AdWords Not Provided: Is it the end of Search Query Data?

Last week Google Announced that, as they have previously done with natural search, AdWords search query data would become ‘not provided’.  The move was positioned as addressing user privacy, however it has left some advertisers cold, with many translating it to “search query reports will be no longer available”.

What is Search Query Data?

Search query data is available in AdWords and allows you to identify the exact search query typed by search engine users, and what keyword they have matched to in your campaign.   The three main uses for this information are; expanding your keyword inventory, mining new negatives and monitoring inappropriate “cross-matching” of keywords.


An advertiser is bidding on the keyword ‘holidays’ on broad match in a Generic Holiday Terms campaign.  A potential customer types the search query ‘holidays spain’ into Google and, broad matching to the advertisers keyword, Google displays the advertisers ad.  Search query data would allow the advertiser to see not only what keyword generated the click, but also what the users original search query was.  

Using this information the advertiser could :

  • Add the term ‘holidays spain’ to his account to capture the traffic more directly (and likely more cheaply too);

  • If they do not sell holidays in Spain, then add the term as a negative keyword to help improve Click Through Rate (CTR) and Quality Score (QS);

  • If they already have a Spanish Holidays campaign, then they can add the term as a negative to the Generic Holiday Terms campaign to make sure traffic is driven to the more relevant campaign, again increasing relevancy, improving CTR and QS.

As this very simple example demonstrates, search query data is one of the PPC Managers most powerful tools for account development and optimisation, so despite the specific details of the change having not yet been disclosed by Google, the announcement created a considerable amount of online buzz, with worldwide experts speculating on the future of search query data and the potential impact of “not provided” on paid search.

What is actually changing and who will feel impacted by this?

This change only impacts the referring URLs of paid search ads (i.e. the web address from which people click through to your site), which will no longer contain the search query (see example below).  All indications are that the data will still be available to advertisers in the usual manner within the AdWords interface.

Example of referring URL of paid search ad:

The impact will be felt by any tool or system which relies upon picking out search query data from the referring URL string. For example, a log file analyser or analytics tool that analyses referring URL strings to extract search query data.

Furthermore, third-party retargeting ad networks that leveraged paid search query data (taken from the referral URL) as a signal to determine what ads to show to what people will no longer have that information along with competitive search engines.

It is also important to note that ValueTrack parameters will still be available.  These parameters allow you to tag your AdWords URLs with useful bits of data such as keyword and match type, even advanced info such as mobile device type and ad position.  The key difference here however, is that they do not track the user entered query, just the keyword your ad matched to.

Will PPC Management Software be affected?

Many of the PPC management software available, such as Acquisio, Kenshoo, WordStream and Marin Software, also utilise the the search query data provided by Google, often via the AdWords API.  The data is used to provide a range of features, all based upon the three key optimisations outlined above.

However, it seems there is nothing to worry about here either.  In his article on the WordStream blog (9th April 2014), founder & CTO Larry Kim states that contrary to rumor, third-party PPC management platforms will not be impacted.  The AdWrods API (as well as the AdWords interface) through which these tools access search query data, “isn’t changing”, so there should be no impact.

Is it worth panicking about?

Not really. From what we can understand from the information available, advertisers will be largely unaffected and will continue to be able to access the search query data as they always have.

As Google mentioned in their announcement:

“Advertisers will continue to have access to useful data to optimise and improve their campaigns and landing pages. For example, you can access detailed information in the AdWords search terms report and the Google Webmaster Tools Search Queries report.” – Paul Feng, Product Management Director, AdWords

However, if you run a tool or system that utilises search query extraction from AdWords referral URLs, then you will need to take a closer look at the potential impact – it certainly might be worth a call to any tech providers who work with AdWords data to discuss the change.

There are some grey areas – Google Analytics

One still unanswered question is: what is going to happen to Google Analytics?  

Google Analytics does use referral URLs to extract search queries from AdWords traffic, so this in theory should be affected.  However it is unlikely that Google will impact upon its own tools, so expect a push to get you to link your AdWords accounts to Analytics (to be honest, this should be a default set up anyway), or to push an alternative solution or update.

