Digital Marketing

Excel vs. Google Sheets: Which is Better for PPC Reporting?

You have finished your campaign. You see all the data you’ve collected during the campaign. To your delight, everything looks great. As you open the csv's and xslx's you have exported from Google AdWords or Facebook Ads Manager, which tool should you use to create PPC reports: Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel?

We recently polled our customers and found that our customers use both Sheets and Excel. In fact, 78% of the respondents said they used Sheets, while 74% said they used Excel. So why are marketers using, and paying for, both tools?!

To answer this question, I will rank Excel and Google Sheets on the following five parameters:

  1. Design and formatting
  2. Data visualization (charts)
  3. Google Analytics integration
  4. Team collaboration
  5. Pricing

Let’s dive into it.

1. Design and Formatting

The way you structure, organize, and display your report can make or break your presentation success. You can have the best data and insights, but if don’t present it well, your boss won't understand it.

You could design a report from scratch and make it look perfect for your executive team, but that will take you hours of your valuable time. Instead, you can use a template. Both Excel and Sheets offer many template designs.

As you open Excel, you can find 30 template designs ranging from business to family budget. If you need more designs, you can go to the Excel templates pages. You can also download template designs made by other users (Smartsheet has an excellent collection of free Excel spreadsheet templates).

Google Sheets offers about 20 reporting designs, equally split between those for personal and professional use.

When it comes to formatting, Excel is a winner: it offers 60 table formatting options which can give your tables a more elegant look.

Verdict: When it comes to templates and formatting, Excel wins by a large margin.

2. Charts

Creating a report takes more than dumping data into a spreadsheet. It's your job to give meaning to your data. An effective way to do so is by using charts to visualize data. Both Excel and Google Sheets offer many ways to create charts with just a few clicks.

To create a chart with Excel, you only need to highlight all the data you want to use in your chart, click the “Insert” tab, and choose one of the many recommended charts you have at your disposal. The charts include 17 options such as bar, line, and pie charts, histograms, and plot charts, among others. You can also create different variations of each chart to give them a more personalized look.

With the chart created, you can add text, format the colors of the chart, add borders and fills, among many more customizations. To edit a chart, click on "Format" tab, and you will see all the options available to you.

Google Sheets has a simpler set of tools to create charts. To create a chart with Sheets, you need to do the same as you did with Excel: select the data, go to Insert > Chart, and select the chart you want to use to display your data. Once you create a chart, Sheets offers you the ability to customize its look.

Google Sheets offers a wide selection of charts, including the same ones mentioned above with Excel, such as the pie, line, bar, area and column charts, among others.

Verdict: Excel wins thanks to the larger variety of chart formatting and editing options.

3. Google Analytics Integration

Anyone who has ever developed a PPC report knows about the importance of Google Analytics, especially for those who specialize in Google Adwords. Accessing its data can be crucial for developing in-depth reports.

Since Google owns both Sheets and Analytics, they have made it extremely easy for anyone to integrate both services with their API.

In contrast, Excel doesn't offer a direct integration with Google Analytics. The best way to integrate both services is by using an add-on like Analytics Edge.

AdStage’s Google Sheets add-on is the easiest way to pull your paid search and paid social data into your spreadsheets. With this add-on, you can automatically fetch your PPC performance data from Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, Bing Ads, Twitter Ads, LinkedIn Ads, Yahoo Gemini, and Google Analytics.

Verdict: Learning to integrate Google Analytics with either G-Sheets or Excel isn't simple if you don't know much about how marketing APIs work. Still, if you take into consideration the installation process and the way the analytics tool and the reporting one are integrated, Sheets wins in this category.

4. Team Collaboration

Long gone are the days when someone created a report, took it to the executive team, and called it a day. Nowadays, multiple stakeholders can participate in the creation of a report, so collaboration features are critical.

