How to Fire Your PPC Agency: A Guide for Online Marketers, SEM, PPC, and Google Ads Managers

how to fire your ppc agency

There’s an adage in the advertising industry that says “agencies exist to be fired”. There is a lot of wisdom in this; after all, the agency-client relationship isn’t forever. A key advocate in the client account may move on, or the agency might get complacent and not work hard enough to keep the account. Generally, the meaning of the saying is more appropriately “you can use an agency as your scapegoat and fire them if things don’t go well”.

Either way, if you’re an in-house marketer or small/medium company CEO, you may find yourself having to fire your PPC agency. This may because you’re looking to hire a new agency or hire someone in-house to handle it. With both decisions, you’re going to have to break the news and fire your PPC agency then successfully manage the transition.

We’ve been both fired and have had a ringside seat on several agency firings; we’ve seen it done well, and we’ve seen it done poorly.

Here are some steps you should consider if you are going to fire your PPC agency:

1. Get proper account access with administrative privileges

You should have Administrator access to Google Ads, Google Analytics, Bing Ads, and Google Search Console. If your agency created any of these accounts for you change the arrangement so you have control over the accounts. If they still need access,  granted it to them via their email address. It’s your data and if anyone has been accepting terms of service on your behalf that is bad practice. It’s best to get this straightened out and accept any TOS moving forward yourself.

Remember if the agency built your website, you have to transfer ownership of the domain, ownership of the hosting account, and any other website related items.

2. Install Google Ads Editor and back up your account

Google has a tool called the Google Ads Editor, which is an offline editor that can download your entire account structure and back it up to a zip file. This back up will include all of your graphical ads, keywords, text ads, campaigns, ad groups, and settings. It’s free; download it, log into your account, download the account then in the first menu choose “Export” and select one of the options.

This is a critical step in case your agency or even a disgruntled ex-employee decides to delete or change anything that might affect accounts performance just before the contract ends. Think this is overly paranoid? We’ve seen it happen. Don’t be complacent.

If you’re running Bing Ads, you don’t need to worry as much about installing the Bing Ads Editor and backing up Bing Ads. This is because Bing Ads can easily be synchronized from your Google Ads account. Although, if your Bing account has useful Bing-specific negatives backing it up is worthwhile.

You can download the Google Ads Editor here and the Bing Ads Editor here.

3. Break it to your agency

Walk them through your thought process so they can understand why you’re choosing to take a new path with managing your PPC.

Some reasons may be:

  • There has been a change, whether in their performance, your internal management, or your business goals.
  • The relationship is no longer a good fit.
  • You’re going to be handling the account either yourself, with another agency, or with an in-house person.

Remember to be firm and make it clear that a final decision has been made.

4. Set a transition meeting with the new agency (or in-house PPC) talking to the existing agency

Yes, this will be awkward; We’ve been on both ends of such calls!

During this transition meeting it’s important to cover the following information:

  • Overview of Goals, Google Analytics, and Google Tag Manager setup.
  • Where the negatives are stored: in shared lists or at the campaign level?
  • Review any scripts installed and what each is doing.
  • Changes that have been tested but did or did not work in the past.
  • Changes in spend. If spend has been reduced in recent months, what was paused and why?
  • Opportunities for growth/improvement in the account.
  • Any general advice the leaving PPC can give to help avoid problems moving forward.

The agency or in-house PPC that has been working on your account is likely emotionally invested in the work. Often, if you ask them straight questions about how to improve, or what to avoid, they will probably just tell you outright. Having the new account management team interview the old one can provide great ideas for them to work on.

5. Downgrade the old agency’s access to “read-only” access

Downgrade permissions immediately after the transition has been made. Then, after two months with your new agency cut off the old agency’s access to all accounts. We recommend two months because that is enough time to decide if your new agency is handling the accounts as well as or better than your old agency was. Alternatively, leaving the read-only access in place may provide a subtle incentive for the new agency to make sure they are at the top of their game. This is because your old agency may call you in six months and offer a free audit in hopes of winning back your business.

Business is business, and few business relationships are forever. The PPC industry is small, so treat people with respect and courtesy. If you’re a straight shooter, others will be happy to work with you down the road and respect you for your honesty.