How to Masterfully Inherit a Messy PPC Account

By Kayla Kurtz | @one800kayla | Senior Digital Advisor at Hanapin Marketing

Every account inheritance situation is different and should be handled on a case-by-case basis; this is what I know. Whether you’re bringing the account on from an in-house or agency-managed situation, if the account has been on autopilot or actively optimized frequently, ecommerce or lead gen…the list can (and does) go on and on.

However, that doesn’t mean myself and the rest of the team at PPC Hero haven’t determined some general best ways to take over accounts in any situation, especially when they’re a bit on the messy side.


Clearly define goals/KPI.

This is an integral and often skipped entry point to the inheritance process. Not getting goals or KPI really, because most people do that. It’s the ‘clearly’ part that is typically lacking. There are usually goals and key metrics that have been established in an already-running account, but don’t just take them down and move on. Dissect with the client where those goals came from, when they were last calculated, etc. I’m not suggesting the goals are or will be wrong by any means, but a detailed understanding of what they are based on is key. In the event that walking through the explanation of the goals doesn’t jive with the best interest of the account, it’s your duty as the new account person to bring that up now (and politely). Trust me, if down the line the client is the one that realizes you’ve let them go on focusing on the wrong metrics…it won’t matter if you knew before or not. You will be fighting that battle for the rest of the relationship.


Just. Look. Around.

Login to the account the first time and don’t look at the data, just check out the structure and get familiar. Try to understand the nomenclature for campaigns, ad groups, audiences, etc. Determine how keyword buckets are organized. If you can help it, try not to move anything yet. I know this is tough! But trust me, this will be for the better if you take a comprehension check break with the client first. Generally speaking in messy accounts, there is some disorganization and hard-to-follow structure going on. You may be able to figure out most of where it all comes from and such, but if you’re even remotely unsure…


Chat with the closest person to the account.

If you’re taking over an in-house account, hopefully the in-house manager or one of their team members is still available for consultation. If the account had been at an agency before, you’ll probably get the most information speaking to the client contact who was communicating the most frequently with the previous agency. Should there be gaps in understanding or knowledge with the client on the account, make your most educated guesses. It’s important to soak up as much history of the account as you can, the messier it is, before you get started. Learn about what tests had been tried in the past and didn’t work, the ones that did work and stuck. If the tests were run a really long time ago, they may still be on the list for revisit down the road, however if any big lessons were learned, you need to know what they were!


Take a second look and write it ALL down.

Now that you’ve got some additional insight in to why the account may look the way it does, it’s time to get back in and start making a plan. What in the account needs attention? Does some restructuring need to take place? Analyze keyword level performance and see if there are long-term non-performers you can cut out (carefully). What settings have been applied that could be optimized to be more efficient? Are there negatives blocking keyword traffic? You will certainly not catch everything on this pass, but write down as much as you can. Once you think you’ve got a list of almost all the stuff that would clean up the mess…


Prioritize and pace.

This is not the time to sit down for a marathon PPC account session to run through the entire list you just came up with. In fact, consider this a strongly worded caution NOT to do that. Doing too much too soon in an account can disturb it’s built up history and pull performance down further than it was when you started. Take the entire list and prioritize based on what will improve performance the most, without disturbing parts of the account that are performing currently. Then, when you go to start on parts of the list affecting the good performing account sections, the new good performers can carry the slack in the event of some historical bobbles in the move. You’re also going to want to track all of this (more on that in a second), so if you do too much at once you’ll have a hard time differentiating between what the winning and losing changes were.


Track until you can’t track anymore.

Right. So then about this tracking part. You laid out your list of to do’s and prioritized them, so alongside that priority list, you need to have a consistent method of tracking what you changed, how you changed it and what the results were. You may also have projected some expected results and will want to check your true performance against those numbers for future reference.  Everyone has his or her own method of tracking and logging account stuff, but if it’s accurate, consistent and efficient…it’ll do just fine! This will also help the account from getting messy again down the road, so give the tracking the due diligence it deserves. Even though it feels like the hardest step at the end of the longest road…you’ll be glad you did.


What are some of your fun, messy account inheritance experiences? Anything you make sure to do in these situations that isn’t mentioned? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below!