Case Study: The Impact of Google’s Reduction in Search Term Report Visibility

On September 1st, Google announced it would be reducing the number of search terms that would be available to advertisers in the search term report.

“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 will likely vary across clients, but where I’m seeing the largest negative impact has been for my clients with smaller budgets who are targeting low volume, highly competitive keywords.

Client Case Study

Let’s take a look at the change we’ve seen in one such client comparing the visibility of the search term report in the first week of August to the first week of September.

For these two weeks, impression and click volume remained relatively stable but the number of search terms in the report decreased about 50%.

Impression Visibility

google search term impressions

As you can see, the majority of searches that led to ad impressions was never shown in the search term report. Because there are millions of search terms, Google only showed search terms for about 4% of total impressions for our ads. That percentage decreased to 2% in September.

Click Visibility

google search term clicks

Looking at clicks is where we start to see a change in search term visibility. In August, we were able to see search terms for 95% of our ad clicks. For September, we are now only able to see search terms for 33%, only one-third, of the clicks on our ads. This is a huge loss in visibility for advertisers with big consequences since advertisers pay per click for search ads.

Cost Visibility

google search term cost

It should be no surprise that the loss of click visibility has led to a decrease in cost visibility. In August, we were able to see search terms for 93% of our search ad spend. For September, we can only see search terms for 37% of our ad spend. That means almost two-thirds of our current budget is being spent on search terms we can’t see, can’t evaluate, and can’t exclude from our campaigns.

Conversion Visibility

google search term conversions

I had assumed that despite this change, we would still be able to see the majority of search terms that led to conversions but that has shown not to be the case. In August, we could see search terms for 100% of our conversions. That percentage has decreased to 60% in September. While that is no where near the loss in visibility for clicks and cost, it is still a larger decrease than I expected.

What Now?

For your own account, I would recommend doing a similar comparison of the visibility change so you know how much of a loss you are experiencing.

Our team is working together with our clients to create strategies to adjust to these changes. This includes reducing spend on broader match keywords and shifting spend toward other platforms.

What are you doing to combat this loss of visibility into the search terms triggering your ads? Let us know in the comments below!

Comments (3)

  1. “This includes reducing spend on broader match keywords and shifting spend toward other platforms.” Same here. Just a few years ago, we would fight tooth and nail with clients to move money to/keep money in Google, because that’s where we succeeded the most and could clearly show it. Now we’re fighting to shift spend. It’s 100% on Google, they now simply suck more than the competition.

  2. What more worrying is, Google can make similar changes to their policies and force all advertisers to shift to fully automated campaign. Where advertisers has 0 control and Google algorithms has full control.

    This has to stop. If all marketers across the globe along with Big Companies stop spending on Google Ads. They will roll back these stupid changes.

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