Mission Inaccessible

How do you log in to an account when you don’t have the email, username, password, ID number or any proof that the account actually exists?

This is the situation one of our nonprofit clients found themselves in after their organization went through some staff turnover. The employee who set up their Google AdWords account was no longer there. Another agency had helped manage their AdWords account, but for several months they were nonresponsive.

Our client wanted to update their AdWords ads. But, there wasn’t anyone who could log in to these accounts or provide up-to-date knowledge about them. They thought they had a Nonprofit AdWords Grant, but didn’t have any documentation on it.

This is where FatCat stepped in.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

The task was simple: get the rightful owners access to their own Google Nonprofit and AdWords accounts.

The process, however, was much more puzzling. We saw that our client had active ads being served on Google. Aside from that, we didn’t know anything about their AdWords account or who had access to it. Did the administrative login belong to a former employee? To their previous agency?

We weren’t certain that the organization had an AdWords Nonprofit Grant, either. Had anyone from the organization applied for it? Had they been approved and awarded a grant?

Google Protocol

The mission boiled down to lots of research and several phone calls with Google. Although customer service was very friendly and helpful, Google has strict protocols about granting account access. This is good. After all, you wouldn’t want anyone to be able to gain access to your accounts.

Step 1:

We found an AdWords account number connected to our client’s Analytics account. We called Google with this information, but it turned out to be a dead end. The account hadn’t been in service in three years.

There had to be another active account out there because we saw ads being served on Google. But without the account number, Google couldn’t give us any information about it.

Step 2:

We tried to create a Google Nonprofit account for our client. If they already had an account, we figured Google would tell us that – or at least prevent us from creating a new one.

Turns out we were right; our client had an account. We applied for administrative access, and Google sent a request to the current account administrators to add us as users.

Step 3

Google required us to wait 14 days to hear from the current Nonprofit account administrators. They were unresponsive.

At this point, it appeared the account was abandoned. Google allowed us to take additional steps to prove that we were legit so they could transfer ownership of the account to us.

We sent documentation from our client to prove their identity. After reviewing the documentation and checking it twice, Google transferred ownership of the Nonprofit account to us.

Victory! We learned that our client did have a Nonprofit AdWords Grant, which was currently in use. This was a step in the right direction, but their AdWords account was still inaccessible to us.

Step 4

After a few phone calls with Google explaining the situation, they helped us gain access to the AdWords account. Google sent us a form with several sensitive questions to verify our client’s identity.

After jumping through many hoops, Google granted us access to the AdWords account. It took about a month and was frustrating at times, but it paid off. Now, our client has full access to their accounts. We help them manage their advertising each month and make sure they are putting their Nonprofit Grant to good use.

Lessons Learned

Make sure you always keep records of important company information. Don’t leave critical passwords and account information in the brain of a single employee, no matter how responsible or dependable that employee is. Life happens. It is possible to regain access to accounts like Google AdWords, but it does not come easily.

Do you have a difficult scenario on your hands? Shoot us an email. When it comes to solving the impossible, we’re almost as experienced as Ethan Hunt.

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Emily is one of our Graphic Designers. She covers topics related to the design process, branding, web design and SEO.

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