Back in September, I pointed out some of the sneaky ways Google has been slowly creeping in and removing more and more control from the advertiser to run their campaigns efficiently. One “Google Creep” method that was discussed and got a lot of reaction from the industry was limiting which search terms that the advertiser pays for that show up in reports.  Google mentioned they would be limiting search query information over privacy concerns. They had already removed organic search query information years ago, and we all adjusted. Frankly, I haven’t seen a lot of studies showing how much “creep” was happening with this and it really is starting to become apparent with some end of year reporting.

Why Limiting Search Query Info Is Bad For the Advertiser

With Google having already changed the definition of “Exact” match a couple of years back, they were limiting efficiency for advertisers.  Basically forcing advertisers to waste money on their platform. The beneficiary of that is Google.  By not allowing you to advertise for the “exact” keywords or phrases you want, you are letting budget leaks occur as Google decides what close variants they think your ads should show up for.  Those of us in the industry know there can be vast differences with singular vs. plural or slight word changes and synonyms when advertising a service. It leads to an immediate drop in spending efficiency.

Less Power to Build Good Negative Keyword Lists

So what is a top way to try to slow this efficiency creep and keep you targeting more specific? Looking at your specific search terms that your ads are showing up for and adding clear fails and leaks as “negative keywords”.  Negative keywords can be added to a list, and if that word or phrase is a part of the search, you are telling Google to not show your ad, even if your other keywords are there. A good example of this would be “free” attached to a search for your service. However, many advertisers develop very refined negative lists over time, especially since the definition of “exact” subtly changed in Google.

How Many Search Terms Are Withheld

So as it was announced, nobody was quite sure what percentage of your clicks or budget would be withheld.  It will definitely vary by target I’m sure, but it seems to be hitting some small businesses fairly hard. Google was vague in saying the would “only include terms that a significant number of users searched for. ” As we see the data coming in, I have a client that had a prior 30 days with over one-third of their budget going to “other search terms” with no other information.  These lower volume terms are the heart of where you work to make your campaigns more efficient. I have seen query reports where more than half of the budget was going to “other search terms”.  Let this be a warning. This number is growing and we have to be very careful with it.  I would say it is more important than ever to regularly look at search terms reports for negative and also try to grab big pieces of data.  I’m still learning how much it may change or adjust if you pull larger sums of data. If there is more data pulled, will they provide more detail? I don’t know, but my radar is up for the industry to give us more info. The initial looks for small businesses are frightening.