Discover how to boost ad campaign performance and avoid costly mistakes with the Search Term Report.

Here you’ll learn: 

  1. What is the Search Terms Report?
  2. Where the Search Terms Report is in Google Ads (and how to find it)
  3. The difference between search terms and keywords
  4. Search term examples
  5. How can I use the Search Terms Report to improve ad performance?
  6. Benefits of Search Terms Reports
  7. Mistakes to avoid when you use the Search Terms Report
  8. Tips for Search Terms Report success

Think of the Search Terms Report as your spy who gathers data on your potential targets. The Search Terms Report gives you a peek into the queries searchers use to find things they want and need. This report can give you a competitive edge, and prevent wasted ad spend. 

A Next&Co report reveals over $100 million in digital media was wasted in Q1 of 2023. This report makes it clear refining your keywords based on search terms data is essential to preventing wasted ad spend.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the ins and outs of this invaluable resource. 

We’ll explore what it is, why people use it, where to find it in your Google Ads (Adwords) account, the distinction between search terms and keywords, and how to harness its power to supercharge your campaign performance. 

 What is the Search Terms Report?

The Google Ads Search Terms Report, also known as the Search Query Report, is a feature within Google Ads that can give you valuable insights into the actual search queries that people use to trigger your ads. 

It lets you peek into the minds of your potential customers and reveals the exact phrases they typed into the Google search bar that led them to see your ad.

This report contains a whole treasure trove of data. It offers you a deeper understanding of your customers’ behavior and helps you assess the effectiveness of your chosen keywords.

 Where is the Search Terms Report in Google Ads?

When you’re ready to harness the power of the Search Terms Report in your Google Ads campaigns, follow these simple steps to get access to it:

  • Log into your Google Ads account: Access your Google Ads account using your credentials.
  • Select the campaign or ad group: From the main dashboard, click on the campaign or ad group for which you want to access the Search Terms Report. This will narrow down the scope of the report to the specific campaign or ad group.
google ads screenshot

(Image: Google Ads)

  • Navigate to the Keywords tab: Once you’re within your chosen campaign or ad group, locate and click the Keywords tab. This tab and other campaign management options are typically found in the top menu.
google ads screenshot

(Image: Google Ads)

  • Choose Search Terms: You’ll see a sub-menu within the Keywords tab. Click on Search Terms. This will take you to the Search Terms Report.
google ads screenshot

(Image: Google Ads)

Now you’ve got the report in front of you. How can you make sense of all this information? Well, one of the first things we need to do is clear up a common misconception. Many marketers think that search terms and keywords are the same things. But that’s not the case, so let’s explore the difference. 

 Differences between search terms and keywords

Keywords are the words or phrases you bid on to trigger your ads. In contrast, search terms are the actual searches that people type into the search bar, which may or may not match your chosen keywords.

For instance, if your keyword is “luxury watches,” the search term could be “high-end wristwatches for sale.” 

The keyword acts as a trigger, while the search term is the real query from a potential customer.

 What are search terms examples?

To illustrate the idea further, here are some more search terms examples. 

Let’s say you have a shop selling cameras and film equipment. You might then choose the keyword “digital cameras” or “mirrorless cameras.” 

Below are some examples of keywords and the search terms that might match with them.

Keyword: Digital Cameras

Search Term: “Best digital cameras for photography”

Search Term: “Digital camera deals under $300”


Keyword: Mirrorless Cameras

Search Term: “Mirrorless camera reviews 2023”

Search Term: “Sony mirrorless camera specifications”

How search term matching works

How it works will differ a bit by keyword match type. If you have an exact match term like (electricial near me), it will match with users’ searches with the same meaning.

However, if that same term is a phrase match, “electrician near me,” then all queries that include the meaning of your keyword will trigger the ad.

Last, broad match keywords like electrician near me match all searches related to your keyword when they’re typed into a search engine like Google or Bing.

Pro tip: Misspellings can be matched with any of the above keyword match types.

 How can I use the Search Terms Report to improve ad performance?

Now that you have accessed the Search Terms Report and understand the difference between search terms and keywords, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and make good use of this wealth of data you have access to.

Here are some ways you can leverage the Search Terms Report to enhance your campaign’s performance:

1. Identify high-performing keywords

Begin your analysis by sorting the search terms by performance metrics such as clicks, conversions, and click-through rates (CTRs). Identify search terms that have generated clicks and conversions at a reasonable rate. These are your high-performing keywords. 

“I would look at the search terms and determine effectiveness based on click-through rate or conversion rate for easy wins,” says HawkSEM’s senior SEM manager Ian Dawson. “Low CTR or a term with no conversions would be a good candidate for a negative keyword.”

You will also want to pay attention to the search terms that are aligned with your campaign goals. For instance, if you’re aiming for lead generation, focus on search terms that have driven leads. Or, if your goal is ecommerce sales, look for terms that lead to purchases.

Once you’ve identified high-performing keywords, you can add them as new keywords in your campaign. This ensures your ads will appear for these specific, successful search queries.

2. Implement negative keywords

Equally crucial to finding great keywords is finding the keywords to avoid. Identification of irrelevant or underperforming search terms will help you ensure you save your ad spend. 

Negative keywords are the queries that consume your budget but give you no value. Add the underperforming or irrelevant search terms to your negative keyword list.

The negative keywords you add prevent your ads from being displayed for these queries. This will save you ad spend, which you can allocate to more promising opportunities. 

For instance, if you sell premium watches and notice that your ads are showing for search terms like “cheap watches,” you can add “cheap” as a negative keyword to filter out such irrelevant traffic.

