Don't miss out! Check out our limited-time SEO service promo

How to Move to a New AdWords Account Without All The Drama

White Shark Media

10 years ago



For the longest time, one of the most dreaded activities an AdWords manager could undertake was to move a somewhat well-functioning AdWords campaign to a new account.

The fear of losing Quality Score, lower performance, and predicting clients firing you is something that goes through every AdWords manager’s head when he hears the dreaded words “New Account”.

I’m here to tell you today that it doesn’t have to be like that. Through my time with AdWords, I have reorganized more campaigns into new accounts than I can remember. With only a few exceptions, this has been done with little to no impact on our long-term performance.

One of the keys to ensuring maximum performance throughout a new account transition is to minimize the “new” factor. When transitioning to a new AdWords account, you can retain a lot of what went well for you if you just minimize the new elements. Now is not the time to try out 16 new ad tests or activate a lot of new keywords.

Reasons Why You Want to Transition to a New Account

There are many reasons why you would want to transition into a new account. I have listed a few of the most common reasons here:

  • API/Software requirements
  • Change the currency or time zone
  • If you don’t own the account
  • To separate languages, businesses or websites
  • To separate Display and Search Networks

Especially point number #3 is something very dear to my heart. I still don’t understand why you would want to engage with an agency that doesn’t allow you to have access to your own account and can take with you afterward.

What to Pay Special Attention to During a New Account Transition

When moving to a new AdWords account you have quite a bit of thing you need to think through extra time.

Before I go into detail about my strategy for moving AdWords accounts, it’s important you have the right background information. If you only read one of the parts below, make it the part about Broad Match. It’s absolutely crucial:

Broad Match

When moving to a new account, or even campaign, your biggest worry should always be your Broad Match keywords.

Now, I know that many of you professionals reading this will just jump right past this advice because you don’t use Broad match – but many regular advertisers do. Many regular advertisers get the bulk of their good AdWords performance from Broad Match keywords.

To better understand why it’s important to understand how Broad Match actually works.

Broad Match keywords get expanded to new search terms that Google deems relevant. This is an absolutely automatic process, which is run by algorithms in the deep basements of Google.

Your Broad Match can expand to something useful (iPhone case to iPhone cover) or something ridiculous (iPhone case to smartphone games). Google is trying to maximize your visibility, so you can earn/spend more money.

What many advertisers don’t know about this process is that Google also automatically optimizes what search terms your ads show for. If your ad has a low CTR for the search term Google is showing it for, then you won’t receive any more impressions from this search term again.

After running a Broad Match keyword for 1-2 years Google will have done a lot of the work with negative keywords that you should have done yourself. After this, you will end up with high-performing Broad Match keywords. But if you move these Broad Match keywords to a new account or campaign, you reset the history and Google will start showing you for any of the search terms that were otherwise excluded.

Knowing this will make your transition phase much smoother and less painful.

An ad to Keyword Link

Your keywords’ performance is linked to the ad that it’s showing for. If you start messing too much with this link, you can further endanger your performance.

This is often the challenge when you first optimize a campaign and then move it. Especially with the older accounts that we receive in White Shark Media™, we see that ad groups have +50 keywords. Some of these keywords perform well with ad #1, while others perform well with ad #2.

But if ad #1 has the best overall performance, the best practice is to pause ad #2. However, doing this will cause some keywords to drop in performance because they don’t perform as well with ad #1.

To combat this, I usually advise starting one ad text per ad group upon the launch of new campaigns. Thus, you have a way of improving performance right off the bat instead of waiting to see poor statistics come in.

At the same time, I also generally advise against launching more than one ad test when starting a new campaign. It’s simply too risky (remember my thoughts that you need to minimize the “new factor”).

Negative Keywords

If you’re using the Shared Library to manage your Negative Keyword lists, it’s important that you don’t forget them.

At the same time, remember to take notes of what negative keywords are applied to what campaigns/ad groups. You might think that you should make the transition time to apply all negative keywords to all campaigns.

Be careful about this. I’ve seen several cases where the negative keywords were expanded without any regard for the existing keywords. This resulted in a significant drop in performance because negative keywords were applied wrong.

