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In this week’s PPCChat session, host Julie F Bacchini sought PPCers opinion on the recent search term announcement from Google. They discussed their biggest concern with regards to query data going forward, Do they have any plans to work around this, and more.

Q1: Has your opinion or thinking about Google Ads no longer showing queries without “significant” levels of searching changed since you first heard about it? Why or why not?

If anything, it has gotten worse. The data is as bad as I had predicted it would be. I am absolutely livid about the whole thing. It’s just total garbage. @CJSlattery

I don’t know if my opinion of @GoogleAds could be any lower. @JonKagan

My opinion has not changed – I was outraged from the reading of the announcement and nothing that has happened since has moved me off of that position. @NeptuneMoon

Yes! We have seen about 50% of spend being reported on for some ad groups — I’m missing key conversion data as well since Google has decided to not show certain searched terms. aka… we have queries converting, but have no idea what those are. @Maborto1

My feelings haven’t changed. I just did a big cut of data from across all clients and am actually more upset than when the news first broke. @selley2134

It actually seems worse. “Significance” doesn’t appear to actually have anything to do with #’s and seeing some of the horror stories (ie. @CJSlattery) I am very nervous. @gregfinn

When I first heard about it, I didn’t think it would be a big deal. Then I thought it might be. Now I’m back to thinking it’s not too worrying. @stevegibsonppc

Yes, it has quickly gotten worse. Already seen the change in data. @ppcbuyers

Hasn’t changed. I think we should be able to at least opt. in to the data we want. Just because Google doesn’t think it relevant there could be an overarching theme that we would pick out that Google won’t. @jord_stark

My opinion has not changed. We have a right to know what we’re paying for and which queries generated clicks on our ads. @shepzirnheld

Nope. it sucks, and now that I’ve had a chance to think through the effect on my dynamic ads, it seems even worse! @JuliaVyse

No, has not changed. At $3, $5, $10+ per click the data transparency is warranted. @Realicity

No, especially after looking at the data in my accounts (…) I’ve got bigger fish to fry with my accounts, especially starting out. than losing insight into 20-40% of my search terms. Bid strategy will always be secondary to marketing strategy. @ferkungamaboobo

My opinion has not changed a bit and every client I talk to about it, is not happy about it either. Nobody likes to pay for things they have no idea what they are getting. I don’t pay good money and just trust someone has my best interest at heart. @lchasse

Loss of transparency only means one thing- wasted ad spend. Google wants to force people to solely use their “smart” campaigns, when agencies refuse and continued to show results they will slowly remove the tools we use. A2 Bullshit. @ynotweb

Nope. Hasn’t changed. Hate it. I think it’s very unfair to advertisers not to have visibility. I also don’t think there is anything we can do about it until Google’s monopoly ends. @360vardi

Q2: Google Ads clarified their reasoning for this change after their initial announcement (and before we first chatted about this) to say it was for “privacy” reasons. Thoughts?

If privacy = we need money cause we’re losing it, then sure. @amaliaefowler

Whose? and how? and is this an admission that you can find people based on their queries? what on EARTH is this? @JuliaVyse

Suuuuuure. Then allow us to opt out of those searches. @Realicity

The privacy reason is bullshit. It is obviously an effort to maximize revenue. It’s the same reason they stopped allowing us to block mobile app placements on display. They need to aggressively monetize garbage inventory. @CJSlattery

Poppycock!!! what’s the differnce between what thety are showing and what they aren’t?? @mindswanppc

Very interesting, right? I think it’s more of an issue that we can’t see full conversion data/converting queries that we are spending $$ on. I need to chat with my agency Google rep about these changes and get his thoughts too…@Maborto1

I understand the privacy piece of this, especially with Apple focusing heavily on privacy. If just sensitive healthcare or financial queries were hidden this would make more sense, but there’s no clarity around what’s hidden and what isn’t. @grantedrington

While there may be a privacy element to it (say 1% of rationale) I’d say the majority of the reason is to make more short-term $. End Exact Match Add Close Variants Expand Close Variants Hide Variants Seems that with their leading AI & ML they could hide any PII. @gregfinn

It rings just as hollow now as it did when they “clarified”. @NeptuneMoon

Total baloney! If machine learning is as great as Google says, G should be able to selectively remove sensitive queries from the search terms report. P.S. if a query is so sensitive that I shouldn’t see it, I don’t want my ads showing up for that query! @shepzirnheld

