google paid campaigns you will quickly discover other keywords specific related to your products where you would not have your ads appear.
Being able to identify these keywords has always been a rather straight forward process.
Although it has been moved in the placement through the years, all search terms that have triggered product ads to be displayed have always been available through the Google Search Terms Report.
What Has Changed?
A few months back, Google sent an announcement that they would no longer show irrelevant search terms within the Google search terms report.
Let me tell you for marketers (especially those on a tight marketing budget) there is no such thing as an irrelevant search term when those searches are actively costing you money.
The first month or so after Google’s announcement not much changed. About 95% of search terms were still included within the Google Search Terms report.
However, over the last few weeks only about 50 – 70% of search terms now appear within the Search Terms Report inside the Google Ads interface. This lack of transparency makes it difficult for advertisers to effectively weed out those unprofitable keyword terms that cost budget but produce few sales.
Limiting transparency might well be Google’s long-term plan as they continue to push their automated campaigns including the Smart Shopping.
However at least for now through the end of the year there remains an alternative place to gather your full list of keyword terms driving ad spend.
Google Analytics (Universal Code)
This is great news!
If you have properly installed Google Analytics and have properly linked your Google Analytics account with your Google Ads account, then your full list of search terms is still available within Google Analytics (so-called irrelevant terms and all!).
Note, that these terms are only available within Google Universal Analytics. Google is pushing a new G4 Analytics (Google Analytics 4), which for now WILL NOT include access to search terms.
Fortunately, Google is not requiring advertisers migrate to the new Analytics until the end of 2021.
Accessing Google Analytics Search Queries
Here are the steps:
Login to Google Analytics (https://analytics.google.com/)
In the left-hand menu click on ‘Acquisition’
Then, ‘Google Ads’
Then, ‘Search Queries”
Change the date in the upper right to dates you wish to view.
Using the Secondary dimension drop down to add ‘Campaign’. Note, without this step you will be viewing keywords from the entire account.
Change rows to a number that will display all data (default is only 25 rows).
The trend of Google becoming less transparent with their system is a bit unsettling to say the least.
Google continues to try to push their automated marketing including automated bidding and automated placements (Smart Shopping).
Without a doubt, automated or semi-automated campaigns are easy to create and require little to no management from retailers.
However, the problem is that these type of campaigns (when you hand the keys to Google) typically do not perform nearly as well. And when marketing budget is tight, not performing nearly as well can often be the difference between a struggling business and a thriving online business.
Fortunately for now, using the Search Queries report from Google Analytics allows for a workaround to the issue of Google hiding what they now consider to be irrelevant search terms!
One of the common misconceptions for those new to advertising with Google Shopping is that you want to generate as much traffic as possible.
As with any marketing channel where you pay for traffic, this is blatantly false!
With Google Shopping unlike Google Search there are no keywords. Instead, Google uses their algorithm to match eligible products from an advertiser’s merchant center account with a user’s search query.
In order to match eligible products, Google uses the product title and description to filter the most relevant results based on the searches of users actively Shopping.
However, as anyone who has been running successful Google Shopping campaigns will attest, sometimes the search terms that are sending traffic are terms an advertiser would rather not pay to receive.
Imagine that you are selling Nike Air Jordan’s. As an advertiser, you wouldn’t want your products appearing for the search term ‘Nike Air Jordan Knockoffs’ or ‘Fake Nike Air Jordan’s’, would you?
No of course not.
You wouldn’t want these keywords triggering your products to appear because traffic coming from those search terms would most likely have a very low conversion rate for your standard priced Air Jordan shoes.
And although this traffic would have a very low conversion rate, you (the advertiser) would still be charged each time your products appeared for these searches when your product ads were clicked.
This is where negative keywords are useful.
In order to avoid these clicks, an advertiser can enter the words fake and knockoffs as phrase match negative keywords at the account, campaign or ad group level.
The retailer selling Nike Air Jordan’s is a random example that I just fabricated. However, the keywords that drive unwanted traffic are very real and generally they are a huge budget eater for most advertisers. In addition, they can vary tremendously from account to account and even campaign to campaign.
For a well run, fully optimized account, it is essential for advertisers to identify keywords driving unwanted traffic and ad spend and use negative keywords to prevent future ad spend.
For advertisers using standard shopping campaigns, Google offers or least had been offering full transparency of what search terms trigger products to appear as well as what search terms triggered products that appeared that were subsequently clicked.
This tool that provides this transparency is aptly named the Search Terms report.
Proper use of the Search Terms report is one of the most effective ways for advertisers to improve profitability. In fact, it is arguably the most important tool advertisers have to monitor keywords for their Shopping campaigns within their Google Ads account.