There is a possibility that the advanced analysis features of Google Analytics, using advanced segments and cohort analysis, will be no longer available.  This might then represent a limitation for those sophisticated advertisers who use GA to slice and dice data to make better business decisions, but until we get more specific details from Google on the change, this is just speculation.

Key take aways

  • Advertisers will continue to have access to search term data within the AdWords interface and can optimise their PPC accounts as usual.

  • Search Query data is only disappearing from the referral URL, where it will soon be encrypted.

  • Any tool which leveraged search query data extracted from the referral URL, be it for targeting purposes or analytics, will no longer function.

  • The Value Track parameter will allow advertisers to append the matched keyword (+ lots of other data) within the URL should they need to

  • There is uncertainty around whether Google Analytics will be impacted and to what extent… await further information from Google.

By Sergio Borzillo, Head of PPC at NetBooster UK



Google’s Announcement

 10 Surprising Facts About “Keyword (Not Provided)” For Paid Search

 Is Google’s Paid Search Query Removal Worth Panicking About?

 Marin: If Google Applies “Not Provided” To PPC, Paid Search Management Platforms Will Still Work

 Google AdWords Goes Not Provided: Referrer Data Gone For Paid Search Ads

SEA: The 2013 Retail Sales

The year 2013 began with gloomy weather!

Despite the widespread use of floating balances for retailers – in order to sell winter products – the first 5 months of the year were particularly sensitive in this sector. A decline in sales of 4% was recorded compared to 2012. Inclement weather of spring and early summer highlighted the crucial importance of Summer Sale to save the 2013 season.

The retailers were therefore obliged to adopt more aggressive strategies on their PPC campaigns. There has been a 72% increase of the SEA budget on the 1st week of sales compared to 2012 as well as putting forward strong promotions up to -50% or -80% from the first days.

The weather has been an influential player in the buying behavior of consumers. 27% of French say they spend more during sales if it is fine, 33% of French also say that bad weather could encourage them to make sales on the Internet rather than store. We are talking about the weather sensitivity of the Retail sector.


Performance of SEA campaigns global accounts Retails

Compared to 2012, the profitability of PPC campaigns fell on the 1st day of Sales but fades over the period to return to a similar trend to the previous year.

The main reason for this drop in profitability in the beginning of the sales comes from increased competition due to the presence of retailers and other advertisers on all queries (Brand and Generic) our advertisers which resulted higher average CPC for an average ad position identical. This loss of efficiency is also explained by the increase in the share of investment on generic keywords.

After these first days of difficult Sale, the performance of SEA campaigns have improved thanks to higher conversion rates and average basket. 

This year consumers have diluted their purchases throughout the sales period unlike previous years or the first day was the keystone purchases.


Campaign performance SEA Retail accounts on Mobile

Following the release of Universal Campaigns device by Google, mobile this year became an important vector in the strategy Sponsored links Retailers, in particular the sales period.

It was observed a decrease in the profitability of mobile compared to 2012 throughout the sales period. The main causes of performance degradation mobile from the increased competition and rising from the generic global investing. 

Google’s new policy to promote Mobile through passage “Campaigns Universal” was detrimental to the profitability of Mobile on Sale 2013. Consumers do not seem mature enough to go to the end of the buying process on the mobile via the SEA campaigns. More mobile sites of retailers are still not up to expectations in terms of conversion rate and quality of navigation.


Performance Campaigns Products Listing Ads (PLA) on Retail Accounts


During 2013, Google has changed its policy at the PLA has made more skilled and therefore more efficient for retailers campaigns. Advertisers in the Retail sector have increased their investments in this type of campaign for Sale of 2013.

There has been an increase in the profitability of PLA campaigns at the beginning of 2013 and especially on the sales period. Higher conversion rate and average basket is the main reason for the improved performance of PLA campaigns.

Consumers seem to respond favorably to ads that are more complete PLA through the display of the product, the price and the name of the advertiser. This type of promotional campaigns or visual element is perfectly suited to the strategy of retailers.

Summer 2013 Sales were mainly marked by the changing behavior of consumers in their purchase decision. Dilution purchases on the whole period, the growing interest in PLA campaigns and difficulty of PPC campaigns on Mobile are the main phenomena identified. Will there be consistency in these events for the next Winter Sale or return to behaviors conform to previous years?


Learn all about the SEA do not hesitate to contact your teams NetBooster !