Who “Owns” Your Google AdWords Account?


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adwords-300x200So who owns your Google AdWords account if you have an agency or consultant that manages it on your behalf? You or them?

I’d never given this much thought until I spoke to someone looking to switch over the management of their AdWords account from their current agency. Their agency had been managing the account for a couple of years but the client was concerned that the relationship and the performance of the PPC campaign had gone into decline. So time to move on.

The client served notice of the termination of the contract and requested that the agency transfer the account over to them (never having been given their own login to it) upon final settlement of any bills. All reasonable and sensible. But then came the rub: the agency demanded £5,000 to ‘release’ the account even though there was no contractual obligation to make this payment.

I’d hoped this outrageous business practise was a one-off but I’ve since heard of other, similar tales. The client could’ve gone to court (lengthy and expensive) or walked away and paid somebody else to re-create the PPC campaign – in this instance, certainly a lot cheaper than £5k – but they would have lost the campaign’s statistics and any optimisation that had been introduced over time. More importantly, they’d also lose the AdWords Quality Score that the old campaign had accrued so any new campaign they’d create would have a higher overall Cost-Per-Click (CPC), at least initially.

So how can you avoid being at the sharp end of this type of extortion?

Here are my suggestions:

  • Set up your own AdWords account. The best way is to set up your own Google AdWords account then provide access to whoever is going to manage it. If you’re outsourcing the management of your PPC campaigns, your agency/consultant will be able to talk you through this process. This is always my preferred option as there is no doubt who owns the account and, as you are granting a 3rd-party access to it, you can easily remove that privilege! If your agency/consultant raises objections to this approach, I’d start to get concerned…
  • Include a ‘Reversibility’ contract clause. A common practice in larger outsourcing projects, a reversibility clause can take many forms but, in essence, it just outlines what the responsibilities of the agency/consultant/client are should the contract terminate and the management of the PPC campaign be transferred. Think of it as a pre-nuptial agreement and you won’t go far wrong.
  • Get frequent account updates. These can be provided in many different formats including Excel but I prefer HTML so I can see the whole account structure and the content. Great for reviewing. You should also request occasional updates using the AdWords Editor Archive (AEA) file format. The AEA file is a complete backup of your AdWords account that can be imported at a later date if necessary (even into a new AdWords account).

If somebody externally is already managing your PPC campaigns, it’s better to start up the ownership/reversibility discussion now while the relationship is (hopefully) on the up. Certainly, you should at least ask for frequent AEA updates.

If you’ve experienced any dodgy PPC relationships or have any ideas on how to avoid them, I’d love to hear about them.

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