Inbound Dan

Do Not Buy WordStream

Review of: WordStream

Reviewed by:
On October 29, 2013
Last modified:May 28, 2014


WordStream is a piece of pay per click management software with a wide range of features and an extremely professional interface. The only problem? It's got a hefty price tag when you can achieve everything it does yourself with a bit of effort.

If you are working in the pay per click industry you’ll know about WordStream. They are the biggest player in the PPC software market.

Yet, in my opinion, you shouldn’t give them a penny…

To start this review, I’d like to be fully transparent about my dealings with WordStream.

My WordStream usage was through my business AdWords account and I made full use of a year’s subscription, which I’ve now terminated.

During this time I had three premier consultancy calls with a friendly and knowledgeable employee.

I haven’t had a customer service issue nor do I have anything negative to say regarding the company or its employees.

Now that’s out the way, I guess I can start telling you why you shouldn’t waste your money on a WordStream subscription.

What Is WordStream?

WordStream is a web-based account management platform that operates like the standard AdWords Account Interface – although it has more bells and whistles – as well as some additional tools.

One of its biggest selling points is its 20-minute pay per click work week, which can supposedly optimise your account in 20 minutes per week (this should raise a few eyebrows if any of you are managing accounts as large as I am).

They’ve got some nifty visuals too, like their success report tool, which ‘infographics’ your account, allowing you to review your monthly progress.

Why Are They So Popular?

Well, like any successful company (which there is no doubt WordStream are) it’s difficult to narrow this down to one reason.

They are extremely, extremely good at marketing themselves.

We can all learn something from their approach, of which, ironically, pay per click is the last factor that I notice (please guys, decrease your remarketing frequency capping, your brand does begin to annoy me at times!).

Search for a pay per click marketing subject on Google now. If they aren’t on one of the top positions organically, they will be there with paid ad. And if they aren’t, it’s probably not worth their while.

Their blog must be brilliant at pulling in traffic. It is wonderful content yet here I am telling you not to subscribe to their service…

What’s Wrong With It?

My problem with WordStream is the subscription price.

Its most basic package, for accounts spending under $10,000 a month, costs $349 a month.

Pay upfront and that is reduced to $2,700, which equates to $225 a month.

That’s one hell of a monthly subscription, so what do you get for it?

  1. 20 Minute Work Week (optimise your account in a few easy clicks)
  2. Campaign, ad group interface, ads and keywords interface (much the same as AdWords web interface)
  3. QueryStream (shows keywords that triggered impressions & clicks)
  4. Campaign Builder
  5. Ad Group Builder
  6. Smart Tools
    - Add Keywords
    - Add Negatives
    - Split Ad Groups
    - Recommend Keyword Bids
    - Review Costly Keywords
  7. Performance Grader
  8. Keyword Research Tools
    - Keyword Suggestion Tool
    - Competitor Crawler
    - Related Keyword Tool
    - Negative Keyword Suggestion Tool
    - Keyword Grouper

An impressive set of tools. But ask yourself one thing:

Does WordStream really do anything you can’t do yourself?

There is simply nothing in the package that justifies the subscription cost in my opinion.

Everything you can achieve in WordStream, you can achieve for free.

What’s The Alternative?

Grab yourself the AdWords Editor. Log on to your AdWords account and Analytics. Get your hands on a copy of Microsoft Excel.

You’re already most of the way there.

I’d like to throw down the gauntlet to you. If you subscribe to WordStream, have an honest think about whether you could achieve account optimisation without it and let me know.

Don’t let brand loyalty get in the way of saving yourself some money (and there’s no doubting that WordStream are a fantastic brand).

If anyone thinks there is a part of WordStream that can’t be replicated outside of the software, leave a comment below.

I don’t mind being proved wrong and I’ll try and point you in the right direction if you’ve got a question about how you could do it yourself! I might even write a tutorial on it if enough people ask the same question.

  • Javier Sanz says:

    Sincerely I think there is a phase/stage in the life of a marketer when you have to use tools that make easier your job. I know what you mean when you said that Excel and AdWords are almost more than enough for managing some accounts. Indeed, it can be true. But from the other point of view, I think there are some tools out in the market that really help a lot to understand what are you doing in this abstract marketing field. Wordstream imho is one of them.

    November 4, 2013 at 7:38 pm
    • Dan says:

      Hey Javier,

      100% agree that we all use tools to make our lives that little bit easier.

