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The 7-Step Process to Successfully Take Over Existing AdWords Accounts

Here are the tricks of the trade I have learned over the last 5 years that make it possible for me to succeed with almost every single Client I onboard:

The 7-Step Process to Successfully Take Over Existing AdWords Accounts


Taking over existing AdWords accounts is a bit of an art. Having worked with AdWords for the past 5 years, I tend to favor taking over existing AdWords accounts, in fact I would say successfully taking over existing AdWords accounts is one of my niche areas. Clients who are new to AdWords need to have a lot of the basics explained and tend to require a lot of handholding during the initial stages.

The greatest advantage of taking on existing AdWords advertisers is that you already have something to work from. No matter how bad the existing campaigns are, you have a foundation to work from. Yes, often you have to bulldoze the entire foundation, but you can still use the rubble to start building a new campaign faster and cheaper.

Here are the tricks of the trade I have learned over the last 5 years that make it possible for me to succeed with almost every single client.

1) Don’t Start From Scratch Just Because You Think It Is Expected

Thinking that you need to wow your client with your initial setup is a common misunderstanding among PPC managers. After onboarding more than 1,000 SMBs at White Shark Media and working with high end clients in Europe, Ihave discovered a few key key truths.

Clients don’t care about how much you change the old campaign. They wants results.

Let me reiterate the last part. Your client is paying you for results. He’s not paying you to make a certain amount of changes to his campaign in order to get success, or at least he shouldn’t be. One of the biggest concerns we experience at White Shark Media is whether we should start from scratch. Of course we don’t, why should we?

If the existing setup is halfway decent, then we will gain more if we work on improving the setup instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

That Doesn’t Mean Don’t Make Changes

Don’t misunderstand the step above and think that you can’t set up the campaign like you want it. I always make radical changes to the account structure when I take over an existing account. I know my framework is successful and I work super fast on it.

Make all the changes you find necessary, but don’t think you have to wow your client with the initial setup. You will be amazed how much a client will appreciate the fact that you’re using the data he has paid a lot of money for in the past.

2) Always Install As Much Tracking As Possible (Even Before You Start)

One of the things I advocate for is tracking (Duh). However, when getting a new campaign off the ground, we always set a goal for our profit level as well as other metrics that we need to accomplish. These metrics are never clicks, CTR or impressions.

Because the metrics I grade my work on aren’t CTR or clicks, I don’t put any comparative metrics in place, especially if the client didn’t use tracking prior to signing up.

To combat this, I often tell the client we should let their current campaign run for at least 7 days, but preferably a month, with full tracking installed. This allows us to get a benchmark for what our campaign is doing and will enable us to see what parts of the existing campaign we should keep.

Before implemented this practice, I occasionally got angry calls from clients insisting they experienced a dip in leads and sales exactly when we started the new campaign. Without any prior metrics to compare with, I had no way to prove him otherwise.

In fact, many times I saw the new campaign was generating more conversions and sales than the previous campaign. However, a drop from another marketing source or a momentary dip in leads happened to coincide with the start of our new campaign. Which made it look like we were responsible for the decrease in sales.

I hated these situations, so I made sure to take steps to avoid them in the future. Now, I  know whether our new campaigns are performing better than the previous setup. This enables me to meet my clients arguments with solutions instead of just guessing.

3) Too Many Changes Will Make Google Wary

To be honest, this is kind of an old myth that many people aren’t sure is true. However, it makes sense to me and I’ll explain why.

Assume that you’ve been running your campaign for a year with only minor changes. Overall, you have a good campaign with healthy metrics. All of a sudden, a new PPC Manager changes everything from ads to match types, bidding and structure. Google’s AdWords algorithm will need time to rethink whether your new changes are as effective as before. Essentially, you should have the same Quality Score as before, but Google stands to lose a lot of money if your new CTR isn’t as good and they assign you top positions. Searchers will disregard your ad and click on less-expensive ads or even an organic listing or two.

The argument above makes sense to me. I’ve seen the same patterns in brand new AdWords campaigns as with campaigns that receive a lot of one-time changes all of a sudden.

So if you’re planning on making a lot of changes to your otherwise well-performing campaign, try to roll them out over time.

4) Review The Old Bidding And Reassign Bids To Meet Your Goals

When you’re relaunching your new campaign, remember to change the bidding according to the data you have so far. There is no need for you to wait another two or four weeks to know a certain keyword should receive a higher or smaller bid.

5) Always Leave The Previously Higher Performing Ad For “Quality Control”

A technique I’m a big fan of is to include my client’s best performing ads in my new campaign. The client’s old ads never last long, and the new ads often quickly outperform the old ads.

This ad essential functions as a control and enables better troubleshooting later. If you change both the ads and the bids/match types/keywords, you will not know what caused the problem when you see a dip in CTR, Conversion Rate, Conversion Value, etc. The ads have such a big impact on results that I don’t want to take the chance of needing to guess or rollback changes later.

6) Reuse and Review The Old Negative Keyword List

Always reuse the client’s negative keyword list. Some clients have done extensive negative keyword research and their work might be much more valuable than you would ever be able to create.

But, don’t just copy and paste the list into your new campaign. Even though clients can create great negative keyword lists, I’ve seen even more advertisers really hurt their own performance with very broad negative keywords that make no sense.

I highly encourage using this technique for expanding the existing negative keyword list.

(P.S. The same goes for the Search Terms Report. Remember to review it and add new negative keywords to the campaign before you start work on your own campaign. Use as much of the existing data as possible.)

7) Be Careful With Old Accounts That Only Use Broad Match

Many rookie AdWords accounts have only used broad match for several years with varied success. I’ve seen cases where the campaign is performing great with just the use of broad match (much to my amazement).

What you need to understand is that Google performs quality checks on the search queries for broad match keywords. This means that if you’re running a broad match keyword and Google expands it to another search term, they will let it run for a while and decide whether the relevance is high enough.

For instance, if the keyword hiking boots is expanded to hiking accessories, but the search term hiking accessories has a very low CTR, Google will stop your ad from being shown on that term.

This process will have been repeated many times if the campaign has been running for a long time. When you open an existing account with great success running Broad Match keywords, please be wary about using Broad Match in your new campaign. You will not get the same results – ever.

Communication Is More Important Than Anything Else

Even though this blog post is highly focused on the campaign management part of taking over existing AdWords accounts, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to set up extensive communication protocols.

Especially in the first three months of your relationship with the client, you need to overly communicate with weekly or monthly reports. However, outside of your regular reports, you will have golden opportunities to continue the communication in a rather informal way. I love to send small wins in the beginning.

My new bid modifier for a certain location resulted in higher ROI? Wooo! I send them an email with a screenshot.

My new ads are outperforming the old ones in a split-test? I send them an email with a screenshot and a thumbs up.

I discovered that I’ve made a mistake and I’m not doing that well? I send them an email with a screenshot and how I’ve fixed it.

Sending these small informal notes is what keeps the clients from wandering into their accounts and making their own assumptions about how the advertiser is. Some clients focus on weird things and once they are disappointed it can become very hard to turn things around.

What are some of your tips for taking on existing AdWords accounts? Share them in the comments below:

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Andrew Lolk

Lead PPC Manager, Founder at SavvyRevenue

Andrew is a paid search/social marketer, blogger, and entrepreneur. He's the founder of SavvyRevenue: Helping savvy eCommerce stores profit with ... [Read full bio]

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