What are your customers searching for? – The Search Terms report in Google AdWords

Customer Journey from Search Term to Conversion

The search terms report tell you exactly what your customer typed on the Google search bar. The search terms are matched to the keywords you have purchased and a particular ad is shown.

[Note: This post was originally posted on March 22, 2017. Since then there has been great interest on the topic from our dear readers. However, we realized that Google has now deployed (since 2020) enormous machine learning into how ads run. Also, we thought we need to clarify the customer journey more clearly for all clients. Thus the post is updated as of February 17, 2021]

The search term report gives some great insights to change your web content and web marketing approach. Keep in mind that Google data is anonymous at the customer level for privacy reasons. However, the aggregate information available is helpful in understanding the “search intent” of your web visitor.  And if you are answering the exact questions that your customers are asking, growing sales is natural.

Unless you are a big brand (like Apple, Coca Cola) don’t expect the customer to buy on their first visit to your website…..there is a customer journey to purchase…


Once you have generated a search terms report from your AdWords data, try to ask yourself – where is the customer in the customer journey. Since we are updating this post soon after Valentine Day, let’s stay with the flower business to provide some cheer to our readers.Keep in mind that search terms and volumes change very much depending on the ad demand. Thus after Valentine Day you see rose prices coming down as do the prices of keywords. The next boom for flower sellers will be Mother’s Day for flowers in the US (May 9, 2021). This as we look forward to life after the pandemic!

  1. Awareness : A look at the search terms report tells you if the customer is in the awareness stage. The word “flowers” doesn’t tell you very much about what the customer’s question is. A good recent technique may be to use “in-market audiences” layered on the awareness campaign. This way you’ll get only people who might be already researching “flower delivery,” although they typed just “flowers”. However, don’t expect high conversions. Be prepared with your website, Google Business listing, reviews , social media presence to give comfort to the searcher. Recognize that customers (more so for high cost products) will do a lot of research to understand what is out there. People research new cars almost 14 hours according to one report from 2019. After the pandemic expect all stages of the customer journey being done online.
  2. Consideration: A search term like “flower delivery Anytown” means that your ad showed because one of your ads mentioned “Anytown”. Once the customer clicks on the ad be sure that the landing page after the ad mentions the towns you serve. Once someone types a town name you can be sure that they are actively considering to order. An example was discussed in an earlier post to understand how different searches play out for the customer. See the video in an earlier post.
  3. Conversion: Yes all of us want conversion. That is a sale, a sign-up. And we guess that this question is asked by every advertiser. The “Performance Planner” is a new tool that allows you to estimate future conversions based on past conversions. If you have conversions set up ( a submitted form, a purchase) and you have conversion history then machine learning picks up. It can predict how many conversions you can expect at a particular budget level for the next week or month. This way you can make more informed budgeting decisions.

To summarize, the customer journey is real. It can become faster due to the Internet but it’s always going to be there. Advertisers should account for spending on building awareness ( eg. traffic to your website) and consideration (why your brand is a good choice). Conversions will follow.

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