Using Search Query Report in Google Ads: 7 Best Practices for Refining Your PPC Campaigns

Reporting Oct 21, 2021 14 minutes read

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    Another day another report.

    It’s probably one of the truisms of any senior position that you’ll spend more time and effort drafting and analyzing reports than doing other work. In fact, according to Databox’s State of business reporting, more than 75% of companies spend three hours or more in making reports – per month. Going through rows and rows of search terms and trying to build a coherent narrative out of it and present it in report form can be exhausting, leaving you with less energy for other tasks.

    However, search query reports (a.k.a. search term reports — SQRs or STRs for short) are a great way to find new advertising opportunities and refine keyword lists for ad campaigns. In a sense, they make marketing more effective and draw in more business for your company.

    With Google being the most popular search engine, using search query reports for Google Ads to improve PPC campaigns will provide the best bang for the buck.

    Wondering how? Learn everything there is about the search query report for Google ads as we cover the following:


    What is the Search Query Report?

    Let’s go over the basics first. A search query report isn’t a simple keyword list. It’s a list of search terms used by a significant number of people that lead to your ad being shown. Depending on how you set up keyword matching, the overlap with your keyword list will vary.

    This report will show you what your customers were actually looking for when they came across your ad. That’s how you get insight into how your customers search and can build a strategy based on that information. You can even use them to generate ideas for new keywords and even exclude irrelevant ones.

    A search query report is a necessary part of any PPC campaign. It can keep the campaign focused, ensuring you’re spending money efficiently and targeting the right people.

    Why is the Search Query Report Important?

    As we mentioned, SQRs can help you refine your search terms and achiever a greater impact with your ad campaign for less money. To help with that, Google AdWords offers four match types (broad, broad modified, phrase, and exact) to determine how closely keywords match the search terms people have entered and triggered your ads.

    While you’d think that ranking for as large a number of keywords as possible would be a good thing, that’s not really the case. If you’re ranking for the wrong keywords, you’re wasting impressions, clicks, and money on people who aren’t interested in your product or service. By adding negative keywords, you ensure you maximize the value of the money you spend on the campaign.

    Benefits of Using Google AdWords Search Query Report

    The AdWords search term report can be used to identify new high-potential search terms that can be added to the keyword list. In addition, you can add terms that aren’t relevant to your business and add them as negative keywords. You don’t want to accidentally lead uninterested people to your ad and waste your budget. Negative keywords will keep away non-customers, allowing you to optimize your campaign and drive more conversions.

    This will also help you identify the optimal match type and keyword combinations that will increase your click-through rate (CTR). Blocking informational search terms and focusing on transactional ones can be a great boon and improve your quality score. Additionally, by learning all about the search terms a prospective customer entered into the search engine before finally clicking on your ad, you’ll get invaluable insight into their intentions. This will allow you to better understand the customer journey and make plans to adapt your overall strategy.

    Finally, you’ll be able to gain a deeper understanding of your audience and their behavior, which can help you determine long-term business goals. Proper use of AdWords search term reporting allows you to streamline the company’s digital marketing, as well as influence the customer experience.

    Where Can You Find the Search Terms Report?

    Now let’s explain how you can actually perform an STR. Fortunately, the procedure is very simple, and you’ll be able to do it in no time.

    • First, sign in to your Google Ads account.
    • Pick a campaign you want to check.
    • Click on the Keyword tab in the page menu.
    • Click Search terms at the top of the page.
    • Now you should see the information about search terms that have triggered impressions and clicks.
    • You can customize your search terms report by clicking the column icon. This will allow you to reorder the metrics, or even add and remove columns.
    • If you want to download the data, just click on the three-dot icon and select download.

    There you have it; your very own search terms report you can use to compare data or prepare other reports that require this information.

    What Is the Difference Between Search Terms and Keywords

    While these two terms may seem like basically the same thing, that’s not quite the case. Marketers use keywords to create ad campaigns, while searchers use search terms to find what they need.

    Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is. A search term (or query) is the exact word or phrase that someone enters when looking for something in a search engine — “nearby takeout” for example. A keyword, on the other hand, is a word or phrase created by advertisers for specific ad groups and that’s designed to target ads to customers — to continue with the food example above, that could be “healthy meals” or “local delivery”.

    However, this doesn’t mean that marketers have no use for keywords. Quite to the contrary, they can use these queries to help them find out what (prospective) customers want and fine-tune their campaigns accordingly.

    Keywords like “local delivery” and “nearby delivery” could all receive traffic from search queries like “food near me,” “food for delivery,” “local takeout,” “best nearby restaurant that delivers,” “quick takeout,” and so on.

    The Four Types of Search Term Matches

    When it comes to both keywords and search terms, there are four different types of matches: broad match, broad match modified, phrase match, and exact match. Each of them has its own benefits and drawbacks, so let’s go over them in more detail:

    Broad match

    This is the default match type for AdWords. Your Ad triggers whenever someone searches for that phrase or something similar — this can include singular and plural forms, misspellings, synonyms, and other related terms.

    Pros: You cast as wide a net as possible, hoping to catch as many prospects as you can. You’ll get a high impression value and end up with a lot of search term information that can help you find new keywords.

    Cons: Unnecessary traffic. This can waste your budget and increase your workload as you may have to recheck search terms frequently to add negative keywords.

