Video Tutorial: Hacking Google Analytics for Keyword Research

Last summer we did a collaborative post with fellow Vancouverites VKI Studios called Stop Google Analytics from Stealing Your Valuable Keyword Data. Google Analytics really isn’t “stealing”, rather “concealing” the actual search queries that trigger your paid search ads when you’re using broad match. It’s a “ye have not because ye ask not” situation.

“Ask and ye shall receive,” and by ask I mean set up a couple custom filters that will expose this data to you. I will be so bold to say that if you can not see exact keyword referrals you have no business using the broad match type! (<---And I rarely use exclamation points or blog the same topic twice!!!)

This trick has become the most important keyword research tool I use after a campaigns launch (I use a few methods of keyword research to set up Ad Groups including the Google Keyword Tool). Once the campaign is underway, I use the exact keyword referrals to discover negative keywords, uncover new Ad Group and product opportunities and to understand more about how people search. What's missing is transactional data for each keyword, unfortunately.

I decided to screencast the set up process for a few reasons.

1) To share this tip again with our new readers (we’ve almost doubled in readership last summer) and remind those who have put off adding the filter to set it up ASAP.
2) To show you how quick and easy this is and provide you with a resource (printable PDF) that will give you the confidence that you can set this filter up yourself!
3) To show you how to find your data in Google Analytics by AdGroup, so you can add apply the appropriate negative keywords at the Ad Group level.

If you bear with me to the end, I share some of the crazy matches we’ve been getting for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic store‘s broad matched keywords. You’ll see why I value this information so much!

Can’t see video? View it here.

Companion Resources

Download “Cheat Sheet” Instructions (PDF)

Cut and Paste Values:

As with almost all multi-part filters, sequence is critical and must be ordered accordingly using the “Assign Filter Order” page for the profile.

First Filter:

Field A -> Extract A: Referral: (\?|&)(q|p|query)=([^&]*)
Field B -> Extract B: Campaign Medium: (cpc|ppc)
Output To -> Constructor: Custom Field 1: $A3

Second Filter:

Field A -> Extract A: Custom Field 1: (.*)
Field B -> Extract B: Campaign Term: (.*)
Output To -> Constructor: Campaign Term: $B1 ($A1)

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37 Responses to “Video Tutorial: Hacking Google Analytics for Keyword Research”

  1. Great tips. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Rachel says:

    Hi Linda – great post. I have administrative access to my analytics account but still do not see those links at the bottom you refer to, nor can I find away to create another profile. Do you have any other tips/suggestions for why this might be?

  3. Great screen cast, Linda.

    Now everyone spending more than a dime on AdWords can see exactly how to see what they’re paying for.

    More importantly, they can turn their analytics into action and have a direct improvement in their bottom line.

  4. @Rachel,

    You need to have access to the Adwords account also, Analytics has a separate log in.

  5. Denny says:

    Wow, amazing post! I can’t believe I missed something so valuable before!

  6. Awesome! I just added these filters to all of my Analytics accounts that are tied to AdWords. It’s insane just how broad Google’s broad match is. Many people don’t think about this and are throwing their money away. Thank you for this super valuable advice and these easy to follow instructions.

  7. Trent says:

    hey thought you should know you have a broken link on this post – the anchor text ‘view it here’ for url

  8. Rachel says:


    I do have access to adwords. It’s frustrating to not be able to jump right in!

  9. @Trent,

    Thanks, I fixed the broken link.


  10. Hi Linda, thank you for this great post. I’m a new reader so it was great that you went and reposted this for us. I have implemented it, and am waiting for Data for the new profile. I turned off Adwords entirely because of the horrible results we were getting so this is going to be really useful to get the ROI back up once more.

  11. Lori says:

    Thank you very much for posting this, I’ve been wondering for quite a while how to get my hands on this information. I can’t wait to see what information it comes back with.

  12. [...] the Net⦠YouTube Surpasses 100 Million U.S. Viewers for the First Time March 4, 2009Video Tutorial: Hacking Google Analytics for Keyword Research March 4, 2009Three kinds of meetings March 4, 2009“The Catcher in the Rye” and the Art of Phony [...]

  13. @Rachel

    You can get away with a single log-in account for Admin access to GA from within AdWords *if* that single account also has Administrator access to GA.

