If you're like me, you get all sorts of email pitches from snake oil salesmen promising to get my website ranked higher in Google, promising to maximize my online advertising efforts, and making promises to create thousands of inbound links for just a few dollars. Really? That's more promises than a wedding ceremony. Who are these hustlers, and what do they know about search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM)?
Here comes Google. Google has launched a certification program that aims to show some validitywell, at least some proof of knowledge for the SEO and SEM hawkers. Their certification program, which isn't too difficult to complete, is a series of online tests based on their Google advertising programs. You'll study and complete these exams online, remotely, while you search for Google answers to prove your competence.
So, I hear you ask, if a person can take these exams online and basically look up all the answers to pass the exam, how does that prove his competence? Gotcha! The Google Testing Center browser, a requirement for the online exams, prevents test-takers from perusing other windows during the online exam (but not from using two PCs and a printout of the study guide).
The Google Certification is segmented into company certifications and individual certifications. The company certification allows an organization to become an AdWords Certified Partner. This program, once your company is certified, allows you to display the Google Certified partner badge on your website and marketing materials to help instill confidence in your potential customers. Google Certified Partners are also listed in a Google Partner Search directory so potential clients can find your company and other Google Certified Partners.
Drawbacks of the Program
There are some caveats about the Google Certified Partner programnot everyone can sign up for the program. First, you must have managed and spent at least $10,000 in AdWords within a 90-day period. Second, an employee must have passed the Fundamentals exam and one of the three advanced Google exams. This certification's financial commitment is a good screen for many companies that don't have the same experience as others, but some argue it's just a way to buy credibility in the program.
Next there's the Google Qualified Individual. This person must pass the Google Advertising Fundamentals exam and just one of the advanced-level exams. There's no Google AdWords spend requirement to be certified as an individual. Google Qualified Individuals receive a certificate (suitable for framing), and an Individual Profile page to share with potential clients or employers.
Each exam costs $50, and you'll have to complete the exam within a two-hour time limit. There are four certification exams:
- Google Advertising fundamentals examThe basics of AdWords and online advertising; 120 questions and a passing score of 85 percent is required.
- Search Advertising Advanced ExamFocuses on managing AdWords campaigns; 120 questions and a passing score of 80 percent is required.
- Display Advertising ExamAll about the pretty ads you see on YouTube and the Google Content Network; 110 questions and a passing score of 70 percent is required.
- Reporting and Analysis Advanced ExamSerious stuff covering Google Analytics, Website Optimizer, AdWords Report Center, and related settings; 100 questions and a passing score of 75 percent.