AdWords Tips

Why Google AdWords Certification Doesn't Matter

By Caleb Hutchings April 01, 2014 Posted In: AdWords Tips Comments: 47

When was the last time someone told you they were a good driver? Perhaps it was during an attempt to borrow your car for a weekend excursion, or boast their prowess in parallel parking. Do you recall how they backed up their claim? I’d be willing to guarantee they didn’t immediately pull out their wallet to show you their driver’s license. Why? Because that shiny piece of plastic holds little bearing on their actual capability to drive a car. You’re familiar with this conclusion if you have ever witnessed the exodus of a high school parking lot at 3:00 pm, driven on the 95 into New York City, or tried to merge anywhere in the state of Pennsylvania.

The same applies on the streets of Search. If you work in PPC or are looking for a consultant/agency, you might have noticed that an AdWords Certification is not a differentiator of any kind from other marketers in the industry. Passing the Google AdWords exam is a minimum indicator of competency designed simply to show that the recipient should likely know how to navigate the AdWords interface.

google adwords exam

Here are four reasons why the Google AdWords exam isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When reviewing a candidate to manage your account or considering AdWords certification for yourself, keep these characteristics of the test in mind.

You’ll Know Only Enough To Be Dangerous

In the world of motorcycles there’s an acronym for inspecting your bike before each ride: T-CLOCS. It stands for Tires, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis, and Stands. It serves as a checklist and guide for knowing the condition of the bike, and ensuring all the parts are correctly in place. However, there is one glaringly obvious lesson missing from this information. It doesn’t teach you how to ride.

The Google AdWords exam lacks the same value. By intent, it is not a course designed to create a highly skilled user, though it is often touted as such. In contrast, it is simply a basic overview of the system and its general application. It introduces you to the different parts of an account and provides a definition for each, yet doesn’t cover the finer points of when to turn the throttle or when (and when not) to pump the brakes. It’s purely defining the basics.

Take the example of a question below on Ad Rotation... [Note: We were asked to remove paraphrases of questions and obscure screenshots from the AdWords exam.]

Google AdWords Exam Questions

The AdWords Exam Is Purposefully General

The next time someone promotes their Google Certification as the end all of qualifications to manage an AdWords account, remember that out of 180 or so questions, this one was included:

adwords exam

Don’t get me wrong, that’s most definitely correct, yet this is something every freshman knows going into Marketing 101. While good knowledge to have, you can see it’s not specifically directed towards the strategy of PPC advertising or honing your skill set in that medium. The Advanced Search portion, should you choose it over the Display Test, provides a bit more direction in strategy. However, it primarily focuses on when to increase budget and how to improve relevance. It flirts with valuable information to optimize your account, but does a better job of providing definitions.

The AdWords Exam Is Self-Serving

I really like when people are confident talking about themselves. It shows they believe in the value they offer, and there’s usually a long list of proven examples that have cultivated that confidence.

That being said, I could do without being tested on it. Anyone making it to the point of taking the Google AdWords exam should already know the benefit it can provide to their business. Being reminded why using AdWords is such a great decision 30 questions into the test just seems a bit too self-flattering.

google exam

The Google AdWords Exam Doesn’t Cover Potential Hazards

On my first motorcycle ride I made the critical mistake of running out of gas. This was partially due to the fact that my tank didn’t have a fuel gauge, an instrument that provides a very important metric. While the issue was fixable, it took valuable time and some unnecessary expense.

Learning curves exist in PPC as well, and, unfortunately for some, they can be costly. Working across hundreds of clients, I’ve personally seen the same common mistakes repeated across many accounts. Most come in the form of the application, or lack of, keyword match types and unfavorable campaign settings or targeting. While each client knows the definition of most of these terms, they don’t understand the correct application of each. Therein lies the problem.

Take Automatic Bidding for example. The question below makes Automatic Bidding sound like the obvious ideal choice for those looking to run their account with little management. Yet, it doesn’t highlight how you’ll lose the opportunity to adjust your bids for position, impression share, or for your target CPA. These distinctions are lost in such a pretty question, and might lead in an unfavorable direction depending on your goals.

adwords exam questions

You Can Cheat

Have you ever been required to complete a “take home” test in high school? Depending on the course, I bet you breathed the same sigh of relief I used to. The reason the pressure would melt away is because with the use of your book or online resources you were guaranteed to ace the test. Now, even though that might have been the case, how confident do you feel about that content today? For most, I wouldn’t be surprised if that information left their memory shortly after copying down the answer.

In the same vein, the Google AdWords exam is quite literally a “take home” test. Even as recent as last year, you weren’t able to open any additional tabs in your browser during the test. That’s not the case anymore, as you can search the Google Support pages for the correct answer to your heart’s content (as long as that’s within 120 minutes). Good news is you can easily achieve a passing grade; bad news is so can any self-proclaimed expert.