      I might well be in the minority who have gone back to using the good old data and spreadsheets approach. I certainly appreciate the tools that WordStream offers and don’t have any problems with the software aside from the fact that I like to keep costs down and ‘do it myself’.

      I’d love if this sparked a debate on the subject and I’d love to hear about other tools that you guys are using, as well as from anyone who has gone back to basics like me!


      November 4, 2013 at 7:43 pm
  • Luke says:

    Hi Dan,

    Some things to point out. You are an experienced digital marketer. Many of WordStream’s clients are not, and that is intentional. WordStream’s software caters to the SMB owner/lone-marketing manager that needs a simpler, more intuitive platform that incorporates tools designed to save time. It’s far more useful to this type of persona to have a tool that incorporates all of your typical DIY solutions in one place, rather than forcing them to expand their knowledge of the disparate tools available to them across many different platforms etc. Your alternative suggestions are great for dedicated professionals like yourself (or, perhaps, WordStream’s own consultants), but your article should be renamed to something along the lines of, “Do Not Buy WordStream: A Notice to Enterprise AdWords Account Managers.” I would venture to believe that many of WordStream’s clients are not managing very large accounts, and if you read some of their literature online, they basically direct you toward Managed Services if you are about the $7,500 spend tier.

    You offer some good points for dedicated PPC professionals, but I think you are misunderstanding the market that this software is intended to service.


    ~ Jeff

    November 4, 2013 at 9:29 pm
    • Dan says:

      Hi Jeff / Luke ;)

      You make some good points about the different levels of experience and where WordStream fits in at each stage of marketing life.

      You correctly identified that it was my intention in this post to provoke some thought in those experienced marketers who are subscribed to WordStream managing large accounts, who do have the knowledge and depth of experience on their side.

      While the title of the post is a little blunt, I’ll put it out there now that I certainly wouldn’t want to put off anyone who is running a one-man show and needs that 20 minute work week to take some pressure off.

      This post was inspired by three great friends of mine, experienced PPC marketers, who are still running up big yearly subscription bills. When asked what part of WordStream they couldn’t replicate themselves – they couldn’t answer. I wondered how many more like them there were out there!

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion and take care!

      November 4, 2013 at 9:55 pm
  • Adam says:

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for being a WordStream subscriber and thanks for taking the time to review our software.

    As you think about your experience with WordStream what areas of the software do you think we can improve to further differentiate ourselves from AdWords and justify the expense of the software?


    -Adam Shain
    Sr. Product Manager at WordStream

    P.S. Thanks Javier and Luke/Jeff for the kind words. We’re always trying to make life easier for people managing PPC accounts. Glad to know that we’re helping!

    November 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm
    • Dan says:

      Hi Adam,

      Firstly let me say that I actually think the software has undoubted benefits for small businesses running with a couple of employees, and opens up a more user-friendly interface in which they can manage their campaigns.

      As you might have gleened from my post, it’s not actually the lack of anything that is the problem — it’s the fact that experienced marketers should be able to replicate everything themselves and save money (I hate spending money!).

      In terms of small businesses, I can’t argue your software serves a great purpose, however I actually think some of the bid adjustment features of the software can be quite dangerous.

      If I was involved I’d be considering developing a ‘Track Changes’ function, which monitors key data for say 2-4 weeks after a bid change has been made. This could be extended across ad edits, etc. This would not only provide peace of mind for advertisers, but would allow you to showcase just how your software suggestions have been paying off.

      For larger accounts I would have liked an easier way to make multiple changes quickly. For example, I have my broad, phrase and exact matches split into different ad groups within a campaign, and if I wanted to add a keyword it was frustrating to do so across each ad group using WordStream.

      Apologies if either of these features have appeared since I left WordStream (and great if they have).

      Thanks for joining in the discussion,

      November 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm
  • Michael Christensen says:

    If you have no idea what you are doing and don’t have time for the PPC learning curve, Wordstream will probably work for you. If you sign the contract be sure to understand that you are locked in for 12 months or will pay an early termination fee to get out of the contract.

    If you are an expert on your subject matter and have a good understanding of AdWords and Analytics I don’t think this is the tool for you.

    My personal issue with them is how pushy their sales staff is. It is one of those sites that you cringe when you enter your information for the trial as you know you will be hounded by emails and calls within 20 minutes of supplying information.

