Google announced today on their AdWords Agency blogspot that they have started rolling out a new Google Certified Partner program that focuses on AdWords. The new AdWords certification seeks to improve the relationship and training available to SEM Agencies and Digital Agencies. Much of the feedback has been around not enough training or certification in AdWords and how Google can reduce costs for those using AdWords APIs.
The move also seeks to wind down the Google Advertising Professional program and replace it with a new Google AdWords Certification program. The new Google AdWords Certification program is to provide more up-to-date and comprehensive certification with a focus on training for strategy and how to use the latest tools and new best practice guidelines.
Will the new banner be accepted?
While it seems that some of the more advanced-level exams should address more areas such as search, display, reporting and analysis, will everyone make the effort to get the new certification? The new AdWords certified partner badge shown above takes up much more website realestate than the old badge which may annoy some webdesigners. The new badge also has an interchangeable blue text/icon element that can be use for their other products "Analytics", "Maps", "Search", "Apps". The problem is that a number of agencies have created their own versions of the old banner over the years and it is hard for consumers to actually recognise who is actually certified to support Google products, and it will likely take a fair while for agencies to replace the old banner with this new version and its not clear if Google can even enforce the update?
Centralised Partner Program?
Google has looks to be in the process of replacing a number of their programs with a central Google Partner program. The new partner program section advises that as a Google Certified Partner, Trainer or Reseller the logo represents Google's endorsement of this partner's expertise and experience. This move by Google continues to resolve some of the issues with private enterprise making claims to being Google SEO Partners, or independently certified as TOPSEOs claims. The program should hopefully start to take actions again advertisers and agencies who abuse the T&C and take advantage of consumers who may not have a full understanding of marketing and hide behind fake Banners and untrustworthy Associations.
Google help you outsource
The new Google Certified Partners should help you outsource AdWords program management or implement Google tools to measure and improve your campaign ROI. All the Google Certified Trainers have met rigorous requirements set by Google to offer in-depth in-person or classroom training on Adwords, Analytics and many more...
Google Authorized AdWords Resellers can provide professional, full-service AdWords account management, from account setup and activation to ongoing campaign monitoring and optimisation and should always provide quality customer support. It is not public as to what changes Google AdWords partners have already had to accept as part of the move to the new program, besides an increase in staff training and certification.
The AdWords certification program appears to be replaced with a broad Google Certification Program which provide another indication the product will expand to other Google products not yet listed. The new feature which advertisers might find useful is the Google Partner Search that allows clients to search for agencies within the trusted walls of Google and not use unverified sources such as TopSEOs.com. There are other programs that have joined the new Google Professional Program such as their Website Optimiser website testing product.
What about Google AdWords Professionals?
As Brad Geddes pointed out in his recent blog post the old program required a GAP to pass an exam and maintain a level of spend, but the new program has eliminated the spend level but added an advanced exam requirement. So now to gain qualification as a Google AdWords Professional, exam takers must pass both the Advertising Fundamentals exam and one advanced-level exam. So the requirement to not have certification tied to an active client does make it easier for consultants to retain their qualifications when moving between agencies it also means that you can no longer guarantee that they can or have run any actual campaigns. The certification almost moves to a theory based Leaners permit where you don't have to drive to retain you qualification just really show up to class and get a stamp...
Find Google AdWords Certified Partners (FREE)
The Google Certified AdWords Partners can opt-in and pitch their core attributes and capabilities direct to advertisers. You can offer suggestions on expected budgets, specify office locations and industry verticals supported. There is no charge to the AdWords certified partners to be listed or for clients to pay which may upset a number of sites such as TOPSEOs that currently have a business model where they charge for these leads. The improved search feature has been available for several months but a number of agencies were not aware of its availability or even the benefit of providing relevant and accurate details into their profile. There is still the practice of Agencies trying to grab as many leads as possible and worry about running the campaigns later, so hopefully this will start to reduce that behaviour.
The biggest change to the program is that those using the AdWords API to access, run and optimise their clients campaigns using inhouse software and commercial bid management platforms can almost do it for free as long as their clients spend enough. This change makes it more profitable for agencies using AdWords APIs the more money they get their clients to spend, so hopefully this will result in some reduction in costs for some products that have heavy API usage. The new Preferred AdWords API Pricing model also requires that if you use an AdWords API to manage your clients campaign on behalf of your clients and meet the requirements you can then apply for the preferred pricing. While this is a great step forward it could have been better if it had of been automated and the program doesn't start accepting API applications until the 26th May 2010, so stick around.