Big AdWords Certification Changes Are Coming

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As many of you may have seen in your inboxes over the weekend, Google is changing the way that they run things when it comes to their certification program.  In the words of the email that was sent out, “Google Partners is coming to an agency near you.”

Starting September 30, 2013, the old certification program is being replaced by Google Partners.  One of our all-time most popular posts is about to be even more out of date.  What’s the deal with the changes?  Here are some of the things you’ll need to know:

The change is intended to make it “easier and more meaningful” to get your certification on.

  • It’s free!  No more $50 to pay!
  • All of the info in your Google Certification Program (which will be read-only following the transition to partners) will transfer when you join partners using the same Google account.  So make sure when you sign up you use what you’ve used in the past.
  • Your old expiration dates will be honored, so no need to get recertified in the new program.
  • As was the case with company accounts in the past, they’ll have to connect to a live MCC.

There are also some different ways that this will affect companies (who are, after all, the eponymous partners of this name change).

On September 30th, 2013, a Partners account is required to manage your company’s profile.

The grandfathering in of companies isn’t nearly as liberal as it is for individuals.  Whereas your individual expiration dates don’t change, companies need to obtain a new Google Partner badge by November 13, 2013, if they want to continue appearing on Google Partner Search.

How does a company obtain a Google Partner badge, you may be wondering.  There are five guidelines you’ll have to follow:

  1. Have an MCC that has spent at least $10,000 in 60 of the last 90 days.
  2. Have one person at your company fully certified (by passing one fundamental and one advanced exam).
  3. Maintain accounts that display Google’s best practices by “demonstrat[ing]… that you are effectively managing your clients’ campaign performance.”
  4. Take good care of your customers.  Google cites a couple of examples of things they’re looking for – “account activity, client retention and whether you’re making the most of their budgets, big or small.”
  5. Investing in what they call the Partner’s Pledge – “Be a champion for helping businesses succeed online every day.”

These steps all seem to be good behaviors to look for in advertisers.  Measuring them could get pretty, tricky, though.  Portions 1 and 2 are very straightforward and easy to track.  After that, though, things could get dicey.  We all know how subjective a lot of this stuff can be.

“Effective management” can mean so many different things and it will be interesting to see how that turns out in practice.  Anyone who has done an audit knows that some accounts can look pretty interesting, and anyone who has been audited knows that each of our accounts are delicate flowers that often look like they’re in total disarray to the uninitiated.  They can be messy, but they’re our messes.  It’s highly possible that rule three will only be enforced in cases of extreme neglect, sort of the Internet marketing version of those people with eighty cats living in the house with them.

Portion four seems to allow for some hard and fast metrics that you can be checked on.  Account activity has long been trumpeted by Larry Kim and the smart folks over at WordSteam as an indicator of account health, and Google seems to agree.  They can similarly check on how often you’re linking or unlinking (mostly unlinking it seems) new accounts and gauge your stability.  “Making the most” seems to have the highest potential for drama, as it invokes lost IS and trying to keep that as low as possible.  Again, though, there probably shouldn’t be any major changes to what we’ve experienced in the past.

If you think your company could qualify for the program, you can find more specifics here (and let’s be real, if you’re reading something as nerdy as PPC Hero you’re probably going to qualify).

These new regulations are definitely more stringent than what has been the case in the past.  For reference, here is the bar that companies used to have to clear in order to be listed in the Google directory:

  • Have managed at least a US $10,000 spend over 90 days (to be counted from the day the AdWords account is linked to the MCC). The MCC account linked to the company must have spend on 60 days out of a 90-day period and must also have been active for at least 90 days.
  • Have at least one individually qualified employee
  • Note [Google’s] terms and conditions

The first two points are unchanged, but now noting Google’s terms and conditions has gotten a lot more explicit.  There’s definitely language that will let Google decide if companies should lose their status.  It will be something to watch for sure, but as we said earlier, it probably won’t affect most people that seem to care about what’s happening in their accounts.

We’ve tried setting up a new partnership account and it appears that everything is still in the process of being created.  It seems wise to wait at least until September 30th to make the change, as our new partner accounts didn’t pass over any of our pre-existing certifications.  It’s safe to say that they will eventually (since that is what the email said that started all of this), but for now it may be disconcerting to not see anything you’re looking for.

We’re also having some problems linking individuals to our new partner accounts.  There doesn’t seem to be an option in our company account just yet.  We are also seeing the below notification on an individual’s partner account:

Setting up AdWords Partner account

It’s still unclear as to whether we’ll have to link all of our employees to the MCC moving forward or if the company account being linked to the MCC will suffice for all employees.  Since we can’t link employees to the company account just yet that’s still to be determined.  If any of you have success with that please let us know.

