The ROI Revolution Blog

Google Analytics Keyword Sleuth vs Search Query Performance Report

March 24, 2008

If you've been following this blog, you've likely heard several references to the Google Analytics Keyword Sleuth that Michael Harrison wrote back in April of 2007. This is a tool that anyone in paid search should be using. Basically, it captures and displays an ongoing list of new keywords and phrases straight from your customer's mind. We're often advised to "imagine what your customers are typing before they see your ads, then bid on those keywords." With the Keyword Sleuth in place, you don't have to imagine anything. They've already told you.

For a long time, Google, Yahoo!, MSN and others would not reveal exact search queries, and still don't for the most part. They'll tell you the bid keyword, but not the exact search query. In May 2007, Google stepped up and created the Search Query Performance Report (SQPR), which now shows this data within the Adwords reporting tab. There was a wave of excitement when Google released the SQPR, and it's become a popular report for Adwords users.

Both the Keyword Sleuth and the SQPR were developed to do essentially the same thing, but in reality, they can be worlds apart for the PPC manager. In explaining the Keyword Sleuth to other PPC professionals, I'm often asked how it's different than the Adwords SQPR. There is a lot that is different. A side-by-side comparison between these two tools is long overdue.

Speed
First, I'll run Google's SQPR. When that's done, I'll retrieve the same data using Michael's Exact Keyword Sleuth. In summary, I'm gathering the same data from the same Adwords campaign and the same time frame (one month), using two different methods. My teammate Matt will time it from the moment I touch the keyboard to the moment the report is viewable on screen.

The results...

Google's SQPR: 6 minutes, 45 seconds
GA Keyword Sleuth: 40 seconds

The Results:
The Keyword Sleuth is 912.5% faster.

Speed is great, but it's not everything. What about the actual data gathered and the usability of the reports? There are several similarities and differences in the reported data, so let's compare that too.

Similarities

  • They're both great tools that give valuable insight into keyword match types and account performance.
  • Both reports show which campaigns and ad groups the queries appeared in.
  • Both can be exported to a variety of formats, emailed to others or scheduled to run automatically.
  • Both reports show exact keyword search queries.
  • Both reports are sortable by column.


click to enlarge

Differences

  • The SQPR shows up to 100 rows of data per page. Keyword Sleuth in Analytics allows up to 500.
  • Google's SQPR does not allow multiple date range comparisons. Keyword Sleuth does.
  • The SQPR does not reveal which bid term the search queries were matched to. It just reports the the keyword match type (i.e. broad, phrase or exact). Keyword Sleuth does. Drill down to the keyword level first, then segment by User Defined.
  • Google's SQPR is not searchable. Keyword Sleuth is, with include and exclude filters that can run Regular Expressions.
  • The SQPR does not show every search query. Instead, it often lumps together hundreds or thousands of queries into a single row titled "1,640 other unique queries." Keyword Sleuth shows every search query that is captured, although not all search queries will be captured in every campaign, (for example, content campaigns have visits, but no search query info). If they are not captured, you'll see one entry labeled "Not Set."
  • The SQPR data is not available "on demand" within the Adwords interface. You have to create, configure and run a report (a 6 minute, 45 second report) each time you want to see it. Keyword Sleuth is always available "on demand" by segmenting by the "User Defined" value within the Google Analytics interface.
  • Google's SQPR shows Adwords click data (impressions, clicks, CTR, cost, average position and Conversion Tracker data). Keyword Sleuth does not. Instead, it shows site data such as visits, pageviews, avg time on site, bounce rate, ecommerce, per visit value, transactions, ROI, profit margins and up to 4 separate goal conversion metrics. In summary, the SQPR tells you mostly about clicks that lead to the site, while Keyword Sleuth tells you about visits and site behavior, after visitors reach the site.

Google's Search Query Performance Report is a good report that can be very useful. But, having used both, it clearly pales in comparison to the convenience and the flexibility that the Keyword Sleuth offers. For me and my crew, viewing exact keyword queries within Analytics is faster, more thorough and will give you more insights into ways to optimize your campaigns.