Keep in mind, if you choose to take the Display Test over the Advanced Search portion, you only need a 70% to “pass” and be officially certified. When was the last time you happily handed over your marketing operation to someone who was certifiably average? I suppose it was around the last time you loaned your car to Dean Winters.

Now tell me: Am I wrong? Do you use AdWords certification as the core qualification of who you solicit PPC advice from? Or do you have a nightmare example of less than satisfactory results with a certified manager? Would love to hear the stories in the comments!

AdWords Performance Grader




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Comments

Tuesday April 01, 2014

Melissa Mackey (not verified) Said:

You're not wrong. Not only is the Certification test flawed for the reasons you state, it's a poorly designed test. There are several questions for which there could be more than one correct answer, and yet it only allows one answer. There are other questions that are so poorly worded that they don't seem to match the answers at all. Finally, it's biased toward Google. Standardized test developers spend countless hours trying (and sometimes still failing) to remove bias from their tests; Google appears to relish including bias in theirs.

For those of us who do this for a living, the test is an inside joke. Unfortunately, for many prospective clients, it's still important.

Tuesday April 01, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Thanks, Melissa.  I obviously couldn't agree more. Those multiple correct answers are my greatest annoyance as well.  Actually, when I was going through the test to take the screenshots above, I caught several questions that had purposely misleading answers.  While it keeps people on their toes, I don't find it to be a constructive process. Clients will still value the certification, as it's the easiest standard of qualification to grasp, yet I wanted to highlight how the wool can be pulled over the eyes of some, unfortunately.

Wednesday April 30, 2014

Terry Whalen (not verified) Said:

Absolutely agreed!

Tuesday July 15, 2014

Nizaar (not verified) Said:

Your statement is not true! Each question has one answer I suggest you read the study material which google provides and take a few practice exams before attempting to take on the real exams. I have 12 years experience in this field and I truly believe that every Adwords advertiser should read and watch the material and video provided by Google partner program. It will differently improve your experience!

Tuesday April 01, 2014

Vicki Ayala (not verified) Said:

I'd love if this was an April Fool's article because Ha Ha, you got me, let's move on. But you sound serious. And I agree to a degree - with some of your points. You are right, this test is not going to MAKE anyone Google-smart, but it is a test that weeds out those that don't know enough to be in a position to benefit someone else with their services.

I passed all three in the last few weeks; however, one I did take twice. And none of them were gimmies. You say anyone can pass because it's like a take-home test but when you're given 120 minutes and 99 questions, there's not a lot of wiggle room. Not to mention that you can no longer save the harder questions for later; you must provide a final answer each and every question to move on. You gave typical examples of questions that are reasonably easy to get right. But there were some questions re formulas and scenarios that if I got right, I guessed correctly.

Lastly, my boss does require me to take the test. He puts the logo on his website and his internet marketing reports and feels it’s important to show a level of expertise to clients. Also, my husband makes me my favorite dessert and I get spoiled for being so “smart.” So shhhhhh, before you ruin it for some of us.

Tuesday April 01, 2014

Elisa Gabbert Said:

Ha! It's not an April Fool's joke -- I scheduled this post for today without thinking about the coincidence.

That said, our whole managed services team is AdWords certified -- we realize clients care about it!

Tuesday April 01, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Haha, I promise I'm not fooling you, Vicki!  I know it seems my stance is a bit aggressive in this post, but the topic has been in the back of my mind for awhile. I'm not one to ruin dessert for anyone, so I promise I'll keep my feelings to this chain!  

The point I wanted to make with this post isn't that the test doesn't offer ANY value, but that it doesn't offer the specific value that many suggest it does.  For instance, I've serviced over 200 clients, and it's a common narrative that they previously worked with an agency or consultant that resulted in far less than favorable results.  Those consultants were all Google Certified.  I feel for those clients, because I would hate to have been mislead in the same way after putting my trust and business in the hands of another party.  This is essentially my soapbox to those businesses, and my two cents for anyone going into the field, to recommend looking beyond that certificate and searching deeper in the context of the industries, clients, and results in which those agencies/consultants have experience. Too often I hear groups use Google Certification as a smoke screen in the lack of that experience, and I find that terrifying. I'm a Google Certified consultant myself, as is required of our whole team, yet that would be one of the last items I would highlight in my qualifications to manage your account.

Friday July 11, 2014

Norton Loomer (not verified) Said:

I assume your stance is aggressive because a wishy-washy stance would not get many comments!

That being said, 99% of people in the world would fail the Adwords exams. That leaves us with only 70,000,000 certfied Adwords people.

Thursday April 10, 2014

Douglas Thomas (not verified) Said:

I think many have hit it on the head with the certification being a minimum standard, though I agree that some agencies tout it as more. I personally experienced this when training an entire set of client relations people on the test -- like many standardized tests, you end up teaching the test and not the knowledge, giving away answers, and overall truly compromising the integrity of the test. I then let all my certs lapse because "it really didn't affect my day-to-day." Re-certifying didn't change that opinion.

