Last April Google stopped shar­ing search query data when­ever a vis­i­tor clicked through from a paid search (AdWords) ad. This move came after the search engine had already stopped shar­ing search query data for organic search traf­fic in Sep­tem­ber. Dig­i­tal ana­lysts and mar­keters have watched insights into their search terms dry up since Google made these changes. At the end of my last post on this topic, I sug­gested that the dig­i­tal ana­lyt­ics indus­try will adjust to this chal­lenge just like we have other tri­als. As such, I’d like to share a par­tial solu­tion that may off­set some of the angst you’ve felt los­ing this data.

Andy Pow­ers in Adobe Con­sult­ing brought to my atten­tion an inter­est­ing fea­ture pro­vided by Google’s AdWords plat­form. AdWords gives mar­keters the abil­ity to add a spe­cial tag, Val­ue­Track, to your paid search ad’s des­ti­na­tion URL. Val­ue­Track pro­vides var­i­ous para­me­ters that can give you addi­tional insights into your AdWords cam­paigns. For exam­ple, using these para­me­ters you can under­stand the following:

  • AdWords key­word that caused the ad to appear
  • Match type option of the key­word that trig­gered the ad
  • Ad posi­tion of your ad when it was clicked (e.g., “1t2” is equiv­a­lent to page 1, top, pos 2)
  • Site where the vis­i­tor clicked your ad

Sound inter­est­ing? Before I get into how you can bring this data into Adobe Ana­lyt­ics, I’d like to review how the des­ti­na­tion URL is con­fig­ured if you want to track both the key­word and match type. Google allows you to use what­ever fields or labels you want as long as the val­ues match their pre-defined para­me­ter types that are enclosed in { }. Val­ue­Track URL para­me­ters are dynamic so they will change based on the details of the ad when it was clicked. For exam­ple, I could use the fol­low­ing des­ti­na­tion URL for my cam­paign if I wanted to cap­ture the AdWords key­word and match type:{keyword}&matchtype={matchtype}

The {matchtype} para­me­ter records what match type resulted in the ad click (“b” for broad or mod­i­fied broad, “p” for phrase, or “e” for exact). Val­ue­Track will update my des­ti­na­tion URLs with the actual key­word and match type:

With this data dynam­i­cally appended to the land­ing page, it’s pos­si­ble for Adobe Ana­lyt­ics to grab the infor­ma­tion and pass it into eVar vari­ables for each para­me­ter. I’d rec­om­mend using pro­cess­ing rules to auto­mate the col­lec­tion of this Val­ue­Track data. In the mar­ket­ing chan­nels reports, you could also add the key­word data as a detail break­down for the paid search chan­nel. If you have the Adobe Ana­lyt­ics / Media Opti­mizer inte­gra­tion, you’ll auto­mat­i­cally receive this data, and it will be com­bined with pre-click data such as impres­sions and cost.


Note: My pro­cess­ing rule is just a sim­ple exam­ple to rep­re­sent how this rule could be con­fig­ured. Your par­tic­u­lar envi­ron­ment may require addi­tional fail-safe logic and con­di­tions to work properly.


Now before you get too excited, I want to point out a key dif­fer­ence between typed search terms and tar­geted key­words. I’ll use an exam­ple of a hair care man­u­fac­turer that is adver­tis­ing a new line of sham­poos. This com­pany is broadly tar­get­ing the key­word “sham­poo” with one of its AdWords ads, which means their ad could appear for any search query that con­tains the “sham­poo” term. As a result when I type “dog sham­poo” on Google, I see this company’s ad. When I click on this ad, its mar­keters will know their tar­geted “sham­poo” key­word received a click. How­ever, because Google is strip­ping the actual search phrase I typed (“dog sham­poo”), the prod­uct mar­keters won’t under­stand why I bounced so quickly on their cam­paign land­ing page—even when their beau­ti­ful blond model’s hair looked so sim­i­lar to my golden retriever’s fur.


While the Val­ue­Track solu­tion is an imper­fect replace­ment for typed search terms, it does pro­vide a sim­ple, set-and-forget method for pass­ing in tar­geted key­words. In addi­tion, you gain access to other AdWords cam­paign attrib­utes such as match type and ad posi­tion that may help to improve your search mar­ket­ing effec­tive­ness in new ways. Not hav­ing to pass in cam­paign meta­data as clas­si­fi­ca­tions is a bonus. If you have any other related sug­ges­tions or tips, please share them in the com­ments below.