Remarketing Lists

If you’re using Remarketing at the moment, you need to be extra careful. You can’t transfer the history from your remarketing list to your new account, so if you make a clean break you won’t be able to use remarketing as efficiently.

If Remarketing is a significant part of your current performance, you need to make sure you don’t move your remarketing campaigns until you have collected the same amount of users as you have in your old account.

Seeing that you don’t have “endless” remarketing campaigns then you will reach a time when you can easily transition over to the new account.

Another good tip is to create a new remarketing campaign in your new account using the new remarketing tag that you will put on your website. What you can then do is simply remove the old remarketing tag. Doing so will mean that you’ll slowly transition all new users on your remarketing list over to your new account, while you let your old account target the old users.

Conversion Optimizer / Enhanced CPC

When you use the Conversion Optimizer (Google’s CPA bidding) it uses your historical performance to calculate your bidding. Despite the common belief then you don’t actually bid for your requested CPA.

You just put in a CPA goal and then Google takes your historical Conversion Rates and converts it into a CPC bid.

Know that if you have been using CPA bidding in your old account, you won’t be able to do this in your new account until after you have accrued 15 conversions. However, I don’t recommend that you turn it on until your campaign is hitting at least 30 conversions per month.

Dynamic Search Ads

If you’re running Dynamic Search Ads it might also take some time to get performance up to speed again. In this case, you would want to start your new Dynamic Search Ads campaign and slowly start pausing the old DSA campaign as your new campaign picks up in traction.

Remember to move your negative keywords too.

Monthly Invoicing

If you’re on monthly invoicing (pay your AdWords to spend via a monthly invoice) you need to reach out to your Google Rep. They will, in most cases, be able to help you transfer your credit to the new account.

Just don’t assume that it will happen automatically.

Impact on Quality Score

Quality Score is assigned to the keyword and ad that you’re using in conjunction with your domain name. Just like you don’t get any value in moving a poorly performing campaign to a new AdWords account, then you don’t lose (much) by moving a good campaign to a new AdWords account.

Typically you will see improved performance after a couple of weeks of running the campaigns of your new account. This is of course granted that the new campaigns are better structured and are better optimized. If you just set up the same old campaign in the new account, you will not see any difference in performance.

The official response from Google is that as long as you make sure the user experience isn’t changed then you won’t lose Quality Score you have built up. The Quality Score algorithm doesn’t look just at your historical account performance, but also at how well you have performed recently and at the keyword’s performance in conjunction with the display URL.

My Tips for Making a Smooth Transition

1. Don’t Lose Your Data

Before you move your campaign over to the new account, you want to make sure you take as much advantage of the existing account’s data as you can. Like I mention in my Search Engine Journal post you don’t want to start from scratch.

Before reorganizing your campaign(s), you want to make sure you fully optimize your existing campaign based on the data you have access to. Remember that once you move the campaign(s) to the new account, the data that was once associated with your keywords and ads will be gone. Therefore, I always make sure to optimize my campaign within the following areas before I move the campaign(s):

  • Review Search Terms for negative keyword opportunities
  • Set appropriate bids according
  • Pause lower-performing ads

This way you will have a good starting point when starting your campaigns in your new account.

2. Don’t Just Stop All Elements in Your Old Campaign

Especially if you see a significant performance from Broad Match Modified or Broad Match keywords, you don’t want to simply turn these off and turn them on again in the new account.

Based on the Broad Match process that I explained earlier, you will simply risk losing a lot of good impressions that otherwise worked very well for you. This is especially the case if you have been running your Broad Match keyword for longer than a year and have seen good results lately.

One of the tricks to see if you will be impacted by pausing a Broad Match keyword is reviewing your See Search Terms report for that specific keyword.

Do you want to find out how aligned the search terms are with the keyword you have? If you only see search terms that are closely related to your keyword (i.e. you could use BMM or Exact Match to cover them), then you will usually not see any challenges in transitioning to a new AdWords account.

On the other hand, if the majority (or even just 25%) of your conversions come from search queries that are unrelated to your Broad Match keyword, you need to be careful.

