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Why Google Ads Hiding Your Search Data Is Worrying

Alongside the news that advertisers will have to foot the bill for the UK’s digital tax bill, now a developing story has emerged that Google will be hiding millions of search terms from users. An announcement in Google Ads has said that from September 2020, search queries without a “significant” measure of data will cease to show in query reports. The unclear message that has appeared in the accounts alerts section has warned users that they will be seeing fewer terms in their report “even if a term received a click”. 


In worrying times for advertisers, many have sought out to find the definition of “significant” for this change as one agency suggests over 20% of search terms could be removed from visibility. A Google statement following the announcement said this: 


“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 


The reasoning of privacy here is to keep advertisers from putting together the minimal query data results in their reports to identify users or gain access to Personally Identifiable Information (PII) which may be searched. The importance of privacy has been a steadily increasingly topic over the past few years for all online stakeholders however with regulations in place, one would think that there would still be a degree of care to the data that’s withheld without losing valuable marketing information.

How will the search query reduction impact you and your marketing?

Similar privacy-based limitations to query data are already found in Search Console but the divisive factor for Google Ads is that when a user’s query triggers an ad, the advertiser pays for the click and therefore the information. A number of marketers and PPC managers have speculated how the loss of data could have serious financial implications for businesses. On the one hand, if this is just a redaction of sensitive information from search queries there will be a minimal impact but on the other hand (as the statement reads) we could be in for a massive change for accessible search data with millions of low-click queries with no privacy risk being taken away. These queries are vital to certain businesses, especially those in niche industries who rely on the terms with 10 clicks or less for conversions. One marketer took to twitter to say is it possible for one of his accounts to lose data for at least 51% of ad spend as 20,000 of their 26,000 search terms received just 1 click in the previous 6 months. 


Ultimately, it looks like going forward it will be more difficult for marketers to manage their keywords including, niche, long-tail, and negative terms. As a result, many businesses that previously benefitted from this granular search data could see spending going towards keywords that are not lucrative for clicks or conversions.


It is not all doom and gloom for Google Ads marketing as Google has been hinting at changing the nature of search queries for some time. In the past, search terms have been the only source of intent for campaigns however with smart shopping and intent data signals from browsing history being introduced to the mixture, we will see more rounded methods of digital marketing.

What do I need to do next?

Everyone is currently in the same boat of confusion following the recent news and it will only get clearer as time goes on. While we wait to see how this change in search query data will impact on our reports, advertisers in the meantime will have to navigate their campaigns without visibility on a ‘significant’ portion of their ad spend. Luckily, those who are familiar with the workings of Google are used to being dynamic when facing these kinds of changes.


If you’re concerned about your search data or getting the most from your digital advertising, speak to one of our friendly marketing experts here!