How to Optimize your Google Ads with Search Query Reports

In PPC, the keyword pool is a basis to reach the goal and increase the profit. Conducting keyword research is a complex and long process, and guesswork will never bring you desired results. Thus you should analyze search query reports (SQRs) and make a data-driven decision.

Before we move further in finding out what SQR is and how to work with it, let’s determine the difference between a search term (search query) and a keyword.

A search query or search term is the actual word or string of words that a user types into the search box. While a keyword is a word or set of words that Google advertisers add into the ad group to target the right audience. Also, search terms are the real-world application of a keyword, and they may be out of order or misspelled.

Search Query Reports
Example of a keyword and its search terms

The idea of search query reports

If you have a running ad campaign, a search query report is a fast way to improve the performance.

Search query reports (SQRs) show you exactly what a user searches to trigger a search keyword where your ad is displayed. The search terms report is a list of users’ search terms for which your ad was shown.

If you want to understand SQRs, it’s helpful to know how the Google search engine works. Google uses different algorithms for Regression Analysis and Machine Learning applications. This helps to make accurate predictions based on historical data. When a user enters a search term, the Google engine presents a list of paid advertisements that are closely connected to the content of the search.

The SQRs give you essential insights about particular words the users associate with the brand or service. This report also helps you discover new ideas for creatives and landing pages’ content to align with.

SQRs can be used to expand the keyword pool, or on the contrary, to add negative keywords. Generally, the advertisers know their best-performing keywords. That’s why SQRs are mostly used to find irrelevant (negative) or long-tail (positive) traffic.

SQR analysis is a core process of improving AdWords results which you should do on a regular basis: 

  1. Review search terms that generated clicks to find new keywords and negative keywords;
  2. Analyze both the intent and the conversion metrics. Your main goal here is to find new negative keywords based on user intent (when a keyword is irrelevant because intent is wrong).

Now let’s move to the SQR process itself and tips for the data analysis.

Search query reports in Google Ads

SQR is a downloadable report so you can pull larger volumes of search queries into Excel to manipulate the data there. You can get similar data from the keywords tab. 

If you want to look through the query data and apply negatives or add keywords to the ad campaigns, you should better use the campaign tab. Within the dimensions tab you can create a really robust report with the following options:

  • Customize the columns/data;
  • Layer on additional segments (e.g., clicks, conversion, or network data);
  • Schedule the reports to run every week or month, so you can have the same report in your normal optimization process.

You can start the process by signing in to your Google Ads account and heading over to the Keywords tab:

  1. Open Keywords tab (on the left from overview) – Search terms
Search Query Reports

2. Select a date range in the right upper corner.

3. Sort by Added/Excluded column.

4. Review keywords with “None” status one by one.
If you are in doubt, copy and paste the search term in Google. Sometimes searching for “Images” with this search term helps.
You can also ask for feedback from team members.

5. If the search term is irrelevant, you must create a new negative keyword based on it.

Tip 1: Filter by Added/Excluded

If you click on the Add Filter button (just above the statistics) you’ll get the following drop-down box:

Search Query Reports

1. Select Added/Excluded (scroll down and find in the list or type in the search line). Having done that, you will see these options:

Search Query Reports

2. Mark all 4 options and press the APPLY button.

These seem obvious but can help you save a lot of time. Here’s what each delivers:

  • Added – These are search terms that already match with a keyword in your account. When filtering for these search terms, you’re focused on performance metrics, not relevance. You should be able to move very quickly through these.
  • Excluded – These are search terms you’ve already excluded. This option is helpful for evaluating waste. Every term marked this way should be in your negative keywords as well.
  • Added/Excluded – These terms are both keywords and those which have been excluded. Basically, they’re conflicts, so you should resolve them by getting rid of a keyword or a negative keyword.
  • None – This is where you should focus your attention. These search terms aren’t keywords in your account, and you haven’t excluded them either. It will include new terms that Google matched you to (since the exact match is not exact anymore). This is where you are looking heavily at the relevance of queries. You can try to focus on this area while cleaning up your search terms. It’s also a great place to look for new keywords that would benefit from having their own ad group and the customized ad copy that goes with it.

Tip 2: Filter by Match Type

You’ll notice from the drop-down filter that we also have an option for Match Type. 

