How to Take over A PPC account from another agency

I came across the article by Josh Dreller the other day about “The SEM Pro’s Guide to Taking over a Paid Search Account
Josh provides valuable insights but it gets me think back about my own process of taking over a Paid Search Account. My process is slightly different than Josh’s Guide. I took over a number of accounts before and only realized today that i follow the same process without even thinking about it. It comes to me very naturally.

So before we start, let me make sure all of us are on the same page. The situation is as followed:

  • Your company just won a new client. The client has been running Pay Per Click (Paid Search) for 1-2 years with the previous agency.
  • Your task is to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible and hit the client’s objectives.

Below are the things that i am going to do if i am in that situation

Internal Kick Off Meeting

Get together with your business development team, try to understand as much background information about the client as possible.
If you are involved in the pitching process then you are lucky because you already know quite a bit about the client. If not then the followings are essential:

  • Client site URL
  • Primary Business Objectives: KPIs
  • Target Market
  • Target Audience: Can the target audience take action Online? (booking, reservation etc…)
  • Any historical reports/performance information are absolutely valuable
  • Tracking technology
  • Primary KPIs: short- mid term, long term
  • Proposed take over date: This will largely influence how fast you need to move
  • Contract duration: If the contract length is only 3 months then obvious the client just wants to test the water first. You and your team need to work extra hard to prove that you are worth every single cent that they pay (especially in this economic climate :P)
  • Last but definitely not least, REASONS why the client switched from the old agency to you? Make sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes.

In a perfect world, all of the information above would be discussed/shared between the Biz Dev team and the Operation/Client Service team. However, more often than not, there are essential piece of information that need to follow up

Kick off Meeting with the Client

It’s of paramount important that you only meet the client after having the Internal Kick off meeting. Nothing turns the client off more than having the first meeting with some guys who have absolutely no ideas what is going on.
This is slightly different than first date, where you start to know each other. Obviously first impression counts (just like first date) but the client expects you to know as much about their business as possible and only ask meaningful questions.

More often than not, i find that introducing the team up front with clear view on communication is essential. Client needs to understand who they should speak to/send email to should they have questions related to various topic: from campaign performance to invoicing.

Whatever data you haven’t got from the internal meeting, now is the time to ask or clarify.
More often than not, if the client has been running PPC for 1-2 years, they expect you to keep using the same Adwords Account (to keep account history/quality score), not creating a new one from scratch.
However, based on the client’s objectives, do not afraid to ask whether they used Yahoo Search Marketing in the past. Depending on their target markets this time, Baidu may very well enters the picture for China or Naver/Daum for Korea.

Project Plan

Counting backwards from the transition date, i feel that the next best thing after meeting with the client is to provide a project time line.
This is to make sure that you cover off all aspects of the transition task while keeping everyone in the loop.
Be sure to ask the client for their feedback as well because you never know if you miss out anything important.
Project time line is getting even more essential when you have to work with various department or coordinate between different people from different countries.

At this point, previous experience of different process lead time kicks in. Take note of both internal process lead time and external process lead time.
For example time taken to open a new account with Baidu.

Paid Search (PPC) Account / Technology access

Each company has its own process and lead time so i am not going too deep into those areas at this point.
As for PPC Account access, you will have access to the client Google Adwords account for sure. The client probably has their own MCC (My Client Center) as well so you may not be able to link the account to your company’s MCC.

On Yahoo side, it’s tricky. In this region (SouthEast Asia/North Asia), the agency owns the account with Yahoo, not the client. This is partly because most of the clients (even MNC companies) do not have direct relationship with Yahoo. The agency of record help them to do everything including setting up accounts with Yahoo. Because of that reason, you probably have to start Yahoo from scratch.

As for Baidu, i haven’t got the chance to take over Baidu account from any previous agencies. However, from my understanding, Baidu algorithm is not that sophisticated for account history or quality score to become major concerns.

Access to Tracking/Bid Management technology is essential as well. If the client is using a certain technology to track the PPC campaign performance then you want to make sure that you understand that technology enough to properly track/report PPC activities from different search engines. If the technology is brand new to you, don’t try to understand everything about it.
However, as you know most of the current Analytics/Bid Management tool work around more of less the same concepts so it would be beneficial if you can have a quick conference with the Account Manager/Client Service Manager from the Technology provider.
He/She understands the history of the account and probably can guide you through the basics to get you started on time.
Basic mistakes can be avoided. Take extra precaution when it comes to settings and naming convention because if you get them wrong, it can really mess up the reporting inteface.

Account Structure

Reviewing the account structure for each Search Engine is very important. Each account should have a structure, not only following PPC best practices but also taking into consideration the client’s business needs, reporting requirement and future expansion.
My personal view on account structure is that, you should study the current account structure and communicate to the client your version of what the account structure should be across multiple search engines. It makes things relatively easier if you have the same structure across Google and Yahoo.

Quick Wins vs Long term Strategies

It’s all about managing expectation and so i would suggest that when talking over an account, identify as many quick wins as possible and implement them right the way.
If the previous agency lumped Search and Content Network into one campaign or even grouping them together when reporting, separate them out immediately and communicate this to the client.
You may want to run through this Google Adwords Checklist as well to make sure all the basics are covered off.

Be realistic, set appropriate level of expectations not only for the client but to your own team. Don’t be hasty, trying to achieve unrealistic goals, making huge changes to the account until you pass the first 4 weeks or so.
It’s the beginning of a new relationship and the client would freak out if they see drastic drop in numbers, in their KPIs. No amount of explanations would be enough to cover those initial reactions especially at the beginning.
Make gradual changes and follow a long term plan.

Pay Per Click is not rocket science. However, it’s not so simple either so progress gradually and communicate clearly to the client what you are trying to achieve constantly during the initial phase are the key of a long term relationship.

That’s all for today. It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon here in Singapore and i am heading out now.


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