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AdWords Editor Account Archive (.aea) – Reading and Parsing File

June 8, 2017

One of the export options from AdWords Editor is “Account archives (*.aea)”. At its simplest, this is a file that contains everything you have selected to export in a format that AdWords editor understands, so you could completely delete everything in your account and be able to backup from that file.

What about using this file outside of AdWords Editor though? How do you read or parse an account archive “aea” file into a understandable format? At first glance, this file might appear to be proprietary or somehow encrypted.  If you open it with a text editor, you will see a bunch of random characters and symbols:

AdWords Account Archives - Raw Text

The key is in looking at the “magic bytes” (aka “magic number” aka “file signature“) which identify what file type it corresponds with. Looking at the file in a hex editor, you can see the first four bytes of the file are represented by “50 4B 03 04” in hex, which actually corresponds the zip file format.

AdWords Account Archives (aea) - Magic Bytes

Change the extension of the Account Archive file from .aea to .zip (in most OS’s you can do this simply by directly editing the file name) and guess what? The resulting file can be unzipped to reveal… a nice structured XML document (data.xml)!

Pretty much the whole point of XML is structuring data, so this resulting file can make programmatically interacting with an AdWords Editor backup a lot more approachable. Or, if you need to check something in an AEA file on a computer without AdWords Editor, this would be a way to do it.

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