Excel for Keyword Grouping - Five Ways Excel Falls Short in Grouping Keywords


Most search marketers use Microsoft Excel extensively in manipulating keyword data. Whether it's creating a PPC campaign structure, mapping out information architecture for SEO, or just trying to do in-depth analysis of keywords for SEO and PPC, search marketers are often knee-deep in spreadsheets.

The problem is that Microsoft Excel is a suboptimal keyword grouping and management solution.

Spreadsheets were built for financial analysis, not for keyword management. Think about it this way: a calculator is a great tool to find the answer to certain questions; if you wanted to do some quick division or add a handful of numbers together, doing it with a calculator will usually be faster and more accurate than doing it in your head. But what if you had to calculate something more complex? What if you wanted to know the percent difference between two numbers month-over-month, and those numbers were constantly changing? And now imagine you want to track and chart these metrics over a long period of time, storing historical calculations as you go.

Your calculator probably doesn't seem quite so handy.

The same is true of the relationship between Excel and keyword management. Excel is a highly effective tool for a number of tasks, but the nature of search is such that successful PPC and SEO efforts are:

  • Dynamic
  • Continuous
  • Intelligently organized
  • Collaborative

A spreadsheet requires you import new data by hand. Structuring your keywords and their associated characteristics (visits, conversions, etc.) is up to you: you have to create formulas and segmentations from scratch, and create your own (likely clumsy) process for introducing new data into the structure you've created. This is because Microsoft Excel was not meant to organize and prioritize by both phrase and numerical characteristics in real time

WordStream for PPC, on the other hand, was built with this precise goal in mind. Hence the tool offers a dynamic, actionable keyword database with "out-of-the-box" features that enable ongoing keyword discovery, organization, maintenance and collaboration.

Let's take a look at each of the reasons why WordStream stands above Excel as a keyword management solution.

Disadvantage #1: Excel Is Not Dynamic or Actionable 

You can create and modify a spreadsheet to include and segment your keyword lists, but the problem is, that spreadsheet remains passive and static. It just lies there waiting for you to update it with new search queries (if you have the time and presence of mind to keep up your research) and keywords to target, to increment visit counts and conversion data and so on. Essentially, you're doing all of the work, when your workbench tools are supposed to be making things easier for you. 

Let's say you own a pet store and manage your keywords in a spreadsheet, as shown below:

Using Excel to Manage and Group Keywords 

Then you find 50 new keywords from another source. The only way to update your spreadsheet is to go in by hand and add the new keywords, changing the totals where keywords are duplicated. This introduces a lot of room for human error, in addition to being very tedious. 

Compare this to WordStream, an active, dynamic system that is constantly growing and self-organizing every day. When you sign up for WordStream for PPC, you will be able to use our database to explore new keyword opportunities. So your keywords are not only 100% personalized, they're accurate and relevant to your business – something you can't be sure of when you're just exporting results from a public keyword tool to Excel.

As you can see below, when WordStream introduces a new keyword, it appears in bold in your database:

WordStream Software Beats Excel by Suggesting New Keywords 

Another disadvantage of using Excel as a search marketing tool is that it's not actionable. Excel is not connected to the tools you would use to act on the data your keyword lists provide. WordStream, however, is fully integrated with your Google AdWords account, so you can connect keyword analytics with action, taking instant advantage of insights into your potential customers' behavior without leaving the platform. For example, you can convert traffic- and conversion-driving keyword groups into ad groups at the click of a button.

Relevant Ad Groups with WordStream

Disadvantage #2: Excel Spreadsheets Are Laborious to Maintain

When you're managing and grouping keywords in Excel, every time you get a new set of data, you have to restructure your whole spreadsheet to accommodate the new insights. This is a time-consuming and thankless activity that requires adding and deleting and cutting and pasting into a file that's becoming ever more impenetrable and complex. 

WordStream for PPC makes updating and maintaining your keyword lists infinitely less painful. As new keywords arrive in your database, they are automatically distributed into the appropriate keyword segmentations. Your taxonomy is always changing, but it always stays organized in relevant groups

Amazingly, WordStream foreven helps you prioritize PPC maintenance tasks. The workflow tools take the guesswork out of determining where and when to expend your time for the most return on investment. You'll know at a glance which keyword and ad groups need attention, be it further segmenting, content creation or other action. The WordStream workflow tab is your dynamic, up-to-date to-do list, with tasks prioritized based on which actions will drive the most traffic and conversions.

Disadvantage #3: It's Hard to Merge Data from Multiple Sources in Excel

Any PPC strategy that's going to succeed will need to include analytic data from multiple keyword sources. Even if you were depending solely on data from basic keyword suggestion tools like Google's keyword tool, you would want to consult multiple tools to make sure you had your bases covered. Ideally, you'd also include private data sources, like your Web server log files and AdWords search query reports. 

But when you're working in Microsoft Excel, it's very difficult to incorporate different keyword lists and their associated visit totals. How do you scale and integrate all those data points? You can do it manually of course, but it's going to be a major pain. 

WordStream for PPC integrates keywords from any number of sources you choose – from our own keyword suggestion tool, to keyword lists generated by public tools, which you can upload or paste into a text block, to keywords derived from the real users visiting your site (the best and most reliable source) – seamlessly and automatically. WordStream for PPC automatically organizes new keywords, de-duplicates and increments visit totals based on settings you can opt into or adjust at will. It's a piece of cake.

Merging New Keyword Group Data Is Easy 

Disadvantage #4: It's Difficult to Create Relationships in Excel

Excel works fine as a bare-bones place for your keywords to live. You can even segment your lists. But you can't create smart associations between groups of keywords to more easily assign rules and settings across multiple groups. 

In WordStream, your segmentations are intelligent – parent groups pass properties down to their child subgroups and so on. This can save you a lot of time and unintended errors. For example, if you set negative keywords (using our negative keyword tool) for a parent group, any subgroups you have created or do create in the future will inherit those same negative keywords. You won't have to duplicate the work of setting rules or worry about subgroups missing any of those negative keywords. 

Disadvantage #5: Excel Is Not Collaborative 

If multiple people are working on the same account, it's very difficult to update an Excel spreadsheet to ensure that everyone is both on the same page and adhering to internally agreed upon best practices and priorities. 

In contrast, WordStream is collaborative by nature. Everyone on your team, from link builders to copywriters to SEOs to developers to marketing managers, can work in the same data-driven online workbench, so efforts are coordinated and everyone sees the same version of the truth. Everyone's actions are based on real and consistent data. 

Only WordStream offers all these abilities as basic features, because unlike Excel, it's built specifically for the proactive search marketer. It's a dynamic, actionable, collaborative platform, so you can spend less time working in Excel and more time letting your keyword solution work for you.

Try WordStream for PPC Management Today

Learn more about WordStream's advantages over Microsoft Excel – sign up for a free trial to increase your search marketing productivity and ROI.