I personally feel that the tests are verification to SMB marketers who don't live and breathe this stuff that they understand the systems they're new to playing with, especially when you consider the more self-serving informational questions or unrealistic situational questions. I feel that a similar boot camp would greatly benefit Facebook's advertising system and avoid some of the constant stream of complaints about low performance.

However, there is no way to test for "Expert" status -- the only way is to have demonstrated ability, and many already use this in concert with their certifications. "I doubled ROI on an inherited campaign in under two months;" "I increased ad visibility by 50% without increasing ad spend." It's like a resume - having a job doesn't mean you were particularly competent at it, or the right fit for a new job.

Finally, it would behoove the industry if we stopped assuming it's "better for Google" that inefficiencies exist due to mismanagement in the auction. They have noted economists who work on their stuff - I can't think of one economist who would be in favor of long-term inefficiency as a profit-generator for a robust company -- that's (one of a bunch of reasons) why they use a 2nd-price auction.

Tuesday April 08, 2014

Jordan McClements (not verified) Said:

I mostly agree with the article and msot of the comments too, especially the bit where Google ought to take it mroe seriously.

Google, how about an 'Expert' certification where (at the very least) you have a much harder (more objective) supervised test, and have to manage a much bigger spend effectively?

I guess this will never happen unless it makes Google loads of extra money i.e. unlikely.

Maybe an independent professional body is needed to set up proper, professional PPC certification (unlikely as far as I know)...

 

Sunday August 31, 2014

J Axup (not verified) Said:

A BA degree, for example, isn't any indication of job performance, but I would assume that agency staff that work on my account should all have one.

Holding an AdWord certifiation is a hygene factor - something agency staff should have, but doesn't impact much on decision to hire. As marketing is a largely unregulated profession, its nice to see some certification of skills.

Thanks for taking time to share your experience. And looks like you are doing well at your SEO!

Thursday April 10, 2014

Pedro Pereira (not verified) Said:

I totally disagree that the Google Adwords certification is a joke.

My first contact with digital marketing was exactly with Adwords and the certification. I had to study for the exam and it was very usefull to understand how things work in the Google Adwords.

Actually after the Google Adwords certification I went to Analytics and Bing Ads certifications since I believe whenever your reading, researching, you always learn something new even if it is a small detail that can improve you PPC managment for your clients.

So basicly this article doesnt make any sense for me. Everyone and I mean everyone that works with Adwords should make the test.

Does doesnt mean that I think the certification is perfect. There´s always ways to improve and I think Google should put more effort to make the exam more complete.

 

My regards,

 

Pedro Menezes Pereira

 

Tuesday August 12, 2014

Lorenzo (not verified) Said:

Intersting article. It reminds of  a similar post pertaining HootSuite's courses and certifications. The author even called it, "The Clown Collge of Social Media" due to its very easy courses. Anyway, you have valid points. Especially the cheating part. I would be lying if I told you I didn't have print outs of study guides while I was taking it.

I do think it still matters to a certain degree. Though it only teaches the fundamentals of AdWords and basics of its interface at its best, having that stamp doesn't hurt.

One particular benefits of having the certification is that it makes your resume stand out than those who don't have it. I'm pertaining to job positions that involve SEM/PPC.

Let's say you, who is extremely knowledgable of SEM/PPC but is not certified and another one that knows less but is "certified" both apply for the same paid search position. Regardless whether the latter gets the job or not or whether he/she really is skilled in the field, I think he/she has a better chance of getting a call back from the employer don't you think?



 

Friday July 18, 2014

Alex Sortwell (not verified) Said:

Hi Caleb,

I should start by stating that I am not an expert in SEM or PPC marketing in anyway shape or form. I am trynig to learn more about it help optimize our company's results from marketing on web based searches. My boss suggested that I look into becoming AdWord certified to get a better grasp on it. Juding from your article and the comments below it, being AdWord certified is similar to receiving the green "participation ribbon" for coming in 7th place at the swim meet. I understand that the certification does not make an someone an expert but would you reccomend it for someone who is trying to learn/ get a grasp on SEM/PPC marketing? If not are there any other certifications/programs you would reccomend?

Thank you,

Alex

 

Thursday July 17, 2014

John Pukan (not verified) Said:

@Caleb,
 
What exactly is your experience managing enterprise Google Adwords campaigns in your 3.5 years since you left college? Your Linkedin is thinner than a default Wordpress "Hello Word" post. You appear to have absolutely zero experience with Adwords, but then again maybe you were too busy switching mail providers to Mailchimp saving "hundreds" annually and creating Google alerts for 400 people. (I can't believe you actually put that in a LI summary of skills) I have bling from Pubcon and SMX twice as old as you've been out of college. You need to successfully manage a large account for a few years then comeback when you have some cred. The fact you cannot see the value in a Google Adwords cert speaks volumes on your inexperience. Let's see if you'll allow this post to remain and/or reply.

