Whether you’re a local small business or a Fortune 500 corporation, Google is an important part of every company’s marketing mix. Google is the most used search engine, receiving over 5 billion search queries a day, and is reported to provide a high return on investment. However, Google recently announced an impactful update regarding their search term reporting policy.
From Google’s Search Terms Report:
“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. You may now see fewer terms in your report.”
In short, this means that advertisers will have reduced visibility into which search queries trigger their ads, even when terms correspond to a click or conversion. Reports moving forward, according to the Search Terms Report support page, will “only include terms that were searched by a significant number of users.” This is a concern for many marketers, as they rely on this visibility with their ad campaigns in order to optimize to the best Google Ads performance as possible.
Our neighbors at Seer Interactive ran a study of this change immediately after it was announced, and found that Google Ads hid about 28% of paid search budgets. Likewise, they saw that search term visibility was not shown for about 20% of PPC clicks.
Why is Google making this change?
In a statement, Google cited this change was incorporated to maintain their standards of privacy and strengthen protections around user data. Privacy and protection are a trending topic amongst marketers right now, and as a tech company, Google should be respecting and maintaining user privacy. Google is expected to set the standard that personally identifiable information (PII) that could be tied to someone out of search term reports should be kept private.
In 2011, Google started this by limiting visibility into the search terms that drive organic traffic to websites for users logged into Google, again citing privacy as the reason for the policy change. When this policy first happened, keyword buying became the solution to this challenge, allowing advertisers to buy search ads, and match keywords to search queries.
Are we heading towards the death of keyword targeting?
This update may signal that Google is phasing out traditional keyword targeting and replacing them with Dynamic Search Ads and Smart Campaigns, such as by minimizing search term visibility and replacing it with audience targeting. We saw the very first step towards audience targeting when Google Analytics launched the new predicted purchase and churn metrics in July of 2020.
How did Search Term Reporting Work?
Google Ads includes a Search Term Report feature that shows you which specific terms triggered an impression on your live advertisement, as well as reports how closely the search terms relate to the keywords your ad was targeting. For example, let’s see which local businesses are bidding on the search term “St. Pete coworking”.
When a user uses this search term and it leads them to a paid Google ad, the search term “St. Pete coworking” will appear on each of the pictured companies above within their Google Search Terms Report.
This report is so important when reviewing digital marketing efforts and budget; without reporting, the business has no way of measuring the effectiveness of its campaigns and deciding whether these ads are driving traffic to their site or not. This change to the visibility report is concerning for companies and marketers alike because it may negatively impact advertisers’ ability to determine which search queries will trigger a click or conversion.
Digital Neighbor’s 3 Tips Going Forward on Search
#1. Leverage site search on your own website
Your website should have its own visible search bar for guests to easily find what they are looking for when visiting your website. According to eConsultancy, up to 30% of site visitors use internal site search. Plus, once a site visitor does complete a search, they are 5-6X higher likely to convert than the average visitor. Not only are you creating a positive site experience and increasing the likelihood that a site visitor finds what they are looking for and converts, but you are also learning something more about your customers.
Google Analytics incorporates site search tracking into your website, allowing you to measure which keyword searches are driving traffic, and also enables you to optimize your website tagging based on the results you’ve measured.
Action items: Make sure your site’s search bar is engaging and ready to use, and that you’ve turned on Google Analytics into your site for reporting!
#2. Learn more about your audience outside of keywords
While leveraging your site search results to better understand your audience is one tactic, it’s one of many! There are other ways to fill in the gaps of information, such as:
- Leveraging audience segments
- Hosting surveys
- Researching closed-loop data through audience research methods.
You can also gather insights from social media, by measuring and researching your top competitors, and by researching secondary data to further understand your target audience.
Action items: Dedicate time to researching your audience and utilizing your insights to inform your marketing tactics outside of Google.
#3. Test Smart Bidding on Google
Smart bidding was designed to help make advertising easier and more efficient for marketers and businesses, allowing an automated resource and utilizing machine learning to optimize ads for the best conversion. With this automated resource, businesses can take a more hands-off approach, allow the search ads to prioritize certain goals, and take advantage of the fact that smart bidding algorithms do factor in search queries into their signals.
Action items: Look into Smart Bidding and run a test to measure performance.
At Digital Neighbor, we’re all about the latest trends and changes in the digital marketing world and finding new ways to support our clients and neighbors. We’d love to grab a coffee and discuss ways to help your business grow on Google Search and beyond!