On September 1, Google announced that they are going to be hiding low volume search terms in their Google Ads Platforms. This change means that beginning in September, any search term without a significant amount of data will no longer show up in query reports.
So, what does this really mean, and how does it affect you as a business professional?
Google’s announcement that they will be hiding low volume search terms has caused immediate concern in the digital marketing space.
Many marketers rely on this visibility with their ad campaigns, and this leads to uncertainty about how they will be able to gain insights that help optimize their Google Ads performance.
Google notified advertisers that the query reports are only going to include terms “searched by a significant number of users.” They have not commented on what constitutes a significant number yet, but we can assume that some advertisers will lose visibility into various queries that they have paid for.
In other words, Google Ads will no longer show search queries that led a viewer to their advertisement if there is no “significant” data to report.
They have stated the reason for this abrupt change is to maintain privacy standards and strengthen user data protections. Google wants to prevent advertisers from using minimal query data to have access to personally identifiable information that may appear in search queries.
Similarly, Google mentioned that they will be investing in new ways to help advertisers make critical business decisions – but no details have been announced yet.
There is also speculation that this change was driven by the 10% drop in Google Search business compared to last year, likely a result of advertising reductions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Impact on the Search Terms Report
The Search Terms Report is the Google Ads feature that shows you which specific search terms triggered an impression on your advertisement. It also shows how closely the search terms relate to the keywords your ad was targeting.
For instance, let’s assume your ad is targeting the search term “local lawyer.” If a user searches for “lawyers near me” and it leads them to your Google ad, the search term “lawyers near me” will appear on your Search Terms Report.
This report is essential when reviewing digital marketing efforts, as it helps the business determine the effectiveness of their ads and what words users are searching for when looking for their products or services.
The Search Terms Report can also help you identify the best match type for specific keywords, as well as build a negative keyword list. A negative keyword list consists of a set of search terms that you do not want to lead to your ad.
Simply put, high visibility into this report is essential for PPC management! It ensures that you allocate your budget correctly and that funds are not wasted on consumers that are not interested or on low-profit search terms.
This change to the visibility report is cause for concern because it may negatively impact advertisers’ ability to determine which search queries will trigger a click or conversion.
Seer began studying this change immediately 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.
This data was collected from 9/1 through 9/8, and it appears to be consistent across the days the research was conducted. They pulled over 5.1 million data points across more than 30 businesses that were running PPC campaigns to get an accurate sense of how this change is impacting advertisers.
The study found that the average Search Term Report accounted for 99% of queries in August, while the September number has dropped to 84%. This represents an average reduction of 15% of a company’s visibility into its Google Ads!
What Does This Mean for You?
So, what does this mean for you as a business professional?
In short, Google Ads hiding low volume search terms can have a major impact on your digital marketing and PPC management.
The terms that are being hidden include more than just sensitive queries that have data and privacy implications – there is potential for thousands of low-volume queries to be removed from the Search Terms Report.
You may be wondering, why does it matter if low-volume or seemingly irrelevant keywords are removed from the report?
To begin with, you’ve paid for those ads so you should be able to see where that money went. Secondly, it may not be a big issue if it is only one or two search terms that get hidden – but several of these can add up pretty quickly!
Failure to have complete visibility regarding search terms may prevent you from making small but proactive adjustments to your keyword targeting that could help boost your ad success. It also makes it difficult to set up single keyword ad groups and essentially makes broad match unusable.
These changes also lead to reduced conversion rates and lower bidding on keywords.
The platform is hiding queries that trigger paid clicks, which means that you will lose visibility on what your advertising funds are being spent on. Lack of data in this space can have major financial implications for any business professional advertising on Google Ads.
Let’s put this in terms of dollars of ad spend.
Before changes were made to the report, you would expect the Search Terms Report to describe where $98,700 of your advertising funds went for every $100,000 spent. The same went for clicks – you could see exactly what drove 98,300 out of every 100,000 clicks.
This data allows business professionals to accurately discern what is working in terms of PPC management – and what is not working.
With the reduction in search term visibility, the report will now only provide details for about $71,000 of advertising costs for every $100,000 spent. Similarly, you will only have search term data for 77,900 out of 100,000 clicks.
Let those numbers sink in – that represents an average of $27,700 in advertising funds that cannot be linked to specific search terms or queries. This will have a major impact on PPC management and digital marketing, as advertisers will have to rethink their current budget allocations.