A simple Guide: Comparing two Timeframes in Google AdWords

Written by , 30 January 2013  |  Tagged under Search Marketing Google AdWords Web Analytics

Do you sometimes go mad, trying to wring insights out of Google AdWords?

I find its interface dated, clunky and just plain horrible. Important information is hidden away behind some ‘Customize’ button.

The pattern of dance steps you have to take to do the most simple analysis – comparing two timeframes – is ludicrously complex.

You didn’t know it’s even possible?

Yep, I didn’t either because it is sort of hidden in plain view. Below is a step-by-step guide for comparing two timeframes in AdWords.

Hidden in plain view: The ‘Compare to’ feature

Compare Dates feature in Google AdWords (Graph only)First, let me clarify something. There is a “Compare dates” feature available for the charts in AdWords.  Its preset is “off”, but you can turn it on by clicking on it.

The trouble with it: It only works for the chart. You won’t see the absolute numbers and % changes in the data grid. Sucks, right?

Do get something more meaningful you need to resort to a feature called “Compare to” and found on the “Home” tab.

I honestly think there is no other reason to ever visit that tab and that’s probably why it took me so long to realize a time-based comparison was even possible.

Screenshot: How to compare timeframes in Google AdWords

As you can see “Compare” let’s you pick a “Date range” to compare against. In the example I compare the 7-day period starting on 11/26 with the 7-day period starting on 11/19.

Notice that on the resulting table below you not only see the absolute numbers (blurred in this example), but also the % changes.

Very useful to spot trends and monitor the impact of changes you’ve made!

The ugly caveat: Works for Campaigns only

There is one big, ugly caveat unfortunately. You can only run comparisons on the account and campaign levels. Comparing Ad Groups or even specific keywords only isn’t possible.

Another speed bump: You first have to define filters for the campaigns you want to compare.

Creating Campaign Filters in AdWords for Time Comparisons

The filters you’ve created become immediately available in the “All Campaigns” drop down on the “Home” tab.

The workaround: “Dimensions” and Pivot Tables

There is one option left if you do want to get more granular, but shy away from purchasing third-party PPC tools. You can run a report from the “Dimensions” tab and set the view to “Time”.

Google AdWords Dimensions Report: Time

When you now export the report as a .csv file you can import it into Microsoft Excel and turn it into a Pivot table. You can then add the % change metrics as needed and also chart the data.


Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. I’m happy to help.

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