Google Ads Accounts – Access & Transparency

There’s some ongoing questions about client account access and payment process in the digital agency business. The key questions revolve around account access levels, client visibility into Google Ads accounts, and the best process to use for advertising cost payments.

Client Account Access – Google Ads

I’ve seen the prevailing view about client account access evolve significantly over time. When I first started working with Google Ads in 2008, it was very common for agencies to maintain exclusive access to the advertising account. Over the years most agencies have chosen to become more transparent and provide client some level of access to the account.

Reasons to Refuse Client Access

There are a few primary reasons agencies trot out to justify refusing client Google Ads account access. In the early days, many agencies were commingling campaigns for different clients within the same ad account. These commingled accounts were one oft cited reason for refusing client access, with the claim that giving one client access would violate the privacy of other clients. Some agencies worried that clients will make changes to the campaigns which will hurt performance. Finally, granting clients the ability to view their account will reveal the agency “secret sauce” and put the agency at a competitive disadvantage due to risk of the client sharing the information with other agencies.

Commingled Accounts

I disagree with all of these points, and will now walk through them one by one. First, commingled accounts. This one is easy, use an MCC (my client center) to create separate accounts for each client. The workflow for this is not difficult and using one account per client has benefits for billing, tool integration and optimization workflow.

Client Made Account Changes

On the second point, risk of clients making changes to the campaigns without the knowledge and consent of the agency, this can be eliminated by a simple agreement between the parties. Of course, I agree that it is inappropriate for clients to make changes to an account under management by an agency. Assuming there’s been clear communication to the client that all changes should be made by the agency, the change history will provide the paper trail needed to show if this agreement has been violated.

“Secrets”

On the “secret sauce” argument, I argue there is no secret sauce. Of course there are tactics one agency might use that another might not, but there’s nothing you can do in Google Ads which is so unique or inventive that no one else could have come up with it on their own. Based on that, I don’t believe there is a real risk of losing account management secrets to another agency or advertiser just based on a client having access. A mutual non-disclosure agreement can further protect the agency client relationship.

Benefits of Client Access & Ownership of the Account

There are several benefits to both the agency and client in both having access to the account. The most obvious benefit is transparency. Many clients are made more comfortable knowing that they can get online and view their statistics at any time. This can also make collaboration easier when a task or upgrade requires something to be done on both the client and agency side. Overall this process keeps everyone honest, which can go a long way to building trust particularly in new agency/client relationships.

The final benefit is to the agency. Since the client owns and is ultimately responsible for the Google Ads account, it is the client’s responsibility to pay the media costs. Assuming that the agency has made a good faith effort to uphold the terms of the agency/client agreement, and has not been negligent in doing something like overspending the agreed budget, the client is responsible for paying all media costs directly to Google. This removes the risk of a problem I’ve seen many times. Namely, a client decides he no longer wants to work with an agency and refuses to pay the last invoice. If the agency has been carrying the Google bill, and invoicing back to the client, the agency will end up paying Google without getting reimbursed. Then the agency will have to attempt to collect from the client, which can be quite difficult.

If you’re an ROI focused advertiser who wants to work with an agency in this fully transparent manner, please schedule a call to explore a fit with Samurai Direct Response.

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