If you’re a professional SEM, chances are you’ve inherited your fair share of pay-per-click accounts from clients seeking a helping hand. Taking on these clients who have tried their hand at PPC and failed can be a great opportunity for you to prove the value of your services. The downside, however, is that these accounts are undoubtedly in shambles. When you add the wild card of Google AdWords Quality Score to your equation, this becomes an even bigger hurtle to jump. But don’t fret, with a little patience and careful consideration of your strategy, inheriting an AdWords account can work out just fine.

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This has been a topic of discussion here at PPC Hero for some time, and we had the opportunity to talk it out with our Google representatives. We pelted our Googlers with questions ranging from Quality Score effects to best-practice repair methodologies. Is it better to start from scratch or attempt fixing an account? What about an account level Quality Score? Based on that conversation and our findings, I would like to propose 5 things for you to consider the next time you inherit an AdWords account:

  1. Perform AdWords Triage: Before you can do anything to a client’s account, you must assess the damage! How is the account organized? One campaign, one ad group, 300 keywords? I hope not. What about the keywords? Are they relevant to the client’s product or service? You can even take this a step farther and consider match types, negative keyword selection, negative site lists and account settings. Depending on how savvy your new client was, this stage of the “inheritance” could provide the biggest clues to your next steps.
  2. New Campaign or New Account?: For those of us used to building PPC accounts from the ground up, this question almost answers itself. Building out a new account would allow for greater flexibility from the get-go, it would limit “clutter” to work around and could allow the account to start with a clean slate. This is where the issue of Quality Score comes into play. For good or bad, the account you’ve inherited has earned a history with Google. It is very likely that optimizing the campaigns within the inherited account will allow you to build on that history for a quicker return-on-time-investment (ROTI anyone?).
  3. It’s a Matter of Resources: After you’ve assessed the damage, the first thing you’ll want to determine is the capacity you have for fixing the inherited account. Size and time constraints are a big factor here. You honestly only have two choices: a) Optimize the old campaign(s) and use AdWords Editor to click, drag and drop the inherited keywords into new ad groups for optimization, OR b) go through and create a new account from the ground up. Just be aware that this involves all of the set up (both user defined credit cards, contact info and account defined settings, etc.) and potential research for keywords and landing page URLs. It’s a matter of your resources; your time commitment.
  4. Quality Score Concerns: As I mentioned above, when choosing between creating a new account or building over top of your new client’s mistakes you have to consider Quality Score. By choosing to create a new campaign within the inherited account, you give yourself the opportunity to build on earned history. Some advertisers speculate that there is an account level Quality Score in addition to the keyword, ad text and landing page scores that are known to exist. When asked about an account level Quality Score, our Google representatives replied with “not that we know of.” But, within the same conversation, the very same Googler’s directly stated that “history is important” and that optimizing existing campaigns would be advised over starting a new account from scratch.
  5. Testing, Testing, 1… 2… 3…: Regardless of which route you choose, be sure to allow for a testing phase. By this I mean, don’t delete the inherited account or campaigns right away. In my experience, it can be to your advantage (think of that ROTI again) to even leave the “old” campaign running while you initiate your new strategy. I’ve used this methodology in this direct example as well as content optimizations and other “in with the new, out with the old” situations. This approach could also come in handy if your new strategy is a total bomb or if things are slow to take off.

Every AdWords account comes with a unique set of problems and every advertiser has a distinctive (if not proprietary) method for dealing with those problems. The good news is that when dealing with an inherited account, the playing field is leveled and the solutions are direct. With a little bit of patience and careful consideration of the proper strategy, any advertiser should be able to turn a client’s shambled AdWords account into a shining beacon of perfection.