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“Other search terms” – Sourcing negative keywords beyond search term reports

This is the first in a series of posts on next-level PPC account management. AdWords is a competition, and to win the game, you need to be better than everyone you are competing against. This series of posts focuses on the techniques and methods that I have learned and developed over 10 years to achieve next-level results.

You already know that negative keywords are just as important, if not more so, than positive keywords. But I’ve noticed that most people take the same approach when adding negative keywords to an account – to run a search term report and look for low query search queries that have triggered unwanted clicks.

This is an excellent first step, but because search term reports only include queries that have resulted in a click, and not queries that have only triggered impressions, you’re usually getting less than half the story.

AdWords "Other search terms"

You might think you know what sort of search terms are triggering your ads, based on the keywords in your account, but I’d recommend checking out the number of impressions in the “other search terms” row at the bottom of a search term report. That’s the total number of times your ads were triggered by a search term that haven’t received any clicks. These are essentially blind queries, your ads are displaying on them, but you have no idea what they are.

I’ve seen the percentage of impressions of “other search terms” as high as 95% in some accounts. If you’re using any non-exact keywords, you probably have more unknown “other search terms” than known search terms in your search term report.

If the number of impressions on unknown search terms is high, you will often have no idea what sort of queries are actually triggering your ads. It is likely many of these unknown queries are low-quality queries that you don’t want your ad appearing for. Otherwise you’d be getting clicks, right?

With every impression of an unknown query, there is a chance that a low-quality, unqualified user will click your ad, even by accident, and cost you money that could be better spent on a high-quality, qualified click.

On the other hand, some of those unknown search queries could be the sort of keyword that will drive high-quality, qualified traffic that you DO want. Unfortunately, we don’t know about those yet either.

Reducing unwanted impressions on “other search terms”

The most effective way I have found to reduce the number of impressions on “other search terms” is to research negative keywords from a wide variety of sources, beyond just using search term reports.

I have found that running high-impression keywords through tools like Keywordtool.io and Ubersuggest, and treating each result the same way you would a query in your search term report can drastically decrease the number of impressions on unknown terms.

related searches

Google’s own keyword planner is an often overlooked source of potential negative keywords, as are the “related searches” that appear at the bottom of many result pages.

Is it worth it?

When we’re talking about the small, incremental performance gains that are required to achieve above-average results, it is more than worth your time to spend a few minutes researching additional negatives, and reducing the size of your “other search terms” impressions.

Reducing impressions on unknown search terms will often have a huge, positive impact on your CTR, and help reduce wasted spend from unqualified and unwanted clicks.

A note on “other search terms”, CTR and Quality Score

Since Google only considers the CTR of exact match queries when calculating Quality Score, adding additional negatives won’t help improve your Quality Score, but it will help reduce wasting spend on unqualified clicks and low-quality traffic.


Do you have a favourite source of negative keywords? Let me know in the comments.

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