If you're not yet using the GA Keyword Sleuth, why not start now? Michael wrote some instructions on how to set it up here. It's free, and set up is fast and easy. In fact, probably faster than the time it takes to run an Adwords Search Query Performance report for any one of your Adwords campaigns.

Several of our readers are currently using the Google Analytics Keyword Sleuth. We'd love to hear your feedback in the comments below.

Take the next step. Ecommerce retailers spending at least $500/mo. in AdWords qualify for a free 20-minute Google AdWords account review.

Comments

Chris Zaharias said:

Great post! Do other web analytics tools have features similar to GA Keyword Sleuth?

March 26, 2008 2:38 AM

Mark Curtis, Paid Search Team Leader Author Profile Page said:

@Chris: I'm sure they do, though I don't know off the top of my head which ones can. All the sleuth does is pull data from manually tagged ads (the bid term) and also pull data from the referring URL (google.com?q=exact+term). Conceivably, these are bits of data that any analytics tool could grab.

March 28, 2008 10:12 AM

Ricky said:

Where in the newest version of Analytics can I find the report that shows wthe whole query/search string that triggered the ads to show?

August 21, 2008 2:54 AM

Mark said:

@Ricky:

1) Traffic Sources > AdWords > Adwords Campaigns
2) Drill down to the level you want to analyze (Account, Campaign, Adgroup or bid keyword)
3) Use the "Segment:" drop down menu below the main graph and choose "User Defined Value."

August 21, 2008 10:03 AM

John said:

I've been using this for a while now, and although it is good, the majority of search terms come up as "not set".

Unfortunately these are the ones i'm most interested in! Is there any explanation as to why this is? Is there anything i can do to lessen the amount of these i get?

Cheers!

August 21, 2009 9:46 AM

Mark Curtis, Paid Search Team Leader Author Profile Page said:

Hi John,

The reason you see "not set" entries in this report could be for a number of reasons:

1) Visits are from content-targeted campaigns, where there is no keyword variable
2) The keyword is not present in the referring URL. Some of Google's partner networks remove (typically through redirects) or modify the keyword variable before your landing page is reached. The source and medium are kept through the "gclid" variable, but the exact search query is often removed. This could cause AdWords search traffic to be recorded as "not set."
3) The variable that contains the keyword value could be present, but unrecognized by the sleuth script (Google's keyword variable is always "q" but other sites and networks may call it anything).

Thanks for reading!

August 21, 2009 10:25 AM

Chris Zaharias said:

Great post! Do other web analytics tools have features similar to GA Keyword Sleuth?

March 26, 2008 2:38 AM

Mark Curtis, Paid Search Team Leader Author Profile Page said:

@Chris: I'm sure they do, though I don't know off the top of my head which ones can. All the sleuth does is pull data from manually tagged ads (the bid term) and also pull data from the referring URL (google.com?q=exact+term). Conceivably, these are bits of data that any analytics tool could grab.

March 28, 2008 10:12 AM

Ricky said:

Where in the newest version of Analytics can I find the report that shows wthe whole query/search string that triggered the ads to show?

August 21, 2008 2:54 AM

Mark said:

@Ricky:

1) Traffic Sources > AdWords > Adwords Campaigns
2) Drill down to the level you want to analyze (Account, Campaign, Adgroup or bid keyword)
3) Use the "Segment:" drop down menu below the main graph and choose "User Defined Value."

August 21, 2008 10:03 AM

John said:

I've been using this for a while now, and although it is good, the majority of search terms come up as "not set".

Unfortunately these are the ones i'm most interested in! Is there any explanation as to why this is? Is there anything i can do to lessen the amount of these i get?

Cheers!

August 21, 2009 9:46 AM

Mark Curtis, Paid Search Team Leader Author Profile Page said:

Hi John,

The reason you see "not set" entries in this report could be for a number of reasons:

1) Visits are from content-targeted campaigns, where there is no keyword variable
2) The keyword is not present in the referring URL. Some of Google's partner networks remove (typically through redirects) or modify the keyword variable before your landing page is reached. The source and medium are kept through the "gclid" variable, but the exact search query is often removed. This could cause AdWords search traffic to be recorded as "not set."
3) The variable that contains the keyword value could be present, but unrecognized by the sleuth script (Google's keyword variable is always "q" but other sites and networks may call it anything).

