How to Move an AdWords Campaign Without Breaking It

by Joseph Kerschbaum

Director of Client Services, Clix Marketing

Recently, we acquired a client whose AdWords accounts were in a state of disarray. This is using the term “disarray” lightly. Our initial objective was to consolidate quite a few campaigns, from a number of different AdWords accounts, into one single account.

Basically, the client wanted to consolidate the campaigns without lead flow being hindered greatly in the short term and/or permanently.

Let’s Run the Numbers

The first step was to review the performance of the campaigns pre- and post-consolidation. This data was compiled from a few of the campaigns before they were moved, and compared to the data after these campaigns were consolidated into one account.

Campaign Performance Data

Looking at these stats, things looked a little rough. Impressions, clicks, and conversions were down. And our cost-per-click and cost-per-conversion was up.

However, things weren’t as bleak as they first appeared. Considering that we moved thousands of keywords and hundreds of ad texts throughout a short period of time, we (and the client) were happy with the progress.

When each campaign was moved into the new account, it took a few days for it to adjust and gain back its impression volume. Over time, things started picking up. For example, here’s the progress we’ve made within the consolidated account:

Consolidated Data

Our clicks, impressions, and conversions have increased over the past few weeks and our cost-per-conversion is starting to decrease.

Plan of Action

The campaigns are in much better shape now, and all in one place. Our next step is to begin optimizing the newly consolidated campaigns now that they’re “getting back on their feet.” Our key performance metrics (KPIs) were down for a short while but they’re making a comeback.

So, how did we move thousands of keywords without crippling the account for the long-term and sending the client in a tailspin?

  1. We created a tiered plan so that we moved campaigns slowly. We didn’t move everything at once.
  2. We conducted a thorough analysis of the campaigns and removed the weak elements before moving anything. This process included pausing underperforming keywords, adjusting bids, adding negative keywords, and pausing weak ad text variations. This allowed us to move the best elements of the campaigns.
  3. We set the proper expectations with the client. Before one keyword was moved, we made them aware that by moving keywords between accounts we’ll be losing their performance history and this could negatively affect the account.

Long-Term Implications

Sure, we can see how this process affected this client on a micro level, but what does this mean on a macro level for PPC management?

  • If you have a pretty solid campaign structure and move your campaign, it should gain back its performance traction quickly. Just be prepared for short-term turbulence.
  • This idea can apply to moving ad groups between campaigns within the same account. If you move an ad group between campaigns, you’ll see a blip in performance but it should pick up.
  • If your account is littered with keywords that have poor quality scores, low CTRs, and high CPCs, then opening a new account and moving your campaign won’t fix your problems. A good account should gain back its good graces with Google, and bad accounts should suffer the same fate.

A few additional notes if you plan to move campaigns or ad groups:

  • If you migrate an entire campaign between accounts, check your account settings. Technically, you’re creating a new campaign. This means that your campaign settings could be set to AdWords defaults.
  • When moving ad groups between campaigns, make sure that higher-level campaign settings, such as ad delivery, rotation, and campaign-level negative keywords, don’t hinder your recently-moved ad group.

If you need to make major changes to an AdWords account, such as moving ad groups between campaigns or even moving campaigns between accounts, come up with a plan first and expect a fluctuation in your performance and overall volume.

If you’re suffering from performance, optimize the account you have. Don’t try opening a new account and moving your old, junky campaigns into them. You may see a short-term boost by doing this, but if your ads are irrelevant and landing pages don’t convert in one account, they’ll do the same in a new account as well.

This article was originally posted May 26, 2010 on