Ideally, you’ll be working with a client for several years, but since we live in an un-ideal world, sometimes clients shop around with different agencies, freelancers or in-house PPC managers before they find one that sticks.  It’s also not unheard of to have to change around support on an account internally.  The issue that this causes is a brand new team trying to tackle an account with a lot of history and nuances that they need to adapt to very quickly.  For a detailed account of switching account ownership, check out this guide from PPC Hero about inheriting large PPC accounts successfully.  I’ve recently went through a similar transition here at Hanapin with one of my accounts, and have seen others go through it as well, so here are my top 5 tips for getting the ball rolling on an account transition.

1.)  Understand Your Client’s Actual KPI’s:  When taking over a new account, it’s important to recognize that the KPI’s another agency or manager may have deemed valuable, may not actually be the ones you need to look at to have a better understanding of paid search’s effectiveness.  Let’s look at an example…

A client starts off with their first PPC account manager, and together, they establish a cost-per-lead of  $100.  The client is using PPC to find customers interested in a free trial signup for their service.  After the service runs out, the free trial customer will hopefully turn into a paying subscriber. Months down the road, a new manager takes the reins, and gets the ball rolling on tracking revenue per keyword which will establish new CPL goals per ad group.  After enough time goes by, the manager will be able to optimize keywords toward their new individual goals and make money for the client, where money was being thrown away.  This example shows how initial goals can change, and the manager’s main objective should be establishing the right KPI’s that will lead to profit on the client end.

In addition to knowing what goals you need to hit to make the client profitable, you also need to calculate the client’s ROAS for paid search.  If they aren’t making profit with you then something needs to change!  With the client example above, understanding ROAS is vital to the future health of the account, however, what we also need to realize here is that your ROAS may not show profit the first time you calculate for certain clients.  For example, if your client has a subscription type service that customers repeatedly come back to make purchases for, then spend vs. revenue may eventually reach a “tipping point” where the ROAS surpasses cost.  This leads me to the next vital area to understand when taking over a PPC account –

2.)  Understand Your Client’s Sales Cycle: Taking over a PPC account requires the manager to really get in touch with the client’s business and understand their business almost as well as they do.  The sales cycle is going to have an effect on the trends that you see in your paid search efforts.  If you’re running an online school, you’re likely to see a pickup in the traditional times of year that students start to enroll for classes and a slight decrease at other times of the year.  Holidays are never the same for two clients, and depending on how large the client is, your metrics might also be affected by giant news stories that trigger searches relating to your ads.

Let’s return to the example above for a moment and look at sales cycle.  A customer that comes in and signs up for a free trial may not necessarily spend money in the first month that they have an account.  Understanding the sales cycle for this particular client requires the PPC manager to take a step back and realize that revenue needs to be tracked month over month, as the customer comes back to make additional purchases from this service based company.  The customer may be coming back monthly or seasonally, and without understanding that not every customer is going to buy now we could accidentally make a costly, CPL slashing decision way too early in the cycle that will hurt future revenue.

3.)  Developing Your Own Goals, Strategy and Tactics: At the start of taking over an established PPC account, I find it helpful to take a step back and decide what my personal goals, strategy and tactics are going to be before I start.  You’ll want to touch base with your client on goals whether its during a weekly report or call but this is more an internal “how am I going to do this” approach.

If you have a team working on the account with you (like support managers), then go ahead and bring them into the conversation.  Set achievable benchmarks for your team, and a visible way to see your progress.  Unless you’re inheriting an absolutely perfect account with zero issues, you’re probably going to want to find a way to change what’s already in place whether it’s KPI’s, tracking, messaging, or overhauling the account structure.  In addition, this is a great time to sit back and figure out (with the help of your client too) what the client’s brand is known for and how it is received.  Who is their competition? Who are you targeting?  How are you going to use the established brand, audience and competition in your PPC planning? If you want more information on setting up goals, strategies and tactics for your accounts be sure to check out Amy’s post on developing a pay-per-click strategy.

4.)  Take a Snapshot of Quality Score: Before I start digging into an account, I like to look at the fundamental area for AdWords – Quality Score.  By taking a snapshot of where the account is, you can begin planning for your weakest areas.  If the account isn’t put together well from a structural point of view, and your CPC is suffering because of it, you can decide to make this one your goals for improving account performance, then lay out the tactics you need to achieve to complete this goal.

5.)  Dig In: After you get a general knowledge of where your account stands in terms of Quality Score, you can start setting up tactics to improve what you have.  Essentially, you need to explore all the areas of the account to see how it flows and locate any barriers to performance that may have been implemented by someone else.  Here is a handful of areas to start:

  • A negative keyword audit
  • Duplicate keyword audit
  • Keyword audit – are you bidding on “junk”
  • Ad review to weed out improper testing methods and find your top performing ad text
  • Review settings (rotation, delivery method, ad scheduling, budget, geotargeting, device segmentation)
  • Review mobile vs computer vs tablet targeting – are they separated?
  • Review Display vs Search campaigns – are they separated and setup correctly?
  • Structure – this goes back to the Quality Score snapshot.  Look for ways to make your ad groups and campaigns more tightly knit and logical.
  • Automatic and Managed Placements Audit
  • Review Audiences/Topics for Display Network campaigns using them – are you targeting the right ones and are they performing well?
  • Remarketing strategy – is there one in place and what sort of messages are already being used. Do you need to re-strategize, place new codes or start a remarketing effort?
  • Visit the dimension tab and gain new insights – Are there areas you’re targeting that are performing well or poorly? Consider this in your restructure efforts and consider breaking campaigns out according to geographical location if you need to.  If ad scheduling is already in place, does it make sense? Or does it need to be implemented?
  • Ensure that your conversion tracking is setup correctly and Analytics account (if it’s set up already) has the correct filters and codes implemented as well.

I hope you got something out of my top 5 tips! What are some of the things you’ve done to make these transitions easier?