Have you ever asked yourself whether you paid search program is all that it can be? Most of us suspect that we fall short in some areas, but who has the time to stay on top of every aspect of a Google AdWords account, on top of everything else we do all day? Or perhaps you want to check out what kind of job your agency is doing with all your paid search money. Well, WordStream has put together a scoring tool called AdWords Grader that tries to do exactly that--show you how your paid search campaign compares against everyone else who has scored their own campaigns. And best of all, it's free.

Recently, WordStream CEO Larry Kim took me through the thought process behind AdWords Grader and shared with me two contrasting anonymized reports--one for a horrendous AdWords account and one for a great one, to show off what AdWords Grader can do. Check them out one after the other and take a closer look here and  here.

WordStream AdWords Grader bad accountWordStream AdWords Grader good account

That's a lot of data for a free tool, so Larry Kim and team should be commended for providing such value, and the tool is extremely simple to use, also. All you need to do is to put in your credentials for Google AdWords and the tool does the rest.

I asked Larry what his motivation was for the tool, and he told me that "PPC is hard for SMBs" and that "advertisers are struggling more than I previously thought."

Larry told me that "the problem is that people have the wrong expectation--an instant success--but lack of time and education produces crappy campaigns get penalized by Google and starts a downward spiral that keeps raising your click costs." He compared the start of most campaigns to "making a bad impression on your in-laws."

And much of the data revealed by AdWords Grader truly can help search marketers see what they have been missing. Helping people understand Quality Scores, Clickthrough Rates, and their share of impressions can be extremely useful.

Having said that, some of the metrics shown seem dubious to me. As much as I hate to criticize a free tool--I laud WordStream for giving this away--I am not sure that merely looking at negative keywords truly identifies wasted spending or that flagging accounts for less activity means that they are somehow missing the boat. But these are minor quibbles with a tool that is valuable and--did I mention?--free.

It is valuable to know how you stack up against other Adwords accounts, not because you should sit back if you are scoring well or freak out if you're not. But to the extent that it shows you important metrics that help you focus on where to take action, it's a good thing.

Originally published on Biznology

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December 6, 2011

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


Google Adwords grader is a great little comparative tool, especially for free. Can be great for small businesses in particular, as it is very explanatory, and can really help you keep track of your marketing expense.

It does seem that it provides a good insight into PPC. But I am often suspicious of free tools and am yet to be convinced by this one.

I'll give it a go though.

I have tried AdWords myself, and I can say it is a very useful service... well, at least it helped me very much and appeared to be a decent comparative tool.

I base my SEO and traffic solely on Google Analytics/Adwords. After reading your post I am going to give Yahoo/Bing a try. Thanks

That sounds like something that Adwords companies need to do. - You can get so much great information it looks like.

I think this is well worth a try. I'm not aware of other tools like this. Are there some?

I found the definitions and explanations very helpful and easy to understand. Not at all intimidating for the technology-shy or new to Adwords small business owner.

Thanks for this Mike Moran.

You're welcome, Donna. This is the simplest tool that I am aware of. There are many folks (including me) that charge for doing paid search audits which might be more appropriate for larger companies with more customized problems and solutions.

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > Compare your AdWords account to others--for free