I swore I’d never study for anything ever again once I graduated college. That was until I started a career working in paid search. Until I got into the field, I had no idea what paid search even was. And I certainly didn’t think it was anything I’d ever understand. What is PPC? What is AdWords? I refuse to learn!
However, being in a particular field requires expertise, of which I had none. My only option was to shake off the cobwebs and put my studying hat back on. But where to start? Sure, I could do some research on my own, maybe pick up a pointer here or there. That didn’t seem sufficient enough, especially if I was planning to make a career in this field. I thought that I would need a source of substantial information, and where better to turn to than Google AdWords itself – the mother of PPC.
Little did I know that a person could actually become certified in AdWords. There’s an entire learning center dedicated to teaching individuals the ins and out of paid search. “Billy McCaffrey: AdWords Certified.” I liked the sound of that. Now that I was in the right mindset, I was ready to begin.
When I first started, I was overwhelmed at how much information was presented to me in the AdWords learning center. I won’t lie to you, there is much more to PPC than meets the eye. Luckily, the learning material is broken up by category:
- Intro to AdWords
- Account Management
- Campaign and Ad Group Management
- Keyword Targeting
- Language & Location Targeting
- Ad Formats
- Budgets and Bidding
- Measurement and Optimization
- Performance, Profitability, and Growth
- Managing Multiple Accounts
So I took it one step at a time, starting with the basics and working my way towards the more advanced stuff. I found that Google does a really good job of clearly explaining the information. They not only explain everything in thorough detail, but they include examples to help you understand. You learn certain features of paid search and how they can impact your performance, and ultimately your ROI. They also list out step-by-step instructions on how to perform every task (these are included in each section, once you’ve read through the section). If I want to change the match type of select keywords in one of my ad groups, I know exactly why I should do that and how to make the change in my AdWords account. I also found that Google will include tips throughout the material that is repeated from other sections that may tie in with what you are currently reading. For example, the components of Google’s Ad Rank (how your ad’s position is determined) is sprinkled about quite frequently. This was great for ensuring maximum retention.
How to Prepare for the AdWords Exam
As I went along, I began to think of the exam I would have to take in order to become certified. Sure I may have been reading and absorbing the material, but I really wanted to test out just how much I had actually learned. I also wanted to get a sense of what the exam experience would feel like. What are the questions like? Does Google try to stump you?
I asked around and was told that a great resource to fill this need is iPassExam. It provides mock exams, modeled exactly after the AdWords exam. You can take the entire exam if you feel up to it, or you can break it out by category (the very same categories found in the AdWords prep material). If you get a question wrong, the iPass provides you with a snippet of information to explain the answer. This snippet is taken verbatim from the AdWords learning center. A word of warning though, Google does try to make you think with their exam questions. They might ask a question that seems like it has two acceptable answers, while they are looking for the BEST answer. I would strongly suggest reading each question at least twice.
When the time came for my exam, I was relaxed and ready. All the studying and hard work paid off, as I passed with flying colors. It was quite the accomplishment, and it was all due to my own drive to be knowledgeable about the paid search space. So that brings me to the moral of my story: if you are a business running your own PPC campaign or an agency running your clients’ campaigns, you should consider the value of getting AdWords certified. You only stand to help yourself and your campaigns succeed, and there are resources to help you along the way.
Here are things to keep in mind when preparing to get certified:
- Break up your study sessions – There is a lot of information, and it’s very thorough. If you try to study everything at once, you’ll drive yourself crazy. Just keep calm and carry on!
- Take notes – It helps to write things down for the sake of retention. Take notes on areas you think you may need to read through again.
- Ask questions – If you’re having trouble grasping a particular area, it can really help to hear it explained in a different way. If you don’t know anyone with a background in PPC, you can always turn to the wonderful team at WordStream.
- Utilize iPass – This is a great tool for getting an idea of what the exam experience is like. The exam questions are extremely similar to the iPass practice questions, and you can retake the practice exams as many times as you like. You can even take them by section, if there is a particular area that you might be having some trouble with.
- Lather, rinse, and repeat – The more you practice, the better off you will be. As mentioned above, you can take the iPass exams as many times as you want until you feel comfortable. It’s also a really good idea to reread your notes, or sections you may be unclear on.
Billy McCaffrey is a Customer Success Specialist at WordStream. His focus is on software training and consulting for new and existing clients. Billy was born and raised in Narragansett, RI, and graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in Public Relations. As a resident of Boston, Billy can be found exploring the city he now calls home. You might also catch him furiously growing his collection of Batman comics.
Image via Alberto G.
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