The Trouble with Search Partners

Google Ads Search Partners is one of those default opt-ins that can cram your budget with lower-quality traffic, but the real problem with it is harder to spot...

Google Ads Search Partners is one of those ‘default opt-ins’ that can really cram your budget with lower-quality traffic.

 I generally recommend turning Search Partners off.

If you do run it (occasionally it does add value – especially in retail…) it’s wise to keep a close eye on it while you test.

But the low CPA traffic is easily avoided. The real problem with Search Partners is harder to spot…

With Search Partners traffic contributing to your data, you can easily find yourself  acting on misleading results…


See how the Search Partners segment seriously down-weights CTR and hides the Lost Impression Share against this keyword, in its un-segmented stats, shown in the top row.

The aggregated CTR for this keyword 1.12% bears little relation to the excellent CTR it is actually achieving on Google search (~14%) or the typically poor CTR on Search Partners (0.15%).

Conversely, as the (rank-influenced) impression Share on Search Partners is nearly maxed out, the huge impression share loss to rank (shown by the final metric) on Google is hidden.

Although it isn’t contributing much in terms of clicks, by its flood of  impressions Search Partners data is obscuring both the major success (CTR) and missed opportunity (Lost Impression share) that would otherwise be clear.

Here’s how to deal with it.


To evaluate search partners traffic in general – as well as uncovering these hidden insights, segment your data by network….

When looking at this breakdown at the keyword level, it’s usually best to focus on the Google Search segment… both because Google Search is usually where the bulk of clicks and conversions come from, and because performance on Search Partners is excluded from all Quality Score calculations – so it will just add noise to any analysis you’re making with QS in mind.


Be extra wary of the data skew from Search Partners when using Impression Share to assess your untapped potential of your keywords… something we’ll be doing a lot more with the Average Position metric on its way out.


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