Thanks for reading!

August 21, 2009 10:25 AM

Chris Zaharias said:

Great post! Do other web analytics tools have features similar to GA Keyword Sleuth?

March 26, 2008 2:38 AM

Mark Curtis, Paid Search Team Leader Author Profile Page said:

@Chris: I'm sure they do, though I don't know off the top of my head which ones can. All the sleuth does is pull data from manually tagged ads (the bid term) and also pull data from the referring URL (google.com?q=exact+term). Conceivably, these are bits of data that any analytics tool could grab.

March 28, 2008 10:12 AM

Ricky said:

Where in the newest version of Analytics can I find the report that shows wthe whole query/search string that triggered the ads to show?

August 21, 2008 2:54 AM

Mark said:

@Ricky:

1) Traffic Sources > AdWords > Adwords Campaigns
2) Drill down to the level you want to analyze (Account, Campaign, Adgroup or bid keyword)
3) Use the "Segment:" drop down menu below the main graph and choose "User Defined Value."

August 21, 2008 10:03 AM

John said:

I've been using this for a while now, and although it is good, the majority of search terms come up as "not set".

Unfortunately these are the ones i'm most interested in! Is there any explanation as to why this is? Is there anything i can do to lessen the amount of these i get?

Cheers!

August 21, 2009 9:46 AM

Mark Curtis, Paid Search Team Leader Author Profile Page said:

Hi John,

The reason you see "not set" entries in this report could be for a number of reasons:

1) Visits are from content-targeted campaigns, where there is no keyword variable
2) The keyword is not present in the referring URL. Some of Google's partner networks remove (typically through redirects) or modify the keyword variable before your landing page is reached. The source and medium are kept through the "gclid" variable, but the exact search query is often removed. This could cause AdWords search traffic to be recorded as "not set."
3) The variable that contains the keyword value could be present, but unrecognized by the sleuth script (Google's keyword variable is always "q" but other sites and networks may call it anything).

Thanks for reading!

August 21, 2009 10:25 AM

Chris Zaharias said:

Great post! Do other web analytics tools have features similar to GA Keyword Sleuth?

March 26, 2008 2:38 AM

Mark Curtis, Paid Search Team Leader Author Profile Page said:

@Chris: I'm sure they do, though I don't know off the top of my head which ones can. All the sleuth does is pull data from manually tagged ads (the bid term) and also pull data from the referring URL (google.com?q=exact+term). Conceivably, these are bits of data that any analytics tool could grab.

March 28, 2008 10:12 AM

Ricky said:

Where in the newest version of Analytics can I find the report that shows wthe whole query/search string that triggered the ads to show?

August 21, 2008 2:54 AM

Mark said:

@Ricky:

1) Traffic Sources > AdWords > Adwords Campaigns
2) Drill down to the level you want to analyze (Account, Campaign, Adgroup or bid keyword)
3) Use the "Segment:" drop down menu below the main graph and choose "User Defined Value."

August 21, 2008 10:03 AM

John said:

I've been using this for a while now, and although it is good, the majority of search terms come up as "not set".

Unfortunately these are the ones i'm most interested in! Is there any explanation as to why this is? Is there anything i can do to lessen the amount of these i get?

Cheers!

August 21, 2009 9:46 AM

Mark Curtis, Paid Search Team Leader Author Profile Page said:

Hi John,

The reason you see "not set" entries in this report could be for a number of reasons:

1) Visits are from content-targeted campaigns, where there is no keyword variable
2) The keyword is not present in the referring URL. Some of Google's partner networks remove (typically through redirects) or modify the keyword variable before your landing page is reached. The source and medium are kept through the "gclid" variable, but the exact search query is often removed. This could cause AdWords search traffic to be recorded as "not set."
3) The variable that contains the keyword value could be present, but unrecognized by the sleuth script (Google's keyword variable is always "q" but other sites and networks may call it anything).

