I just passed my Google Ads Search Certification for this year and am pretty disappointed.
I might be complaining, but this article isn’t about certifications. It’s about things you should watch out for when running a PPC campaign. It’s also about what you should watch out for when hiring someone to manage your PPC campaign.
What the Google Ads Certification (2021) Covers
I can’t tell you specifically what was on the test so I’m going to speak in broad strokes.
It seems to me that the current exam focuses on things that help Google, more than helping the customer use Google Ads. Just look at the outline for the course:
Grow your business with Google Ads – this is all about why Google Ads is great. It’s only a sales pitch.
Explore the value of Google Search- again, all about making Google Ads look like a good solution.
Understand the Google Ads auction- this is helpful to people trying to get more from their Google Ads account.
Deliver the right message with text ads- this is good, too.
Make ads relevant with Search Ad Extensions- this helpful.
Increase efficiency with automated bidding- yeah, I’m not giving Google a blank check!
Reach valued customers with Search Audiences- I like the idea of Search Audiences, but I’m a little afraid of giving Google too much control over how I spend my clients’ money.
Boost performance with Optimization Score- total BS! What a great way to spend more money!
Increase conversions with Performance Planner- again, this is all about making projections so you can spend more with Google.
Maybe I’m becoming an old, crotchety man but it seems like this test was harder and more complete! In former test, I actually had to use math! Not this one. In other tests I had to better understand the specifics of Ad Rank and how the auction works- not so much today.
The Google Ads Industrial Complex
If I were smart, I wouldn’t complain about this. Like most PPC providers, I charge clients based on how much they spend with Google. If I can get clients to spend more, I can charge more!
I would do this- if I had no self-respect, that is.
I have a lot of pride in delivering better results for my clients. I want to get as much as I can for their spend. I believe this is my professional obligation. Sometimes that means resisting Google’s suggestions in order to maximize their spend.
This is a trend with Google Ads
It seems to me that Google is moving Ads into something that is much more interested in serving itself, than its customers lately. There are quite a few things that seem to be moving in this direction:
“Exact match” is not longer matching phrases exactly. One of the former secrets to managing Google Ads for a client was finding the exact phrases that converted for a client- and doubling-down. Now that exact match phrases can be very broad (and sometimes completely off) you have to watch them like a hawk.
The Optimization Score is quite a red herring! I had a client shocked that their score was 66%! OH NO! They wanted to be 100%- until I told them that would mean spending significantly more money! Now, to be fair, there are some good recommendations here- especially if you’re a beginner. Unfortunately, if you’re a beginner, you might not be able to tell what’s in your client’s interest, or Google’s.
JUST RELEASED: Google is getting rid of modified broad match. They say they’re incorporating this into phrase match but this is just another way to give us less control over the specific keywords we’re bidding on.
This is all made worse by Google sharing fewer search queries. This is where we find irrelevant searchers and allows us to exclude phrases by negative keywords. Again- more clicks (and money) for them but less targeted for us.
Don’t get me started about the Google Ad reps! They’re glorified sales reps.
Maybe it’s not all that bad
If I take a moment and calm down, it might not be as bad as I first stated. In fact, Google’s certifications have always been about promoting their products.
The old Google Ads certifications used to neglect conversions and focus on optimizing for clicks and impressions. What a great way to waste money!
I love the Google Analytics IQ Certification- and highly recommend it- but a large part of that is about setting of your site for remarketing.
Even though they’ve always had a self-interest in these certifications, they still teach valuable things. In fact, I have to admit, that I’ve neglected the Performance Planner- and plan on starting to use it.
Besides, I’ve always appreciated the difficulty of these exams. I think they are pretty hard and can be tricky. I don’t believe most people could show up and pass the exam without going through the lessons first.
If you do pass one of these, you should be proud (I still am)- even if there’s a lot of things in Google’s self-interest.
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