Search Terms Report – The Key Important Performance Indicator in AdWords


You are getting lots of clicks on your AdWords ads but no sales, what’s going in? You need to examine the QUALITY of your traffic and here’s how you should do it, the right way. Forget about looking at the Keywords report. The first things I always look at for clues is the Search Terms Report.

Let me explain the key differences between the two reports: Keyword and Search Terms.

Keyword report lists all the keywords that triggered ads, clicks, CPC and all other data relating to that keyword. This is the keywords that YOU set. Its not what people ACTUALLY typed into Google to find you. So just because these are all relevant does not mean that they showed up for relevant searches.

Search Terms report is the one that shows exactly what people typed into Google when they clicked your ad. How many clicks you received for that query, CTR and the rest. It also shows you which of your keywords was matched against which query.

These two do not match up perfectly. One is your desires (keywords) and the other is the reality (search terms).

The match type you set your keywords with will determine which queries you will be eligible to appear for. The broader your match type the broader the range of queries Google will show you for. These queries can spam from extremely relevant to relatively relevant to completely irrelevant for your business. All of these clicks, regardless of their relevancy, will get grouped under the keyword stats.


Keyword: wedding photography
Target customer: Person looking for a photographer for their wedding

Google could match your keyword wedding photography to people searching for all or some the following things:

  • wedding photography (wanted visitor)
  • how to start a wedding photography business (unwanted visitor)
  • jobs for wedding photographers (unwanted visitor)
  • wedding photography printing (unwanted visitor)
  • how to take good wedding photos (unwanted visitor)

Because all of these queries were matched to and triggered by a broad match keyword wedding photographer, all their stats will get grouped under that keyword. You will look at keyword report and see 10 clicks for wedding photography and mistakenly assume these people all are interested in your services. In reality some of them were looking for a job or to learn wedding photography and you paid for their clicks!  

>> How Keyword Match Types Work

Only report that will tell you the actual keyword that people searched for that generated each click to your ad is the Search Terms Report.

Here’s where you can find the Search Terms Report in AdWords MCC

Make sure you ‘modify columns’ so you see both your search terms and your keywords in the report.




Now let me show you the discrepancy between the keywords you listed and what the user actually typed in.

Take a look at the highlighted rows below. All these are keywords in broad match. In column1 are search terms that triggered the corresponding keywors in column6.

search terms keywords differences

Someone typed in whangarei house movers and Google matched it to keyword +house +moving service. Even though this was a modified broad not a standard broad match (with the + meaning the words with the +before it must be in the search query). This keyword was still eligible to appear for the search on Whangarei house movers because this word (city) was not added in as a negative keyword.

Its impossible to think of all the possible irrelevant towns and things that people might type in their search query. Looking at the Search Terms Report will uncover lots of these keywords that you should then add to your negatives. This is what you should be doing regularly, to weed out irrelevant queries so you don’t pay for visitors you don’t want.

Had you only looked at the keyword report, you would see 1 click for +house +moving service and assumed this was a relevant click, whereas in reality this visitor was looking for house movers in Whangarei (city outside of our desired servicing area). This person performed the search from within the set location target and thus was not blocked out by the location target settings. It needs to be blocked via negative keywords.


Action Steps

  1. Go through each line and look for irrelevant queries.
  2. Add each irrelevant query/keyword as a negative keyword. You can do this from inside this report.How?
    Select the keywords you don’t want and ‘add to negatives’. NOTE: Do not add the full search phrase as a negative but only add in the word that identifies unwanted users. In the case of whangarei house movers only add WHANGAREI as a negative keyword. This will prevent your ad from showing when someone includes this word in their query.add negative keyword

If you can’t find any irrelevant keywords in your search terms report then the next step would be to look at other risk factors that could be killing your AdWords’ performance.

If you just want to get a 2nd opinion and get an audit of your existing AdWords account then sign up for our free FREE 20minute consult with the Senior Google AdWords consultant.


Author: admin

Natasha is an experienced digital marketer specialising in Google AdWords since 2005.

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