New Ways to See AdWords Search Query Terms

AdWords Report CenterAs part of Google’s phasing out of the AdWords Report Center, the traditional ‘Search Query Performance’ report is no longer available. But there are new and better ways to get this critical data!

Using Google AdWords reports to track performance of the keywords you are bidding on is fundamental to search marketing success, and the ease with which this can be done is a source of delight for search marketers, especially when compared to measuring traditional forms of advertising.  If you are bidding on ‘industrial supplies’, for example, it is easy to get metrics like impressions, clicks, conversions, cost per conversion and then make decisions that will lead to better performance.

But most folks also realize the additional value of being able to look behind the scenes to see the actual search queries that users are typing in and using that information to refine campaigns.  Because if you are bidding on ‘industrial supplies’ on anything other than exact match, your ad will be showing up for a lot of terms beyond strictly ‘industrial supplies’. These could be: ‘cheap industrial supplies‘, ‘industrial supplies oregon‘, ‘industrial equipment and supplies‘, ‘industrial painting supplies‘ and thousands of other variations. The value of having this deeper insight into the terms triggering your ads is obvious.

Not so very long ago in the short history of search engine marketing, this was data was not as accessible as many would’ve liked, served up only in a special report, with large chunks of information missing. (The infamous ‘other unique queries’.)

Times change (quickly) and this industry evolves (rapidly) and now more complete search query data is available from a couple of sources. At the same time, the traditional Search Query Performance report has been phased out of the AdWords Report Center – along with just about every other kind of report. So let’s look at how we can get at AdWords search query data now:

1. Within AdWords Keyword data in UI: Recent enhancements to the AdWords user interface include the ability to generate an ‘on the fly’ report on search terms.  From the ‘Keywords’ tab, you can select the ‘See search terms’ button to go to a report on search terms.  This shows all the search terms used, with indications as to which ones are currently being bid on.  The nice thing here is that you can instantly add keywords or even add negative keywords directly from this report.  And you can also download the report in CSV format.

AdWords search query terms
3. Google Analytics AdWords data: With the new AdWords reporting enhancements to Google Analytics, it is easy to get a look at actual search terms being used. Simply go to ‘Traffic Sources’>’AdWords beta’>’Keywords’ and then use the second dimension box to select ‘Matched Search Query’. Here you get a nice side-by-side listing of keywords you are bidding on along with matched terms.  The additional advantage, of course, is that you get all that juicy post-click behavioural data, such as bounce rate, goal completions, and – if you have Ecommerce tracking set up – revenue.

GA search query

So there are 2 ways that I know of to investigate AdWords search query data and use it to improve performance of your keyword advertising. Both of these methods offer some advanced flexibility and power compared to the old AdWords Search Query Performance report.

Gettin’ Certified: Google Analytics & AdWords

Observations on Google Analytics IQ and Google Advertising Professional Qualified Individual Exams

In the search marketing business we all work hard to deliver the goods and continuously improve our skills – we need to in order to  stay relevant in a rapidly changing environment and to demonstrate our value to our employers/clients.  We can let the quality of our work speak for itself, but  it can also be useful to have some more official validation of our general knowledge of our domain.  Which is where certification fits in.  Sometimes required by employers,  sometimes essential in establishing credibility with clients, and sometimes just good to have in the back pocket.

Recently I completed two certification exams in order to ‘prove my proficiency’ in the wonderful world of Google: Google Analytics Individual Qualification (IQ) and Google Advertising Professional Exam.  So I thought I’d share my experiences and observations with others who may be pursuing either or both of these designations.

Google Analytics Individual Qualification (IQ)

The Google Analytics Individual Qualification was announced on the Google Analytics Blog in March, 2009.  It is earned simply by passing the Google Analytics IQ test.  This is meant to prove that you have proficiency in using Google Analytics.  The idea is to separate beginners/casual users – who can, after all, make quite effective use of Google Analytics due its user friendliness – from those that leverage GA more fully to enhance organizational performance and teach others to do so.

In order to prepare for the test, Google offers ‘Conversion University‘, delivered via a series of free, short, on-demand online videos.  This is a pretty comprehensive look at most of the key features of GA and provides a good grounding in how to use the program.  It is useful to go through the videos even if you have no intention of the writing the test, especially because the broken into highly digestible chunks.

Although recommended, you don’t need to go through Conversion University to get to the test – you can write the IQ Test anytime.  It is delivered online at your convenience, costs $50 and you have 90 minutes to complete about 100 multiple choice questions.  Once you pass, they send you a colorful certificate that you can print out and hang in your cubicle. Ta da…


Google Advertising Professional Exam

The Google Advertising Professional Exam is one of the requirements for becoming a Qualified Individual in the Google Advertising Professionals program.  (The other requirements relate to mainly to maintaining a minimum level of AdWords account activity.)

Again, Google provides some thorough resources for exam preparation through the AdWords Learning Center.  The Learning Center has a series of online lessons in 9 sections that are available both as video or text lessons.  Personally, I focused on the text lessons, which I expedited by clicking on the ‘Print Section’ link to see the whole section on one page, rather than broken up into a bunch of short pages.  A nice feature of the Learning Center is that there are short multiple choice quiz questions at the end of each lesson, which helps to a) reinforce the learning and b) prepare for the exam, which is very similar in style and content.

As with the Conversion University, the AdWords Learning Center contains a lot of good information on getting the most from AdWords and is useful even if you are not planning to write the exam.  It does, however, also have a lot of information that may not be relevant to you – such as billing policies in foreign countries or tactics for ‘selling’ AdWords to potential clients.

If it is recommended to take review Conversion University prior to taking the Google Analytics test, I would rate is as HIGHLY recommended to go through the Learning Center – at least the quizzes – before taking on the AdWords exam.  When you are ready, you can jump into the exam via the ‘Pro Center’ tab in your My Client Center.

The AdWords exam has a bit of a bad reputation for being sprinkled with questions that are of limited relevance and/or trickily worded to create ambiguous meaning.  This was an assessment conveyed to me by both colleagues and others in the industry, such as the bloggers at SEO Speedwagon (which is the best seo-related blog name I’ve come across in a while).  While there were definitely some of these questions cropping up, I seemed to me that Google may have responded to some of the criticisms and tightened up the test to make it a more accurate reflection of professional competence.  Overall, I found it a pretty accurate reflection of the Learning Center – even to the extent of some Learning Center quiz questions showing up in the exam.

Bottom Line

Based on my experience, and discussions with colleagues, there is about 9-12 hrs of study involved in each of these exams, but may be less depending on your level of knowledge/experience with these programs.

Both Google Analytics IQ and Google Advertising Pro qualifications have an expiry date: AdWords offers a better deal because it is good for 2 yrs, while you will have to retake the Google Analytics IQ exam in 18 mths to retain your status.

Hard to put a value on these certifications but they do represent tangible evidence that you probably know what you are talking about and can enhance the credibility of yourself and your organization.  Hey, if you can get Google to vouch for you, why not go for it?