From 1 September 2020, Google started hiding more search term data from its Google Ads advertisers for queries that didn’t have a “significant” number of clicks.
This means that if you look at your search term reports from September, you’re very likely to see significantly less useful data in there about the terms that Google is actually showing your ads for.
What does this mean for advertisers?
Unfortunately this is really bad news, as now, not only is Google giving advertisers less control over the terms their ads appear for, as the match types are very different from what they once were, but Google is also hiding what it shows their ads for.
Back in 2017 I wrote about how exact match no longer actually means exact match and asked then “what will Google do next?” and here we are…
Exact match no longer means exact match. Before the user had to enter the exact phrase that was placed inside those square brackets, but now Google can show it for terms that are close variants, reworded, reordered and can also ignore function words:
How can it still be called exact match? I don’t know.
This is also the case for the other match types too though, so not only is Google giving advertisers less control over what their ads appear for, it’s then taking away some of the transparency and sharing less about what terms it has shown them for.
Here are the new definitions of what the match types mean and some examples:
For smaller budget advertisers, where every click counts, or niche advertisers that struggle to get Google to show their ads for terms that are truly relevant, that rely on the search term reports to provide them with negative keywords suggestions, this is bad news.
How much data have we lost?
I’ve had a look at some of the top clicked accounts in our MCC and compared August 2020 to September 2020, and unfortunately the results are rather alarming. One account saw search terms reported go from 99% in August 2020 to 56% in September. On average the drop was 99% in August 2020 to 84% in September 2020, and that drop was more severe for accounts that did not contain brand terms*.
*Please note that this data was from a small sample of accounts.
This is what Google has to say about the matter:
“In order to maintain our standards of privacy and strengthen our protections around user data, we have made changes to our Search Terms Report to only include terms that a significant number of users searched for. We’re continuing to invest in new and efficient ways to share insights that enable advertisers to make critical business decisions.” – Google statement
Text ads could be going too
This is not the only big change advertisers have seen this month as some have also noticed the option to create a text ad disappear from their Google Ads interfaces:
Apparently this is something Google is testing and is not something that appears in every account, but when looking to see if it was applicable to any of our accounts I saw the following message:
Looks like text ads are going to be the next thing to go, and it’s probably a case of when, rather than if.