Paid Search Data: What's the Deal with Google?

Last year Google decided to go 100% secure on organic searches. Little did we know that the same was going to happen with paid search data. In what they called “Security enhancements for search users” Google announced that they were removing the query from the referrer on ad clicks originating from SLL searches ( In a bid to keep search secure, Google has now expanded “not provided” to encompass paid search. This means that paid search data may be lost in the near future.

What exactly has changed?

In the past, Google (through AdWords reports, Google Analytics and third party analytic tools) would communicate the details of a click when a user clicks on your ad. What is changing is that search engine marketers (when using some third party analytic tools) will not see the full referrer data including the keyword a user searched for. Much of what was being communicated in a click has been removed.

Does this mean that you won’t know what a user searched for?


The only people who will be affected are advertisers who use third party analytics tools since Google will cease supplying 3rd parties with paid search query data.

Even with the introduction of “(not provided)” for paid search, you can still get all the information from AdWords reports (reports within AdWords remain unaffected). The AdWords report we have known for over 12 is not changing.

As an advertiser, you can still get the full search terms to optimize and improve your campaigns and landing pages in AdWords ‘search terms report’. The only thing that is different is that you can no longer get it from the referrer string in the URL.

Traditionally, when a user clicked on an ad, the keyword (or keyword phrase) that triggered the ad appeared in the referring URL. With safe search, this won’t happen anymore. However, you still have access to this data in AdWords reports. To find search query data, head over to the AdWords Search Terms Report (the usual place; nothing has changed).

Even though paid search data may be lost in the near future for third party analytics, third party tools that use the AdWords API (rather than the URL referrer data) will still have access to search query data.

About Google analytics, it is not yet clear on what method they will use to provide data for the “matched search query” report.

Why would Google do this?

- To increase privacy of user data? No. This does not make sense since anyone can pay to access the data. - To reduce your accuracy and thus spend more on ads? I don’t think so. You still have access to the data you need to optimise your campaigns.

What’s next for advertisers?

- Use AdWords ValueTrack parameters to append your keyword data back into your destination URL. ValueTrack is a URL-tagging feature in AdWords - Use the keyword that generated the ad click (rather than the search query) to optimise your landing pages. - Use AdWords conversion tracking code to track conversions - Go on with your business as usual. It is business as usual; nothing serious happened. The change doesn’t really change a great deal of day-to-day search engine marketing.

Sorcha Mullis is an Online Marketing Specialist with White Chalk Road, a leading search engine optimisation (SEO) and online marketing firm in Perth, Western Australia. White Chalk Road provides SEO, SEM, PPC and online reputation management services to clients based in Perth and wider Australia. Connect with Sorcha on Google+.

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