Each of the major search engines has a certification program that an individual or agency can use to show their accreditation status to prospective clients. While it takes a bit of time and effort to achieve accreditation with Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, there are several important ways in which these certifications can be used, and all have payoffs for those willing to go the extra distance.
The first, and most obvious, is to showcase your company to prospective clients. Being able to claim that your analysts have been certified by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft is a strong point to emphasize when one is comparing various agencies.
The next use is by prospective clients. Two of the search engines, Google and Yahoo, do not just have a certification program—they have various levels of certification. Understanding what these various levels are can be useful in determining how much support an agency receives from the search engine and how much they have proven themselves, as the upper tiers of certification are not easy to achieve.
The third use is for agencies to require their PPC analysts to complete and maintain individual certification. This helps to ensure that an agency’s employees know enough to pass the search engine certifications.
The final major use is for individuals wishing to be hired. The certifications can be put on a resume, and it helps showcase one’s ability to manage PPC accounts across different search engines.
With each certification also comes a logo which can be used in a variety of ways to promote your status.
Google AdWords certifications
Google has by far the most certifications available. The most basic certification is the Google AdWords Professional certification. To become a GAP professional one must:
- Manage an AdWords Account within My Client Center (MCC) account for 90 days
- Manage at least $1000 in spend during those 90 days
- Pass the Google AdWords Professional exam
While the test is not easy, it’s also not that difficult if you can effectively manage an account on an ROI basis for a few months. Google has an exceptional learning center full of both video and text-based tutorials and quizzes which will prepare you for the test. Becoming a Google AdWords Professional does not lead to additional support from Google. One does gain access to the MCC, promotional credits, the API, and some marketing materials. However, there is no special phone number or guaranteed client services rep that comes with this certification. One may receive special support based upon other factors; however, this is not part of the GAP system.
The second certification available from Google is the Google AdWords Company. To become a Google AdWords Qualified Company, a business must first employ at least two Google AdWords Professionals. The professional certifications must be linked to the same My Client Center. In addition, the company must maintain a minimum spend, which varies by country. In the United States, the minimum spend that must be maintained over a 90 day period is $100,000. Once one becomes a Google Certified Company, the company is usually serviced by the Google Agency Team. This isn’t a matter of passing the test, but rather the amount of spend. The agency teams I have worked with at Google have offered excellent support in a variety of areas.
The most difficult level of certification to reach with Google is the Authorized Google Reseller. Until recently, one had to have a commercial relationship with Google to become a reseller (and the contracts were “fun” to negotiate). Even the terms of the program were kept very quiet. Recently, Google has published some information about the reseller program.
To become a Google Reseller, one must not only meet some specific requirements, but Google approves companies who become resellers. So, while one can become a GAP or Qualified Company without Google’s explicit consent, to become an authorized reseller, one must have some dealings and conversations with Google first.
To become a Google Authorized Reseller, one must:
- Employ a direct sales force that sells to local businesses
- Have existing relationships with at least five hundred customers
- Demonstrate experience servicing and supporting local businesses
- Share Google’s desire to provide a high quality user and advertiser experience
Source: AdWords Resellers Explained.
The level of support once one becomes an AdWords Authorized Reseller is fantastic, and there is the ability to earn financial bonuses as well.
Google has three other logos one can also attain. The first is the AdWords Seminar Leader (of which there are only two of us). The second is the Google Analytics Authorized Consultant, and the last one is the Google Website Optimizer Authorized Consultant.
Yahoo Ambassador programs
Yahoo has three levels of certifications. The first and most basic is the Yahoo Search Marketing Ambassador.
To qualify for the ambassador program, one must sign up for the program, go through web based training, and complete a test. The test is not overly difficult, and most who go through Yahoo’s training can pass the test. One of the major reasons to go through this training is that last year Yahoo redesigned their system from the old Overture system to the new Panama system. Those who have spent years navigating through Overture have not always dedicated the time and energy to fully learn the new Panama system, features, and layouts. The test can help bring one up to speed on the new system.
Becoming a Yahoo Ambassador gives one access to promotional credits, referral bonuses, and marketing materials. One of the biggest differences between the Yahoo Ambassador and the Google AdWords Professional programs is that Yahoo gives you a financial bonus when you sign up for the program as if you were an affiliate.
The second tier of ambassador programs is the Certified Ambassador Agency. There are two types of certified ambassadors; one for product submit, and another one for sponsored search. The first step of qualification for either of these certifications is to demonstrate success as an ambassador. Therefore, one must start with the basic ambassador program to move up the ambassador chain with Yahoo. In addition, it’s not just passing an online test to qualify. One must also talk with Yahoo—essential to a successful relationship at this level of support from the company.
To qualify for product submit, one must meet minimum spend goals and demonstrate the ability to handle Yahoo’s product submit feed specifications. There are financial rewards, API tools, and sales and marketing support from Yahoo for those who reach this tier.
To qualify for the Yahoo Certified Ambassador Agency Sponsored Search, one must have demonstrated previous paid search success with Yahoo, maintain minimum spends, and offer multiple product lines. The last qualification is interesting. One must be familiar with Search Submit Pro, Travel Submit, or Product Submit to reach this level with Yahoo. If one qualifies, the support level from Yahoo increases significantly. For certified ambassadors, Yahoo will also conduct on-site training, as well as free access to advertiser web services (if one hits revenue targets).
The most difficult level to achieve with Yahoo is the Strategic Ambassador level. To achieve this level, one must have both a Yahoo Certified Ambassador Agency Sponsored Search and a Yahoo Certified Ambassador Agency Product Submit certifications. The benefits to hitting this level are significant, including on-site training and highly dedicated support.
Yahoo is in the process of revamping its Reseller Ambassador Program. There isn’t any current online information available about this program. I expect that they will launch this program late this year, or more likely, in the first quarter of next year.
Microsoft adExcellence program
Microsoft launched its adExcellence program at the end of June as a small beta invite. To qualify to become an adExcellence member, one had to pass a test and manage $150 in spend. Overall, the test was not difficult. However, I really enjoyed parts of the qualification test, which was strikingly different than Google’s or Yahoo’s. On the test were PPC questions that were not related just to Microsoft adCenter, but covered topics any good PPC professional should know regardless the ad network they work with.
While the program is currently still in beta invite, there is a request form one can fill out to request admission to the current beta.
While there are many certification programs available for marketers, none are more powerful than those that offer the ability to legally use the brands of some of the most recognized names on the web: Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo.
If you are a PPC professional, it is important to be able to demonstrate your ability to take these tests (of which none are that difficult if you really are a PPC professional).
If you are an agency, it is useful to know that your employees truly have the ability to manage PPC effectively. And while having a few certifications does not mean one can generate ROI for a company, it is a first step in the process.
If you are a company looking to outsource your PPC account, it’s also helpful to understand what level of support an agency receives from an engine. It is one thing to claim you have a good relationship with the search engines; it’s quite another to have a team of people at the search engines ready to give you the support when you need it most.
Becoming a PPC professional does not start or end with being certified by the search engines. However, it is an important step to understanding your abilities and showcasing your agency.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.