3. Refine your ad copy 

The Search Terms Report can offer you an understanding of user intent. You can use these insights to fine-tune your ad copy to be more relevant to your target audience. 

Every part of your ads can be tested and improved upon over time, including your ad copy. A huge part of managing a successful digital marketing campaign is iterative testing and implementing improved designs. Tools like our own ConversionIQ can test the outcomes of the insights you gain from the Search Term Report to help you further optimize your ads.

If certain search terms show people looking for specific features or benefits, you can test incorporating these elements into your ad copy. 

This alignment between user intent and ad messaging can lead to higher CTRs and better conversion rates.

4. Budget allocation

Your budget is a precious resource. Allocate it wisely based on the data from the Search Terms Report. Focus more of your budget on search terms that consistently drive conversions and positive ROI.

Adjust your bidding strategy to allocate more resources to high-performing search terms. This will help you maximize your return on ad spend (ROAS) and achieve your campaign objectives.

 Benefits of Search Terms Reports

Here are some of the ways implementing these strategies will benefit your advertising strategy:

  • Precision targeting: Equipped with all your insights from the Search Terms Report, you can fine-tune your keywords to reach a highly relevant audience. This precision targeting increases the likelihood of your ads reaching potential customers who are genuinely interested in your products or services.
  • Save money: By identifying and excluding irrelevant search terms through negative keywords, you save money by preventing wasteful ad spend. This cost-saving measure ensures that your budget is put toward more productive terms.
  • Improved Quality Score: Google rewards relevancy with a higher Quality Score. As you optimize your keywords based on search terms, your ads become more relevant to users. This, in turn, can boost your Quality Score, lower your cost per click (CPC), and improve your ad rank.
  • Higher ROI: The ultimate goal of any ad campaign is to achieve a return on investment. You can spend your ad dollars more efficiently when you refine your campaigns based on the Search Terms Report. This leads to improved overall performance and, ultimately, a higher ROI.

 Common mistakes to avoid with the Search Terms Report

While the Search Terms Report can be your best friend, it’s not a magic wand you can wave and expect miracles. There are some common pitfalls you should try to steer clear to make sure you get the most out of this valuable tool.

Here are some common mistakes to avoid with the Search Terms Report

  • Ignore the Search Terms Report: One of the most significant mistakes is not using the Search Terms Report at all. Some advertisers set up their campaigns and forget to regularly review this report and use all the valuable data it provides.
  • Overlooking irrelevant search terms: Not using the Search Terms Report to identify and exclude irrelevant search terms can lead to wasted ad spend. If your ads show queries unrelated to your products or services, you’re burning through your budget needlessly.
  • Underestimating negative keywords: Neglecting to add negative keywords can result in clicks from users with no intention of converting, causing your conversion rates to plummet.
  • Neglecting ad copy relevance: Ad copy needs to match user intent and expectations. Otherwise, your campaigns still may not perform well.
  • Infrequent review: The effectiveness of your ad campaigns can change over time due to various factors, such as seasonality or market trends. Don’t miss opportunities for optimization.
  • Not adjusting bids: If you discover high-performing search terms, don’t forget to adjust your bidding strategy accordingly. Failing to allocate an appropriate budget to well-performing keywords can limit the impact of your campaign.
  • Neglecting user intent: Beyond just looking at metrics, it’s essential to consider the intent behind search terms. 
  • Not leveraging insights: Failing to incorporate the value insights into your overall marketing strategy can be a missed opportunity for growth.
  • Adding negatives at the wrong level: “Sometimes a negative keyword is best only at the ad group level, while some are best at the list level,” Dawson explains. “When using negative keyword lists, you can unintentionally add a negative keyword to a campaign.”

 Tips for Search Terms Report success

The Search Terms Report reveals a wealth of useful data. How you use it will impact the overall performance of your PPC campaigns. We came up with a few tips to help you succeed.

Hand click searching data information networking. Concept for network web and technology

(Image: Adobe Stock)

Use it for keyword research

Whether you’re running dynamic search ads or just regular old search campaigns, this report is an amazing way to discover new search terms. The best part is you already know they have search volume!

Improve landing pages

It’s always ideal to include your keywords on your landing page. Using search queries will allow you to use the words of real people and add keyword variants to the page. If this page is indexed, it will also help your SEO.

Use partial terms as negatives

Don’t forget you’re not required to add a whole search term as a negative keyword. Dawson tells us, “I like to use aspects of a certain search term that is linked to a keyword that I am bidding on.

For example, if I see a search term ‘how do I [keyword]’ and I see that users are searching for variants of ‘how do I’ with different keywords and are not converting.”

He adds that you might benefit from adding “how do I” as a negative to eliminate educational searches. Doing so will increase your click-through and conversion rates.

Identify new campaigns and ad groups

Search Term Reports can also help in identifying new campaigns or ad groups. “

Search terms that are significantly different than the keyword it’s linked to can offer clues for buyer intent that warrant new campaigns or specialized landing pages to help prospective customers convert,” says Dawson.

The takeaway

The Search Terms Report can be a compass to guide your ad strategy. It’s the tool that will empower you to fine-tune your campaigns, eliminate wasteful spending, and drive ROI to new heights. 

By understanding the difference between search terms and keywords, leveraging the report’s insights, and avoiding common pitfalls, you can take your Google Ads campaigns to the next level. 

Looking for assistance as you navigate the Search Terms Report? Let’s chat.

Contact HawkSEM for Free Consultation