Let me set the scene. Six months or so ago, one of my clients let me know that they were rebranding, meaning they were going to undergo a site migration.

If you don’t know, this meant that their URLs were updating from their old brand name to their new brand name.

So they say ‘Hey Maddie! We’re rebranding, what does that mean for PPC?’.

Oh how naïve I was six months ago, when my reaction was ‘no problem, I’ve done lots of PPC migrations before, we’ve got PPC covered’ …and so we began preparing for the client’s rebrand.

Igotthis image

^ Me in migration prep mode

PPC migration preparations

So first thing first, let's dust off the PPC migration actions checklist.

  1. Get on top of the tracking solutions - in this case we needed to set up GA4 and GTM on the new site with all the same conversion actions (events) we previously tracked on the original site.
  2. Know your URLs - obviously one of the most important tasks was making sure all ads had their new landing page ready for once the site was live, otherwise we'd be getting disapprovals left right and centre. Tip: you can only have one URL per ad group in Google Ads so you will either need a new ad group, or remove the old ads.
  3. Update your feed - this wasn't relevant for this client as they don't run shopping ads, they are a mortgage broker (that's important info for later), but I felt it important to include in my checklist for anyone seeking inspiration.
  4. Benchmark performance - establish what performance is considered good, acceptable and bad. This way you know where performance is in line with your expectations once you make all the necessary changes.
  5. Brand ads - a top tip here is to remain active on your old brand name and adjust the ad copy to let users know that the brand name has changed but the company is the same. This helps maintain trust and also conveys transparency.
  6. Recreate your remarketing audiences based on the new site - technically, you can still have a successful migration without performing this task, but hey, the sooner you start collecting data, the sooner you can start using it to your advantage!

Essentially, to some degree, these actions are the pillars of a successful site migration from a PPC standpoint, so of course to me, a PPC-er with over seven years’ experience, in a team with over 20 years’ experience, wasn’t immediately concerned about the future hurdles to be jumped.

This brings me to part two of my article.

What to do when the unexpected happens

In this case, everyone directly involved in the site migration (the web team, the SEO team, myself, the client) had a more or less seamless integration …but Google did not.

Google Ads dropped dead in its tracks.

Panickmode image

^ Me in panic mode

So what happened was:

The checklist was actioned without fuss, new ads were created, they went to the new landing page (which worked), the bidding strategy was changed from Target CPA to Max Clicks with a very generous bid cap (to maintain traffic levels amidst the changes in the campaign). Then the ads were approved by Google. So they were live, right?

Ha. In theory, the ads were live. Google Ads says everything is eligible, the budgets are high, the tracking is functional, the targeting hasn’t changed.

But no, overnight impressions dropped from an average of 650 a day to an average of 48 a day. Clicks dropped from 40-50 a day to three or four clicks a day. Conversions? Don’t ask.

Everyone was taking a fine-toothed comb through the account to find what mistake had been made to cause this, but ultimately none could be found. As I said, ads were live, right?

So, now it was time to dust off the ‘Google Ads is having a meltdown checklist’

  1. Contact a Google rep - I know we like to diss them, but we needed all hands on deck right now. However in the end, no insights were gleamed, they discovered the same as our internal team had, the ads were live, the bids were high, they just aren't serving - in fact the core piece of advice was to increase the budget that already wasn't being spent and wait three weeks - helpful!
  2. The new site is definitely working - check
  3. The search volume clearly hasn't dissolved by itself overnight, has it? No, it hasn't
  4. Are the competitors still showing - yes (this added fuel to the fire)
  5. Check the ad preview diagnostic tool - it just says our ad is eligible but isn't showing (getting irritated)
  6. Is it the bidding? It's on max clicks with a very high bid cap, Google isn't known for skimping out on charging for clicks while possible, but just in case let's also test manual bidding and the strategy the campaign was previously used to (Target CPA)

With no rhyme or reason it was like the campaign had become invisible to Google.

Time to contact the PPC support system

  1. LinkedIn friends
  2. PPC Chat Slack community - these guys were über helpful!
  3. Twitter
  4. Reddit forums
  5. Blogs

Unfortunately, no answers were found in the above avenues, so it was time to get creative.

Lightbulb moment image

^ Me thinking what we would do if this was a brand new account

We’re on day nine of Google Ads destruction at this point, and when I tell you the issue in a moment, you’re going to think we were bonkers for not knowing beforehand - but hear me out.

So we’ve reached a point where even though there’s no visible issue (confirmed by Google themselves), we decided to just revisit literally anything that could get us through the storm.

Business verification - check, all good, remember how I said the client is a mortgage broker?

Well, financial services verification hasn’t flagged up as an error, but now everyone is looking in the ads account from their own personal accounts, and one member of the team has a banner asking for financial verification to be completed!

Okay, let’s do it.

Attempt 1 - DENIED - but we can’t tell you why

Attempt 2 - DENIED - but we won’t tell you why

Attempt 3 - APPROVED - thank god

Turns out we needed to complete financial verification on both the old and new URLs. Fortunately, the form was processed and reviewed quickly each time we submitted it.

So we’re on day 10, and our ads are showing.

Yay image

^ Me in the end - getting through my Google Ads storm

If you were wondering, the client in question also runs on Microsoft Ads - which integrated as seamlessly as we had originally hoped for the ‘leading search engine’.

I really hope that the most stressful experience I’ve encountered so far in my Google Ads career will help others in a similar situation.

My key learnings you ask?

  1. Don’t trust Google reps - the second I was told to increase the budgets on campaigns where ads weren’t spending any of their budget, I was ready to give right up
  2. Don’t give up - another piece of advice I was given was to wait three weeks. I can’t imagine that doubling, or potentially tripling, our down-time would have benefitted the scenario
  3. Value community - luckily the internal Adido team is full of experts who I was able to lean on for support, but having a wider support network really helped me realise that it wasn’t all my fault
  4. Revisit every solution - only one person in our team got the warning for financial verification. That means five accounts didn’t get the notification, so don’t wait for Google to be proactive and if in doubt, just refill in all the forms

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Meet the author ...

Maddie Crawford

PPC Manager

Maddie has worked in digital marketing since her apprenticeship in 2017 but quickly realised her true passion was in the PPC side of things! Since then she has worked across ...