What are “Matched Search Queries” in Google Analytics?

Posted on 20/01/2014 by Jonathan Ellins

Where to find the 'Matched Search Queries' reports.
Where to find the ‘Matched Search Queries’ reports.

The matched search query report in Google Analytics allows you to see the search phrases users typed into Google to trigger your paid Adwords keywords: https://www.google.com/analytics/web/?hl=en#report/advertising-adwords-query/ (visit this link and then select the correct profile from the top left dropdown or go to Acquisition > Adwords > Matched Search Queries)

This only becomes useful if your Adwords campaign uses phrase or broad match terms.  If no data is showing then you need to first link your Analytics and Adwords account to start gathering the data.

Broader Keywords

Google users are typing in more and more complex search queries each month (supported with the new Hummingbird update) as a greater percentage of people become savvier with search engines.  Because of this there is a greater need to broaden the range of keywords which trigger your ads to reach as many people as possible each day.

Longer tail keywords have been proven to be an indicator of increased conversion rates, the more specific the Google search the further down the sales funnel a person will be.  For example, someone searching for the keyword “washing machines” will be less likely to convert than someone searching for “white washing machine 1200 rpm 8kg” who knows exactly what they want and is looking to make a purchase.  Missing out on longer tail keywords can also raise advertising costs as more generic keywords have higher competition driving up cost-per-click amounts.

The only problem with a broader range of keywords is that you can accidentally pay for traffic on unrelated or badly converting keywords; this is where the Matched search Queries report comes in especially handy to ensure no ad spend is wasted.


Let’s look at some quick examples of search query matching:

Exact match keywords (only one possible match)

Keyword example = [pink umbrellas]
Example query match = pink umbrellas

Phrase match keywords (many possible matches which always include the keyword phrase)

Keyword example = “wooden pickaxe”
Example query matches = wooden pickaxe, buy a wooden pickaxe, wooden pickaxe maintenance, best wooden pickaxe manufacturers, etc. etc.

Broad match keywords (all possible matches which are loosely related to the keyword)

Keyword example = underwater cameras
Example query matches = underwater cameras, cameras that work underwater, wet cameras, water friendly camera, scuba diver camera, kids pool camera, how to use a camera underwater, etc. etc.


Broad match keywords can become a double-edged sword if you are not careful.  They are amazing for discovering new keywords and ensuring your ads always appear for obscure keywords, but they also can trigger similar keywords on unrelated topics or badly converting phrases.

Examples of badly converting keywords are ones with the phrases “what is”, “free” and “how to”.  People looking for freebies or information about a product are usually far away from converting into a customer so paying for that type of traffic will likely waste money.

An example of a multi-topic broad match keyword is “toy dog”.  This multi-topic keyword will trigger on search queries such as “stuffed toy dogs”, “toy breed dogs” and “squeaky dog toys”, three very different areas!


Negative keywords are the perfect tool to ensure broad match keyword don’t fall into the categories that don’t match your intentions.  Like the ‘positive’ keywords which are used to trigger adverts, negative keywords can block certain search queries in exact, phrase or broad match operators:

Target product
To sell stuffed “toy dogs” we need to use negative keywords to block keywords such as “dog toys” or toy “breeds” of dogs

Example broad match keyword = toy dog
Target market = Kids stuffed toy dog toys

Exact match negative keywords (blocks one search query only)

Example negative exact match keyword = [dog toys]
Example query block = “dog toys”

Phrase match negative keywords (blocks any search query which include the keyword phrase)

Example negative phrase match keyword = “breeds”
Example query blocks = “toy dog breeds”, “breeds of toy dogs”, “toy breeds of dogs”, etc. etc.

Broad match negative keywords (blocks any search query which is related to the keyword)

Example negative broad match keyword = images
Example query blocks = “toy dog images”, “pictures of toy dogs”, “cutest toy dog pics”, “tiny dog photos”, etc. etc.


Sort results by conversion rate to see the best and worst performers
Sort results by conversion rate to see the best and worst performers

So keeping an eye on your matched search queries can save you a lot of wasted ad spend, you can also see how each matched search query performs with metrics, goals or ecommerce values on the report.  Looking at the average visit durations, goal conversion rates or ecommerce conversion rates allows you to weed out any low converting keywords and further promote the higher converting keywords.

Low converting keywords can be blocked with negative keywords and higher converting keywords can have their maximum CPC raised or perhaps their own Ad Group where you can control them more and have an ultra-targeted advert or landing page to increase overall conversion rates and keyword quality score.

Here at Hallam we have seen several clients recently who have been wasting thousands of Adwords spend on totally unrelated keywords.  Even if you do not manage your PPC account it may be very worth checking up on it!

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What are “Matched Search Queries” in Google Analytics?

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