How to use Google Ads Search Terms Report to improve ROI

In the ever-evolving world of digital marketing, harnessing the power of Google is essential for success. With billions of searches conducted each day, Google is a driving force behind website traffic. The search engine giant is the world’s most visited website by a considerable distance, processing over 5.6 billion searches every day, and will be one of the leading contributors to your site’s incoming traffic. Therefore, finding ways to optimise your advertising is essential at all times and this is why the search terms report is so important. 

In this blog post, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of Google Ads search term reports.
We’ll explore how STRs differ from keywords, discuss types of search term matches, and learn how to effectively set up and navigate the search term report within the Google Ads platform.

But that’s not all – we’ll also uncover the immense benefits of using STRs, such as identifying high-potential search terms, improving bidding accuracy, reducing costs, and gaining a deeper understanding of your target audience. 
We’ll guide you on effectively managing your keywords based on search term data, optimising ad performance, and making informed decisions that maximise your marketing investment. Whether you’re aiming to expand your keyword list, block irrelevant searches, or refine your targeting strategies, the search term report will become your trusted ally throughout the entire process.

Adwords Search Terms Google Ads 600

Search terms constitute the exact queries that users type into Google, triggering your ads. Google’s algorithms match these search terms with the keywords in your Google Ads account, thereby tailoring your ads for Search.

This process provides you with valuable insights into user behavior, allowing you to refine your keyword ad placements based on their search patterns. The search term report, a key tool in this process, includes various metrics such as impressions (number of times your ad was displayed), clicks (number of times your ad was clicked), and conversions (number of times clicks led to desirable actions).

The Google Ads Search Term Report is an integral feature of the Google Ads platform, offering insights into the actual search phrases leading to your ads being displayed and clicked. This report informs advertisers about the correlation between their campaign keywords and actual user searches.

By evaluating the Search Term Report, advertisers can discern high and low-performing keywords, uncover new keyword opportunities, and fine-tune their keyword strategy for enhanced customer targeting. It also aids in recognising irrelevant search terms that trigger their ads, enabling them to add these as negative keywords to optimise ad expenditure. Learn more about Google Ads Negative Keywords.

In essence, the Google Ads Search Term Report is a crucial resource for enhancing your Google Ads campaigns. It assists in understanding your audience’s search behaviour and optimising your keyword strategy to match it.

Access Search Terms Report From Within Google Ads

Difference between Search Terms & Keywords

search term is an exact word or set of words that a customer enters when searching on or one of our Search Network sites. A keyword is a word or set of words that advertisers create for a given ad group to target your ads to customers.

These are specific words or phrases that advertisers bid on in their Google Ads campaigns. They are used to target the ads to potential customers who may be interested in their products or services. Advertisers choose keywords based on what they believe their potential customers would use in a search query when looking for their products or services. These chosen keywords then trigger the display of the advertiser’s ads when they match a user’s search.

Search Terms:
On the other hand, search terms (also known as search queries) are the actual words or phrases that users enter into the search bar of a search engine like Google. These search terms may or may not exactly match the advertiser’s keywords, but if they are close enough (depending on the match type of the keyword), they can still trigger the display of the advertiser’s ads.

In summary, keywords are what advertisers use to target their ads, while search terms are what users type into search engines. The effectiveness of an advertiser’s keywords is often measured by how closely they align with the actual search terms used by potential customers. This is where the Google Ads Search Term Report becomes a useful tool, as it allows advertisers to see which search terms triggered their ads and adjust their keyword strategy accordingly.

View Search Terms Report 2

Organic vs Paid Search Terms

Organic and paid search terms relate to different aspects of search engine marketing and play different roles in a digital marketing strategy.

Organic Search Terms:
These are the words or phrases that users enter into a search engine like Google when looking for information, products, or services. The results that come up naturally (i.e., not ads) are known as organic search results. They are determined by search engine algorithms that consider numerous factors, such as the relevance of website content to the search term, the authority and trustworthiness of the website, and many others. Organic search results do not cost anything to the website owner; however, achieving a high ranking in these results often requires effective search engine optimisation (SEO) strategies to ensure the website’s content aligns well with popular organic search terms.

Paid Search Terms:
These are the keywords that digital advertisers bid on in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platforms like Google Ads. When these paid search terms match or closely align with a user’s search query, the advertiser’s paid ad may be displayed in the search results. The placement of these ads depends on several factors, including the amount the advertiser bids, the quality of the ad, the relevance of the ad to the search term, and more. Unlike organic search, which is earned through effective SEO, paid search allows advertisers to pay for their ads to appear in the search results.

In summary, organic search terms are used by internet users to find information, and the corresponding results are earned through SEO. In contrast, paid search terms are used by advertisers to target their ads, and the resulting ad placements are bought through PPC advertising. Both strategies can be important parts of a comprehensive digital marketing plan.

