Google AdWords Change Could Grow Small Agency Certification

Google has revamped its AdWords certification program, making it more stringent. The company has also significantly reduced the amount of money agencies are required to spend with Google in order to qualify for the stamp of approval. The changes could result in a growth in certification among smaller agencies.

“We want to make sure that our certification is modernized a little bit,” said Google spokesperson Sandra Heikkinen.

The original certification process for people managing AdWords campaigns, the Google Advertising Professionals Program, launched in 2002. Rather than requiring just one exam, the new AdWords Certification Program requires ad service pros to take four exams focused on fundamentals, advanced search advertising, advanced display advertising, and reporting and analysis.

Agencies must meet the new criteria within a six month period, and need at least one employee to pass the fundamentals exam and one advanced exam in that time, said Heikkinen. Also raising the bar, Google will require practitioners to take advanced level tests annually rather than every two years. Individuals must pass the fundamentals exam and one advanced exam.

When asked whether the new rules are intended to weed out poorly performing AdWords consultants, Heikkinen said, “We’re not preventing anyone from working towards the certification.” The company worked with large and smaller SEM agencies to devise the reworked system in response to market changes that have occurred since the program’s launch 8 years ago.

While some agencies may dislike the more grueling certification process, smaller agencies will welcome one change. Until now, ad agencies have been required to spend $100,000 with Google AdWords in a 90-day period to be eligible for certification; individuals needed to spend $1,000 in that time. Now, Google has lowered that 90-day spending requirement to just $10,000 for agencies (across all advertisers). Individuals no longer need to meet any threshold.

To help advertisers vet potential service providers, Google is also rolling out redesigned certification badges that will link directly to company profile pages on its site. The original badges did not link through to partner pages.

Follow Kate Kaye on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

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