    Brian Katz
    VKI Studios
    Google Analytics Authorized Consultant

  14. Anna says:

    Hello Linda, thanks for this great blog, I had no idea this sort of thing was possible in Google analytics. Im going to have an experiment with my own site a see what happens i think it could be very beneficial. I have a bit of a school girl question here but it i don’t ask i wont find out. If after setting this filter up, i find that i am getting the right traffic but they are not staying on my site is there something that can be put in place to reveal where they end up going and spending there money? So i can compare.

  15. Linda, great tool and demo. Will this also work with PHRASE match? If so, what changes would need to be made to the filters?

    Thanks, Eric Lituchy {}

  16. David says:

    I am getting the keyword data in Google Analytics but not the actual search queries. Did I miss something obvious?

  17. [...] Video Tutorial: Hacking Google Analytics for Keyword Research [...]

  18. @Anna, are you asking if you can track which site a customer who visits your site ultimately ends up buying from? That would really be useful information :) but sadly, Google Analytics won’t do that and I don’t believe there is a product that does at this time.

    @Eric, the filter might work with phrase match — or there might be a phrase match specific filter. Brian Katz in the house? I think he could answer that for us.

    @David, the actual search queries would look like this (actual+search+query) in your keyword report. Make sure you’re viewing the stats from the Profile you created in the first step. If you’re looking at the unfiltered stats you won’t see it.

  19. Anna says:

    Hi Linda Thank you for your response, yes i did mean who a customer ends up buying from. I did think it wouldn’t be possible but im surprised every day with new tools that become available so i thought id ask.

  20. @Anna, if I come across a tool like that, I’m definitely blogging about it.

    @Eric, yes this filter works for Phrase Match. Just tested it out. Make sure you view your reports through Traffic/Adwords not Traffic/Keywords (the latter shows you all without match types).

  21. David says:

    Thanks, I figured out my error. This is amazing data. Most interesting part…how many of my visitors can’t spell!

  22. Anna says:

    Ill be keeping my eye on your blogs then, If i do find anything out there ill let you know, share the wealth as it where. Thanks for your imput.

  23. mike says:


    It worked perfectly for about 3 days then all of a sudden the PPC data is showing as direct and visa versa!! as a result it wont show me the search queries because it says i have little or no paid searches (new site relying on PPC traffic). I made no changes to anything

  24. Nick says:

    Great post
    Great tips
    Thanks for share

  25. Bill says:

    How do I set it up so that I *only* see the actual search term (not along with the campaign term)?

    • You could view through regular Keyword Referral reports in Google Analytics, just make sure you click the “paid” link to filter out the organic. Not sure why you’d want to strip out the campaign though, that’s very useful info.

  26. Lori says:

    Hi Linda,

    Awesome demo. Regarding your reply to Eric regarding the filter working for “Phrase Match”.

    I have set-up the filter and it appears to work fine but how do I know if a person searched via a phrase match or exact match? Any help would be great!

    • Hi Lori, the best way is to separate your exact and phrase matches to their own campaigns or ad groups, so you can view them under the Adwords menu in Google Analytics, go to “Traffic Sources” and click on “Adwords” and find those groups from there.

      Hope that helps

  27. Roman says:

    This doesn’t work for me anymore. Something happened and I don’t know what. Can somebody provide a solution to fix it?

  28. Sam says:

    Hi Linda,

    I don’t seem to be getting the search terms showing up on the report. I am going all the way down to the keyword level and can’t see the search query at any of the levels.

    Am I doing something wrong here?


  29. @Sam, did you create a new profile and then go through the steps to add the filter?

  30. Sam says:

    Yes I’m pretty sure I did everything as instructed, both from the video and the PDF, twice. I have the GoogleAnalytics report showing, can drill down all the way to adgroups and keywords, but only see the keywords, not the user queries in brackets.

    Strange indeed.
    PS. I am using the new AdwWords interface.


  31. Sam says:

    Hi again,
    Any new information come to light about this problem? I have yet to get this working on my adwords account, but it would be super useful to have.


  32. linda, you always do it so amazingly.

  33. KImberly says:

    Do you have a tutor for Site Search Query Parameter (required): Use commas to separate multiple parameters (5 max) in the profile?

    I can’t get my searched to show up on analytics.

    Thank you

  34. Bryan says:

    Very interesting article. Thanks for posting, however, I have a few questions:

    Wouldn’t using the search query report in Google adwords give you this data?

    Also, if you link your adwords with your analytics can’t you just pull a Paid Traffic Sources report?



  35. Excellent advice. We used to collect this data externally because we knew Google was serving ads very liberally but integrating it into Analytics is a huge time and money saver.

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