Tips For A Successful PPC Account Takeover

By , PPC Expert and Contributor at Search Engine Land:

Building on an existing AdWords account structure has its challenges, but there’s a lot you can do to ensure a smooth transition.


If you work in an agency and you’ve taken on an existing account that you plan to build on rather than start over from scratch, you’ll know this situation comes with a certain set of issues and things you need to take into consideration.

In this column, I’ll delve into areas you need to investigate to make sure you don’t overlook something key during this transition stage!

Why Build Into An Existing Account?

You may be thinking, “Why not start a brand new account?” Well, there are certain reasons you might not want to completely scrap the existing account structure – for example:

  • You would set the account up the same way
  • It makes sense for the client in terms of the reporting they need and/or their budgets
  • You would like to build on the existing history in the campaigns and not have any quality score fluctuations
  • The client needs to retain all of the old campaigns

There are often clear reasons why accounts need to be restructured; but from time to time, you will come across a scenario where it’s best to build on the existing account structure.

Key Areas To Consider

There are several different things to consider when building on an existing account, and each account will pose its own unique issues; however, here are a few of the main things to consider when adopting this approach.


Make sure you’ve audited these across all existing accounts to ensure you know what’s going on at the core of the campaigns. If you don’t check these over, you could easily build into a campaign that was set up entirely incorrectly in the first place.

If you have certain setting preferences – for example, I like to run all accounts on accelerated budgets rather than standard – then make sure you’re aware of what’s going on and make changes where necessary.

You’ll also want to ensure that the right campaign settings are selected for the campaign goal, such as making sure the Google Display Network isn’t switched on within a search campaign and that the correct languages are being targeted.


Often, the main structure might make sense to you; but, at ad group level, things aren’t as you would expect. For example, I mostly build all match types into the same ad group, whereas many agencies build out separate ad groups per match type, in which case you need to make a plan for which ad group you’re going to merge all the keywords into.

In this situation, I would take the better performing ad group in terms of conversion volumes, targets and click-through rate, and then merge the terms into this ad group so you’re able to build on the history that is already in place.

In some instances, there might be separate campaigns for different match types, so you’ll need to consider the same approach here, too. I advise making a spreadsheet with all the campaign names and then putting together a plan based on historical statistics for what needs to be merged into what.

Another situation you might come across is where there are many campaigns set up – too many for the budget that you’re planning to use – many of which are only receiving a few impressions per day. In this case, you’ll need to add into your merge plan that you intend to join these together into one campaign, either building into the best-performing one or starting a new one.

You can then simply use prefixes in your ad group naming conventions to be able to identify how each group is performing. During this process, you may also need to merge several ad groups together if you find you have a similar situation at the ad group level, and delete any all-time zero impression keywords in the process.


Sometimes, you’ll find that keyword coverage is good, but could do with a little expansion and refreshing. Take a look through the search query reports over a lengthy period of time and see if there are any new key themes to be built out. Additionally, check the website to see if new areas need to be built.

Build your keywords and add them into the existing ad groups for those themes that already exist. Be careful to match your bids when building keywords into an existing campaign. If you suddenly add in a load of keywords with a £2 max CPC where the average max CPC in the account was around £0.50, you’re not going to have a smooth transition.

Learn about the account you’re taking over and what bids/ad positions have been tested previously. Then, depending on whether the client wants a low-risk takeover or a more “guns blazing” takeover, you can plan your approach accordingly.

Remember that when adding your new keywords, they’ll take the default ad group bid, which might not have been changed in a while.  Make any necessary adjustments there if needed.

As mentioned earlier, you’ll need to decide what to do with any match types you’re not happy with in the account! Try adding in modified broad match to areas with low volume traffic and ensure you have enough phrase and exact match coverage of your main keywords.

You should carry out a full review on any broad match keywords especially, and ensure you have the right flow of traffic happening in the account through adding more negative keywords in at ad group level and refining your match types.

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Not all campaigns you’ll take over will be completely terrible; some will be working “ok” and may just need refining and more active testing in order to achieve further success. In this case, I would recommend marking the top performing ad in each ad group with a label and keeping this ad switched on during the merge.

I’d then add in 2 of your own ads for further testing so you can see differences in performance. Label these two ads as your own, and this will make it really easy to filter by label and see which ads are working best once you have enough data.

Make sure you’re also checking into which ad extensions are currently set up. If site links are there but descriptions are not in place, add these in and further build on the extensions. It’s important to check seller reviews, too, as these can often go unnoticed and may have been disapproved for some time — hence, an update might be in order!


I’ve already touched on the fact that you need to think about your keyword bidding strategy; however, you also need to think more widely than this. If you don’t check at this stage what bid strategies are currently enabled for device, location, time of day, and audience, then you might miss some vital information.

Once you’ve come to grips with the existing strategy, analyse the data again. It could be that because of keyword adjustments you’re making, you’d like to start afresh with some bid multipliers, basing them on data from the new mix of keywords instead.

In other instances, it could be that you just need to make bid adjustments again based on the analysis that you’ve carried out. If you can see, for example, that mobile has never been tested in the account and the client now has a responsive site, switch this on and test it out!

Deep dive into the audiences that have been added to any search campaigns for Remarketing Lists For Search Ads (RLSA) strategies. Check that these lists have been set up correctly within the shared library and that they are still functioning and pulling in audience numbers. Set up new lists in your shared library to expand out on these strategies and remove/adjust any audiences added to your campaigns that you know aren’t working well.


Check that the account has not been over counting! This is really important, as I have found in the past that some accounts are double counting with both AdWords and Google Analytics tracking, or have AdWords code on incorrect pages on their site.

In addition to this, check that sales value is being pulled in through the Google AdWords conversion tracking type and take time to understand any other tracking methods that are currently in place. Always question the tracking in place and make sure it’s set up as you would like before adjusting anything else in the account.

If you notice that the tracking was incorrect previously be sure to notify the client ASAP as this will mean that once corrected you’ll be seeing potentially big fluctuations in results that you’re reporting.

What’s Next?

As I mentioned, these are just a few tips for things to think about when taking over an existing AdWords campaign. Make sure you discuss merge tactics with your client and let them know that even with the less risky plans, there will always be fluctuations in statistics when you take over their account. This may cause changes to their existing cost per click, traffic and conversions – hopefully positive ones.

You need to account for the fact that testing new things and adding more keywords into accounts will lead to fluctuations.

If you’re working on your merge in an offline version of AdWords Editor you should also be keeping an eye on the change history to ensure no strange changes have been occurring in the run up to you taking on the account.

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