By reviewing the Search Terms report on a consistent and ongoing basis, advertisers can identify which keywords are driving unwanted traffic and prevent future unwanted searches by adding them to their negative keywords.
What Is Changing
A few weeks ago, when I logged into one of my private clients Google Ads accounts, I saw a concerning alert.
The alert read that the Search Terms report is being changed to only show keywords that are searched by a “significant number of users”.
Again, I’ll repeat because it is important to realize.
The Search Terms report is being changed to only show keywords that are searched by a “significant number of users”.
At face value, it appears that Google will not be as transparent. As I understood the alert, it means that Google will no longer show the keywords that trigger shopping ads to appear just a few or as they say a non-significant number of times.
However, what is non-significant? This is the real question that Google has not yet answered.
If you multiply one or two clicks per hidden search term by a hundred or maybe two hundred weekly clicks at $0.50 then the costs wasted could very well be significant to my private clients for sure!
It is also concerning, that in the past changes that Google makes to the Google Ads interface have always been to make navigating the Google Ads platform easier for its advertisers.
This change DOES NOT make it easier to navigate.
In fact, what it does is make it less transparent and this change could make Standard Shopping Campaigns more like the Smart Shopping Campaigns. For more information on this, refer to my recent article –
In that article, I write about how Google is strongly incentivizing partner agencies like mine to promote and convert from Standard Shopping campaigns to Google Smart Shopping campaigns.
So who knows?
Making Standard Shopping Campaigns more like Smart Shopping Campaigns may be their plan all along.
However, then again, I could just be imagining a conspiracy.
For now, I will put away my tin foil hat and get back to the present and what we should be doing in our campaigns to prepare for this change.
Now in the weeks that followed Google’s announcement, there has not been much clarification on what ‘significant number of users’ exactly entails. However, this warning provides definite cause for concern and advertisers would be wise to be proactive to this news.
What Should We Do?
There are a couple of actions that we can take, while we still have full access to the complete Search Terms report.
The first recommendation that I would make to someone calling me asking for advice would be work on a negative keyword list for the account.
Google offers a number of ways to add negative keywords and one is through creating a negative keyword list.
By creating a negative keyword list, advertisers can easily add keywords that will prevent unwanted searches from appearing into the list and then add this negative keyword list to the campaigns that they select.
When I first launch a campaign for a private client, I have a standard list of negative keywords that I add to a new negative keyword list for eCommerce retailers.
This initial negative keyword list contains approximately 150 keywords such as: pics, pictures, instructions, video, how to, knockoff, fake, etc..
I then add this list to all active new campaigns in order to block these unwanted search terms.
In addition, when I’m reviewing the search terms keywords using the Search Terms report on an ongoing basis, I’m constantly splitting out the negative keywords that I want to add as either adding to the account, the campaign or the ad group level.
If I want to add negative keywords to the account level, I’m adding to those keywords to my general negative keyword list.
This list which is already linked to most if not all of the Shopping campaigns and sometimes to the Search campaigns as well, will instantly allow these negative keywords to stop unwanted traffic throughout the account.
My second recommendation would be consider using priority levels to dictate which traffic is eligible to trigger your shopping ads to appear.
In my new book, Make Each Click Count Using Google Shopping, I dedicate an entire chapter to a strategy called positive keywords.
The positive keyword strategy mind you is a bit complicated but follow me for a quick minute if you have never heard of this.
The subject of positive keywords took a full chapter of my book to cover but here is a quick overview.
By using the priority levels of high, medium and low at the campaign level settings, advertisers can use low bids with high priority level campaigns to filter out a ton of generic traffic.
Using our earlier example, of the eCommerce retailer selling Nike Air Jordan shoes, I will explain how this would work.
If a campaign was created as a high priority campaign at a low bid ($0.05) and negative keywords were added to the campaign of “Nike” and “Air Jordan”, then any generic search terms that would cause eligible products to appear without those keywords would be directed to this campaign.
Keywords with low conversion rates such as ‘Tennis shoes’, ‘basketball shoes’, etc. would all be directed to this campaign with the $0.05 bid.
Now, if we created a new campaign, with a low or medium priority that contained the exact same product with higher bids, then searches with keywords that included Nike or Air Jordan would be directed to this campaign.
I realize that this is a bit fast, so for more clarification, please read the chapter on positive keywords in my book.
However, just know that this is an effective way to reduce unwanted more generic terms from generating clicks at least at your cost per click rate.
Now this would not stop those keywords for ‘Nike Air Jordan Knockoffs’ or ‘Fake Nike Air Jordan’s’ in your medium priority campaign, so it would be important to also use a negative keyword list in conjunction with the positive keyword strategy.
