Google Ads Removes Search Terms Data & Trials Removal Of Text Ads – What Does This Mean For Advertisers?

On 2nd September 2020 GoogleAds announced their plan to update the search terms report to only show advertisers the search terms that generated the highest amount of searches. How could this affect advertisers?

Shell Robshaw Bryan
by Shell Robshaw Bryan
Posted in News on September 7th, 2020

Back in 2013 the SEO world was left reeling when Google made the decision to remove the vast majority of search terms from Google Analytics, to be replaced with “not provided”, leaving us with clues to only a tiny percentage of the keywords customers were typing into Google.

Fast forward to 2nd September 2020 and this time Google Ads have announced their plan to update the search terms report to only show advertisers the search terms that generated the highest amount of searches. Just how important is this news and how might it impact the results of your Google Ads campaign?

Latest changes to Google Ads

As pointed out in a recent Tweet by @PPCRachel, this means that advertisers will pay for irrelevant keywords, but won’t have any information about what those irrelevant keywords are, which means a far weaker negative keywords list based almost entirely on guess work.

Here’s the problem with Google Ads

Exact match has long been used by advertisers to ensure they are paying for only the most relevant of search terms. Trouble is, Google Ads exact match no longer means exact match, instead it means “close match” but the difference between close and exact can have a huge financial impact.

Close variant matching is frankly unhelpful and can be extremely costly, especially for those advertisers with a high CPC (cost per click), because it means that even when using exact match keywords, you can still end up paying for totally irrelevant keyword clicks just because Google has shown your ad for searches it deems to be a “close match”.

Here’s a real-world example. Recently I was working on a Google Ads account and we suddenly noticed we kept appearing in searches that were totally irrelevant and were generating a high volume of costly clicks.

Despite using exact match and a huge list of negative keywords, in its infinite wisdom, Google Ads was using “close match”  logic and had decided that “Hermes tracking” “Hermes tracking phone number” and “Hermes tracking app” was a great close match for [business expense tracking].

The account I was managing had nothing at all to do with Hermes and certainly didn’t provide a courier service and yet Google had decided that these search terms were relevant and over the space of a weekend, had started showing our ads in response to keyword searches that had zero relevance.

Of course as soon as we spotted this (and several other similar keywords, thankfully, with a much smaller CTR), I added “Hermes” and every other courier company I could think of to the negative keyword list, and this has thankfully stopped the problem, for now, until that is Google decides on the next totally irrelevant “close match” to show ads for.

Access to search terms really does matter

Now, here’s the key thing, I was only able to act on this because I could see in the Google Ads search terms report all of the keywords people were searching on that were firing my client’s ads. Take this information away, and only keywords with a very high search volume would ever appear in the search terms data report.

Google has told us once again, that the reason for doing this is ‘privacy’. Let’s get real though. Doing this means that advertisers will have fewer quality metrics to guide them, potentially leading to a higher proportion of marketing budgets being wasted to irrelevant clicks.

Google Ads trial the removal of text ads

As if the removal of search term data wasn’t enough, Google is also trialling the removal of text ads. For many years, text ads have been available to Google Ads advertisers and for most advertisers each Adgroup they set up would include perhaps 3 ad variants, a couple of expanded text ads and usually a dynamic text ad thrown in for comparison.

A dynamic text ad is an advert that Google largely makes up on its own with a bit of help from the advertiser. As an advertiser you have the option to provide a number of different headlines and descriptions, and Google then assembles those elements in any order it wants to.

This provides advertisers with less control over messaging and can sometimes lead to headlines that are repetitive and don’t make an awful lot of sense depending on the order in which Google Ads assembles the dynamic ad elements.

Of course due to the nature of dynamic ads, they can prove effective and work well as Google Ads uses machine learning to figure out the best way to assemble the elements of your dynamic ad to get the best results, but even so, compared to regular expanded text ads, they don’t always come out on top.

It has been confirmed in the last week, and indeed I’ve seen this trialled inside several of the Google Ads accounts I manage, that advertisers can no longer create text ads and the only option is dynamic ads.

Running a trial like this means it’s likely that text ads will disappear altogether, with the only remaining option to be dynamic text ads which is yet more bad news for advertisers who want to ensure control over their brand, messaging and ad spend.

Google Ads can be a great tool for advertisers and for some, it provides excellent results, but the latest changes, including those already introduced and those being currently trialled, appear only to provide advertisers with less control and potentially weaker advertising results.

This means it’s more important than ever that advertisers keep a careful eye on their spend and metrics to stand any chance of succeeding with Google Ads.

Need some help with Google Ads?

With so many potential pitfalls, it’s essential you put your Google Ads PPC spend in the hands of a certified Google Ads expert who can help ensure that your campaigns are fully optimised and can actively manage your ads and help you make the most of your advertising budget.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help you get more out of Google Ads, get in touch with us.

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