Thursday July 10, 2014

Dave (not verified) Said:

There are many people who claim to understand what it is meant by Adwords. Having this kind of certification gives us a better position to explain to them, otherwise they keep to their claim. Bringing your business to a next level is a different matter. Not all 4-year college students (with a degree) can become a CEO or the like. An experienced marketer would say Adwords certification is a joke, but would you be able to say that 10 years ago when you had less experience than you do today? Success is a result of trials and experience.

Tuesday July 08, 2014

Steffen (not verified) Said:

If the Adwords certification is over-rated and easy then which other, in your opinion, would be an industry recognizable, credible alternative?

Thursday May 22, 2014

Jesse (not verified) Said:

I appreciate your take and believe your experience in this manner but as a copywriter who had limited experience yet still seems to be commonly called on to do adwords for many of the companies that hire me, I need more than adwords certification is wrong. What's the right way to gain the necessary skills to understand the nuances well enough to improve by more than just natural intelligence and perseverance. I believe I could be doing this portion of my job in a fraction of the time but can't figure out what route is best suited to serve my growth when all the avenues are so good at pointing out the problems without subsequent solutions or selling their services with price tags I don't want to pay unless I can be more confident that I will get the actual results I'm looking for.

Thursday April 10, 2014

David ODonnell (not verified) Said:

My favorite questions in the Adwords exams are about Google Website Optimizer (yes, still!)

RIP

Thursday April 10, 2014

Markus Trauernicht (not verified) Said:

I think the snake oil factor is not the big. 

Actually this system allows Google to check up on the quality of agencies work. Instead of just one yearly qualification and 
then setting everything on "broad match" and leaving all but burnt grass behind...

Not without reason old logos lost validity?!?

  • Are managed placements used instead of automatic placements (no snake oil here)?
  • Are you working on in improving quality factors (need some quality work)?
  • Also using "exact match" or just broad match? This makes sure the work around good keywords is improved.

The exams improved. Basically you must have worked on some account to be able to pass. This was different before. Yes, 
some questions are very irritating in the exam when they want to know which info is on which tab.
Not everybody brings the necessary integrity along in order to work conscientously. 

It also helps to force those bad agencies to deliver good work who get get paid by lead. No more just getting 10 clients and
promising a free month and then striking a better deal with those 1 or 2 accounts that bring in leads easily. 
While the other 8 accounts get hardly any work and splatter along until the owner is fed up. It all actually protects 
the clients interests
and jobs in those companies. 

I did the exams before but never bothered about the partner stuff. Only now where the is a daily quality check 
by Google makes the logo worth more than before. It's not just fire and forget. And it's not that difficult to meet the requirements for the logo. 

And it is so much easier for an agency to calculate a set up fee as one just knows what Google demands and
how much time it will take more or less to set that up. That also protects (new) agencies from working for free and hope the client stays
after the first 30 days. (You're not the clients bank giving the credit in form of your work).
The logo already shows a prospective client that basic quality standards are met. And those are definitely 
far higher than about any account you'll ever take over.

One account of mine 4 agencies worked on before me.
Within a short time I could prove which "supposedly strong" keywords were bringing in hardly any conversions. 
And could prove how a 5 figure sum was just blown over time on these poor keywords. 

If you pass the Google exam, even as a beginner this is the basic stuff that you will be able to do. Helping to secure your customers
business. Yes the exam is only the paper, there is more to learn. But that is the same in about any area of your life where
some paper / certification is available. Yes, I hate exams, I hate rules that just build someones kingdom inside a company. 
But good rules I like: For example traffic lights. They protect. 

  • Right now the snake oil is rather there where the logo is used but not linked to the individual Google page.

Markus Trauernicht 

 

 

 

Thursday April 10, 2014

Jarad (not verified) Said:

One question might as well be:

Which is the most superior advertising platform on the planet now and for eternity?

  1. Bing Ads
  2. Facebook Ads
  3. Google AdWords
  4. Twitter Ads

Thursday April 10, 2014

Erin Borron (not verified) Said:

Having recently passed the adwords certification, I was shocked at how little it prepared me for anything. I took the advanced display and was again shocked -- the test is woefully out of date, refers to functionality Google disabled months ago, and is grammatically horrific.

I'm in the process of overhauling our company's MCC in order to achieve partner status, though, and that I'm finding to be much more challenging. 

I think my major issue with Google Adwords in general is that they can take a very one-size-fits-all approach to optimization. For instance: CPA bidding is constantly pushed on you even when it won't work well with your actual campaign goals. Remarketing as a goal even when there's no good way to exclude people who converted outside the realm of your adwords campaign. And when going to Google for help or advice, you get canned help.

Thursday April 10, 2014

Chris Hubbard (not verified) Said:

I have been taking the exams every time tGoogle Changes the name of the program or every time a certifcation expires. I have never failed an exam although some questions are so poorly worded that a wild guess at what they are getting at is the best you can do.  

I have yet to see anything in the Google Adwords, Partners, Engage, etc. programs that made me say "wow, this is good stuff". The most valuable lessons come from doing, and reading, and interacting with others in the community.