Search Query Reports

The “Match type” column shows you how closely the search terms that triggered the ads on Google are related to the actual keywords in the account. You can refine match types for the existing keywords by seeing which match types are working well for certain keywords and searches. This way your ad will be shown only for the right searches. 

The “Keyword” column displays which of your keywords matched someone’s search term and triggered your ad. 

Pay attention to the “Exact match (close variant)” and “Phrase match (close variant)”. By selecting these options we’ll get to see which queries were matched to our phrase or exact match keywords, but didn’t match them completely. Basically, we can see how inexact Google is with our exact match.

This list inevitably includes a good amount of misspellings, but it is also the perfect place to find the biggest weeds in your accounts. By condensing them this way you can often start to see multiple queries that include a common phrase.

So you can assess how match types influence your ad performance and figure out which of them is right for all of your keywords, ultimately finding a good balance that offers a broad reach and attracts relevant traffic.

Also, it’s a good practice to use more options to take advantage of while viewing search query reports for improving the ad campaign’s effectiveness.

Tip 3: Filter by conversions 

The Conversion filter helps to sort out search terms by the number of driven conversions that you can type in a value line.

Search Query Reports

If you are looking for new keywords, you can add the conversion filter to make sure that the search terms had a positive impact on the business – even if they generated one conversion. This way you’ll see queries that have converted which allows to focus on effective queries.

Tip 4: Filter by impressions 

Filtering by impressions helps to find low click-through-rate (CTR) queries. Its principle is the same as for filtering by conversions.

Search Query Reports

Search terms with low CTR can decrease the overall quality scores, so you can first filter the queries by a minimum amount of impressions and then sort the data by CTR. This way you’ll analyze the data with real performance influence. Here, you decide to pause a keyword or add some negatives to ensure that poor-performing queries don’t decrease the campaign’s results.

Looking into the queries with low CTR, you can also think about the landing page experience. For example, the searcher was redirected from a broad match, but the landing page does not reflect what they were looking for. This could be an opportunity to add the query as a keyword and send it to the appropriate landing page or reconsider your match types.

Also, there are different column options to add into the report section. There you can also filter by descending or ascending just by pressing on the arrow near the column name. Besides, you can modify columns by pressing the COLUMN button above the report in the upper right corner.

Search Query Reports

So generally, analyze the key metrics by using filters for search terms. They will definitely save you time and effort by presenting the specific information you need.

How to find new potential negative keywords using Adalysis

We highly recommend doing search term analysis using Adalysis because you review a search term only once. This is time-efficient while in AdWords or Excel you have to review terms every time you run a report.

The list of search terms is updated once a week. To help you keep track of which terms you’ve reviewed previously, you mark them using the below option. It will change the color of the row to green giving a visual sign of previously reviewed search terms.

1. Open Adalysis – Keywords – Search terms

Potential Negative Keywords in Adalysis

2. Create and save the filter as shown below to get notifications about new “not reviewed” search terms

Search Query Reports

3. Review the search terms

Search Terms Review

4. Add Negative Keywords using the Search Terms

Once you decide to add a search term or its variation as a negative keyword, select the term and do as shown in the screenshot below:

  1. Use the Add as negative keyword… tool
  2. Modify the search term text (if needed) and choose the negative keyword match type and location.
  3. It’s worth checking if this new negative keyword will accidentally block any of the existing positive keywords. You can do this by using the See Affected Positive Keywords option.
  4. You can see other existing search terms that would be blocked by this new negative keyword to help reinforce your choice of the negative keyword text. 
Negative Keywords Analysis

You’re done with SQR in Adalysis. It’s more beneficial and faster than analyzing all search terms in a Google Ads account.


In this section, we will discuss more insights for search query reports analysis. Most of them are applicable for both Google Ads and Adalysis, so let’s dive into details.

Search term relevance

Google’s algorithms are very good at narrowing results down to a user’s most likely intent and providing options in case of uncertainty. If you are searching a term, you’ll find the websites and businesses featured in the paid and organic listings. This indicates that the search term is relevant and you’ll reach potential customers. Sometimes searching for “Images” with this search term also can help to make a decision.


For a newly launched campaign, search terms must be analyzed almost daily through Google Ads online interface. As you see stable results and there are no garbage terms, you can change the frequency to once or twice per week and do it via Adalysis, then once in two or four weeks using Adalysis N-Grams.

