How To Tell In Under A Minute If Your AdWords Campaigns Are Working Properly.

When Google AdWords was launched in late 2000 it was a fairly simple platform. You put a few keywords in, wrote an Ad or two and you were pretty much done. Not so any more, it’s a huge platform with more settings than ever. Even those of us who work with it full-time can find ourselves struggling to remember how to navigate to a particular feature or report.  

Taking that into account, you would think that quickly understanding whether an account is working well or not would be more difficult? Well in reality it isn’t, the pulse of any campaign is still the same – the search query report.

(Disclaimer 1 - Now before any experienced PPC’ers start saying this isn’t true etc, I appreciate this doesn’t apply to Display ,Remarketing, Gmail campaigns. But I’m sure you’ll agree that it is for Search and Shopping campaigns. Which for most accounts is where the bulk of the action and spend still is.)

What the heck is the search query report and why is it so important?

Ok, here’s something an awful lot of people don’t seem to know and it's really VERY IMPORTANT TO KNOW. My experience of talking to a lot of clients is there is a generally held assumption when you add keywords to a campaign and later review all the impressions and clicks generated by them. The assumption being that the keyword was what the user typed in and searched for...

This is not true.

The keyword is only used to match relevant search queries and trigger the Ad to be displayed.

You may know there are different keyword match types (EXACT, PHRASE, BROAD, Modified BROAD and NEGATIVES). We are not going to go through how each works here, but it is worth knowing that one of the key skills in building an AdWords campaign which will perform well is careful use of these match types to ensure that Ads are only displayed against relevant search terms.

Back to the question, how do I know if my campaigns are working properly....?

Well the short answer is to review the search query report. To find it, just navigate to Keywords and then along the top menu ‘search terms’. Set a date range and you’ll then see the actual search terms that triggered your Ads to display and be clicked on.



Read through them, are they relevant to your business? Do you they match what you thought you were promoting? 

Generally the answer is not always. If you want to get more analytical and understand how much wasted spend (and potential savings!) you can download all the search queries for a certain time period (say 30 days) and split by relevant v non-relevant. Compare relevant v non-relevant costs and you’ll have a good idea of how much money is being wasted on searches you are not interested in over that period of time. All that wasted spend can be viewed as either a potential saving, or could be spent better.

The more accurate search terms are in the search query report, the more healthy your account is.

If all the queries are relevant, you have the fundamentals of a good campaign. If a chunk of them are not, you need to have a long hard chat with yourself.

(Disclaimer 2 - Now before any experienced PPC’ers start saying what about Quality Score, what about keyword sculpting, bidding, ROAS, Ad Testing etc etc…yes, yes, yes I agree! But fundamentally there is no point working on these elements if the search queries are not relevant is there?)


Gerard McHugh Posted by Gerard McHugh

Gerard McHugh - PPC Expert based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire UK

Gerard has spent over 15 years working on Pay Per Click campaigns for companies operating in the UK, Europe and USA. He is Google Ads Certified in Search, Display and Shopping and a Microsoft Certified Professional

View Gerard McHugh's profile on LinkedIn



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