Tuesday April 08, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi Jordan, 

Your point about the money aspect is what I consider the purpose for the lack of priority of teaching tactics to manage spend more effectively. A bit of a moral dilemma, as Google doesn't have much of an incentive to make us wiser. Actually the circumstance is more of the opposite. 

Best, 
Caleb

Thursday April 10, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi Jarad, 

I'm not sure that's a singular question, nor do I believe there is a singular answer. While I wouldn't give either credit for eternity, I also think the "superiority" of one platform over another is dependent on your business.  For that reason alone, I'm confident you'll get many different opinions for that question.


Best,
Caleb

 

Thursday April 10, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi Pedro, 

Thanks for the comment! I commend you as you are far more noble than some of your "peers" in the industry. You put in the time to study, understand the concepts, and earned your grade. However, what if someone less honest decided not to study the material and cheat, which they can now easily accomplish? Searching Google's Support Pages is a simple task. Those cheaters would hold the same certification as you, without retaining the knowledge you studied. For that fact alone, I believe that highlights why the test doesn't matter in the context of selecting a qualified PPC strategist. However, if we took it a step further, after some time actually executing search strategy, you can clearly see all of the finer points that aren't communicated in the test. I include a few examples of these in the article, and I'd love to hear specifically which ones you might disagree with in your experience!

Thanks again, 
Caleb

Thursday April 10, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi Erin, 

I really like your assessment. It's all "canned". Granted I'm not expecting Google to cater to every advertiser, but I would expect some tactics and explanation of the application of certain features so that advertisers were enabled to knowledgeably execute them in their own account.  We don't find that. To your point, Google Representatives are searching the Support Pages themselves and feeding back the same definitions. It's a vicious circle. I agree with you again, the Partners program is far more admirable.

Best, 
Caleb



 

Thursday April 10, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi Markus, 

Thanks for the thoughts! To be honest, I wasn't able to follow some of the ideas here, but I'll pull out what I can. First, the assumption that you'd at least have to manage one account previoiusly in order to pass, isn't accurate. Actually everyone at WordStream has to do the opposite and study to pass the test before they work on any accounts. I think that might actually be one of the primary intentions of the test. Also, I DON'T think it protects the client's interests in the way we would like. In a perfect world it would and make participants strong in search strategy and tactics. My point here is that it doesn't, for the reasons highlighted above, and for those reasons can be misleading for clients who put their faith in it as such.


Best, 
Caleb

Thursday April 10, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi Chris, 

Thanks for this feedback! I think you nailed it. This is the conclusion many of us arrive at after some time in search. The best comes from those experiences with others, and through your personal testing and errors. Which is why it tends to be a bit unnerving to hear that some believe they know it all after simply making the grade.

Best, 
Caleb

Thursday July 17, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi Dave, 

Your last sentence seems to say it all.  Sadly, this certification is often presented in substitute for such experiences.

Best, 
Caleb

Thursday July 17, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi @John, 

Thanks for your note! I must admit, I do neglect my Linkedin profile as it isn't a very critical medium in my life, so sadly there are a few experiences of mine omitted from that social network.  You'll also find my Twitter account is a bit anemic as well, as I've been enjoying late experiences a bit more unplugged.  You probably have already found a slight few of those in my actual Wordpress posts in your thorough research. I would agree with you, perhaps I do need to update my media, and thank you for proofing!

As for AdWords experience, I've been fortunate enough to work on hundreds of accounts and learn directly from the thought leaders here at WordStream.  I wouldn't brag about my conference "bling", but I thank you for the analogy as it perfectly proves this point. You default to pointing to your swag from a conference as a measure for Search experience. By the same logic, everyone with a paper crown is newly ordained royalty after a visit to Burger King. 

In the same way, many people hide behind certification to mask the lack of their real experience.  Ask yourself this question: Do all the certified search professionals you know have the same measure of talent in this channel? I would assume not. Therefore the certification itself has no real bearing in determining the skill of a professional, which is why it doesn't matter. 

All the best, 
Caleb

 

Monday July 21, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi Alex, 

I would agree. As far as another industry specific certification, I'm not aware of one.  The question would be what channel would provide the best learning experience.  As it stands, I don't believe Google's Certification provides that knowledge.  It's merely highlighting the basic functions of each setting and not their proper APPLICATION.  That I think, is the most confused aspect.  Imagine reading the safety manual for a car you purchased, and then going to try to race F1.  While you know how to step on the gas pedal, you aren't a skilled user of the vehicle. When trying to learn the ropes, I would point you to the third party advice of those experienced thought leaders in the field.  Hanapin Marketing (PPC Hero), Search Engine Land, and of course the WordStream Blog are great unbiased resources for your advancement in the field. These blogs touch on all of the real pain points felt by advertisers of all sizes, and will help you read the metrics that matter to your business most.

