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Tracking the actual searches where your ad appeared

With search advertising, there’s so much performance data provided that it’s almost impossible to keep up with it all. But among the many things that we simply must be aware of are the actual search terms which triggered the ads to show.

Now, you may think this is taken care of; after all, we specify the ‘keywords’. However, even if we specify an ‘exact match’ keyword, Google can (and will) show the ads against what it calls ‘close variants’. Take a look at the report of actual search terms and you’ll see.

If we’re using ‘broad match’ terms, our advert will appear against a range of searches that you just wouldn’t believe. Now, if our advert is written well, it should only be clicked on by genuine prospects, so who cares about all the times it shows against irrelevant searches and doesn’t get clicked? Well, although not being clicked may appear to be cost-free, it decreases our click-through rate and therefore our quality score, and subsequently raises the cost per click in general. That’s why homing in on exact match keywords that are proven to generate engaged traffic should be our ultimate goal. Only once this avenue has been exhausted should we expand our campaign to the broad match keywords (or back to them, if we started with them to see what was out there).

Remember when you’re looking at the actual search terms report that all you’re seeing are the terms which got clicks. Take a look at the total impresssions for that ad group and it will be higher, sometimes hugely so. What were the searches where the ad showed but we didn’t get any clicks? They don’t tell us. But I’d bet an awful lot are thoroughly irrelevant.

Some experienced advertisers monitor the ratio of actual different search terms where the ads were clicked to the specified keywords. If this figure gets really high, it might be worth extracting more exact match terms (if they’re allowed) and re-evaluating the broad match ones. However, we need to acknowledge the long, long tail of searches which got us nothing.