Whether you have new or long running campaigns, performing and acting on data in a search query report is a quick method of improving performance. Search query reports (SQRs) show you exactly what a user searches to trigger a search keyword where your ad is displayed. These reports can provide meaningful insight into particular words your brand or service may be associated with.

SQRs can be used as a positive keyword expansion tool, or conversely, as a tool to add more negative keywords. In most cases, you are already familiar with top performing keywords for your campaigns. As a result, SQRs are generally used as a method of finding irrelevant (negative) or long tail (positive) traffic.

You can start the process by heading over to the keywords tab in your account and then clicking on all, in the keyword details tab.

Adding Negative Keywords

1)     Comb your SQR for keywords that are contextually relevant (contain the same word), but not actually relevant to your product/service.

  • For example, if you sell George Foreman grills, you do not want your ad to appear when someone searches ‘george foreman knocks out joe frazier’

2)     Segment the SQR keywords based on match types.

  • There may be keywords that you want to apply as broad, and across multiple campaigns.
    i.     Ex: X-rated non-family safe KWs
  • Additionally, you may find negatives you wish to add as exact match.
    i.     Exact match negatives will prevent your ad from showing only on those specific keyword terms.

3)     Add your negatives to the account

  • We recommend using the AdWords Editor Desktop Tool if making bulk changes. You can find the required column headers in AdWords Editor

As with positive keywords, the negatives you add to your campaigns can be applied in three match types. Those match types are broad, phrase, and exact. Adding a broad negative ensures your ad will never show when a user includes that term in the search query.

For example, if you sell aluminum baseball bats, and a user searches ‘wood baseball bat for adults’, you can add ‘wood’ as a broad match negative to ensure your ad never serves. Phrase match negatives exclude a portion of the search query. An advertiser may include ‘for adults’ as a phrase match negative in your youth baseball bat campaign. Exact match negatives exclude the exact query being added. For example, anytime a user searches ‘wood baseball bat for adults’ your ad will not show.

Oftentimes you’ll find by just adding a few negative keywords found on a SQR you can save on irrelevant wasteful clicks and use those dollars on more relevant traffic that is more likely to convert!

Adding Positive Keywords

1)     Comb your SQR for keywords that you would want your ads to show for, and are relevant to your product/service, but you’re not currently buying on exact match.

2)     Use the vlookup function in Excel to check if the potential positive keywords you find in the report already exist anywhere in your account.

    • If not, review your account structure to ensure you add these new keywords to the correct campaign and ad group.

3)     Add your positives to the correct campaign and ad group.

    • Add keyword level bidding, and destination URLs.
      i.     If creating a brand new ad group, do not forget your ad copy!

As previously mentioned, search query reports can help find possible keywords for account expansion. Performing a search query report to comb for positive keywords can be extremely beneficial and help boost ROI.

In your search query reports, you may find keywords that closely match your top performing keywords that you actually don’t have in your account to bid on. Adding these new keywords to your campaigns and bidding on them on exact match has many benefits. We see exact match campaigns drive traffic cheaper and more ROI positive/efficient than broad match. Adding positive keywords via a search query report ensures your account contains the most valuable and converting terms.

These reports also show you what users are searching to when looking for your goods or services. You can apply these insights to other marketing channels or to improve upon your ad text.

General rule when looking for positive and negative keywords on SQRs

      • Use the subtotal feature in Excel to so that all keywords variations exists only once in your search query report.
      • After the function is complete this will create a list where all keywords exist only once in the list to make separating positive and negative keywords easier.


Search query reports are a great way to eliminate irrelevant traffic and improve efficiency. SQRs can help save wasted money, which in turn can lead to a more profitable AdWords experience. Whether you are looking for negatives or positives, generate search query reports frequently to keep your AdWords campaigns free of irrelevant traffic, and full of converting terms.

Routinely perform search query reports in campaigns where your cost per conversion exceeds your goals. Search for negatives in one campaign, and you may find yourself applying negatives across multiple campaigns or even the whole account.

However, do proceed with caution…incorrectly apply a negative keyword (or a negative keyword you intended to load as exact but loaded on broad match), and you may potentially limit your ad from serving for top converting keywords.

If performing a search query report for the first time, start with a small campaign that you feel comfortable experimenting with. Add your negatives, watch your account closely, and then analyze the performance data.

In conclusion, SQRs can be a helpful method in reducing wasted advertising dollars and a quick win for any AdWords account.

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