    January 15, 2014 at 6:39 pm
    • Dan says:

      Yeah, I think that’s an issue with most online businesses these days. It’s rare you can put your e-mail address in and not expect a good amount of marketing materials fired off in your direction – and we all know it.

      100% agree on your comments about skill level – and a good warning about the contract too.

      January 15, 2014 at 7:15 pm
  • Paul says:

    I was a subscriber for two years.first year painful on the price, second year even more painful. I am a very small 2,700 is way too much. They (wordstream) just don’t get it. For a small business (less than 3,000 adwords spend per month) a price point of about 100 per month works. I would like to take their product marketing folks out and fire them..they just don’t get it. You need to bring people into the fold…let them grow…and build the revenue that way. That’s how salesforce does it..they are easy for the very small business (on the price end)..and if you grow..great for the mean time their eco system grows.
    to the points on the board here..wordstream folks are a bit arrogant, don’t really care if you are a customer or not, and they are way too expensive for a small business…

    trying to find a less expensive alternative that I can feel good about….wordstream does not make you feel good…just a bit taken for your money.

    My rating..don’t buy…

    May 26, 2014 at 3:23 pm
    • Dan says:

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your comments, an interesting view directly from the mouth of a small business owner.


      May 26, 2014 at 7:12 pm
  • Donovan says:

    Wordstream failed us, then abandonded us. I am a small business owner that had been managing our AdWords account with some success, but wanted to make it better – more efficient. Thinking I would give it a try for at least a year in any case, I signed-up for the full year contract, for a lower price per month. I also signed-up for premier consulting assistance, to get us started with changes properly. Although they were helpful in the beginning, after the suggested changes drastically decreased AdWords performance and conversions, I asked about potential cancellation of the service. I just wanted to find out options, so cancelled the consulting service for the time being. And guess what – I haven’t heard a peep from them since. Nothing, bupkis. I want to say that the particular premier consultant was friendly and helpful and willing with advice and I would say he did his best, although what we implemented was counterproductive and results were not monitored closely enough.

    Can you imagine, signing-up for a year long service and contract, asking about potential cancellation options as deadlines approached then never hearing from anyone again? Maybe checking-in to see how it’s going? I guess they figured after my inquiries of potential cancellation, we might cancel in the end anyway, and well, they already have our $. So they didn’t want to spend or, in their opinion, waste any more time with our account. There’s Wordstream customer service for you …

    May 28, 2014 at 12:38 pm
    • Dan says:

      Hi Donovan,

      It’s a real shame to hear you’ve had an experience like that, but thanks for sharing it here.

      I have to say from a personal point of view, Wordstream’s customer service was never an issue for me and like yourself, the consultant I dealt with tried their best, the service just wasn’t for me.

      May 28, 2014 at 7:12 pm
  • John says:

    I am right now in the middlel of an identical problem to Donovan. I have never sen a company so hell bent on keeping unhappy customers money at the risk of ruining their reputation. Case in point. Why am I telling you this? Because I plan on telling EVERYONE.

    By the way, I am pretty sure the CEO’s email is , Feel free to forward him your complaints directly, no reason he should be insulated from it.

    May 31, 2014 at 12:47 am
  • m33 says:

    I just want to say thanks to Dan for this post and everyone else for their comments. I was about to sign up but am now capitulating a bit after hearing about the contract, the cancellation fee and that the fact that I was really let down by their sales process. It’s so misleading and pushy – even if their people are nice.

    I really liked them but I can’t get over those three things.

    Thanks again for this thread.

    June 4, 2014 at 8:51 pm
  • Jean says:

    Thanks for starting this thread. It just stopped me from subscribing to this service. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    June 9, 2014 at 6:08 am
  • Billy Suratt says:

    Ever since Google Keyword Tool tanked (Keyword Planner doesn’t seem nearly as useful to me), I’ve been trying to find an alternative for my very meager small business needs. Wordstream looks great, but the price is beyond ridiculous. I wish someone would come out with a good freemium keyword research tool, but it seems like the only options are pay a bunch up front before you’re really making anything or limp along with free tools that are barely even useful.

    June 10, 2014 at 5:57 am
  • Dave Renfro says:

    I am much like Donovan – but still interested in finding time saving PPC tools. Any others I should consider? Love to hear thoughts from other small business owners who have done it one their own but prefer not to if the tools are good and more reasonably priced.

    June 17, 2014 at 9:23 pm

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