Imagine if your Xero accounting software came bundled up with the service supplied by your accountant? Sound quite cool? It could be a small way to save a bit each month. Then imagine if you decided to change accountant and they got the huff and stopped you from accessing all your prior financial data. Now perhaps that’s not so cool but a real pain in the xxx.

But of course we all know that would never happen. Accountants have ethics they have to abide by, which stops them doing something so dodgy. Unfortunately that’s not the same when it comes to suppliers of online marketing services.

However, this time it’s not the uninterrupted access to their financial data that’s at stake for customers. Nope — here we are talking about the marketing systems and data they have paid to have set up in their Google advertising campaigns, because without it the growth of their company could falter.

Let me explain.

Last week I talked about a similar scenario with the problems that befall business owners who have their Google Analytics account set up and owned by someone else. The short summary being that Web Developer A builds a website for Client B and installs the Google Analytics tracking code from within the web developer’s account structure. The two fall out and with the relationship goes access to all the client’s website tracking data. I put this in the category of “annoying” problems to deal with.

Now let’s dig into the second scenario — the one that can cause you the most pain if it affects you.

This time Client A purchases some web optimisation services from Website Optimiser B. Part of the solution is a Google AdWords paid search-advertising campaign. This campaign is built within the AdWords account of Web Optimiser B and paid for by Client A. (See where we are going here?)

Months roll by and Client A pays more fees to have the search advertising tuned to improve its performance. The Google algorithms notice this and increase the Quality Score of the advertising.

Quality Score is a metric Google uses to price the clicks people pay. This video from Hal Varian (Google Chief Economist) takes you through the role it has. Basically there is some “Google Love” placed at the account level to those accounts that deliver effective advertising. This translates into lower bid prices.

Client A never receives any reports but is told more tuning is done, and an increasing number of leads are generated each month. Things seem to be going well. Until, that is, their account manager resigns and there’s a change of staff.

Unfortunately, this brings with it a drop in service standards, as Client A has to educate the new account manager on how their business operates. After a few months of poor account management, Client A decides to move on and finds an alternative supplier, ending the relationship with a final request to hand over ownership of the AdWords campaign they have paid many thousands of dollars to set up and optimise. That request is met with stony silence.

Unfortunately, as I write today, there’s no technical way to pass ownership of a campaign between AdWords accounts. Unlike the recent update to Google Analytics that allows this. So Client A is left with two options. Either hang on to what they have and hope things turn around. Or start over again with their new supplier, but this time with a brand new Google AdWords account.

In the short term the second option could well negatively affect their business. No reporting meant they were not sure which keywords worked and which didn’t. That knowledge will need to be learnt by the new supplier, and gathering this knowledge will come at some cost. Plus, they will start with a new account with no “Google Love” and their overall click costs could bump up because of it. They will need to go backwards before they can go forwards.

However, once over this hurdle there are a number of reasons why this is such a better option. First up, all the money spent optimising will live with the campaign they own. Forever — independent of the supplier they use. Plus, if reporting decides to fall by the wayside with this new supplier, they can log in to their account and see for themselves exactly what’s going on. Plus, if they are concerned over what has and hasn’t been altered to justify last month’s fees they can download the report on all the changes on their account over the same period.

Of course, none of these benefits are there for those who have their advertising held in the accounts of their suppliers. I would estimate that there are hundreds of companies in New Zealand who are running paid search campaigns in exactly this way and have no idea of the business continuity risks they are taking by doing so.

I know this because three of the largest players in our market will work only this way. Personally, I question the ethics of companies that operate this way.

Here at Ark Advance I want customers to remain with us not because we have a stranglehold on their data, but because the team does a good job. We are always paid to work on our customers’ accounts. If they come with none, we set them up and assign our customers as the top level admin level. Make contact if this approach sits well with you.