What Google Removing Keyword Transparency Could Mean For Advertisers

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.

Negative Keywords

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 –

Google Can Keep Their Stinkin’ Ping Pong Table Because I’m Not Doin’ It

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.

Final Word

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!

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Happy Marketing!
Andy Splichal


Andy Splichal is the founder of True Online Presence, author of the Make Each Click Count book series, host of the Make Each Click Count podcast, founder of The Academy of Internet Marketing and certified online marketing strategist with twenty plus years of experience helping companies increase their online presence and profitable revenues. To find more information on Andy Splichal, visit www.trueonlinepresence.com or read The Full Story on his blog, blog.trueonlinepresence.com.