Wordstream’s AdWords Grader Plus: More Than Meets the Eye

abc imageThe following is an objective review of Wordstream’s AdWords Grader Plus. Clix Marketing received no compensation for this review, and their opinions are their own.

Campaign audits – something all PPC managers do at some level. Looking to improve your campaigns? Audit. Need to find opportunities in a potential client’s account? Audit. Need self-assurance that you are making the right PPC changes? Audit. Doesn’t matter the reason, we all audit PPC campaigns.

How we audit campaigns varies greatly. Most are manual processes involving checklists, spreadsheets and large chunks of time. Perhaps one of the biggest downsides of these processes is that they don’t compare data against other PPC campaigns. As an individual advertiser there are few benchmark data points available. As an agency you can compare against past and present clients, but they are often not from the same verticals. No matter how you cut it, vertical benchmark data is hard to come by.

Convenient, fast audits? Vertical benchmark data? There’s a tool for that. Enter Wordstream’s AdWords Grader Plus. The AdWords Grader was first released about 2 years ago and offered a huge 1-2 punch. Convenient audits including benchmark data on select data points. By allowing 1-time, read-only access, you received a grade for your performance and activities spanning CTR, Quality Score, long tail keyword use, text ad optimization, landing page optimization and more.

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And now, Wordstream has updated the tool adding even more features. I was given the chance to review the new features in AdWords Grader Plus. In all honesty, my initial reaction wasn’t exactly one of excitement. “Another PPC tool. Great. Get a grade with moderately helpful/actionable data, blah, blah, blah…” But the more I thought about what I saw, the more my opinion changed. Simple campaign audits? Fine, this solves a problem all PPC managers have. Compare performance with vertical benchmarks? Ok, that’s pretty special and unique in the marketplace. Track performance over time, including Quality Score? Now the AdWords Grader has my full attention.

The old features (specifically benchmarking) were solid, but the new features definitely add value:

  • Performance Tracker: Track and analyze performance every 30 days showing how your changes are affecting performance. Including Quality Score. This is huge! AdWords DOES NOT allow you to see how Quality Score changes over time. You can “hack” this by using AdWords Scripts. But this process requires an understanding of coding and a skill set that a large number of folks just don’t have. The AdWords Grader Plus will do this for you.


  • Mobile PPC Readiness: Mobile continues to become more and more important for PPC (Enhanced Campaigns, anyone?). This grade will notify advertisers if they are missing any opportunities to improve their mobile performance. For instance, do your campaigns employ mobile bid modifiers? Mobile preferred ads? Your grade here will let you know gaps in your mobile PPC strategy.
  • Improved Benchmarks: This is perhaps the BEST part of the AdWords Grader. Updated data making these benchmarks more current and accurate? That’s a feature update worth mentioning!

No tool is perfect. The AdWords Grader Plus is no exception. The lack of information pertaining to conversion rates is a glaring omission (though I’ve been informed this is in the works). What about Bing Ads? These campaigns need audit-love, too. And in my opinion, a PPC audit is only as good as the directives and optimizations they lead to. The AdWords Grader is a solid step 1 and does provide helpful hints on how to improve each grade within the audit. But some advertisers may find themselves at a loss for where to go next. Since the Grader is a marketing tool for Wordstream, this is to be expected, but the point is valid.

Overall, the AdWords Grader Plus is worth checking out. And if you tried it 2 years ago, you should give it another go today with the new features. The improved vertical benchmark data and the ability to track performance (Quality Score!) over time alone make the grader worth your time. Whether you’re a PPC novice, a PPC narcissist or a PPC ninja, the AdWords Grader has something for you.