Thanks for reading!

August 21, 2009 10:25 AM

Chris Zaharias said:

Great post! Do other web analytics tools have features similar to GA Keyword Sleuth?

March 26, 2008 2:38 AM

Mark Curtis, Paid Search Team Leader Author Profile Page said:

@Chris: I'm sure they do, though I don't know off the top of my head which ones can. All the sleuth does is pull data from manually tagged ads (the bid term) and also pull data from the referring URL (google.com?q=exact+term). Conceivably, these are bits of data that any analytics tool could grab.

March 28, 2008 10:12 AM

Ricky said:

Where in the newest version of Analytics can I find the report that shows wthe whole query/search string that triggered the ads to show?

August 21, 2008 2:54 AM

Mark said:

@Ricky:

1) Traffic Sources > AdWords > Adwords Campaigns
2) Drill down to the level you want to analyze (Account, Campaign, Adgroup or bid keyword)
3) Use the "Segment:" drop down menu below the main graph and choose "User Defined Value."

August 21, 2008 10:03 AM

John said:

I've been using this for a while now, and although it is good, the majority of search terms come up as "not set".

Unfortunately these are the ones i'm most interested in! Is there any explanation as to why this is? Is there anything i can do to lessen the amount of these i get?

Cheers!

August 21, 2009 9:46 AM

Mark Curtis, Paid Search Team Leader Author Profile Page said:

Hi John,

The reason you see "not set" entries in this report could be for a number of reasons:

1) Visits are from content-targeted campaigns, where there is no keyword variable
2) The keyword is not present in the referring URL. Some of Google's partner networks remove (typically through redirects) or modify the keyword variable before your landing page is reached. The source and medium are kept through the "gclid" variable, but the exact search query is often removed. This could cause AdWords search traffic to be recorded as "not set."
3) The variable that contains the keyword value could be present, but unrecognized by the sleuth script (Google's keyword variable is always "q" but other sites and networks may call it anything).

Thanks for reading!

August 21, 2009 10:25 AM

Chris Zaharias said:

Great post! Do other web analytics tools have features similar to GA Keyword Sleuth?

March 26, 2008 2:38 AM

Mark Curtis, Paid Search Team Leader Author Profile Page said:

@Chris: I'm sure they do, though I don't know off the top of my head which ones can. All the sleuth does is pull data from manually tagged ads (the bid term) and also pull data from the referring URL (google.com?q=exact+term). Conceivably, these are bits of data that any analytics tool could grab.

March 28, 2008 10:12 AM

Ricky said:

Where in the newest version of Analytics can I find the report that shows wthe whole query/search string that triggered the ads to show?

August 21, 2008 2:54 AM

Mark said:

@Ricky:

1) Traffic Sources > AdWords > Adwords Campaigns
2) Drill down to the level you want to analyze (Account, Campaign, Adgroup or bid keyword)
3) Use the "Segment:" drop down menu below the main graph and choose "User Defined Value."

August 21, 2008 10:03 AM

John said:

I've been using this for a while now, and although it is good, the majority of search terms come up as "not set".

Unfortunately these are the ones i'm most interested in! Is there any explanation as to why this is? Is there anything i can do to lessen the amount of these i get?

Cheers!

August 21, 2009 9:46 AM

Mark Curtis, Paid Search Team Leader Author Profile Page said:

Hi John,

The reason you see "not set" entries in this report could be for a number of reasons:

1) Visits are from content-targeted campaigns, where there is no keyword variable
2) The keyword is not present in the referring URL. Some of Google's partner networks remove (typically through redirects) or modify the keyword variable before your landing page is reached. The source and medium are kept through the "gclid" variable, but the exact search query is often removed. This could cause AdWords search traffic to be recorded as "not set."
3) The variable that contains the keyword value could be present, but unrecognized by the sleuth script (Google's keyword variable is always "q" but other sites and networks may call it anything).

Thanks for reading!

August 21, 2009 10:25 AM

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