AdWords · Marketing on a Budget · Online Advertising

Look at Your Search Terms Report in AdWords

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Some of the most important data in AdWords is hidden from the default view, and in order to truly know what’s going on with your account, you need to dig. One great example of this is the Search Terms Report.

What are search terms (or search queries as they’re sometimes called)? Search terms are the words that searchers actually type into Google that lead them to see and click on your ad. These are a bit different from keywords, which are the words you choose in order to tell Google when your ad should show. Depending on the match type of your keyword, the search term could be different. For example, you might enter the phrase match keyword “career coach”, which would match when someone enters the search term career coach near me.

Today’s Action Step: Learn how to use the Search Terms Report in AdWords and add negative keywords based on what you learn.

Finding the Search Terms Report isn’t hard once you know where to look. Just look for the “Search Terms” button on the Keywords Tab when in the Campaigns section of your account.

Search terms report

Once you’re there, click on any column heading to sort by that column. I usually sort by conversions or by cost depending on what I want to see. For the sake of this exercise, sort by conversions if you have any, and if not sort by cost. If you have conversions, you’ll see the search terms that led to them on top and know exactly how customers are finding you. If you don’t have conversions, sorting by cost will put the search terms on which you spent the most money on top. You can then optimize for these searches or exclude them if they’re irrelevant, or if you’ve spent a lot without results.

If you’ve never looked at your Search Terms Report before, you’ll probably notice some surprises. To continue with the career coach example, you might see the following search terms:

career counseling
job coach
counseling careers
career counselling online
careers in counseling
career counselor jobs
find a career coach
life coach jobs
it career coach

Some of these words might be ones you want to show for, but you’re probably already noticing that some are the wrong kinds of searches. Careers in counseling, career counselor jobs, and life coach jobs are terms used by other coaches looking for work. Also, if our career coach doesn’t specialize in IT, it career coach will be irrelevant as well.

We can stop our ads from ever appearing for these search terms again by adding negative keywords to the account.

Eliminating it career coach is easy – just add -it to your negative keywords list.

However, the other words are tricky. We can’t just eliminate careers, counseling, or life coach because these all could be part of search terms we want to show for. The good news is you can have match types with negative keywords, so that can help us be more specific about what we eliminate.

I would add the following negative keywords to get rid of the rest of the undesired search terms:

-“careers in”
-“counselor jobs”
-“coach jobs”

Keep in mind that when you add negative keywords, Google still allows your ad to show for misspellings and other minor variations. So I would also add the following additional negative keywords:

-“career in”
-“counsellor jobs”
-“coaching jobs”

(There’s more variations you can think to eliminate, but you probably get the picture.)

Especially if you’re using broad match (as many small businesses are), using your Search Terms Report to uncover negative keywords is a crucial part of optimizing your account. Once you eliminate a search term, your ad will never show for it again – which can save you a lot of money over the life of your AdWords account. It’s a pretty good pay rate for a few minutes of work!

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