Best, 
Caleb

Thursday August 14, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi Lorenzo, 

You're right, I'm sure the candidate with the certification would be more likely to win the opportunity.  Yet, the question I'm arguing here is who would be more equipped to fabricate and grow an account? For that end, I personally preferred the individual who has been in the trenches in Search, regardless of certfication.  Thanks for the thoughts!

Best, 
Caleb

Wednesday April 02, 2014

mahesh (not verified) Said:

I agree with you, depends your  deep knowledge for your all process In each and every field. I also prefer to knowledge rather than  other documentations.

Wednesday April 02, 2014

Jerry Nordstrom (not verified) Said:

Caleb thanks for having the courage to go public with your thoughts on AW Certification.
I'm confident that anyone who has used AW daily for more than a few years is in agreement with you.
66 I knew you would be on board! 

Using Adwords certification as a basis for PPC success would be like being certified in Microsoft Word
and then claiming your a great Writer. Seperate tools from talent. For companies looking to hire a competent PPC agency or individual I suggest this:
Sit down with them personally and have a discovery meeting on your business goals and objectives.
If the person is able to grasp your  business model and even offer impromptu creative ideas and comfortably describe
how to translate what they have learned into a PPC strategy,  then you have found your partner.

My kids did a little recycling over the weekend for a charity.
At the recycling center the experienced can handler with gruff fingers and
bottomless beard was wearing a Harvard sweater.
 

 

 

 

Wednesday April 02, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi Jerry, 

As a resident of Boston a stone's throw away from Harvard Square, I love the crimson sweater analogy. Though I lack the academic research to resource, I'm confident at least 70% of the individuals I see in Harvard sweaters aren't officially affiliated with the school. It's a misleading representation of themselves. Your point of aligning specific metric based goals and the tactics to achieve them is spot on. Though it seems like a clear first step, I know some businesses and advertisers still struggle with it.  Look beyond the sweatshirt and consider the experience of the person who's wearing it.

Best, 
Caleb

Wednesday April 02, 2014

Melissa Mackey (not verified) Said:

Here in Michigan it's University of Michigan sweatshirts on obvious non-grads. We Spartans call them Walmart Wolverines. :)

Either way, it's a good analogy. Passing a test does not mean you can execute the work. As Jerry said, "Separate tools from tactics." Great quote, my friend!

Wednesday April 02, 2014

Suzanne Little (not verified) Said:

Your headline is designed to drive clicks to your article, I get it. But it is overly simplified and misleading. The first exam you are mostly referring to is an intro level test. Doing that test doesnt get you certified. A person must additionally take one or more of the advanced exams in order to be certified.  You dont really state that clearly.  The advanced tests are not for the casual practitioner.

I agree the  tests are very flawed - that needs to be fixed for sure. I think the thing I disagree with about  the article is that you might convince the unaware small business owner that they can just do this themselves and sadly I have seen a lot of wasted ad dollars spent by small businesses trying to do this on their own and getting no return and never using adwords again... until a trained and skilled Certified Adwords Partner helps them get better results.

:)

 

 

Thursday April 03, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi Suzanne!

This is a great comment. I'm actually surprised the point hasn't been raised earlier.  However, I do stand by the title of the article, because that's exactly what I think of the certification process; it doesn't matter.  The reason I believe this is exactly for the point you've made above: with the help of a skilled AdWords partner they can produce better results.  You'll see I omitted the "certified" out of that statement. That's because certification doesn't prove that they're "skilled".  This is the important distinction.  I've met plenty of people who are certified, yet don't know how to correctly apply that knowledge to manage an account.

I'm actually trying to make the opposite point of your comment, which I think it well highlighted in early comments. I wrote this to try to benefit those small businesses in their search of a qualified and skilled AdWords professional.  This is going the opposite direction of suggesting businesses navigate this space on their own, and rather implying that they choose someone with qualifications more substantial that just certification. 

You're correct that the questions were all from the first fundamentals test, yet I do mention the relevance of the Advanced and Display tests several times.  However, the Advance still has the same flaws of appearing to cover strategy, but really only covering things that are self serving. For instance, it mainly highlights increasing budget or bids.  That's great revenue for Google, but there are plenty of optimizations omitted that can help improve your cost per conversion.  Also, I highlight that you only need a 70% to "pass" the display exam and obtain your certfication. That's absurdly ridiculous. 

That's why I feel the title envokes my purest feelings on the topic, the certification process doesn't matter in validation of one's "skilled" ability in AdWords.

Best,

Caleb

Thursday April 03, 2014

Dean (not verified) Said:

"Snake oil"

I find the biggest problem with Adwords agencies is the amount of "Snake oil" salesmen that inhabit this environment.  They promise miracles and wealth.  Unfortunately many clients don’t know how to differentiate between someone that would give their business a genuine advantage and a charlatan

“The wheat from the chaff”

So how does one separate the wheat from the chaff? I agree that the Adwords Exam isn’t a silver bullet.  It cannot be the single most important factor in determining someone’s ability.  But it is a valid metric, a “signal”, an attainment that should be weighted in conjunction with other metrics, such as client testimonials, etc.

