18th September 2020

POV: Google Search Term Report Changes


Google has announced that it has started reducing visibility on search terms data for all advertisers. The Search Terms report in Google Ads will only include terms that were searched by a “significant number” of users. As a result, advertisers will see fewer search terms in their reports.

Details and Implications:

From September 2020, new thresholds will be in place for exposing search terms data to advertisers. In a statement Google explained that this change was a result of a data privacy enhancement: “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”.

What this means in practice is that advertisers will no longer be able to use this report to see all of the user queries triggering their ads. In particular, it will no longer be possible to see the search terms that have lower volume.

Google hasn’t released any information on how it defines “significant number of users”, therefore, it’s currently difficult for advertisers to understand how this change will impact their optimisation or reporting processes.

However, looking at a Search Terms report in Google Ads, it is possible for advertisers to get a rough understanding of how much visibility they are potentially losing on their total investment by looking at the Search Term Visibility Ratio (calculated with the spend metrics report) divided by the total spend reported in the Google Ads platform.

In the EMEA region, at present, this seems to be resulting in an average decrease of around 11% of reported investment since implementation, compared to the previous period. Whilst the decrease observed is relatively low and wouldn’t have a noticeable impact on the performance, many advertisers who rely on the Search Term reports may find it challenging as it ultimately impacts their control over the return on their ad spend.

This can also potentially create another challenge around brand safety, with advertisers not being able to identify and exclude potential harmful queries – despite volumes being minimal.


Whilst the change is happening globally, we expect to see different levels of impact on each advertiser based on the industry, type of activity and investment level. The “significant number of users” as defined by Google will be the key element that will define how many search terms will be hidden by the platform.

Advertisers that rely on long tailed keywords / searches to drive traffic to their website will see a significant impact with a larger volume of queries no longer visible. Additionally, not having access to this data means advertisers won’t be able to determine if those queries should be added to negative keyword lists to make their campaigns more efficient.

While negating a single, low-volume keyword might have limited impact across most verticals, in aggregate the costs of these low-volume keywords adds up.

Further Reading:

Google (Search Term Report) | Google (Search Term Change Announcement) | SearchEngineLand

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