Google Ads

Search Query Report : A How To Guide For Success

Let’s face it, the thought of analysing your search query report each week doesn’t get the juices pumping for most Google Ads Marketers.  Trawling through rows and rows of search terms, trying to find something to help you optimize your account…. YAWN!

But, i’m going to tell you something you may not believe.  I reeeaaaallllly love search query reports. 

The thought of working my way through all of those search queries really gets me fired up ???

And I’m being completely serious! Don’t worry though, I’m going to tell you exactly why below.  And I’m also going to tell you something that you may not already know about them.

This is a potential goldmine for a business.

That’s right, a GOLDMINE!


But I hear you cry “My SQR bores me to tears!!!”

The reason i love it so much is that you can literally save your business so much dinero by reducing wasted ad spend as well as finding new sources of revenue!

Here’s how we analyse our search query reports as part of our campaign optimisation.

*This can also be applied to your Bing ads search query report.

First of all you’ll need to generate your adwords search query report :

  1. Log into your Google Ads account dashboard and select the last 7 days date range.
  2. Click on “Keywords” from the left hand navigation and then adjust to see “Search Terms”
  3. Next, filter it to show search queries where the keyword attribute “Added/Excluded” is “None” not “Added or Excluded” (this is to save time working my way through search queries that are already added as keywords or have been excluded as negative keywords).
  4. Then sort by impressions.

What you are left with is a list of search queries people have used prior to clicking on your ads and arriving on your website.

How To Find The Gold

Search query report analysis needs to be done with two different heads on.

Head 1 : Stop Wasting Ad Spend.

Yes this is Adwords Optimization 101, but If you’re not regularly working your way through your SQR looking for negative keywords, then chances are you’re losing money.

We’ve literally saved our clients an insane amount of money by doing this on a regular basis.

Depending on the size of the account, i’ll usually take a look through the report once per week.

First of all, i’ll open textedit (or any other text editor) and create two headlines. The first one “100%” and the other “Maybe’s”).

Then I’ll dive into the report. First of all i’m looking for :

Irrelevant search queries.

Let’s imagine we sell Life Insurance Policies and we’re using Google Ads to drive traffic to our landing page.

Here are some examples of search queries users may use :

buy life insurance

life insurance policies

life insurance quotes

life insurance deals

life insurance software


So straightaway we can see that “life insurance software” is a likely candidate for a negative keyword.

You may pick up a few conversions here and there, but it’s unlikely to be profitable in the long run. Marketing is all about relevancy and it’s unlikely that a user would turn out to be a qualified lead.

As i’m working my way through the search query report, anything which i know is 100% a negative, i will put it under the “100%” list in my text editor.

Anything which i think potentially could be a negative keyword, i’ll put it in the “Maybe’s” list.

Pro Tip : When analyzing the SQR, always keep an eye on the conversions column too. Sometimes search queries that we think are irrelevant, may actually be driving new business.

We wouldn’t want to block anything which is making money. So we may want to test using keywords that we feel aren’t definitely relevant and placing them in a separate adgroup or campaign to see if they actually make any money or if they’re driving poor quality conversions.


As i mentioned earlier, I’m actually also looking for more than one thing in the report…

I’m also looking for :

2.) Root keywords that aren’t converting and are spending money!

These are a bit more difficult to spot. So using the same example as above, we may have the following search terms  :

why do you need life insurance policy

why life insurance is so important

how to get a life insurance policy

do i need a life insurance policy


So what we can see from the above example is that these are informational search queries. In other words, people looking for information as opposed to a specific service.

Individually they may look relatively harmless, but when aggregated these root keywords could really be eating into your ad spend. 

This is because a root keyword can be commonly used in searches, but not necessarily easy to spot as a negative when paired with the rest of the search term.

So when we’re looking through the report, we’re keeping an eye out for patterns in search queries which are receiving clicks but aren’t bringing in conversions.

From the above search queries we could pick out the following root keywords :

  • Why
  • Important
  • How to
  • Do I need

Once i’ve finished i may have a couple definite’s and a couple of maybes. I’ll start with the maybes first.

Proviso : The next steps will need you to have your Google Analytics account linked up to your Google Ads Account as well as conversion tracking. You can do the same analysis within Adwords, but you won’t be able to pair with numbers like bounce rate / time on site. To link the two, follow this tutorial.

Open Google Analytics (GA) and find the search queries report. Adjust the date range to the last 90 days rather than the past 7 days (you’ll see why in a minute).


You should see something like this : 

Image 1.0


Then we want to filter the search queries to include the potential negative words that you have found.

Image 1.1


What we have now is data showing any search queries where that root word(s) has / have featured in the past 90 days – AMA-ZING!


This is where things really start to get fun.

What we can then do is see how much has been spent on search queries that include the word(s) and secondly how many conversions it has driven.

Cool right?

A good sign that you’re onto something is a high ad spend with 0 conversions or an extremely high cost per conversion.

However, sometimes you may see a couple of search queries where there are conversions and then it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth pursuing them as new keywords or to simply add the root keyword as a negative.


Pro Tip : For those search queries that aren’t sure whether to add as negatives that don’t have any conversions, you can look at the Bounce Rate and Pages / Session data points.

If users aren’t abandoning the website straight away, then it may simply be because they need a more targeted landing page to match what they’re looking for.


I love it when i find the tiniest and what would appear harmless word, to be chewing through ad spend and wasting money.

Because i know once i’ve added that guy as a negative, it’s going to make my clients results in Google Ads so much better from then on.

That’s why it’s really important to analyze your SQR regularly, to catch them as early as you can.

Once i’ve done finished I’ll then pair up the new negative keywords from the maybe’s list and pair them up with the 100% list. I’ll then go ahead and add them to my Negative Keyword List, which will stop us from wasting any further ad spend on them instantly!


Head 2 : FINDING THOSE DOLLARS (Hint : The Best Bit!)

I’m not going to lie, this is my favourite part.

This is where we find new keywords for the account that are already driving conversions, but haven’t yet been added as keywords.  

The beauty of this is that once you find these potential nuggets, It can open a whole new area of additional revenue for your business. Also known as Keyword Expansion, one new keyword can expand into related search queries that you didn’t even know existed!

Back in the SQR, i’ll adjust the dates to the last 90 days. I’ll then make sure that the table isn’t showing search queries that haven’t already been added.

Then i’ll make sure there’s been at least 20 impressions, to make sure there is actually some search volume for the query.

I’ll then sort by impressions and you should then see is a list of search queries that have sent traffic to your website that haven’t yet been added as keyword.

We can look through this list and see if there are any potential for new themes of keywords which we may not already be targeting.

We may see some search terms which are very similar to our existing keywords and they can usually just be added to the adgroup that the search came from.

And for those keywords which are similar but may contain a root keyword that you haven’t yet explored in the account, this is FUEL TO EXPLORE!!!!

And because we have our data linked up with Google Analytics, we can take these search terms and measure user engagement when on the site. We can look at data points like bounce rate, time of page, session duration to see if it’s worth exploring.

If we see a below average bounce rate and above average time on page, then this is a good sign. We can start to think whether we would like to start targeting these terms with a custom landing page to see if we get the traffic to convert.

Finally, If there are related queries that are already driving conversions then they will usually be a no-brainer to add as new keywords.

We can look to add these as to existing adgroups or create new targeted ones.

So there you have it.

Our framework to not only lower wasted adspend but also find new areas to target with your campaigns.

And the best bit?

We don’t need any fancy software to do it.

We’d love to know about any experience you’ve had with your search query report analysis… Hit us up in the comment section below!

Happy PPC’ing!!!!

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