To create a comment on an Excel spreadsheet, first, select the cell you are interested in, go to the Review tab on the Ribbon, and click on "New Comment." Once you create the comment, you will see in the cell a text box with a yellow background featuring your name at the top. Unfortunately, comments have no threading capabilities (i.e., you can't have a back-and-forth conversation among several people). In other words, each comment works separately from the rest, making collaboration harder.

Google has made collaboration much easier. If you put your cursor in a cell on a Sheets report and select Insert > Comment, you will find a box with your name at the top. Then, you'd type your comment into a text box and click Comment. If you take a look back at the comment in the cell you selected, you will see an orange triangle in the upper-right corner of the cell which shows that a comment is there. To read the comment, you only need to click the cell or hover the cursor.

Anyone with access to the Google spreadsheet can click on the comment and reply to it, creating a real-time conversation with any stakeholder involved in the report. You can also create a link to any comment and then send that link to someone else. Finally, after you finish a conversation, the original commenter can click the "Resolve" button and the original comment, along with its replies, will disappear.

Verdict: Thanks to its simplicity and ease-of-use, Sheets is a clear winner in this category.

5. Pricing

Both Excel and Sheets are relatively cheap compared to more advanced PPC reporting solutions.

Microsoft Excel is sold as part of Microsoft Office, which is categorized by personal or business use and is available on an annual subscription and as a one-time purchase. Currently, Office 365 Home costs $100 per year and can be used on up to five PCs or Macs, five tablets, and five phones; including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access, along with 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage. As a one-time purchase, it costs $149.

Office 365 for Business offers the same applications and features as Home, at $10 per user (up to 300) paid monthly, or $100 paid annually. Office 365 for Business Premium includes access to more services, like Skype, Yammer, Exchange, and more, priced at $15 per user paid monthly or $12.50 per user paid annually.

While Microsoft offers a great deal for Excel, Google offers Sheets as a part of their G Suite package for businesses with prices per user at $5 paid monthly for their Basic plan and $10 per user paid monthly for its Business plan. The main difference between both plans is the cloud storage: 30GB on a Basic plan versus unlimited storage and complete access to all the tools from the G Suite for Business.

Verdict: On a head-to-head comparison, Sheets is the clear winner in this category, costing half as much as Excel.

6. Security

With the increase of international hack scandals and data breaches, security has become one of the most pressing issues. Both Excel and Sheets offer security protection.

Google has recently switched their entire services protocol encryption to HTTPS, the securely encrypted version of HTTP. However, having HTTPS doesn't mean the data you have on your Google Drive account is encrypted; only the connection is. If you want to increase the safety of your data, you can add a 2-Step Verification for Google Drive and get a security key.

Excel also uses HTTPS on their OneDrive service, making all the data in transit encrypted. They also offer a 2-step Verification for those who want to take extra precautions. So far, both services feature the same safety benefits. Things get better in their business plan option, where you can add a per-file encryption for your data at rest, meaning if one file is hacked, all the other ones would still be safe.

Verdict: Excel offers more advanced security capabilities than Sheets.

Final Verdict

After our careful analysis of the most important features of both tools, the result shows us a tie, with 3 wins for Sheets, and 3 for Excel. You have seen Excel is more powerful in features but may be too complex to use for some of you who have simpler reporting needs. Also, its collaboration features need work and improvement.

In contrast, Google Sheets can be of great help for those who want to create a report without bells and whistles but with great collaboration features.

For more advanced paid marketers at larger companies and agencies, an automated paid marketing reporting solution like AdStage may work better than Excel or Google Sheets. With the time saved on reporting across multiple accounts and networks, automated tools provide a clear return on investment.

Want to make it even easier?

Get all your paid search and social advertising data into Google Sheets.

Don’t waste time manually exporting data from your ad networks. Starting at just $29/month, AdStage for Google Sheets lets you instantly add your paid performance data into Google Sheets. That includes data from Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Bing Ads, Twitter Ads, LinkedIn Ads and Google Analytics. Take it one step further with our A/B Testing template to find your best campaigns, ad group or ads. Start your free AdStage trial.

AdStage Team