Clicks on a search term

While analyzing search terms, you should be proactive and try to isolate the word or phrase that made this term irrelevant. Let’s say you are showing ads for “home builders” from Indiana and see the term “home builders new york.” Go ahead and add “new york” as a negative keyword, because you will likely get other search terms containing New York state: “how do I build a home in new york”, “cost of home builders in new york”, etc. Each of these terms will represent a unique search term with one click, while in reality, it is a cluster of “new york” keywords.

Moreover, pay attention to search terms with 1 click, especially when analyzing SQR over a longer period. You should sort such terms by the number of clicks, and you’ll see mostly good search terms at the top. The garbage is in the details.

Garbage search terms with conversions

Sometimes you get a random conversion from an irrelevant term, but you should still aim to exclude irrelevant search terms if you are sure it is garbage. If you leave a term that is irrelevant but resulted in random conversion the most likely it will result in no conversion for the garbage search term and higher CPA. 

Double-check and make sure it is actually garbage. If you think it is garbage, go ahead and exclude it. You will save your money by expanding your negative keyword list. The only exclusion is if you get multiple conversions for an irrelevant search term – that is a reason to rethink it.

NOTE! Do not exclude less relevant, but still relevant keywords right after the campaign’s launch. Always make sure that you didn’t exclude relevant keywords by mistake.

Budget underspending 

Even if you have more money to spend on ad campaigns, you must exclude irrelevant search terms. You should aim at building high-converting campaigns, and spending budget is not the main goal. If you have some free budget, it is an opportunity to increase bids for the best keywords or find new ones.

Consider one-word vs. multi-word negative keywords

A common mistake is to add negative keywords consisting of multiple words. Instead, you should distinguish the most important word from a long-tail keyword and exclude only one word as a negative keyword in a broad match. 

For example, if your product and keyword is an “online crm” and you are not interested in queries like “online crm for gmail”, don’t add the whole query as a negative keyword. Because if you add “online crm for gmail” and someone searches for “gmail online crm” – Google will still show your ad. If “gmail” is the word that makes these queries irrelevant to your business, you should add it in broad match. This will help to eliminate every search query containing “gmail.”

In other words, make sure to drill down the search term when adding it as a negative. Adding the entire phrase “portable snow cone stand for sale in Orlando, Florida” will probably not have the exact match, since it’s probably not a commonly searched term. However, if you don’t want your ads to appear for anything snow cone-related, add the term “snow cone”.

Understand negative keywords match types

Negative keywords are words and phrases that tell Google Ads not to show your ads if a search contains those words. Negative keywords have three match types: Broad, Phrase, and Exact.

  • If you want to exclude a word mentioned in any place of the search query, you should add it in broad match, using broad match by default.
  • If you want to exclude multiple words mentioned in the same search query, but not the query itself, you should add it in phrase match. For instance, if the product is a personal productivity software, you can add “software development” as a phrase match negative keywords to exclude search terms like “software development productivity metrics” but show ads on “personal productivity software” query.
  • If you need to exclude a full search query, you should add it as an exact match negative keyword. A negative exact match is usually used to eliminate close variations of brand terms and to control ad serving

Add plurals and misspellings

Negative keywords don’t match plurals or misspellings. It means that if you add “photo” as a negative keyword, and the user searches for “photos” or “photoo”, your ad will still show up. 

That’s why you should always add both plural and singular versions of the queries, as well as most common misspellings to maximize the impact of negative keywords.

To sum up

Search query reports are a great way to eliminate low-quality traffic and improve results. They save money and help relocate budgets to the relevant search terms which increase profit from AdWords campaigns. Whether you are looking for negatives or positives, analyzing search query reports on a regular basis keeps your ad campaigns full of converting terms.

You should perform search query reports more often for the newly launched campaigns and for campaigns with a high cost per conversion. Having found negatives in one campaign, you may apply negatives across multiple campaigns or even the whole account.

However, you should analyze cautiously as an incorrectly applied negative keyword can limit the ad from serving for top converting keywords. So, enlarge the negative keywords list and watch the account performance data.

Active work with search query reports is a helpful method in reducing ad spend and getting a quick win for a Google Ads account.

If you’re still not confident with SQRs, Teamedia can help you!