The bottom line when interpreting Google’s alert is that we don’t know what a ‘significant number of users’ will constitute.
We don’t know how much of an effect on either yours or my campaigns this will have.
In addition, the recommendations that I have just given with creating your account negative keyword list and implementing positive keywords are two things that already would be benefiting your account.
If Google only ends up removing keywords for instance with a few impressions and no clicks, then you will still be able to fully add negative keywords that you no longer wish to receive traffic.
However, right now we just don’t know.
Therefore, if you are not doing it, make sure you start to work on implementing a full list of negative keywords while you for certain have full access to your accounts Search Terms report.
Whether or not this Google change ends up being a big deal or not, using these strategies will help boost your profitability and generally will do it very quickly!
Looking for More Information on Google Advertising?
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Regardless of which type of advertising medium you use to run your ads,
one truth is essential to your success: you must be able to track response including
when, where and how potential customers responded to your ad.
For off-line advertising this may be a bit broader, such as which
magazine or newspaper on which date did a customer respond to you ad. This is
traditionally tracked by using a special trackable URL or trackable phone
number specific for each location the ad appears.
Fortunately, for us who advertise using PPC, tracking can be pinpointed
down to the exact search terms a customer used to find your ad along with a
slew of other data including the exact time your ad was clicked and the device
the potential customer used to click on your ad.
To access this information in Google, one must become familiar with the
Search Terms report.
Growing up, I loved working with puzzles with the challenge of having all the pieces fit together to create something that sometimes could be pretty amazing if I say so myself:>
Make no mistake, Google AdWords is a on-going puzzle and the Search Terms report for advertisers who discover which search terms are leading to their ads being shown it is a big piece of unlocking the AdWords puzzle regardless of whether your campaign is a Search or a Shopping campaign.
This is where you are spending the money, so you need to know on what. Think of advertising on Google as a purchase of sort, which in fact it is as you are purchasing traffic.
You wouldn’t go to the grocery store with a list and come out with a
random bag of groceries would you?
Of course not, you need specific items.
Well, you are purchasing traffic and you want to make sure you are
getting specific traffic and nothing else is sneaking into your bag (back to
the grocery metaphor).
By reviewing your search terms campaign regularly, an advertiser can
reveal instant information about the quality of their PPC traffic.
This information can be most useful to discover the following:
What search terms are converting.
Which search terms are receiving traffic but are not converting.
Whether or not search terms advertisers feel are relevant are generating traffic.
We will review why each of the reasons is important along with what to do
with what you discover, but first we need to see where to access the user
search terms report that shows which terms are generating traffic to your ads.
Here are the steps:
Open any campaign or ad group (note, keywords can be viewed at the account, campaign or ad group level).
Click on ‘Keywords’ in the left menu.
Click on the ‘Search Terms’ link below. (For Shopping campaigns, the sub-menu under Keywords only has Negative Keywords and Search Terms. For Search campaigns, the sub-menu under Keywords contains Search Keywords, Negative Keywords, Search Terms and Auction Insights).
Search Terms That Are Converting –
The way to handle search terms that are converting is going to be
different depending on whether you are optimizing a Shopping campaign or a
Search campaign. It is also going to depend if you are looking at the Search
Terms report at the Account, Campaign or Ad Group level.
In order to be the most beneficial, especially when there are a substantial
number of conversions, you are going to want to look at the most granular data
possible, which means looking at the Search Terms report at the Ad Group level.
One of the most effective ways to use the Search Terms report is in discovering which keywords searches are converting and for which of your products. You can also view your click-through-rate (CTR) of any keyword searches. CTR is calculated by diving Clicks by Impressions.
If you discover a search term that has conversions; however, it has a relatively low CTR this is a great indicator that you may want to consider changing either your product title or product description.
Since only the product title, image, price and retailer name is shown in a Google Shopping ad, modifying your product title to closely relate to the search terms that have historically converted will help to improve your CTR as well to help increase your conversion rate for those keyword searches.
Search Terms That Are Converting –
Optimizing your Search campaigns using the Search Terms report is going
to be a bit different since you as the advertiser determine which keywords your
products are eligible to display.
When you discover a Search Term that has converted, you will want to make
sure you are advertising on that search term using your desired match type.
Typically for high converting search terms, you are going to want to set
your match type as an exact match type. This directs your ads to show on this
search term or close variant. You can then control the bid for that exact match
type within the Search Keywords tab in order to control and increase your
Search Impression share.
By adding the keyword as exact match, you can also work on the quality
score of your keyword. Also, if you find a keyword that is a high converting,
high earner, you may consider optimizing the product name, product description
or both in order to increase conversions for those high performing keywords.
