Why Google AdWords Certification Doesn't Matter


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 certification test is a minimum indicator of competency designed simply to show that the recipient should likely know how to navigate the AdWords interface.

Trying to get AdWords Certified? We've got all you need to know in our free guide, PPC 101: A Beginner's Guide to PPC

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!

Related: 6 Ways to Learn AdWords Without Getting Certified

Find out how you're REALLY doing in AdWords!

Watch the video below on our Free AdWords Grader:

Visit the AdWords Grader.


Melissa Mackey
Apr 01, 2014

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.

Caleb Hutchings
Apr 01, 2014

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.

Terry Whalen
Apr 30, 2014

Absolutely agreed!

Jul 15, 2014

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!

Aug 14, 2015

Actually, Google themselves state that sometimes, there is more than 1 correct answer, but you should choose the 'most' correct answer and to imagine giving the answer a Google employee is most likely to choose.

I've done the exam and I am certified, and I object to it for the same reasons that many have outlined; there are some questions where there are multiple options that would be right and having to choose one that is the 'most' right is absurd.

Jan 03, 2016

I agree mostly with this thread but have to respectfully disagree with this comment. Almost every standardized test of any importance (not to imply this is one of those) has questions with more than one correct answer but one that is more correct than the other. The SAT does it, the LSAT does it, etc.

Kirk A. Lee
Jul 05, 2016

I agree with everything you stated Melissa

Vicki Ayala
Apr 01, 2014

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.

Elisa Gabbert
Apr 01, 2014

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!

Caleb Hutchings
Apr 01, 2014

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.

Norton Loomer
Jul 11, 2014

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.

Apr 15, 2015

Caleb, I also agree that the AdWords Cert testing has holes in it but I can't help but point out that you too have taken at least the fundamentals test and have required your team to be certified too. So, I find that to be a bit of an oxymoron. I agree that experience with using advertising tools or digital advertising in general is more important then just being certified; however, you appear to agree that being certified is important. The reality is that going thru the certification process requires a person to become more than just familiar with AdWords tools. It is a starting point and gives a person the ability to communicate and be resource when using AdWords. It is also important to point out that the Partners program is an excellent free source of information. If you are serious about digital advertising you are destined to become involved with AdWords, either taking the test or reading all the help docs they provide.

Jul 08, 2014

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

Glenn Quagmire
Nov 12, 2014

If you work in an agency environment, it is essential that at least one employee is AdWords certified.If not, the agency cannot be a Google Certified Partner.I passed both the Advanced Search and Display exams. Additionally, I passed the Analytics exam and the Bing Ads Accredited Exam.Anyone else pass all four?

Jordan McClements
Apr 08, 2014

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)... 

Erin Borron
Apr 10, 2014

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.

Pedro Pereira
Apr 10, 2014

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 

Markus Trauernicht
Apr 10, 2014

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 andpromising 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 andhow 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 staysafter 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 customersbusiness. Yes the exam is only the paper, there is more to learn. But that is the same in about any area of your life wheresome 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    

Apr 10, 2014

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

Chris Hubbard
Apr 10, 2014

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.

Douglas Thomas
Apr 10, 2014

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.

David ODonnell
Apr 10, 2014

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

May 22, 2014

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.

Oct 25, 2014

Google Adwords Certification is best certificate and learn how to use the adwords tool to market any websties 

Jul 11, 2014

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.

John Pukan
Jul 17, 2014

@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.

Alex Sortwell
Jul 18, 2014

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 

Aug 12, 2014

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? 

J Axup
Aug 31, 2014

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!

Tedd Vinson
Sep 16, 2014

I disagree--as your thesis argument is that AdWords Certification does not matter, and you are comparing it to a driver's license, you are also saying that driver's licenses don't matter.  You can't argue that "AdWords Certification Doesn't Matter" if you are supporting the argument with "Being AdWords Certified Doesn't Mean You're Good At It."I guess if AdWords Certification doesn't matter, we should let people drive on the roads without licenses as well....AdWords Certification is what it's "cracked up to be"--at test, a lot like a driver's license that makes sure people who are certified at least know enough to "drive".  You couldn't pass the advanced search or display tests without at least knowing the basics of running an account, which is what the test is for.  Not to mention an agency has to have team members who've passed AdWords Fundamentals, Advanced Search, Advanced Display--and an MCC spend of at least $10,000 to qualify for Google Partner status...the Google Partner program is nothing to disgregard or value lightly.  Google Partner status means Google trusts your agency, and people should trust you too.  

Dec 05, 2014

Look at reach local for example, they are a premier SMB partner and they have the worst list of bad reviews I have ever seen. Why would you want a badge to show that you're in the same league as a company that clearly rips people off, plain and simple.

Caleb Hutchings
Apr 08, 2014

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

Caleb Hutchings
Apr 10, 2014

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 

Caleb Hutchings
Apr 10, 2014

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

Caleb Hutchings
Apr 10, 2014

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 

Caleb Hutchings
Apr 10, 2014

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

Caleb Hutchings
Apr 10, 2014

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

Caleb Hutchings
Jul 17, 2014

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

Caleb Hutchings
Jul 17, 2014

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 

Caleb Hutchings
Jul 21, 2014

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

Caleb Hutchings
Aug 14, 2014

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

Jun 23, 2015

For you the test is not a joke, fair enough your opinion.

I learnt the system without the test and worked for many clients (small and big) and all were happy with the results. I also learnt from individuals who were not certified and certified each were just as competent.

You state, " I believe whenever your reading, researching, you always learn something new even if it is a small detail that can improve you PPC management for your clients." So why can you not just use the resource centre to gain the same knowledge you require to assist with whatever situation and not do the test?

I think just because a big company such as Google or whoever says the test is relevant or it's beneficial to take it does not actually mean it's relevant or beneficial, especially when going through the test and finding irrelevant, subjective, undistinguished, unregulated questions that seems very biased to their cause (To make more money on a flimsy test). Yes improvements can be made, however understanding, competency and critical thinking towards using the system with specific accounts stands above doing that test. (Just my opinion)

Jul 16, 2016

I agree. Holding an AdWords certification is hygiene factor.

Aug 10, 2016

i am a newbie in adwords. Please would you advice me on the best ad words tools to use. thank you

Apr 02, 2014

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.

Jerry Nordstrom
Apr 02, 2014

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 Wordand 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 describehow 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 andbottomless beard was wearing a Harvard sweater.    

Caleb Hutchings
Apr 02, 2014

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

Melissa Mackey
Apr 02, 2014

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!

Suzanne Little
Apr 02, 2014

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.:)  

Caleb Hutchings
Apr 03, 2014

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