Google Adwords: The Search Term Report

One of the most powerful ways to optimize a campaign in Adwords is to look at the Search Terms report. It’s well hidden from the default areas of adwords, and many “self serve” advertisers have never even heard of it. But, with a little poking around this report let’s you make some quick decisions about the quality of your keywords, and will let you control spend and optimize the keyword mix instantly.

Let’s start with a specific example. If you were a local plumber, you’d probably think bidding on “plumbing” is your first step. It is the biggest keyword, and will give you the most exposure possible in your area. But, if you add it as a broad match keyword, (the default choice) you will be in front of all sorts of searches that may not be good for you.

For example, You will be in front of terms like “plumber in <city name>”, or “local plumber”. But, you will also be in front of things like “plumbing supplies”, “plumber rates in <city name>”, and “liquid plumber”. Each of these words are more than likely worth different amounts to you if you are a service-based local plumber. So, you might consider breaking these keywords into buckets, and bidding differently on each word. But, how granular is “too granular”? The Search Term report is your friend. Let’s take a look.


Getting to the search term report:

First, go to your Campaign>Ad Group>then Keywords tab. At the top of that window, look for the “Keyword Details” button. Inside there, select “All”.

Search Terms All



The search term report has a ton of great data. If a user clicks on your ad, google provides the actual term they typed, which gives you a peek at exactly what you “paid for” with each click. Here is a quick outline of a few of the metrics on the page:

Search Term: The actual phrase a user typed when searching.

Match Type: What keyword match type triggered the search.

The values for this field are usually: Broad Match, Phrase Match, and Broad (session-based).

This tells you how google determined that this search was relevant to the keywords you chose. The one to watch our for is “Broad (session-based)”. This is where you will see some sketchy terms tend to “leak in”. This is because the user might type 3 or 4 searches related to plumbing in their search session, and google thinks it’s still a good idea to keep showing your ad. (Generally because the search is somewhat related. Think “plumbers in CT” followed by “plumber cost”)

Added/Excluded: Over time, you can add certain keywords that perform well, or exclude those that don’t. (More on that in a second.)

The rest of the columns should be familiar to you already; they deal with the actual performance of the keyword as if it were something you added to your regular keyword bucket.

Great. What do I do now?

Now that you know what the report does, it’s time to put it to use! Look at the phrases you’ve been in front of. If you see a lot of clicks for a certain term, and those correspond to a conversion, add them as a separate word and bid them up! Conversely, if you see a word that is awful for you, like “plumbing supplies”, consider adding it as a negative to save some $$ on clicks that won’t perform for you.

The search term report is incredibly valuable. I use it daily for my client accounts, because it allows me to quickly optimize the keyword mix based on ACTUAL DATA, not a “best guess”.