Do You Own Your AdWords Account? Are You Sure?

This, to me, is an interesting question. When you have someone create AdWords accounts or the structure within the account, does the end client “own” that account? We’ve seen with the recent evaporation of Trada that it certainly is not always quite that simple. I was in a Twitter exchange yesterday with a few folks where we were talking about this topic:






This is a topic that I feel REALLY strongly about. For all of our projects, once all invoices are paid, the client owns the work product, period. When we take on new clients, we have them in control of accounts and we are granted access to them, not the other way around. I have just worked with too many clients over the years who have had to completely start over on web sites or PPC because when they wanted to switch providers, the could not gain access to the account or files. In some cases, they are told that they do not own the work product and in other cases, they simply cannot get in touch with anyone from the former agency to get the access information they need. No matter how it happens, it is hugely problematic for clients.

Web sites probably seem more straightforward than an AdWords account, maybe? To me, it is the same, but I could see an argument that they are somewhat different in end work product. Here is the rub though – virtually all clients will assume that they own what you’re doing for them if they pay for it. Even if it is buried deep within your contract that they do not own it, chances are they will think that they do.  And, why wouldn’t they think that? That is how most transactions in our economy work – you contract for a service, you pay for the service, you get the service. Same goes for products.

If your terms are such that a client will not be able to use/take with them/transfer the AdWords account that you create for them, it is truly your obligation to state that to them verbally before they sign a contractual agreement with you. Sure, you could say that it is “in the contract” and they should read every word before they sign, but I still think the right thing to do is to make sure that they are making an informed decision. And they cannot do that if you’re being at all coy about what will happen if they decide to stop working with you. Imagine if you thought you were making mortgage payments and when you went to move found out you’d only been renting. This is the same thing.

So, here is my advice to both agencies and consultants and to clients – talk about this specifically when you are discussing the scope and terms of the project. Clients – ask directly about ownership and transferability. Agencies and consultants be clear about what your contract states and what the client is entitled to should they want to terminate the relationship with you. We advise clients to ALWAYS insist on having the account information provided to them. For AdWords, that would mean the account number and having at least one person at your organization who has login access. As a side note – make sure that this information is possessed by more than a single person at your organization – staff changes and that should not be the reason you can’t access your account! For web sites, make sure you have login access to you hosting account and we also recommend setting up and keeping a regular backup copy of your web site in case of emergency.

Bottom line is this, transparency is crucial. If your agency feels that a client should not be able to take over the account that the agency built for them should they want to move to another firm or self management, that should be made clear before they’re in too deep. Clients, you have a responsibility to make sure that you understand the terms as well.

Lost access to your AdWords account? My post about how to try to regain access can be found here.

As always – share your thoughts in the comments on back on Twitter!

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