Search Terms Report: Killer feature in Google Adwords

Back in 2007 Google launched a report called “Search Query Performance report“, which is now known as the “search terms report”. When I see that Adwords campaigns consist of “broad” and “phrase” match keywords, then this report is the first one I dig into. I have saved companies hundreds and thousands of euros using this report and also bringing in more relevant traffic. In this blogpost I shall explain how you can use this report and what benefits it can bring.

To start off, what is the search terms report? With this report you can see how your ads and keywords performed when triggered by searches, which matched your keywords in your Adwords account. For example:

You are advertising with the broad match keyword “bicycle”. Broad match means that Google can match your “bicycle” keyword with another similar relevant keyword. A user is looking for a new tire for his bicycle (mountainbike) and searches in Google for “mountainbike tires”. Your ad pops-up even though you don’t have this keyword in your account (Google thinks there is some sort of a match and therefore your ad gets shown in the auction). The user clicks on your ad and does not see anything about “mountainbike tires” on the landingpage and leaves your site. There are a couple of issues here:

  1. You are lucky if the user clicks on your ad, because your ad probably does not state anything about mountainbike tires. This can have an effect on your click-through-rate and therefore have an impact on your quality score for your keyword, account, ad etc. (want to know more about Adwords Qaulity Score? Then got to read this article on PPC Hero)
  2. The users clicks on the ad and leaves your site. The user experience is poor, which is not a good thing. You always want to lead a user to the most relevant page in the least amount of clicks. Adwords is a very powerful tool, because you have full control over your keywords and landingpages (if you set the campaigns up right)
  3. When a users search intention does not match the landingpage, you are waisting money. This money could be spent on keywords, which are far more relevant for the user or you could simply decrease your ad spend and save yourself some money.

So when using broad and phrase match keywords you should always check on a regular basis the search terms report. The search terms report can be found here:

Search terms report

Start off by choosing a date rang, which gives you a significant amount of data. Then you can start analyzing the keywords on account, campaign or adgroup level. When you are in the keyword tab, select the keywords you want to analyze or simply click on the search terms button and choose to analyze all the keywords. Now the fun part starts. You now get to see a list of keywords, which were triggered by keywords in your Adwords account. The results will look like this:

Search terms report list

By looking into this report you can find new relevant (negative) keywords and add them to your account:

New keywords:

Adding missing keywords gives you more power in managing their Cost-Per-Click (CPC) and Quality Score. For example you are advertising on the broad match keyword “bicycle”. When analyzing the search terms you see that “bicycle” is triggering “cheap bicycle”. The bid (CPC) for “cheap bicycle” is based on the bid for “bicylcle”. By adding “cheap bicycle” to your account you can manage the CPC for that specific keyword, which gives you far more flexibility. You might want to increase the position of that keyword, because you found out it has a high conversion rate, but it does not have a great position. You do not only have better control over the CPC, but you can also work on the quality score for that specific keyword. For instance you might want to lead the visitors to a different landingpage for certain keywords in the search terms report and therefore increase the quality score and decrease the bounce rate.

Negative keywords:

You are bound to come across keywords, which fit the following profile:

  • Not relevant for your business (trust me, you will come across some very strange matched keywords)
  • Very low CTR
  • No conversions, or conversions with a very high cost-per-conversion etc.

If you notice these type of keywords in your report, then simply add them to you account and pauze them. You can also add the keywords as negative keywords. When adding negative keywords make sure you are not excluding other important keywords.

When following these best practices you are going to:

  • Save your business money
  • Increase the quality of your Adwords account (better CTR’s)
  • Increasing the amount of conversions
  • Decreasing the cost per conversion
  • Better user experience (lower bounce rate)
  • And more…..

So how about you fire up your Adwords account and dig into the search terms report 😉


My name is Stephen Farrelly and I am an Online Marketeer specialized in Search Engine Marketing (SEA and SEO), Analytics and Social Media (Strategy and advertising). I live in Rotterdam (The Netherlands).

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