    Broad match modified

    As its name implies, this is a modified version of the broad match. It still offers high reach, but it gives you more control than you’d otherwise get. You can add terms that must be in the query, allowing you to fine-tune your keywords. Other terms can be included, and the necessary terms don’t have to be present in the listed order. The match is still broad but offers more precision.

    Pros: Large volume that’s more targeted than with the regular broad match method.

    Cons: Again, similarly to broad match, you’ll still need to perform frequent updates to your keyword list and add negative ones to ensure you’re getting to the right audience.

    Phrase match

    Phrase match triggers ads when a user types in the exact phrase or the phrase with other terms surrounding it (before and after it). If your phrase is “local food delivery,” valid matches would include “quick local food delivery” and “local food delivery thai.”

    Pros: Phrase match gives you a lot of control over the search query.

    Cons: Limited volume, as some people may not type in the words from the phrase in the exact order.

    Exact match

    This is the most strict and targeted match type. The ad will only appear if the user types in the exact phrase with no additional terms before or after it.

    Pros: Excellent targeting. You won’t get any unnecessary traffic.

    Cons: Search query reports will be useless, and you won’t be able to uncover new keywords.

    How to Use the Search Query Report in Google Ads: 7 Best Practices

    You want to get the most out of every tool in your toolbox, and search query reports are no different. Here are some tips you can use to maximize the utility of Google Analytics search terms reports and refine your PPC campaigns.

    1. Find new keywords

    By examining the search term report, you’ll find out which words are your prospective customers looking for. Organize the results according to the landing page and figure out if some new terms might be better suited to their own ad groups. If so, you can then shift keywords around between adgroups, maximizing the traffic to the right page.

    2. Use negative keywords

    Keeping track of unrelated terms that direct traffic to your page and have a high bounce rate is incredibly important. Fortunately, an SQR allows you to quickly identify such search terms and add them as negative keywords, ensuring you don’t get unwanted traffic and saving you money in the process.

    You can do this for the Ad Group and the Campaign separately or simply add it to the Negative Keyword List.

    Once you’ve identified an unwanted term, click on the box next to it and click the “Add as negative keyword” link above.

    3. Identify root keywords that aren’t converting

    This is similar to negative keywords but deserves a section of its own. You may get question phrases such as “how to prepare thai food” that, while may seem superficially relevant for your Thai restaurant, actually don’t help you get any conversions.

    Informational search queries are usually used by people looking for information, not a service. While they may land you a conversion every now and then, they’re usually not worth it in the long run. They’ll be eating through your budget and if they’re not driving conversions, remove them.

    4. Compare search terms

    And not just close-ranking search terms; compare best- and worst-performing search terms and try to analyze the data you get. This will allow you to optimize for the keywords and terms that are getting you traffic and conversions. Additionally, you’ll be able to identify more negative keywords and exclude them from the campaign.

    5. Make sure you’re using the correct match type

    By checking out the “Match type” column, you can better understand how keyword match type affects your performance. Search term reports let you check all of the terms that a prospect searched before clicking on your ad. This is an invaluable insight into the consumer journey. It will pay off if you act on it the right way.

    6. Download and export the report

    Google allows you to download the search terms in various formats. You can even schedule it as an email to ensure you get the most up-to-date information at regular intervals. You can even use a customized dashboard designed for PPC campaigns in order to see all the data presented in a simple, clear, and easy to understand way.

    This will ensure you’re always informed about what’s going on with your ad campaign and that you’re not wasting money on keywords that aren’t drawing in the right people.

    7. Make changes to the website

    This is a logical consequence of paying attention to what your customers want. After all, you need to act on the information on more levels than just modifying the PPC campaign itself. Building new landing pages (or streamlining old ones) based on the search term reports can lead to positive user engagement and increase ROI.

    How Often Should STRs Be Checked?

    Since search term reports update in real-time, you may think you need to check them very frequently. However, this isn’t the case. In fact, overusing the report will only distract you from your other duties.

    Conducting a search report every 2–4 weeks should be enough for most businesses. You can modify the date range by clicking on the dates at the top right of the campaign screen.

    At the very beginning of the campaign, you can check the keywords more frequently. After setting up the keywords, you should check the STRs during the first few days to identify high-and low-performing search terms. Then you can make the necessary modifications.

    Use Search Query Reports to Improve Every Aspect of Your Business

    There you have it, a comprehensive guide to using search query reports in Google Ads. This information on best practices should help you optimize your PPC campaigns and improve your ROI. If used wisely, STRs can even help you shape your overall digital marketing strategy and brand image. Remember, It’s all about identifying what customers want and adapting to their needs.

    If you want to make the whole process easier and save both time and money, you can automate PPC reporting with Databox. Fortunately, Databox dashboards offer full Google Ads integration, allowing you to track all the metrics you need and collate them into easy-to-understand visual reports. 

    Our Google Ads PPC performance templates can help you learn:

    • Which metrics should you be tracking for your Google Ads campaigns?
    • How to measure click-through rate for all of your ad groups.
    • How to track keyword-level clicks on your ads.

    And there’s more!

    The deep integration will let you track everything from impressions, clicks, conversions, keywords, and search terms to engagement by ad, group, or campaign… and that’s not an exhaustive list.


    Databox is all about helping you make reporting simpler and easier. You can even sign up for our free trial and test out our PPC reporting features without any commitments.  

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