How to use the Search Terms Report

The Search Terms Report in Google Ads is a valuable tool for understanding how your ad targeting. It can be used to refine your keyword strategy, identify high-performing keywords, discover new keyword opportunities, and eliminate irrelevant search terms.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to use this report:

1. Access the Report:
Log into your Google Ads account. From the page menu, click on ‘Keywords’, and then click on ‘Search Terms’.

2. Analyse Search Terms:
Look at the search terms that triggered your ads. These are the actual terms or phrases people used on Google when your ad was shown.

3. Check the Metrics:
Review the performance metrics for each search term. Key metrics include impressions (how often your ad was shown), clicks (how often your ad was clicked), conversions (how often clicks led to a desirable action), and cost (how much you spent on each click).

4. Identify High-Performing Terms:
Find search terms that have high click-through rates (CTR) or conversion rates. If these are not already included as exact keywords in your campaign, you should add them. This can help to increase the visibility of your ads when similar searches are made in the future.

5. Find Irrelevant Search Terms:
Look for search terms that aren’t relevant to your products or services. These could be triggering your ads unnecessarily and wasting your ad budget.

6. Add Negative Keywords:
Once you’ve identified irrelevant search terms, add them as negative keywords. This will prevent your ad from showing up for those searches in the future, helping you to save money and focus on more relevant traffic.

7. Adjust Bids:
Based on the performance of certain search terms, consider adjusting your bids. For high-performing terms, you might want to increase your bid to increase your ad’s visibility. For low-performing terms, consider reducing your bid or pausing the keyword.

8. Repeat the Process:
Regularly review your Search Terms Report and make adjustments as necessary. Search trends can change over time, so it’s important to keep your keyword strategy up-to-date.

By using the Search Terms Report in this way, you can continually refine your keyword strategy to improve the performance of your Google Ads campaigns.

Add Keywords From Search Terms Report

The Four Types Of Search Term Matches

There are four different match types that you should be aware of when using Google Ads. They are:

  • Exact Match:
    When your keyword is ‘red shoes’, the user’s search query must also be ‘red shoes’ for an exact match to occur.
  • Exact Match (Close Variant) :
    In this case, when your keyword is ‘red shoes’, the user’s search can be ‘red shoes’ or a close variant, typically a common misspelling or slight reordering of the words.
  • Phrase Match: 
    For a phrase match, if your keyword is ‘red shoes’, the user’s search query might be ‘women’s red shoes’. The search query includes your keyword, but it’s not an exact match as it contains additional elements.
  • Broad Match: 
    If your keyword is ‘red shoes’, the user’s search could be as general as ‘shoes’ or more specific like ‘evening shoes’. In a broad match, the search query is related to your keyword, though it doesn’t have to be an exact match.

The great thing about the search terms report within Google Ads is that you can check all of the terms that were searched before the users clicked your advertisement. This added insight into the consumer journey can pay dividends as you aim to

The Benefits Of Using Google Ads STRs

Standard Reports Access Search Terms A

Leveraging Google Ads Search Term Reports (STRs) is not just a box-ticking exercise on your marketing checklist. Effectively using this tool can yield significant benefits for your future campaigns and overall marketing strategy. Here are some compelling reasons to incorporate STRs immediately:

Discover High Potential Search Terms:
monitoring the terms users are searching for, you can identify new, high-potential search terms to add to your keyword list.

Optimise Negative Keywords:
If certain search terms prove to be less relevant than anticipated, add them to your negative keywords list. This ensures your time and budget aren’t wasted on ineffective search terms.

Highlight Long-Tail Keywords:
Use structured expansion and broad match generation to explore long-tail keywords, an area often overlooked by many marketers.

Design Effective Landing Pages:
Based on insights from your search term reports, create new landing pages to enhance user engagement and improve return on investment (ROI).

Understand Your Audience:
Gain a deeper comprehension of your audience’s behaviour, informing everything from branding to customer relations.

Increase Qualified Traffic:
By expanding your keyword list, the search terms report can help you attract more qualified traffic.

Reduce Costs:
By identifying and blocking irrelevant searches with negative keywords, you can reduce unnecessary ad expenditure.

Boost CTR and Quality Score:
Negative keywords help block irrelevant searches, thereby improving the click-through rate (CTR)—a key component of Quality Score. Blocking more informational than transactional search terms can also enhance CTR.

Improve Bidding Accuracy:
A comprehensive keyword list that mirrors the actual search terms entered into Google can enhance bidding precision.

Identify Optimal Keyword Match Types:
The search terms report can help you determine the best combinations of keyword match types.

Minimise Wasted Spend:
By turning less relevant search terms into negative keywords, you can decrease wasted spend and increase CTR.