3. Start the New Campaign Simultaneously

To avoid resetting your Broad Match keywords, you want to slowly phase them out. Start the new campaign while keeping the old campaign running.

However, you can’t “just” keep both running. You need to do the following for it to be effective:

  • Stop all Exact and Phrase Match keywords from the original account
  • Lower bids slightly for Broad Match keywords
  • Insert all keywords as Exact Match negative keywords

This will ensure that within the areas you can control you have your new account take the impressions.

If you have the means, you can opt for spending 20% more budget in the first week in order to bring your new campaign more aggressively. You don’t want to set bids that are lower than your old campaign.

In general, you want to make sure your bids don’t lower in your new account. Lower bids typically lead to your old campaign keeping the majority of impressions (due to Ad Rank), which doesn’t serve the purpose.

4. Reuse the Best Performing Ad

One of the most important pieces of advice in this blog post is the following:

When you create a new AdWords account you want to keep the keyword-to-landing-page link.

Doing this shows Google that you are not changing the user experience and therefore you should not receive a Quality Score decrease:

move to new adwords account 1


It’s crucial that you keep the original ad when creating the new campaign. I advise the same in my infographic about how to optimize in your first month of AdWords and keep the same ad-to-keyword connection.

Keep the original ad and make one variation of it. This is not the time to start several ad tests. That is not the purpose of starting the new account. Just focus on getting your performance up to par, and then you have all the time in the world to start ad tests after an initial couple of weeks.

5. Be Overly Aggressive Towards Optimizing for Quality Score

One of the things that you don’t typically hear is that you should be solely focused on Quality Score. Well, on new accounts you do have a slight handicap, so anything you can do to improve your Quality Score should be taken advantage of.

I tend to exaggerate slightly in my attempts to attain a high-Quality Score in my new accounts:

  • Use the keyword in the headline (of course)
  • Use the keyword at least once in the description lines (twice if it’s short)
  • Use the keyword in the display URL

If I have control of the website and/or landing pages, I also typically create more landing pages than I otherwise would need to.

6. Label Important Keywords So You Don’t Lose Sight of Them

A good technique is to label keywords that were performing well in your old account. Like my friend Sam, Owen mentions in his excellent Search Engine Land post on the subject (When Should You Overhaul Your PPC Account Structure), you want to label your most important keywords.

Especially if you have a big account, it can get time-consuming to always reference back to the old account to see if some of your top-performing keywords are decreasing in performance.

7. Link AdWords to Analytics and Generate New Tracking/Remarketing Codes

Way too many advertisers forget about the basics when they move to a new AdWords account. Remember to generate and install the following codes:

  • Conversion Tracking
  • Remarketing
  • Dynamic Remarketing

And remember to link your AdWords and Analytics accounts as well.

8. Use the Same Bidding

In the beginning of a new campaign, I would simply use the same bidding as in my former campaign. Especially if you have followed my advice about tweaking your bids before moving your campaign, you will not need to change the bidding.

A good tactic is to increase the bidding slightly in order to increase your exposure. If your keywords are seeing Below First Page Bid statuses 48 hours after you have started your campaign, you should consider increasing those bids. After a little bit of time (days), you will usually see your bidding come back to normal.

9. Review and Re-use, your Campaign Settings

Remember to review the following settings in your AdWords campaign and make sure that the settings are the same in your new campaign:

  • Ad Scheduling
  • Bid Adjustments
  • Location
  • Languages
  • Delivery Method
  • Ad Rotation
  • Keyword Matching Options

However, if the old campaign had poorly set campaign settings then you can get more out of improving the settings. Just don’t make major changes to the Ad Scheduling or Location Targeting.

Don’t Be Scared To Move To A New Account, But Don’t Do It If You Don’t Have To

It’s misrepresented that you should be scared about moving to a new AdWords account. The fact is that sometimes it’s the only thing you can do. By following the guidelines that I have laid out in this blog post, I’m confident that you can experience a seamless experience.

However, I will also give a last-minute warning. Don’t move accounts just for the fun of it. The bigger your account is, the bigger is the chance that you will miss something and experience severe performance issues.

Free Adwords Book