Paid Search Keyword Data Being Blocked by Google and Shifted to AdWords

Subject: How Google’s change to block paid search keyword data isn’t really affecting marketers and how you can get around this change in your campaigns.

Background & Industry Implications

In April, Google announced on their developer’s blog that they could potentially be extending the secure search they implemented for organic keywords (SEO) onto paid search keywords. In other words, Google will not be sharing which keywords consumers are using, theoretically rendering it much more difficult to strategically market with search; however it is critical to note that we will still get that data via AdWords, and therefore campaigns will not be dramatically affected. In this POV we explore the reasons behind Google’s move and what it means for pharma marketers.

Advertisers will still be able to receive data in order to optimize and improve their campaigns through the Google AdWords dashboard. However, they will soon stop passing keyword data to third party analytics software like Google Analytics and Omniture. Google plans on doing this by no longer providing referrer data for paid clicks on AdWords ads. Instead of keywords showing with metrics, the keywords will be replaced by the familiar [not provided], similar to organic keyword data.

There are a few reasons why Google may be implementing this feature on their paid keyword data. One reason is due to the responses they are receiving from users.

Users have stated that privacy is very important to them. Obviously, Google wants their users to have the best possible experience, so it’s not surprising they are taking their concerns to heart. Another possible reason for Google to implement this change, other than privacy concerns, is to increase ad spend. If less data is provided, some advertisers may struggle with optimizations resulting in increases in ad spend because it’s more of a shot in the dark.  This also ensures that advertisers are navigating through and utilizing the AdWords interface for their keyword research and optimization thus cutting back on the need for third party campaign management tools such as Kenshoo, Marin and Acquisio.

Even if these changes are implemented, if users utilize Google AdWords the data will still be available. Within Google AdWords, advertisers will still be able to pull Search Query Reports. Why is this so important?  The Search Query Report allows advertisers to review referring keyword traffic in order to identify any potential irrelevant keywords that are triggering ads.  By identifying these unwanted keywords and including them as Negatives, you can ensure budget is being spent on quality clicks.  This in turn also improves metrics like click through rate and cost per click (CPC).  The SEM team at CMI includes this analysis as part of regular optimizations and have extensive Negative lists (meaning that ads won’t show up) for all accounts.

Advertisers are also able to use Google Webmaster Tools to review ad clicks and keyword performance data. Webmaster Tools is another avenue advertisers can use to optimize their websites and campaigns by looking at potential website issues like broken links and stats around how Google indexes a website in addition to keyword level data.  If this change is actually implemented by Google, while it will make optimizations efforts more difficult, it is not as drastic of a change as to when Google began withholding organic keyword referring data.

How Does This Affect You?

Advertisers who manage their campaigns day to day will still be able to access keyword data in third party tools and reporting in AdWords, such as Search Query Reports.

Keyword level data from the normal tracking parameters will still be fully available in third party tools. CMI currently implements tracking parameters on keyword URLs.  This data is pulled directly into Google Analytics. AdWords Search Query Reports and conversion data will still be available to advertisers, with the caveat that it will only be available within AdWords. This allows advertisers to see keyword front end metrics such as impressions, clicks, cost, etc., as well as conversions that are being tracked using AdWords. Dynamic Search Ads or Dynamic Keyword Insertion is still available for advertisers to use in AdWords.

This allows an advertiser to customize an ad to the user’s search query. With the pharmaceutical industry having strict regulatory rules and regulations, CMI does not recommend the use of Dynamic Keyword Insertion; as a best practice we manually choose keywords to optimize websites and to ensure each is in line with previously approved text.

Advertisers will no longer be able to use the keyword research tool to automatically build out keyword lists and view search query reports from third party tools. The update will not allow advertisers to use any keyword research tool to automate the build out of keywords from Search Query Reports. A keyword research tool allows advertisers to search for new keyword ideas, get search volume for a list of keywords, get traffic estimates for keywords, and multiply keyword lists to get new ideas.  As a best practice, CMI manually reviews the keywords pulled from the keyword research tool in order to ensure the keywords being recommended are relevant to the campaigns goals and objectives. Second, Search Query Reports within third party tools will no longer be possible at the individual click level. Again, this is not utilized by CMI due to AdWords having their own Search Query Report that CMI utilizes. In addition, customized landing pages that are dynamic to the search query will no longer be available. As a best practice, CMI manually sets the landing pages in order to ensure they are relevant to the keyword and ad text being shown.

Although third party analytics providers will have their tracking disrupted, third party tracking systems like Marin and Kenshoo will not be affected by this change. These systems use reports that are pulled directly from Google AdWords in order to report their tracking. It will make analyzing data in Google Analytics harder, if that is the primary source for tracking, but all in all this will not have as big of an effect on advertisers as they may believe.