I worked Hard

Many of us who have sat the exam, have had to do some work.  The exam covers areas that I don’t always use.  It’s good to be challenged and I won’t allow your comments to devalue the sense of pride I feel for having the requisite skills to pass these exams.  I agree it’s not the answer to proving ones worth but neither is it nothing.

 Improvements

What I would say is that the exam does need improvements.  I’d like to see it being taken more seriously by Google.  The exam should be sat in test centres like the other IT certifications.  The questions could be better written and keep up-to-date a little more proactively.  

Thursday April 03, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi Dean, 

Wow, I find myself nodding my head in aggreement with each point. Snake oil is a great term and its presence is found in every industry.  This is my ode to the average advertiser who might otherwise put their trust in an "agency" or consultant due to the the little graphic on their site that says they're certified.  This topic walks the fence a bit.  I fully acknowledge that if you're working in this medium, you should be certified.  It's just a standard benchmark.  However, I'm trying to highlight what that certification doesn't represent.  It doesn't represent experience.  I can't say that enough.  Experience provides context and insight into the application of each setting and tool. It's obvious it's crucial, yet I'm highlighting that certification shouldn't be mistaken for such experience.

You're a noble person.  You studied and learned a great deal to earn a passing grade. I wish everyone else was as honest.  People selling snake oil certainly aren't. The ability to cheat is quite prevelant, so I don't judge PPC skill on percentile of their grade.

"I'd like to see it taken more seriously by Google."  You hit the nail on the head.  You're absolutely right.  Instead of training us to produce the most spend, it would be great to be seriously tested on ability.

Sincerely appreciate the comment.

Best, 
Caleb

Thursday April 03, 2014

Rachel Probert (not verified) Said:

Whilst I don't disagree with everything you are saying, I'm not quite sure that it all adds up to be that the certificate doesn't matter.  The certificate does matter, absolutely.... but it is flawed.
 
A driving license proves that an official has sat next to you and is sufficiently happy to let you loose on the roads...we all know that you actually learn to drive once you've passed your test, but without your licence you cant even get out there.
 
Its the same with the AdWords Cert.  Employers ask for it so that they know their staff are competent to a point, then they have to prove themselves with an account.
 
People wanting to hire PPC managers should be absolutely looking for proof in the form of 'pudding', as in a history of successfully managed accounts... and the certificate is a bench-mark.
 
Some people may recognise my name as being from iPassExam, but we've helped over 25,000 people pass their Adwords Exams, and I cant begin to tell you how many of those people have written to tell me/us how important passing the exam is to their clients and or Boss. A lot of peoples jobs depend on it.
 
The problem with PPC management, as you will all know is that everyone and their dog knows 'how to' run an adwords campaign.  I know charlatans passing themselves off as managers who clearly don't have a clue and don't have the cert.  I think the cert proves that at least your serious about your profession.  If you cant be bothered to study for an exam, or are unable to pass the exam, then you really shouldn't be calling yourself a PPC expert....but yes, we all know that the real work is done in the account and not in the exam.
 
In fairness to Google, they don't base Partners on just passing the exam, they also require that accounts be managed with a clear demonstration of best practices and high-quality results.... so the cert is only one aspect...at least for partners anyway.  I know that its not the same for individuals.
 
To be fair, the same can be said for most exams.  Medical Dr go through years of training with actual patients....PLUS they have to sit their exams.  I wouldn't want to visit a Dr who hadn't passed their exams, likewise I wouldnt want to put myself in the hands of a Dr who had never seen a patient.

Thursday April 03, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi Rachel, 

One of my favorite childhood stories was when my grandmother offered to take me, my brother, and sister for ice cream at Dip Top in Orange, CT. I'll have to save my favorable feelings for Dip Top for another post, but highly recommend a visit.  I joined her in her 1987 Honda Accord and we went to pick up my brother and sister from a few houses down the street.  After they got in the car my grandmother started backing out of the driveway.... and she continued backing up.  The car finally stopped when we were halfway up the neighbor's lawn. Shifting into drive she went over another neighbor's yard before joining the main road.  A few blocks down she decided to get a Kleenex as we entered a four way intersection, and we veered into the path of an oncoming suv.  Where am I going with this beyond sharing my most adventurous ice cream run? She was a fully licensed operator with decades of opportunity for learning, yet her ability to drive wasn't on par with other individuals.

I love your comment about Employers knowing their staff are competent. I completely agree. However, how does certification prove this? The easiest thing to point at is the fact you can easily cheat. If an employer looks at the grade alone, it would be easy to mislead them.  Yet lets dive a bit deeper and assume everyone adhere's to the honor system.  What did the tests teach us? A lot of definitions and how to navigate an account, but did it teach you the proper application of each setting and tool?  Based on my experience, the answer is no.