Be prepared.  In a week there will be a new way to become certified.  It should be a win for AdWords, as it’ll make for better partners.  And it’ll be a win for us humble Internet marketers, as it’s free.

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  • gregcooper

    We’ve had this in Canada now for a while. So if you have any questions. Let me know.

    As for your linking of MCC. You basically just link your top level MCC. How we do is that we have a company account that has access to all adwords accounts. Then each member of the team has their own MCC which gets access to the necessary accounts. It worked out because the company MCC had a significant spend that hit the Google Partners parameters.

    There is (or will be) an option where you can approve your team. You will have a My Company tab on your main account. From there you can have an option to auto approve members with the same email domain as your url.

    I’m digging it so far. And the offers are better too. No more of that crappy $100. It’s now $300 in adwords. But you spend $100 to get $300. Not too shabby.

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

      That’s excellent to hear! Thanks for sharing. It definitely seemed like there should have been an option to approve team members. We’re either missing it (and need to keep looking) or else we need to just be patient and wait for it to happen.

      • gregcooper

        Here’s a bit of a screen shot of those pages

        • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

          Thanks for sending those over! We’re still not seeing the same thing available in our accounts, but we’ll keep checking back until we do.

        • Alexander Sticht

          Hi, thanks for the blog and a good amount of irony, I had two good laughs when reading your blog: eighty cats and nerdy blog.

          The main issue seems to me to connect the Google Plus page to the Google Partners Profile (which is obviously required), that takes some effort and time, in case it is not implemented yet. Otherwise, the whole change is relatively straightforward (well: “straightforward”, because Google is never too straightforward in my eyes :-). Will be very interesting to see how the part about the account management will evolve, as you pointed out.

  • Helen Brown

    I think that you have raised some very interesting points! How Google plan to enforce the rules pertaining to retaining the Google Partners badge is indeed an interesting subject, given that no clear guideline seems to be present on observation of best practices within an account. I don’t really see how an individuals certification will become more meaningful however, as I feel the emphasis of the whole change is directed at agencies achieving and maintaining a Confirmed Partner status. What I am pleased to see is that there does not seem to be any change to the exam or learning material, only that you can take the exam for free if you sign up to the Google partners program. It’s great that certification can now stay with the individual too, and that an individual’s partner account can be linked to an agency profile, and unlinked should the individual leave that agency.

    We also have a post giving details of what the changes mean for individuals: http://www.ipass-ppc-exam.com/are-google-abandoning-qualified-individuals/. We too are very interested on opinions about the announced changes.

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

      Thanks for sharing, Helen!

  • Courtenay Probert

    I have concerns about Google harvesting activity as an indicator of account health to identify sloppy work. I run a test preparation website http://www.ipassexam.com here we teach users how to pass their exam. A reoccurring complaint from PPC veterans is that the correct answer to a MCQ question isn’t what they would consider the optimal strategy. This is because the reality of running an Adwords account can differ from how Google would like you to run your account. We always reply that the correct answer is what Google would like to to do not how you would actually do it (if you want to pass the exam).

    If data harvesting is implemented your going to have to practice the Google way, not use to pass the exam but also to run your accounts. This could ultimately lead to your clients paying out more money (if you want to retain your partner status).

    • gregcooper

      Well, here’s the thing. It’s a google product. So they can put whatever parameters they want on it. I get what you’re saying, but they have developed this program how they would like ads on their network. So I don’t think it’s wrong for them to test on what they would like you to do.

      It’s just like SEO, Matt Cutts always has something to say about webspam… but we all know there is a lot of greyhat seo tactics to get to the top.

  • Matthew Canner

    Just to let everyone know, the Fundamentals exam seems to have changed in two big ways with the move to Partners :
    1) The test is now taken in a standard browser window, so being able to look up things on the Learning Centre now seems to be permitted.
    2) The questions must now be answered sequentially. There is no-longer an option to put a question for further review, every answer is final and each question must be answered before moving to the next.

    Hope that helps everyone and good luck!

  • Ashok Patidar

    Individual certification is now free as well. Earlier I thought Google would only allow those people to get certification who are associated with any company that has an MCC account, but now they made it free for all.

    Since it would now be free to get certification, I suspect that it would loose its value that it used to have when it was paid.

  • Certification Help

    try www(.)adwordscertificationhelp(.)org

  • Michael Bradley

    I can’t seem to find the appropriate protocol for getting certified as an individual with the new set up. All links pertaining to individual cert seem to redirect to group cert. Anyone know individual cert protocol with he new configuration?