Think it has nothing to do with Pii and everything to do with pushing automation. @selley2134

Complete and utter BS. Then explain showing consumer phone numbers on call tracking. @JonKagan

I don’t buy it. IMO, it’s no different to them turning exact and phrase match into broad (i.e. “variants”). That wasn’t about privacy and, IMO, neither is this. It’s about creating more competition for low-value ad inventory. @stevegibsonppc

I also think about Google’s numbers over the last couple of quarters. I’m sure there are plenty of smart people running the numbers on their end to quantify the $ impact of these kinds of updates. @grantedrington

No filter opinion is this is total B.S. in a nice wrapper. Privacy sounds really nice and is great in theory. I feel the real reason is a bit more nefarious however. They don’t want you to see how bad matching is now and they want more profit for shareholders. @lchasse

I really think it’s about the money and control and not really about policy. @jord_stark

I believe it helps them saying they are “protecting privacy” AND collecting revenue. It’s a win win for them. I think they are scared about the Apple search engine and losing revenue from that. @360vardi

Q3: What are you seeing in your account query data? How much is no longer visible? What impact is it having?

Still up in the air. @JonKagan

Varies widely from 20’s-40%’s. These are all on account that have been throughly mined for negatives up until this point though. Surprisingly (so far) the CPAs of the hidden terms have been roughly equal to that of non-hidden, though I am likely an outlier here. @gregfinn

It really depends. For an e-commerce client, I’ve seen 25% of searched terms hidden in the last 7 days, but my colleague @Maborto1 has seen up to 50% for some B2B clients! @leo_pinon09

So what is missing ranges from 30-60% for the accounts but almost universally it is at significantly elevated CPCs with worse CPAs. I haven’t looked this week yet but it has been terrible. @CJSlattery

It looks to be 20% + so far and those smaller click volumes were where I tended to find those really bad offenders to matches, so it hurts pretty badly. @lchasse

A few cuts that I have pulled. eComm missing 29% of cost. Lead gen missing nearly 40%. Small accounts missing 36% Medium accounts missing 31% Large accounts missing 24% Size is based on trying to get equal number of accounts into each group based on ad spend. @selley2134

Lower budget and/or volume accounts are being hit harder, at least in my mix. Average would be at least a third gone. @NeptuneMoon

Varies by account and campaign, but 20%-50% is what I’ve been seeing. The CPA difference between ‘hidden’ and ‘visible’ is definitely there, but I try to look at account-wide performance instead of drilling super deep. @grantedrington

In the two main accounts I run, I’m seeing 55-65% of clicks coming through for this month so far – both with higher CPCs in the hidden terms (not quite as drastic as @CJSlattery, but definitely not good) @Greg_Asquith

It ends up being between 20% and 70%, depending on the client. We are seeing a trend emerge, with visibility inversely correlated to spend — but that could honestly be noise. Also seeing a significant performance gap, regardless of client spend. @DigitalSamIAm

Unfortunately, or fortunately, even, I don’t work on this kind of data anymore…still…grrrr. @mindswanppc

We have seen search lost visibility on accounts ranging from 15% to 53%. @mindswanppc

Q4: Have you been able to figure any rhyme or reason as to what the thresholds might actually be?

Absolutely no view into what is significant. I’m seeing 1 click 1 impression stuff in there still. I hate to assume the worst but I bet by significant they mean relevance and hide the least relevant stuff to avoid us filtering it out. @CJSlattery

Not really, other than (based on traffic performance) it’s likely garbage that they know (any competent) AM would quickly filter out. The lack of transparency around this is galling. @DigitalSamIAm

I think about how Gary Illyes has talked about “thresholds” for SEO stuff — it’s not ever a specific thing but a complicated set of fuzzy math. In short, it’s explicitly designed as a black box because it’s a very complicated set of instructions. @ferkungamaboobo

Not really. I’ve seen competitor terms go to Analytics and more hidden in low volume accounts. I’ve also seen 1 click 1 impressions shown, and conversions being hidden. To be honest I don’t know that Google knows what its threshold is. @amaliaefowler

Very unsure as to what these are. I’m still seeing 1-impression and 1-click queries come through and I also wonder if thresholds or visibility changes over time. If a 1-click term is searched for again, would that be enough for it show? @grantedrington