In addition, you may want to review your Search ads to ensure that these high-converting keywords are included within your ads as well as possibly within your sitelinks.
Search Terms That Are Not Converting
– Shopping Campaigns
With Shopping campaigns, when your products appear in searches is based
on Google’s algorithm that matches your item title and description along with
your bid to a customer’s search.
This can lead to many times, your product ads appearing for irrelevant
By using the Search Terms report an advertiser can easily identify those
terms that are spending ad budget, but not converting into sales.
Once non-converting search terms are identified, advertisers can add
these search terms as negative keywords at the ad group, campaign or even
account level. In addition, non-converting search terms can be added to a
negative keyword list making it easier to apply across multiple campaigns.
Just like search terms, negative keywords can be added in an exact,
phrase or broad match type.
Search Terms That Are Not Converting
– Search Campaigns
Adding negative keywords to Search campaigns is going to be very similar
to adding negative keywords to Shopping campaigns.
Once you identify non-performing keywords, you can add as negative
keyword as an exact, phrase or broad match at either the ad group, campaign or
in a negative keyword list.
However, there is one important difference.
Since the advertiser is bidding on specific keywords, you are the one who has made your ad eligible to appear for non-relevant keyword searches.
Therefore, besides adding the negative keyword you should figure out
exactly why your ad appeared for an irrelevant keyword search.
Common reasons for ads appearing for a non-relevant keyword search can
include using the wrong match type. Perhaps you are using a broad match type
that is bringing in too generic of traffic. You may consider either changing or
adding the keyword to either an exact match or phrase match. This would allow
you to lower or pause your bid on the broad match keyword thus helping to
reduce the times your ads appear for non-relevant search terms.
Are Relevant Keyword Searches
Generating Traffic? – Shopping Campaigns
Assuming you have done your homework and researched keywords, the Search
Terms report is a great place to determine whether researched keywords are
generating traffic and whether they are generating sales.
If you have identified through keyword research a keyword that historically
has quite a bit of traffic on Google but is not generating traffic to your campaign,
there are typically two main culprits.
First, Google does not deem your product to be relevant to that search
term. In order, to remedy this issue, you will need to either change your
product title, description or both to be more relevant for the keyword that you
are trying to gain traffic. By making your product listings more relevant for a
targeted keyword, you increase the chances of your product ads appearing for a specific
Second, your bid is too low and therefore not competitive. If your product is optimized for a keyword and is still not appearing or at least not appearing often, your bid may be too low. In order to see if this is the case, you can either use Google’s bid adjuster to see what Google recommends for a bid or you can view your search impression share for a particular product ad that you believe should be receiving more traffic.
Are Relevant Keyword Searches
Generating Traffic? – Search Campaigns
Remember with Search campaigns, you control the
keywords where your ads appear. Therefore, if you are not appearing for
a specific keyword search, there are a few reasons.
First, you are not bidding at all or you are not bidding high enough on
the keyword for your ad to display for that search term. If you are looking for
traffic for a specific search term, consider using an exact keyword match type.
This will help your ads appear for an exact search term or slight variant
without appearing generating broad traffic.
Second, if you are still not appearing for a specific search term and are
using an exact keyword match type, chances are it is because your quality score
for that keyword search is too low.
Advertisers can bid on any term that they wish; however, if the ad or the
URL where the ad directs is not relevant to the keyword they are bidding on,
then Google will not show their ads for those keyword terms.
You can view your quality score within the Search Keywords tab by adjusting your columns and adding the Quality Score. Typically, advertisers should strive for quality scores on all keywords of 7 or above. If a quality score is below 7, advertisers should consider either moving the keyword to a different campaign or ad group that is more relevant to the keyword either through the ad or the URL it is advertising; pausing the keyword; or adjusting the match type of the keyword.
running a successful Google Campaign as a big puzzle. Trying to determine what
you are spending money on; where you should increase what you are spending and
where you should decrease what you are spending is a huge part of completing
effectively using the Keyword Search Terms report, advertisers have a tool to
complete this puzzle. However, the keyword search terms report needs to be
monitored because keywords that convert can change and non-relevant keyword
searches that cause ads to appear are an on-going issue within campaigns and ad
The good news is that by monitoring your Search Terms report with an effective plan of action you can optimize for more profitability and effectively work to stay ahead of your competitors using Google Ads.
Looking for More Information on Google Advertising?
If you have the dedication and are ready to take your online sales to the next level, then The Academy of Internet Marketing was created for you. It provides the tools in the form of knowledge of what works today. Join us and see what makes us special and together we will grow your business.
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