I actually love iPassExam, and need to thank you for your help in achieving my own grade, and you're absolutely right, my job depended on it.  However, through the hundreds of accounts I've worked on since then, I've recognized that the exam didn't provide me with the knowledge to be successful and tactful in PPC.  That's the important distinction.  The exam has value in the industry, but it doesn't matter when evaluating the true level of one's PPC skill.  I actually disagree that everyone and their dog knows how to run a campaign.  Everyone can setup and account and be billed by Google, yet managing a campaign can take a great deal of finesse based on the industry or product. I know many advertisers come into the medium thinking they are capable, and leave the channel in a short period because they don't see success.  I work with many accounts that had the same experience, and with a few changes to the same account it becomes profitable and productive.  

I agree that cerfication has its place as a minimum requirement in PPC industry, but when we talk about competency, I believe you have to look at deeper qualifications. To borrow from another comment, unfortunately the certification can be used as "snake oil" by less skilled "charlatans".

Best, 
Caleb

Thursday April 03, 2014

Helen Brown (not verified) Said:

It’s a very interesting post and perspective, however don't agree that AdWords certification doesn't matter.

I think an exam does set a minimum standard. However, this standard shouldn't be taken as a declaration of expert skill. I think the exam shows the individual has taken the time to learn the basics and has a general understanding of how to set up a campaign. I’m very used to taking the exams and I don’t think that they are easy to pass unless you have put in the time and effort to prepare before clicking start.

I've heard the opinion from quite a few very experienced account managers (who are also AdWords qualified individuals) that even they have found some questions in the advanced exams tricky, and came close to scraping a pass.

The exam cannot teach you how to be a skilled account manager, that’s a skill that is developed and refined over time. I don't think that Google have ever proclaimed that the exam does this though, and this is where I feel that the Partners program comes into play. At least with Partners, Google have tried to enforce that a minimum quality threshold is being met (let’s not get into the spend requirements, that’s a whole other hot subject!) I know this has left individuals feeling ‘out in the cold’, but I can see the reasoning behind it too.

Ultimately, it comes down to whether the person who passes the exam has a clear perspective on what it means. I like to think that a person who takes the time to study and pass will also take the time to grow and develop in the field. If someone is going to try to cheat the system by Googling answers they will not be successful, because there are 90 questions and two hours. There’s going to be the odd candidate who might think it’s a good strategy, but anyone who knows the certification center will know that the answers to the questions are not easy to find and the clock is ticking. 

Thursday April 03, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi Helen, 

Your first two sentences in your second paragraph say it all. The exam is a minimum standard, and shouldn't be taken as a declaration of expertise. Spot on. Unfortunately, I've seen it used countless times as just that, which is why I write this post. I'm riding a fine line here. As pointed out in other comments, it does matter for employers and such. However, I find that a bit arbitrary in the context of this topic, so I focused on the priority of actual knowledge and skill.

I use the example of a driver's license because it's pretty parallel. I've been nearly run off the highway several times by drivers who had licenses. While they passed the minimum requirement, it doesn't mean that I'd get in the car with them or consider let them borrowing my own.

Best, 
Caleb

Thursday April 03, 2014

George Bounacos (not verified) Said:

Good linkbait. I love it.

I think that Elisa is correct about clients wanting to see the Google Partner program. I remember folks years ago complaining when the spend level to qualify was taken down from (I think) $30K per quarter to its present $9K level. It's important to differentiate between the older programs and the current program and the Google Partner designation. There is a set of tests for both AdWords and Analytics (and Bing, and there used to be one for Yahoo).

Those tests are the certification exams. You have to pass a certain number and then hit several other targets. For Google partners, that's the spend level and then a best practices algorithm that measures things like account quality score, participation in remarketing and other programs, sitelinks and extensions, etc. Does that mean that an agency with a certification is the best PPC marketer around? No, but it means they keep a sustained client base and hit Google standards on other issues.

My business partner has been building websites for 15 years. My agency is 6 years old. We have plenty of testimonials to hand people, but it always boils down to what Elisa said about clients. If you know something looks good for a client, why wouldn't you do it? And take it a step further, why wouldn't you do so in a completely unregulated industry? Sure, SEMPO would love to offer that certification. So would several other entities.

But at the end of the day, we're still talking SEO clients out of ranking reports. I wonder if your message is more B2B oriented and has an audience on a non-marketing site? I don't think any regular reader here disagrees with you. I just think many of us will take the tests and never worry about what peers might think since it's such a client draw. Best, George, the guy who has yet to study for one, but is dithering on the Analytics exams. :)

Friday April 04, 2014

Caleb Hutchings Said:

Hi George, 

Thanks for your thoughts! You're right this is a bit more catered to B2B. Most in the industry are aware of the limits of the certification practice, yet I still encounter many businesses, mostly SMB's, that have faithfully put their accounts in hands of those that weren't admirably skilled. The certification will remain a client facing badge of approval, my concern is in this post is when it becomes a siren's song. Judging by your comments above, I doubt your accounts are on the rocks.

Best, 
Caleb

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