”People only see what they are prepared to see.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson was of course not talking about Google Ads when he penned that quote, but it fits perfectly with the topic of this article. When managing Google Ads campaigns, you will miss critical information unless you are prepared to see it.
Not Everything Is As It Seems
Have you ever watched a show like Flip This House or Flip That House? I have no idea which one I’ve seen, and for all I know I may have watched a completely different show. Regardless, all house flipping shows are pretty much the same. They start with a run-down home, then they demolish many of the rooms, add new appliances and a fresh coat of paint, and finally, they try to sell for a profit.
But everything does not always go according to plan, which is what makes these shows addictive. No matter how closely you inspect a home from the outside, it’s impossible to predict what’s behind the walls. There could be mold, water damage, immovable support beams, or worse, structural damage. You never know until you open up the walls.
Once you’re behind those walls, then you know exactly what you’re working with and how much it will take to fix and flip the house.
The Walls In Your Google Ads Campaign
Many advertisers don’t realize there are walls within Google Ads. And if you never take a peek behind these walls, then at best you’re missing opportunities to improve performance. At worse, you could be missing some serious structural problems that are wasting your ad budget month after month.
The walls are Google’s default Keyword performance reports. These are the reports you see in Google Ads when you click on the Keywords tab in your account. You’ll see a list of your keywords, along with their respective key metrics.
To the untrained eye, the Keyword reports within Google Ads can be completely misleading. They can be like a fresh coat of paint covering up years of damage.
Because the keywords listed in the Keyword report are not the actual search phrases your prospects are typing into Google.
You may want to read that again. I know it sounds crazy, but unless you’re only using what’s called Exact Match keywords, then the Keyword report in Google Ads is like a wall preventing you from seeing what’s really going on in your account.
How to Tear Down the Walls
Again, it’s worth repeating that the Keyword performance report does not tell you exactly what your prospects are searching in Google to find your ads.
In order to find out exactly what’s going on with your search ads, you need to run a different report. Until recently, this report is not even visible without digging around, but now it’s a little easier to find.
While you’re on the Keywords tab in your Google Ads account, you’ll see 5 submenu links for Search Keywords, Display/Video Keywords, Negative Keywords, Search Terms, and Auction Insights. Click the “Search Terms” button to generate the report we’re looking for.
Again, the Search Terms report will show you the exact phrases your prospects are typing into Google.
What Will You Find?
When I audit Google Ads accounts, I almost always find a long laundry list of irrelevant search phrases in this report. That can be the result of Broad match or even Phrase match keywords in the account without enough Negative keywords.
Sometimes I’ll discover certain phrases are driving the majority of the leads and sales, despite the fact that the ad campaign is not targeting that exact phrase! In that case, it’s important to add the keyword to the account so you can optimize your bids and ads for that particular phrase.
If you’ve never run this “search query” or ” search terms” report before, then I guarantee you’ll be surprised by what you find hidden behind the regular Keyword report. I can’t promise you’ll be happy with what you find, but I can promise you’ll never fully optimize your ad campaign until you dig into this report.
September 2021 Update
Did you hear the news? Google recently announced they’re now showing more search terms data than before. Click here to read our news update about this.
If you’re advertising in Google, check out the Search Terms report and see if you can find irrelevant or non-converting searches that should be added as negative keywords in your account. Adding negative keywords to campaigns can easily save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars in wasted ad budget each year.