How Can I See Which Keywords Trigger Ads?

Posted on 07/12/2016 by Team Hallam

Finding out what search queries your potential customers have used in order to find your ad can give you an insight into how your customers search and ultimately improve your Adwords account. Here's how to find the search query report and a few hints and tips with what to do with the data.

You have an Adwords account and you know that you have keywords with different match types that can trigger your ad but you want to know specifically and accurately which keywords trigger ads and what your potential customers are actually searching for. Well, look no further, because there’s a little report in AdWords that’ll tell you (almost) all you need to know.

It’s called the Search Query Report, and it’s nothing new, but you may not have noticed it before. You can use it to find out which keywords trigger ads and how users behaved when they saw them. You can then use this information to refine your existing keyword lists.


Which Keyword Triggers ads
In this image you can see that I’ve filtered the keywords (top red box), selected which keywords I wish to get more information on (left hand red box) and selected the button “search terms”


To find the report, log into your AdWords account, and go to the keywords tab of any campaign or adgroup. Select any or all of the keywords you wish to get more information on and select the “Search Terms” button at the top of the page.


which keywords trigger ads


In the above example you can see the resulting report showing that the keyword “+tv +lifts” has search terms “lift up tv mechanism” and “tv lifts for beds” attributed to it, how many times the search term was clicked and if any conversions resulted because of those clicks.

Pro tip:

  • Only select keywords which are not exact match so that the search term report is not expanded with close variants of your specified keyword
  • Select a date range that will have a good amount of data/clicks so you have a better chance of seeing patterns


I’ve Found out Which Keywords Trigger Ads…What Now?

You can use this data in one of two ways:

Firstly, you can use it to add new keywords or variations of keywords to your account. On a broad match keyword you may come across variations on a product or brand name you had not considered. For example a keyword on phrase match like “Nike Trainers” may be triggering your ad for search queries such as “Mens cheap Nike Trainers” which may be converting well but it’s position is low. By adding this keyword you can attribute a higher bid and achieve a higher position.

Secondly, you can use it to add negative keywords (i.e. keywords you don’t want your ads to appear for) to your account/Campaign/Adgroup. By filtering out these search terms you focus your ads to appear for more relevant ads helping you gain more quality traffic, decreased spend and increase the likelihood of a conversion. If we use the above keyword example you may find that your ad is showing for the search terms “Free Nike Trainers“. Unless you have free trainers to give away you will want to make sure this keyword is added! Select the keyword and you can add this negative keyword to the adgroup level or campaign level.

Add Negative Keyword

Pro tip:

  • Be careful how you add your negative keywords. They act exactly like normal keywords with match types so for example, if you only want to exclude a specific keyword use the exact match type

What are Keyword Lists?

If there are keywords that are triggering your ads like “free”, that you wish to exclude from multiple campaigns, adgroups or even the whole account then you can use keyword lists. To add keywords to a list you need to create the list first. Go to Shared library on the left hand navigation and select Campaign Negative Keywords and create and name a list. Select this list and click Apply to campaigns to select which campaigns you want to add this to. Next time you go want to add a negative keyword you will have the choice to add it to your list.

Adwords Shared Library


Pro tip:

  • Keyword lists are especially useful when other Adgroups or Campaigns are showing ads for keywords you wish only one Adgroup or campaign to show up for. This maybe a your own brand campaign for example.

Should You Negative Match Each Keyword?

There maybe times when you run this report and find that there are keywords that are triggering your ads resulting in many search queries with 1 impression and 1 click and no conversions. Depending on how many of these there are you may wish to look for themes within these queries instead of going through and negatively matching each query individually. Simply use the filter to show keywords with 1 impression and 1 click:


Search Query Filter
In this image you can see that I’ve filtered the search terms to show those with clicks equaling 1 AND impressions equaling 1 (bottom red box) and highlighted the download box (top red box)


Then download the file and upload it to a keyword grouper tool like Wordstream’s Keyword Grouper tool. This will give you themes of keywords you may want to negatively match against. If we take the above example you may have be found for the following: “Mens Nike Trainer Spikes”, “Womens Nike Running Spike Trainers”, “Nike Air Running Spikes”, “Cheap Nike Running Spikes” – the keyword grouper tool is likely to highlight “Spikes”. If this is identified as an irrelevant theme you would add this query as a negative broad match modifier +Spikes to prevent further searches.

Why are you finding unrelated search queries in your report

When you use this report you may find that there is a lot of search queries that are popping up that are completely unrelated to your product or service. This will be because of the keywords you have in your adgroups and their related match types. There are four match types which will be controlling which keywords trigger ads for example:

Keyword Match type Resulting matches
Nike Trainers Broad Nike Trainers
Running Trainers
Sports Shoes
+Nike +Trainers Broad modifier Nike Trainers
Nike Air Max Trainers
Cheap Nike Air Trainers Nottingham
“Nike Trainers” Phrase Nike Trainers
Cheap Nike Trainers
Nike Trainers Sale
[Nike Trainers] Exact Nike Trainers
Nike Trainer

For more information on this topic have a look at this blog on PPC match types.

The Search Query Report is Limited…

Note that I said “almost all you need to know” above. At the bottom of the report, you’ll see an entry entitled “Other search terms”. These are queries that resulted in impressions for your ad, but the query itself has not been recorded. There are a few reasons for this:

  • The ad received an impression, but no click within the last 30 days.
  • The query was entered in the last 24 hours.
  • The query was not entered by a significant number of users.

It’s a bit annoying that you can’t see these queries, but what you can see should be enough insight into which keywords trigger ads.


The way people search and how people search is always changing for example the increased use of mobile phones and Siri or Google Voice Search means that which keywords trigger ads will be more a reflection of speech than of written English. Therefore, the search term report should form part of your armory and be checked on a monthly basis to identify themes and patterns to your customers search behaviour. Find out how we can help manage your PPC campaign or contact us to book a face to face meeting

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How Can I See Which Keywords Trigger Ads?

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