Fast Track To Crushing the Advanced Search Exam

By Carrie Albright | @Albright_C | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

Last month I provided my guide to acing the Advanced Display Exam, and the time has come for the next round: Advanced Search. Now, we’ve covered the Fundamentals and in all truth, the Search exam is a lot like it. The main differences and content that will catapult you into your Advanced status are now at your fingertips.


Whether you’re taking your first stab at the Advanced Search exam, retaking it after a challenging first try, or returning to simply update your certification, today’s coverage will give you an idea of where to focus your precious time!


As always, be sure to consult the Advanced Search Guide, as it will more thoroughly cover the content. Because things happen quickly in PPC, I highly recommend reviewing this guide on the regular to ensure that you fully understand the concepts that affect your day-to-day. And because PPC changes so frequently, don’t just rely on this guide! Blogs (like this one, you smartypants!), videos, and forums are all ways of keeping on top of new features, tools and strategies.


So let’s review what’s new and different: Well… not too much.


i. You have 120 minutes to answer 98 questions.

ii. You no longer get to preview your answers as you simply select one of the choices and move on.

iii. The passing score is 80%.

iv. While the content of the Guide is a bit of a tome, the Advanced Search Exam focuses fairly specifically on a set of concepts.


If none of these notes come as a big surprise, you’re ready for the content review! I’ve highlighted the themes that were consistently appearing in the exam. This will allow you to study the most relevant material and perhaps realize the areas that will need more of your attention before taking the exam.




Beginner’s Material


It’s an amazing feeling to commence your exam and to see your old friends in the questions, covering topics such as match types, appropriate ad copy, average position, and information about search queries (twice, in fact)!


For match types, simply review what types of keywords would be triggered in the event of a particular search. Make sure you understand how Broad Match Modified (+) differentiates from regular broad match, and you’ll be all set!


Some of the first things we learn in PPC are ad copy rules and common practices. In the Advanced Search exam, you’ll be quizzed on how DKI works and also just some general do’s and don’ts. Again, this is all beginner stuff, so you should be able to trust what you’ve read and do great!


Your average position or ad rank are concepts that certainly appear in this exam, as well. They focus primarily on the causes of your results, such as bids, day parting, and geo targeting. You’ll also be faced with questions about what impacts and improves your average position. (HINT: QUALITY SCORE).


And good ol’ search queries – just make sure you remember how to find them and what they tell you. And that’s that.


Strong Man


Slightly Heavier Content


Now, I speak lightly of the beginner material, because I truly have faith that anyone who has taken the Fundamentals exam will successfully make it through the aforementioned content. But then Google decides to step it up a notch with a mildly more complicated set of questions.


In the Search exam, your understanding of bidding will be challenged, but only as far as your grasp of when you use certain bid strategies and how they interact. Review the best practices for when to bid in which way, and also the distinction between automated settings and manual options. As usual, you’ll need to be able to define what “actual CPC” is – one of the trickier and certainly odder questions in the test. But now you know – so go get it!


Another area that gets a fair amount of attention in this exam is the landing page experience. There are a handful of questions asking you to consider what would be the most appropriate landing page for a set of keywords. What aspects of your site play the biggest part in your user experience? While most of these questions are easily answered with common sense, it’s worth a second look in the Search Guide to ensure that you aren’t tripped up by the language choice or specific examples.


Similarly, Conversion Optimizer pops up a few times. Now, there have been very few changes to CO in the past year, so you shouldn’t stress about any surprises, but it will be important that you are comfortable with the requirements for eligibility and under what circumstances CO could benefit your account.


If you’ve ever worried about invalid clicks and click fraud, you’ll be happy to see a few questions covering this material on your exam. Familiarize yourself with how Google checks for fraud and at what point in the process they filter out your invalid clicks. Also note where to find the data in your account. While these questions aren’t that challenging, they can certainly catch you off guard if you’re not overly familiar with them.


Speaking of being caught off guard, let’s move into the section covering new content, possibly the most nerve-racking part of the test.




Newer Content


The fantastic see-saw you’ll experience in preparing for this exam is the constant waffling between new tools and terms and the old-school content that just hasn’t been updated. Yes, you will see 1-per-clicks referenced (now called Converted Clicks) as well as Google Places (newly dubbed GoogleMyBusiness) . Don’t let these idiosyncrasies fool you, you know this stuff!


A new campaigns type is the Dynamic Search Ad campaign. While I personally think it’s a great topic to familiarize yourself with for actual real-life implementation, it will also be on your exam. If nothing else, it will behoove you to understand who might benefit from implementing this ad type. To be totally honest with you, Google has let me down with its lack of mobile-based questions.


Mobile preferred ads have been the highlight of 2014. So many hours have been spent discussing, planning and analyzing mobile performance,  and yet we only see a few questions covering the recommended best practices for constructing your ads. But do yourself a favor- learn as much of this as you can, as the real-world application is extremely valuable.


Lastly, Google Places (now called Google My Business, mind you) appears several times on the Advanced Search Exam! What do you need to set it up? What does it provide the user? This is probably the most unfamiliar content you’ll encounter in your exam, so be sure to read through this section of the exam guide prior to taking your test.


Odds & Ends


Odds & Ends


Finally, there are a handful of topics that you may never use in your daily life, or perhaps think you know but then, while the clock is ticking, you second-guess yourself!


As always, there are a few questions covering the API, specifically developer or authorization tokens and testing in the API. Confused already? READ THE GUIDE!


Now, a page out of Carrie’s Diary will tell you that the language revolving around Average Lifetime Customer Value is about as traumatizing as my attempt to crimp my hair in middle school. It’s confusing and weird and then, when you really figure out what you’re doing, you feel extremely cool. Note: I never got to this point with the hair crimping. Google wants you to know what they mean regarding average lifetime customer value (and it’s calculations) as well as the value per conversion math. Be sure to review these and familiarize yourself with the formulas, so that when you encounter these questions, you can smile boldly, like a kid who just got their braces off.


Define reach and frequency. That’s right. Define it. “Reach” is …..   and then “Frequency” is …..  That’s all you need to know for that question. It’s a staple Google favorite and you’ll be kicking yourself tomorrow if you forget to memorize the wording.


As you’ve skimmed this list, I suspect most of it looks familiar. If not, I hope you have some solid bullet points to spend a bit more time on. In the big picture, use your best judgment. As always, the questions are “choose the best answer” which allows for self-trickery and second-guessing. Don’t. Trust your instincts and what you’ve studied.


If you find that you have a LOT that looks new or unfamiliar, spend some time reviewing the guide, taking some practice tests and rereading posts like this one that highlight what’s currently present on the exam.


Best of luck to all of you PPC Heroes and be sure to let us know your experiences!