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Setting Your Team Up For Success: SEO Account Transitions

April 26th, 2010 | | SEO Management

If you work in a search marketing agency, you will eventually find yourself facing: the account transition. The level of dread one may experience is directly impacted by the current state of the account, the size of the workload being transitioned, and perhaps most importantly, the level of care put into the transition by both the account transitioner and account receivee. Accounts get transitioned for lots of reasons- someone’s leaving the team, other clients have come into play and workloads need to be redistributed, or maybe a newer team member just needs to work on an established account before jumping into starting from scratch. It doesn’t need to be a negative experience for any of the parties involved, if everyone understands their responsibilities for the transition and the timeline involved in taking over various account tasks. A good transition gets a new manager off on the right foot in an account, and can make all the difference in building trust and a solid relationship with the client. With that in mind, I’ve collected a few of our team’s observations about the things that have improved and complicated our account takeover experiences, so you can benefit from our learning experiences.

1. Agree on a timeline from the outset.
If an account is moving from one managing agency to another, the transition deadline can be extremely sudden. But within an agency, and even sometimes when an account is moving between agencies, there is more room for a gradual transition in which the new manager can learn in more depth how tasks are being processed, and seek guidance from the previous manager. This is a great advantage as it can create better continuity for the client, and leaves more room to address unanticipated surprises that may come up in the early stages of account management. However, you should draw up in advance a timeline that outlines when Task A or Responsibility B will be solely handled by the new account manager both to encourage autonomy and to prevent each manager from interfering with or counteracting the others’ work in the account. If the timeline needs to change as the transition progresses, that’s fine, but always be sure that all parties within the agency, as well as the client, are aware of the deadlines they need to be anticipating.

2. You need access.
Make a list of all of the logins you think you might need. Have the old account manager make a list of all of the logins they think you need. Match the lists up and make sure you get them all! Remember things like Google Analytics, Google Local Business Center, Yahoo Site Explorer, the client’s CMS or other website administrative functions, website developer emails, compliance approval emails, and any other contacts you’ll need to help you implement your suggestions. This is why it’s helpful- both in transition and for general account management- to keep all of the logins and contacts you need to use in one secured document.

3. All accounts are eccentric.
Even if you’ve been doing SEO for a long time and you know what “tasks” need to be done, every site has a different audience and a different long-term goal set, and it will take slightly different methods to achieve success. If you’ve developed some unusual methods for link building for a client, or have good insight into their competition, take a minute to write down any out of the ordinary observations or techniques you’ve used in the account so they can continue working for the new manager.

4. Own up to problems.
People make mistakes. Unfortunate things happen in accounts, even if it’s no one’s fault. Not letting the person inheriting your account know about any problems that have happened- including why, if you know, and how they were addressed, is just setting them up for problems, as well as miscommunication with the client. Remember that what’s best for the account is best for the team, and stay honest about the challenges you’ve faced.

5. Reporting stays consistent. If it changes, it changes slowly and for a reason.
Your client is accustomed to receiving certain types of data, presented in a certain way, at a certain time. There’s no reason to stop giving them what they’ve come to rely on as a consistent measure of your progress while making an account transition, so be sure that the new manager understands when you report, and what you provide the client. If you, as a new manager, believe the client needs different information on a different timeline, make sure to check with the client about their preferences, justify the reasons for changing, and slowly integrate your new reporting with old if possible to allow the client to compare data sets and adjust their expectations.

6. You need documents!
Initial client interviews, spreadsheets, records of what has been done- a new account manager should have access to all of the information you’ve had access to. You should be documenting your activities, preferably in an easy-to-follow style, for the client’s information anyway, so it should be fairly easy to provide the new manager with a “what’s been done vs. what’s-to-do” list. Even if they know all they need to know about doing SEO, they’re not going to know what you’ve done, or what the client wants, unless you give them that information. If you have developed any cool spreadsheets or tools to make the job easier, it would be nice of you to pass those along as well!

Taking the time to consider exactly what you’d need to jump into an account as a new manager can make your teammate’s job and life infinitely easier- and the favor is more likely to be returned in an agency where managers support each other and value the entire client-manager-agency relationship.

Jessica is an Account Supervisor at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through PPC and SEO.

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  • http://www.jon-lee-clark.com Jon Clark

    Having just gone through a bunch of transitions lately (both incoming new clients and existing clients moving onto other agencies) I couldn’t agree more with the above items. One thing I would add .. don’t forget a comprehensive list of your client contacts: agency contacts, direct client contacts, day to day, C-level, etc.