Checklist For Transitioning To A New Digital Agency
Do you have a client that's switching to you from another SEO agency or consultant? If so, columnist Patrick Stox has put together a handy checklist to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Transferring to a new agency can be a difficult experience for the client and both agencies involved. The transition is not always smooth and is not always under the best circumstances.
For those of you on the “new agency” end, here is a checklist to make the transition as painless as possible.
Website & Analytics Access
Find A Contact At The Other Agency. Whether the client has a contact or you have to call and get in touch with someone, having a contact at the other agency will make the transition easier. The other agency will want to do as little work as possible, as they likely aren’t being paid at this point. Be organized, be specific about what you need, and contact them as few times as possible for the best results. Be sure to ask them about the client and how they were to work with, and if there is anything that will prevent them from cooperating, such as past due bills.
Website. Ideally, a client will have full access to their website and hosting. However, many times the client trusted everything to their old agency, and they don’t have the necessary access. If everything was being handled by the old agency, you will need to request access to the CMS, FTP and the hosting control panel in order to migrate the website. If full access was not given to the CMS, it may be necessary to give yourself permissions through the database or a script.
Domain. Make sure the client is in control of their own domain and that you have access to the registrar if performing a website migration. The last thing you want is to be in a situation where the old agency registered the domain and refuses to give it up or allow changes to the DNS.
Analytics. It’s important to know the history of a website and also to have a baseline for performance comparison with an ongoing campaign. There may be important notes in the Google Analytics account and possibly reporting dashboards, events being tracked, and goals set to measure the success of a campaign. Ideally, a client has created the Google Analytics account and shared access to the account with the previous provider, and can do so with you, as well. Many times, an agency will be the one who created the Analytics account, especially with smaller clients, and this is where things might not go as planned.
If the agency made an account for each client, then they can share full access at the account level without any trouble. If they made different properties for one account, even if they share access at the property level, this leaves the new company at a disadvantage, as many features, such as filters, are disabled. It also leaves the new agency in the precarious situation where the old agency still has the account access level and will see all future data.
For additional information on managing users in Google Analytics, see https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1009702?hl=en
Google Search Console & Bing Webmaster Tools. These tools provide a wealth of data, such as showing redirect errors, link acquisition, rankings, penalties and much more. While you may want to ask the other agency to add you, if you have access to the website, you can also add yourself. The more important thing is to remove access from an agency that’s no longer working with the company.
For additional information on verifying ownership in Google Search Console, see https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1142414?hl=en
For additional information on verifying ownership in Bing Webmaster Tools, see http://www.bing.com/webmaster/help/how-to-verify-ownership-of-your-site-afcfefc6
For additional information on managing users in Google Search Console, see https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2453966?hl=en
For additional information on managing users in Bing Webmaster Tools, see http://www.bing.com/webmaster/help/how-to-add-users-to-your-site-account-d5c00364
Google Tag Manager. If the other agency was using Google Tag Manager for tracking events or adding scripts, then you will want access to this, too. They may have the Google Analytics code here and be firing events that are tracked as goals, remarketing, JSON-LD structured data or other tags set up for various purposes.
For additional information on managing users in Google Tag Manager, see https://support.google.com/tagmanager/answer/6107011?hl=en
Google My Business. The company may be able to add you as a manager on the Google My Business listing(s), but often, with small businesses, these were created by an agency, and the company may not have access. Either way, it will be important to have access to these business listings to make sure the information is up-to-date.
For additional information on managing users in Google My Business, see https://support.google.com/business/answer/3403100
Google AdWords. If AdWords was set up properly, then the client will have the account setup and will have shared access to the account with the previous agency. If this is the case, you simply need to have their account number and send an invitation for them to join your AdWords MCC account. Transferring becomes an issue when the account was set up by the previous agency, no access was given to the client, and the agency doesn’t want to share the data. It sucks to start from scratch, and if you are put into this situation, try to gather as much data as possible from old reports and Google Analytics.
For additional information on granting access to Google AdWords, see https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/1704346?hl=en
Passwords. Get any passwords to anything the other agency may have. Social media accounts, citation websites, blogs or any other websites where they may have created a profile or claimed a listing. Most agencies keep a list of all login credentials for different websites.
Site & Campaign History Information
Rather than starting from scratch on a campaign, find out what the other agency has done in the past and what they had planned for the future, and use that as your foundation. Some of these items an agency may be reluctant to give up, but it never hurts to ask, and it can be fruitful to press the issue at times, especially if the previous contract may have specified all collateral materials created belong to the client.
- Find out when any services they may have used, such as Moz Local or Yext, will expire.
- Check when the website was last redesigned.
- Obtain copies of logos or any other files related to design or branding in vector format.
- Find out what other advertising avenues were used, such as YP, Yelp or social media.
- Ask if any other domains owned by the client or former agency are redirected or if they were ever used for websites.
- Ask for any files related to the campaign, such as targeted keywords, content strategy or competitor research.
- Get copies of previous reports of rankings and KPIs, as they provide a baseline, show trends and identify what metrics the client is used to seeing.
- See if there were past audit documents or any penalties.
- Ask for an account of the previous agency’s efforts, such as on-site optimization, content creation, linkbuilding or anything else.
- Find out what plans, in-progress items and ideas were never acted on.
[pullquote]”Trust, but verify.”[/pullquote]
Check behind the other agency and their efforts and resources. You may uncover problems or missed opportunities, or you may come up with new ideas in the process. Their efforts provide you a head start on your own efforts, but they should be verified to be accurate and well-planned. Also, check behind the other agency on access to make sure you have the right access levels or permissions needed for your efforts.
What else do you ask for when transitioning between digital agencies?
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.