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.

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 secondsThe 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.