Partial Fix for Losing Google’s Paid Search Terms

Last April Google stopped sharing search query data whenever a visitor clicked through from a paid search (AdWords) ad. This move came after the search engine had already stopped sharing search query data for organic search traffic in September. Digital analysts and marketers have watched insights into their search terms dry up since Google made these changes. At the end of my last post on this topic, I suggested that the digital analytics industry will adjust to this challenge just like we have other trials. As such, I’d like to share a partial solution that may offset some of the angst you’ve felt losing this data.

Andy Powers in Adobe Consulting brought to my attention an interesting feature provided by Google’s AdWords platform. AdWords gives marketers the ability to add a special tag, ValueTrack, to your paid search ad’s destination URL. ValueTrack provides various parameters that can give you additional insights into your AdWords campaigns. For example, using these parameters you can understand the following:

Sound interesting? Before I get into how you can bring this data into Adobe Analytics, I’d like to review how the destination URL is configured if you want to track both the keyword and match type. Google allows you to use whatever fields or labels you want as long as the values match their pre-defined parameter types that are enclosed in { }. ValueTrack URL parameters are dynamic so they will change based on the details of the ad when it was clicked. For example, I could use the following destination URL for my campaign if I wanted to capture the AdWords keyword and match type:{keyword}&matchtype={matchtype}

The {matchtype} parameter records what match type resulted in the ad click (“b” for broad or modified broad, “p” for phrase, or “e” for exact). ValueTrack will update my destination URLs with the actual keyword and match type:

With this data dynamically appended to the landing page, it’s possible for Adobe Analytics to grab the information and pass it into eVar variables for each parameter. I’d recommend using processing rules to automate the collection of this ValueTrack data. In the marketing channels reports, you could also add the keyword data as a detail breakdown for the paid search channel. If you have the Adobe Analytics / Media Optimizer integration, you’ll automatically receive this data, and it will be combined with pre-click data such as impressions and cost.

Note: My processing rule is just a simple example to represent how this rule could be configured. Your particular environment may require additional fail-safe logic and conditions to work properly.

Now before you get too excited, I want to point out a key difference between typed search terms and targeted keywords. I’ll use an example of a hair care manufacturer that is advertising a new line of shampoos. This company is broadly targeting the keyword “shampoo” with one of its AdWords ads, which means their ad could appear for any search query that contains the “shampoo” term. As a result when I type “dog shampoo” on Google, I see this company’s ad. When I click on this ad, its marketers will know their targeted “shampoo” keyword received a click. However, because Google is stripping the actual search phrase I typed (“dog shampoo”), the product marketers won’t understand why I bounced so quickly on their campaign landing page—even when their beautiful blond model’s hair looked so similar to my golden retriever’s fur.

While the ValueTrack solution is an imperfect replacement for typed search terms, it does provide a simple, set-and-forget method for passing in targeted keywords. In addition, you gain access to other AdWords campaign attributes such as match type and ad position that may help to improve your search marketing effectiveness in new ways. Not having to pass in campaign metadata as classifications is a bonus. If you have any other related suggestions or tips, please share them in the comments below.