The Importance of Search Query Reports in Google Ads and Microsoft Ads

When it comes to advertising on Google and Microsoft Ads, utilizing all available resources ensures the best optimization of your campaigns. One of the tools advertisers have access to within the Microsoft and Google Ads interface is the ability to perform a search query report (SQR). An SQR is a list of queries provided by the search engine, resulting in an impression on your ad. 

Through SQRs, you will learn the actual words potential customers are typing into their browsers to see your ads – and whether this traffic is relevant or not. Regularly reviewing the SQRs will provide you with metrics that will allow you to analyze how well each search term is performing and which ones are potentially wasting money.

How to Perform a Basic SQR in Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising (the process is almost identical in both platforms – screenshots are from Google):

1. Choose the campaign with which you want to start. Look for a campaign with a low click-through rate (CTR). A low CTR means your ad appears but does not receive a click. This can indicate that searches are causing irrelevant traffic, which is why we begin here.

2. Select the ad group that you want to optimize. Next, click on the Keywords tab on the left-hand navigation; on the drop-down for more options, click on Search terms.

3. Here, you will see all the terms on which your ads have been shown. There are options to filter whatever metrics you want to look at to compare the performance of each search query quickly. The first filter I use is to select “none” for the added/excluded. This filters out all already added or excluded searches, so you only analyze keywords that have not already been added to or excluded from the account. 

4. Next, I choose a date range for the data I will analyze. Since conversion windows vary from client to client, I typically choose “Last 90 days.” This allows me to analyze all the searches over the last three months and helps get better aggregated data.

5. As you review the performance data for each search term, you can either add the keyword to the ad group or add it as a negative (on the ad group or campaign level). Click on the box next to a search term, which gives you both options on the blue action bar.

a. Adding as a keyword: If you choose to add the keyword, you can add the match type (add brackets on the front and back for exact, quote marks in front and back for phrase, or leave alone for broad, which we don’t recommend).

b. Adding as a negative: Choose the match type, and then determine whether this will be an Ad group or Campaign-level negative. You also have the option to create a negative keyword list, allowing you to apply that list to multiple campaigns easily. There’s a slightly different way to do this in Microsoft.



When launching a new Campaign, repeat this SQR process often – even daily – to ensure that your ads only bring in relevant traffic. As the search engine starts to learn about your business and you refine your keyword list, you can do the SQR task less frequently. I recommend that you do this process at least once a month for established campaigns; more high-volume campaigns might need to be done every other week or weekly.

By performing regular SQRs, you will be able to exclude terms that look relevant but don’t convert. One example I encountered while working on one of our client’s accounts was an abbreviation issue. The keyword we were using was “driver qualification file management,” which also goes by “DQ file management.” When the campaign first launched, we saw unusual traffic from Dairy Queen, which also goes by DQ. From here, I added all Dairy Queen-related queries as negative keywords to ensure we were getting the right customers for our efforts. I was able to save our client money on wasted spend by identifying these types of queries immediately and adding them as negative keywords right away.

Search query reports are a great tool to ensure your ads are showing on only searches relevant to your business. Making sure these keywords are dead-on to your business will help search engines learn more about your company. If a keyword receives impressions but no clicks, the search engine may stop showing the ad, so monitoring the search queries and adding as many negatives as possible is crucial. Monitoring your keywords also can help by eliminating overlap in campaigns, as some terms fit in certain ad groups, but they may accidentally show in others if the advertiser is not proactive.

One note, Google doesn’t give you all the data from their search queries as well as they attempt to omit terms with low activity in order to keep up with their data privacy standards. In September 2020, a new privacy policy was introduced which limited the number of data advertisers can see by an even bigger margin. This caused problems as search queries were only showing a fraction of the terms. The following year on September 9th, 2021, Google announced that they were expanding their query reports to show the advertiser more data. While they did expand the data, they still obscure a lot of keyword data which does make it hard to fully understand where traffic is coming from, especially conversions. 

Keeping your digital advertising accounts well-targeted and optimized leads to the best results for your advertising efforts. Regularly performing SQRs will help you catch problem queries early or prevent them from happening in the first place.

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