Hey, don’t shoot the messenger here. But you don’t want to hear this.
Google Ads will soon start hiding some of the search queries that people use to find your ads. In fact, Google will even hide some queries that generate clicks.
I told you that you wouldn’t want to hear this.
Let’s take a look at what we know about this change.
A Quite Change
Google pulled this stunt without much fanfare.
When you view Search Term report data explanations, you’ll see a warning with this text: “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.”
There’s a Learn More link just below that text. Click on that link and you’ll see this: “Starting September 2020, the search terms report only includes terms that a significant number of users searched for, even if a term received a click.”
There’s no further explanation.
But you probably understand why Google didn’t exactly issue a press release about that update. Some digital marketers are extremely unhappy.
Hey @GoogleAds, what’s this about? So we will be potentially paying for search terms tht are irrelevant but won’t be privy to the keywords we need to add as negatives? What’s the logic behind this please? Thanks. #ppcchat @gregfinn pic.twitter.com/B8oK149YiU
— Rachel (@PPCRachel) September 2, 2020
So is there any kind of explanation for this change? Yes.
Google says it updated the reports “to maintain our standards of privacy and strengthen our protections around user data.”
The company also said that it’s “continuing to invest in new and efficient ways to share insights that enable advertisers to make critical business decisions.”
So the bottom line is this: it looks like you might know a little too much about some of the people who visit your site. If they use unusual search terms, they might reveal some insight about themselves that they’d prefer to keep private.
Okay, that makes sense.
But it also makes sense that you need to know which terms are getting you at least a few customers.
The good news is you’ll still know which terms are bringing in the lion’s share of your customers because those are the popular ones. Google will still show those terms in your reports.
The bad news is your long tail keywords might disappear from the report.
You can get around that, though. Just run ads that are “married” to specific keywords. Then, when you see an ad performing well, you’ll know that the keyword associated with that ad is also performing well.
Of course, Google is probably aware of that trick and will do everything in its power to stop people from exploiting the loophole.
After hearing the news, many digital strategists took to their social media channels to express concern.
“I worry about my clients with super high click costs like legal, tech, etc.,” tweeted Pauline Jakober.
“Some of us just want an explanation,” tweeted Andrew Miller. “If it’s a small, incremental step towards (not provided) and audience targeting for search, so be it. It’s inevitable but should be communicated with time to adjust.”
Collin Slattery went a little farther. He shared a case study about a dataset that includes 118,000 clicks and $120,000 in ad spend over half a year.
He noted that of the 26,000 search terms in the report, 25,600 have fewer than 10 clicks and 25,000 have fewer than 5 clicks. Also: 20,000 have just one click.
In other words, he could lose 25,000+ terms from his report!
That’s not going to work if he wants to track successful keywords.
If these other terms are insignificant then Google shouldn’t charge for them. When Google takes our money they should be 100% transparent and report every search query that was charged.
— Jonathan Hochman (@Jehochman) September 2, 2020
Wrapping It Up
Maybe we can all gin up enough outrage to convince Google to rethink this change.
Or not. Google seems to take data privacy very seriously and that’s what’s at the heart of the update.
We may need to start looking at an alternative way to gain insights on our ads.