Google Ads is to remove search term data from reports where there is not a ‘significant’ amount of data, meaning advertisers won’t be able to see all of the search terms that delivered clicks on their ads.

Up until this point, Google has provided advertisers with access to most of the exact search terms that audiences searched for in order to access ads. This announcement represents an about-turn on this feature; now advertisers will have access only to search terms where there is an as-yet-unspecified ‘significant’ amount of data available.

In the name of privacy

In the announcement, Google said, “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.”

It’s a change that’s reminiscent of a Google Analytics update in October 2011 that saw users lose access to the specific keywords that delivered traffic from online search to their websites. Dubbed the ‘not provided’ update, due to the message that now appears in keyword reports, it was a change made in the name of protecting search user privacy.

As with the ‘not provided’ update, Google has cited privacy as the key driver behind this change. Search engine news source, Search Engine Land commented that the update seems to be intended “to keep advertisers from being able to use minimal query data to identify users or have access to any personally identifiable information (PII) users may include in their search queries.”

Inevitable backlash

With the announcement has come some backlash from advertisers. Search marketing expert, Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz and Sparktoro took to Twitter to say; “Google removed KW data from PAID campaigns, knowing advertisers have no choice but to stick with ’em (sic).”

Analysis carried out by US search marketing firm Seer suggests that advertisers will lose visibility for 28% of their advertising budgets. For £100K of advertising spend, advertisers will receive data for just £71K of it. Put another way, for every 100K clicks, Google will provide data for 77,900 of them.

Seer has also suggested that over the past three years it has “found $40MM+ of inefficient spend in mostly low-volume search terms”.

Impact on SEO and content strategy

The reduction in search term data is also likely to have an impact on SEO and content teams. Whilst the majority of search term data is used by advertisers to ‘optimise’ page search accounts, there are also many marketing teams who use search term data to identify trends within their audience in order to produce new online content.

The change is rolling out now and is likely to impact advertisers immediately.