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How to review a search term report

Section 1.2: The method for manual search term reviews

Depending on the volume of activity in the ad group, and the frequency of your reviews, lists of search terms to review can range from zero into the thousands.

Small search term lists

When it’s a relatively short list, (less than one hundred), it’s probably best to simply read through the search terms and find your reactive negatives this way.

The ‘None’ filter

First, we want to set a filter exclude the search terms we don’t need to review. Those are the:

  • Added (search terms that match the keywords we’ve set up)
  • Excluded (search terms that have already been set as negatives)
  • Added / Excluded (search terms that match our keywords but have been set up a negative*)

To do this, click ADD FILTER, select Attributes, then Added/Excluded, and then select only None. Then Apply.

None filter

You should see this in your filter section.

Let’s use an example where we sell only red roses, and we want this ad group only targeting traffic for our dozen red roses product, and we’re using these two keywords:

  • “dozen red roses”
  • [dozen red roses]

We’ll now review a list of search terms for this ad group. Remember, the filter removes terms that exactly match our keywords and those we’ve already blocked with negatives.

Search termsQualified?Negative(s) to add
roses are red[roses are red]
dozin red rosses 
12 red roses 
why are roses red“why”
is rosé considered a red wine“rosé”, ”wine”, ”wines”
full stem red rose dozen 
dozen red and white roses“white”
order twelve red roses 
image of dozen red roses“image”, ”images”
dozen red flowers“flowers”
bouquet of red roses[bouquet of red roses]

From this list we can add several phrase match negatives and one exact match to this ad group.

Added/Excluded search terms should be reviewed in separate audits of our negatives, which will be covered elsewhere.

Adding ALL unqualified terms as exact match negatives

If this is a relatively low volume ad group, you may also want to add each of the unqualified terms as exact match in addition to the phrase match terms shown.

([why are roses red], [is rosé considered a red wine], [dozen red and white roses], [image of dozen red roses])

While this is redundant—given the match type logic rules of negatives—it will keep the unqualified search terms out of your next review, since they’ll then be filtered out by the ‘None’ filter (because they’re now Excluded).

The downside of doing this is that there is a 20,000 negative keyword limit per ad group. If you fill that up, you’ll need to audit your negatives to reduce their number. This type of audit is discussed at the end of the guide below.

Large search term lists

If you’ve just taken over an account that was poorly managed, or you simply haven’t done search term reviews in a while, then you’ll likely have a sizeable list of search terms to review. This can be daunting, but there is a method that, over time, makes the task more manageable.

This method involves adding and building out another filter based on the text contained in the search terms.

To do this, click ADD FILTER, then under Attributes click Search term. You can then filter the list of search terms according to specific text values that you enter.

Using the example above, if you added a filter to show only search terms that do not contain “dozen”, you would see the following.

Large search term lists

You’ve now reduced the size of the list you’re reviewing by 42%, making it a bit easier to review and find the unqualified terms that make up 57% of the list your viewing.

But you’ve noticed something. “Dozen” can be “dozin”, “12”, “twelve”, or, you’ve decided, “bouquet”. What if you add those to your current filter?

Large search term lists 2

You’ve now reduced the list of search terms that you’re reviewing by 75%, and can quickly determine that 100% of the search terms are unqualified. You can remove these keywords by adding them as exact match negatives and move on to new filter.

By changing the search term filter to only show what does not contain the text “red rose”, you see the following.

Large search term lists 3

We’re again at a 75% reduced list size that we can more easily review, and we remove two thirds of the search terms as negatives.

You’ve now removed 63% of unqualified search terms to be found and reduced your overall list size by 42%. You can now keep playing with filters until you find ways to uncover the rest of the unqualified terms, or you can simply manually review the full, unfiltered but smaller list to find those remaining.

Large search term lists 4

Once you understand and practice this method you will get faster and better at manually reviewing large lists of search terms. And as long as you do your search term reviews frequently, you won’t have to do this too often.

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