No Idea. Mentioned before, but I saw this last week – a history of no impressions – and this term and got 1 click (it has a name of a person in the query!) @gregfinn

I am not seeing a pattern, because I am still seeing single click search terms. Wondering if they are selecting what is hidden. We don’t want to get in trouble for this one, so let’s hide it. I wish I could have done that a few times as a kid… @lchasse

Nope, just assuming it is relative threshold. @JonKagan

Not at all – here is what I can see in one campaign. spoiler the only visible search queries have 1 impression #ppcchat (ps maybe has to do with time range? I’m looking MTD). @selley2134

Q5: What, if anything, are you doing or plan to do to combat or work around this in your accounts?

I imagine we’ll never be able to work it out looking at our own accounts, as it will likely look at searches that weren’t eligible for ads (eg knowledge graph results shown instead) or we would never have been in the auction for anyway due to budget. @Greg_Asquith

So far, no DSA’s – unless we have a client in a similar industry we can look at negatives for. Our strategy docs are now including “negative keyword research” instead of our usual And checking Analytics to see if we can get a bit of increased visibility. @amaliaefowler

Controlling what we can control! If you look at the full optimization toolbox, you have bids, budgets, CRO, and much more. If you do a great job at those other tactics, that will hopefully be enough to mitigate any negative impact from the update. @grantedrington

One funny thing I mentioned this week is looking at the Google recommendations for adding new keywords and making them negatives. I will not be using dynamic keyword insertions. DSAs are also pretty sketchy to do now. @lchasse

We’ve been getting much more aggressive on the negative side, as well as relying more on audiences to try to (hopefully) filter out more of the garbage. We’ve been using @semrush + @Moz more to generate low-volume terms to actively exclude. @DigitalSamIAm

No much I can do, expect lean heavy into negatives and write strongly worded letters to the big G. @JonKagan

Exact-ish Match Keywords produce fewer Hidden Queries. Turned off Broad, BMM & Phrase in a clients account and Performance Improved. Testing this as a new practice… @Realicity

I feel like I want to start making industry negative lists as a side gig… Insistence on Google Search Console being hooked up to the G Ads account for starters. Not recommending DSA. Get even tighter in focus of what is being targeted. @NeptuneMoon

It’s also worth reviewing queries in Bing/MSFT if you have mirrored campaigns there. This might be a Google update that Bing actually doesn’t copy. @grantedrington

Use more shared negative lists and upload ahead of launch. Pay more attention to close variance. Try to think of suitable negatives. We already have pretty specific small ad group, so if something matches, it should be correct. @360vardi

Checking Analytics more often, relying on Bing query report too, and probably going to see how site search can provide insight depending on client. Just going bonkers on negative buildouts – worried next update will be to limit that too! @ppcbuyers

Try to diversify clients’ portfolios even more and reduce dependency on Google. If this is the trend we’re going, then what would happen in 5-10 years? Advertisers will just give Google money and trust the targeting is right. Like a TV media buy. @360vardi

Focus more on the keyword level. cutting keywords with below avg. CTR (assuming we are getting bad queries). also looking more at keyword conversion rates then we have before. probably testing smart bidding more than before. @selley2134

Definitely not DSA as, to me, the only value of DSA was the query report data. @stevegibsonppc

We’re literally going to end any campaigns that were on the edge in favor of other venues. More audience targeting, tighter keyword controls, more keyword research for negatives planning. @ynotweb

Then beyond that, queries are only one tool in our tool box. A valuable one for sure, but we’ll test what we can control and optimize elsewhere. Landing pages/ad copy/bidding strategies… you name it. All have increased importance with this change. @alexonbass

Q6: Are you proactively discussing this with clients? If so, what are you saying to them? If not, why not?

