Why You Need To Befriend the Search Term Report

by Susan Wenograd  |  Published 2:11 PM, Thu October 3, 2013

“This is so time consuming!” I hear that a lot from folks I know who are running (or trying to run) their own PPC.

A friend asked me a couple questions last week:

  • How can I find new keywords?
  • How do I build my negative keyword list?
  • How do I find good long tail keywords?

It sounds like a lot of stuff to figure out you’re trying to run everything on your own. The good news is, you can answer a lot of those questions with one report. So here’s what I told her:

It’s all about the Search Term Report, baby!

Most people who run paid search simply look at keyword reports, but did you know those aren’t actually the terms being searched? Some are, of course, but what it’s really showing you is the keyword phrase a search was attributed to.

For example, someone might search for “red hoodie sweatshirts,” but Google matches it to your bid for a broad match of “red sweatshirts.” And in your keyword report that’s what the impression and click will be logged to.

Does it matter?

Sure it does, if you want to answer the questions above with a single report called the Search Term report.

First, let me show you where this little darling is.

1. In your Adwords interface, click on the Dimensions tab.


2. Go over to the little sub-filter. It defaults to “day” but click on it and scroll down to “Search terms” and click on it.


3. Hey look at that! They’re the keywords people have actually typed in and all their metrics. NIFTY!

Neat. Now what do I do?

There are several ways you can use this. I’ll take you through the basic ways I utilize it, because this one report will take care of a few things for you. When you pull this, I recommend you do a really huge chunk of a date range, because it will give you a lot more data, and much larger sample sizes to find patterns with.

Find New Products to Consider

On more than one occasion, this has not only shown some keywords clients could be bidding on, but it’s even given them insight on product lines that are in demand.

For example, there was a client that was a jeweler and focused on pearls. They were getting matched for some general pearl terms, but found some pearl types they didn’t carry and were getting matched to. There were enough instances of this that they realized it would be profitable to add this particular pearl type to their offerings; it worked great and added a nice little profit center for them.

Find New Keywords and Some long-tail Doozies

The Google Keyword Planner tool is the basic place you can start, but frankly, I find it isn’t very comprehensive. Some of the best-converting terms are going to be the specific, longer phrases and the planner really doesn’t pick up on those if the volume isn’t over a certain amount.

The Search Term Report is a great way to find those. It gives you some really great insight into the mind of your consumer, both in the terms they use and sometimes how they categorize your offerings in their mind.

Find Negative Keywords

In case you don’t know what negative keywords are, it’s a separate keyword list that tells Google “if the search query has this term, I don’t want my ads to show.” It’s very, very helpful, and often totally underutilized.

Let’s go back to the client that sold pearls. A pull of the search term report showed queries related to Pirates of the Caribbean…because people were searching for it with the term “black pearl” or “curse of the black pearl,” which was the name of the movie. In the case, we added “pirates” and “curse” to the negative keyword list. Voila! That disappeared from our search term list overnight.

For those of you doing organic search that are in a tizzy over Google no longer sharing the organic keywords that are bringing traffic to your site, this is a nice supplemental tool (assuming you’re doing paid search, of course).

Managing PPC is a Lot About Managing Time

PPC has become a vortex of numbers and the potential for analysis paralysis. So many buttons. So many columns. What’s important is to take it piece by piece, and the Search Term report is a great way to get some insights without having to look at data 5 different ways. Go easy on yourself, identify the top few reports that kill a few birds with one stone, and implement changes as you learn.


Susan Wenograd has spent the last 10 years in the digital marketing space in both client and agency side roles. Her career path has enabled her to work in many facets of the online universe, including copywriting, editing, overseeing email marketing, display/rich media advertising, and paid search management.

She has worked with and for many household names including Circuit City, Hamilton Beach Appliances, GMC, Chevy, Buick, Dodge, and Cadillac. She's managed teams from 2 to 20+ people, and accounts spending $1,000 to $1mm+.

Currently, she's Sr. Manager of Digital Marketing for Garden Ridge, a 60+ store home decor retail chain located throughout the south and midwest. She also frequently consults and advises clients on things like paid media and agency/client relationship management.