Expand Keyword List:
The STR can help you identify relevant search terms with high potential, allowing you to expand your keyword list strategically.

In essence, using the Google Ads search term report can streamline your digital marketing efforts and significantly influence every facet of the customer experience. This free tool is indispensable for any marketing team using Google Ads.

If you find managing these aspects overwhelming, consider seeking professional assistance to ensure optimised results. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team today to discover how we can help your business thrive.

Add Columns Search Terms Report C

How Often Should STRs Be Checked?

While search term reports update in real time, you do not want to distract yourself from the primary functions of your job or marketing strategies. Conducting a search report once every 2-4 weeks depending on the size of your business and amount of traffic will usually suffice, although smaller operations and keyword ad campaigns may benefit from extending the date range, which can be done at the top right of the screen. 

The most important thing is to get the opening phase right. This means setting up the right keywords and then checking the STRs throughout the first few days as this will quickly indicate how the strategy is performing and whether any changes could be required.

Search Terms Predefined Reports B

Search Terms Report for different Types of Search Targeting

  • Text ads for Google search use Keywords targeting to show your adverts to relevant search terms entered into Google matching your product or services offering.
  • Dynamic Search Ads for Google Search targeting uses website content such as page titles and descriptions to match adverts to search terms entered into Google instead of keywords.
  • Product Listing Ads for Google Shopping use product attributes such as the title, description, product category, product types instead traditional keywords for targeting ads to searches entered Google.
  • Remarketing for Search List Audiences (RLSA) uses past website visitor audiences combined with another targeting option. (e.g. keywords, product attributes or page content). RLSA target and bid campaigns can report on search terms entered into Google- but just for past website visitors. This is a good way to get more traffic when a search term is more relevant when combined with a past website visitor audience. These can be made new keywords- or have higher bids for target and bid- instead of bid only.

Manage your keywords based on search terms data

Leveraging your search terms data effectively can lead to significant improvements in your campaign performance. Here’s how you can optimize your keywords based on this data:

Incorporate High-Performing Search Terms:
Add search terms that perform well to your ad group as keywords. Given that these search terms are already driving traffic, consider adjusting your bids for greater impact. Simply adding these terms as keywords may not suffice unless you simultaneously modify bids, ad text, or both.

Add Irrelevant Search Terms as Negative Keywords:
If a search term does not align closely with your products or services, add it as a negative keyword. This prevents your ad from appearing to users who are searching for something unrelated to your offerings. For instance, if you sell eyeglasses and notice that the search term “wine glasses” is triggering your ads, you might want to add “wine” as a negative keyword.

Choose the Appropriate Match Type*:
Select the right match type (broad, phrase, exact, or negative) for your existing keywords. The “Match type” column in your report can provide insights into how your ad performance is influenced by your keyword match type.

By using these strategies, you can maximize the effectiveness of your Google Ads campaigns and ensure your ads reach the most relevant audience.


In conclusion, understanding and leveraging Google Ads Search Term Reports (STRs) can be a game-changer for your digital marketing strategy. This powerful tool not only provides insights into what your potential customers are actually searching for, but also helps refine your keyword strategies, enhance your ad placements, and ultimately, improve your return on investment.

We’ve examined the key differences between search terms and keywords, as well as the distinction between organic and paid search terms. Additionally, we’ve explored the different match types, ranging from exact to broad, each with its unique application and impact on your ad performance.

Moreover, setting up and using a Search Term Report is a straightforward process that offers invaluable data. It allows you to discover high-performing search terms, optimize negative keywords, identify optimal keyword match types, and more. Regularly reviewing this report and making data-driven adjustments can significantly boost the effectiveness of your Google Ads campaigns.

At the end of the day, the goal is to better understand your audience’s search behavior and optimize your keyword strategy accordingly. By doing so, you can ensure that your ads are reaching the right audience at the right time, leading to increased traffic, higher click-through rates, and more conversions. With the Google Ads Search Term Report, achieving these objectives becomes more manageable and effective.

Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or just starting out with Google Ads, don’t underestimate the power of the Search Term Report. Use it to its full potential, and you’ll be well on your way to running more successful and efficient campaigns.

Liam Holmes

Liam Holmes

2 thoughts on “How to use Google Ads Search Terms Report to improve ROI”

  1. Thanks for the nice overview.

    Question is: How many clicks for a particular search term is a good amount to decide, wether this search term should be kept or added to negative keywords? 25, 50 or better 100?

    Thank you.


    1. Hi Jodano,

      The conversion rate of the account can help determine if a search term should be negative. For example, if an account has a conversion rate of 1% (e.g. high-value items),
      then 100 clicks is a good indicator of the search terms’ performance. In most cases, it is best to be more conservative to be sure. (Unless the budget is very limited).

      Best Regards

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