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How to Use Google Ads Search Terms to Reveal and Fix Campaign Mistakes

How to Use Google Ads Search Terms to Reveal and Fix Campaign Mistakes
Google Ads can help you get your brand in front of potential customers quickly. However, it’s easy to make costly mistakes, including ones that aren’t obvious or easy to find. Such was the case with a search campaign I recently reviewed for a friend which inspired this tutorial to help introduce you to the Google Ads Search Terms report and show you how to identify and fix keyword targeting problems in Google Ads.


What are Google Ads Search Terms? How are they different from Search Keywords?

When you set up Google Ads, you need to add one or more keyword phrases to target. Whether they include one or many words, Google refers to them as search keywords.

Google match types are used to let Google know if you want to show your ads only for a precise search keyword, searches that contain a phrase, or broadly related searches. If you set a match type that gives Google flexibility, such as broad match, your ad will appear for a broad array of searches Google thinks are related. Exact match is the most restrictive match type, and it allows you to specify that you want Google to show your ad only to people searching for one single search keyword.

For example, if your search keyword is rental and you are using a broad match targeting strategy, your ads will be triggered when people search for anything related to the word rental, including moon bounce rentals or car rental. Your ad can also appear for searches that include any word Google thinks is closely related. In this example, the search keyword rental might trigger your ad to appear for searches for a lease, or car lease.

When using anything other than the exact match type, you can’t predict every search query Google will show your ad for, but you can see what queries triggered your ads after the fact. Search terms refer to the exact words or phrases users entered into the search engine, and the search term report lets you see exactly what users were searching for.

You can review the search terms report for any Google Ads Account, Campaign or AdGroup by clicking Keywords, Search Terms.


How To Use the Search Terms Report to Lower Cost Per Lead or Acquisition

The search terms report is something that PPC management pros review frequently, and most of the search terms you will see reported in well-managed accounts will relate to your product or services. But search terms that aren’t relevant can sneak into even the best run campaigns. To find them, click the Interactions column heading which will sort the rows by the frequency of the search term used. Scroll down and make note of any word or phrases that aren’t quite right or not targeted at all. Following from the example above, let’s suppose you were in the car rental business, and you see the search term moon bounce rental in your search terms report You’d want to note that.


How to Use Negative Keywords to Improve Google Ad Targeting

Once you have your lists of problem keyword phrases, click Negative Keywords. A Negative Keyword is a word, or phase, you don’t want your ad to trigger for. Click the + sign and enter your negative keyword phrases being sure to press enter after each line. You can use different match types with negative keywords, too. For example, the list below contains negative keywords you might want to add if you were in the car rental business and search terms containing these words or phrases are in your search terms report.

  • moon bounce
  • bike
  • apartment

You can add them to a single AdGroup or the entire campaign. If you have negative keywords you would like to add to more than one Campaign or AdGroup, you can create a list that can be used across multiple campaigns.

If you are using Google Ads in an industry or for a purpose that is subject to regulation, for instance to promote real estate or jobs, be careful not to add any keywords that might violate laws or regulations that apply to your industry. For example, if you aren’t allowed to discriminate based on income in your market, it is not advisable to use negative search terms that might put you at risk, like low income. While you will run the risk of generating some unqualified traffic, this may outweigh the potential risk of a lawsuit or fine. Consult your legal or risk management department for advice on this matter for any risk factors in your industry.


Viewing Conversions by Search Term

The goal of your Google Ads manager is to generate conversions. That said, not all conversions are created equally, and it’s surprisingly easy to generate clicks and conversions from seemingly unrelated search terms.

Fortunately, you can also see the number of conversions each search term produced. If you don’t see the Conversions column, click Columns, Conversion, check the box next to Conversions, and then click Apply. Click on the Conversions column to see the search terms that generated the most conversion.

For example, let’s suppose your business specializes in daily or monthly car rentals. If you are using rentals as a broad match search term, it’s conceivable your ad would trigger for the search 4 year car lease. If your ad isn’t carefully crafted (or the person searching isn’t reading carefully) it’s possible for this person to contact you, which would register a conversion. However, this conversion would not result in new business. You can make sure your ads never appear for searches for leases of a year or more by adding year as a negative keyword.

Setting up conversion tracking is one of the first things any Google Ads pro will do when setting up a new account. Conversion tracking helps track results and makes it possible to use Cost Per Acquisition bidding automation, something Google is pushing hard for both in house and agency managers to try. However, it’s surprisingly common for conversions to come from totally irrelevant keywords. Since it’s your goal to maximize sales generated by Google Ads, not just leads, it’s important to inspect the search terms report regularly and make sure you are adding negative keywords so it’s more likely the conversions will result in new business.

Have questions about Google Ads? Reach out and we’ll try to answer them.

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