So far, no. I’ll bring it up case by case with clients who are usually invested specifically in their queries, but if the overall bottom line is good, then I’m not bringing it up. Not sure if its the right move, just following my gut on this one. @amaliaefowler

Yes. Bringing it up on reporting calls and sending emails out. Trying to reassure that Google changes things all the time and we are paying attention and adapting to the new normal. @selley2134

I am talking with them about it. Putting language in audit reports about it as well. @NeptuneMoon

That visibility has been greatly limited and we are creating tactics to continue to improve performance after the change. I’m also sharing with them the tactics we have come up with. @andreacruz92

Yes, I am. I try to be super transparent with clients on things that will impact their accounts. I think it’s important that they know what possible headwinds there are. I approach it 1. here’s the problem 2. here’s how we’re going to work to address it. @CJSlattery

We communicated right away. Gave them the data of search query lost. Then discuss why it’s impactful. Transparency is really important to us. There are still a lot of stuff we can do, but we have to adapt to this, because this won’t be reverted. @360vardi

Yes! Some clients are more interested than others, but we’ve been focusing on: – how much data isn’t visible? – is this heavily impacting performance or not? – what other tactics are we exploring to mitigate possible negative impacts from lost sq visibility. @grantedrington

We have, most don’t care all that much, as it is something they view as minute and have better things in their lives to be angry about. @JonKagan

Just being brutally honest. That Google is making this change that will likely make its product worse in the long run and that results will likely decline. Good opportunity to add different platforms where we can! @gregfinn

I work pretty closely with most of my clients, so yes we have spoken about the changes. I usually bring up changes, good or not so good in our meetings. I try and keep my opinions out of it and just say what is happening. I like to be extremely transparent. @lchasse

Brutal, impartial honesty. Most of my clients know my feelings on the change, but at the end of the day, my job is to help them make their business better. If Google Search does that (and for many, it still does), then we’ll work within the constraints to do that. @DigitalSamIAm

Q7: What is your biggest concern with regard to query data going forward?

I mean, the same as it was earlier. Losing more of it / never understanding parameters. We adapt though, I’ll be looking at @Optmyzr and @wilreynolds at @SeerInteractive for potential adaptations and work arounds. @amaliaefowler

It’s not query specific. It’s the trend we are going with Google (and other companies). They believe they are the gatekeepers of all data to do as they please to increase their revenue and profit at the expense of the people the middle. @360vardi

It sets a very bad president moving forward. If companies are allowed to charge, but not give you data on what you are paying for, this is not good. There are ways to address privacy without harming the advertiser. @lchasse

Honestly, the cost of the Hidden/Lost data. What negatives are we missing that can be excluded to eliminate unwanted ad spend down the road? What positives can we add that have converted? @Realicity

A few forward-looking questions come to mind: – Will search term visibility get worse over time? – Will the quality/performance of ‘hidden’ queries deteriorate over time? – Will Google look to change match types or the process of keyword selection in the future? @grantedrington

If I were a pessimist, I’d imagine that Google will continue to press on the “significant” change to the reporting threshold, as well as potentially start to remove conversion + performance data. @DigitalSamIAm

What’s coming next. Smart Shopping, App Campaigns, etc never gave us this data. Get ready for how else to win for clients with more campaign types that don’t rely on keyword targeting and search term data. @alexonbass

That the hidden terms will grow … and so will the “close variant” matching. But now we won’t be able to see it. The expansion of the matching has been a big problem and if it continues, it could be catastrophic for SMBs/B2B. @gregfinn

Also, will we ID fewer opportunities to improve messaging, landing page content, SEO strategy with less search term data? Viewing search terms to better understand sub-themes or more specific ad groups is a common practice to improve efficiency and user experience. @grantedrington

It’s a further indication of where Google is headed. Less data, more automation, poorer results. Yes, we will adapt to this change. But what’s next? @shepzirnheld

In the short term: trying to optimize accounts with a fraction of the data & wasting client budgets on irrelevant traffic in the long term: Whats next? I doubt they are done pushing their automated strategies. @selley2134

The low volume queries in the sketchy search network sites we trigger on, that totally screws us later from a PR perspective. @JonKagan

With “significant” not being defined, it will continue to engulf more and more data. @NeptuneMoon

That we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg. Less and less visibility over time until it’s gone “not provided” altogether. And like I said before – I worry about the limit on negative keywords. @ppcbuyers

All advertisers are in the same boat, so I don’t really have any concerns. We’re in an auction medium. We still have plenty of tools to out-perform our competitors. @stevegibsonppc

With Google muddying the waters it really throws off the value proposition- clients already are overwhelmed by the choices, so if you take away transparency that was showing what worked, it leads to that mindset that makes the grass look greener elsewhere. @ynotweb

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