Google has quietly slipped an update into their Search Term report data explanations. A vague warning is appearing in the account alerts section:
Clicking on the “Learn More” takes the user to the existing Google support article about Search Terms. At first glance, it looks like the same explanation that’s always been there, but underneath that is the following warning:
The announcement offers no further explanation on what will be considered “significant.” They offered a follow-up statement that does little to shed additional light on what the change will involve:
In order to maintain our standards of privacy and strengthen our protections around user data, we have made changes to our Search Terms Report to only include terms that a significant number of users searched for. We’re continuing to invest in new and efficient ways to share insights that enable advertisers to make critical business decisions. – Google statement
Loss of Control & Loss of Visibility
The initial reaction by paid search managers has been one of frustration and scepticism. The immediate concern is for industries that carry high CPCs footing the bill on search queries that are irrelevant.
But there is something deeper at play. This change is one of many that’s leaving managers feeling they have less control over their accounts and less helpful information from Google.
Some are also pointing out that it wouldn’t be quite the gut punch it seems to be if the aforementioned other changes weren’t occurring. Notably, many have been frustrated with Google’s move years ago to make an exact match not exact anymore.
The proliferation of keywords that weren’t intended by managers in combination with a lack of visibility, and high CPC environments is creating a different level of angst.
Some PPC managers are offering up examples of where their concern lies: accounts they’ve personally seen waste money which may have never been caught if this new search term rule was at play.
Wil Reynolds also offered a thread giving an example of a bank that was paying for clicks on a query that was actually a rap song:
Rolling With the Punches
Some managers see this as an inevitability that just needs to be adapted to as the platform evolves.
Many of Google’s features in the past couple years have focused on automation options that have long hinted they want managers to focus more on large-scale account impact versus granularity in pieces like keywords.
Other Recent Automation Tests
As recently as last week, some managers were noticing a difference in the interface buried in the ad creative section. Where it used to have an option for adding creative that could be specified as a Text Ad versus a Responsive Search Ad, the Text Ad Option was gone.
Google confirmed this is a test, and it not present in every account. Indeed, we are personally able to see it in one account, and not another, though both are owned by the same brand.
Here is a view with and without the Text Ad Option.
No doubt we will continue to see small changes that could add up to big changes over time for how PPC managers do their jobs.
We will continue to follow this developing story.