Google Advertising Professional: How I Did It, and Is It Worth It?

Certifications add legitimacy and respectability to an occupation; they prove that you had to study, and help assure your clients that you know what you’re doing. Google now offers a “Qualified Google Advertising Professional” certification. Is it hard? Will you learn anything? Most important of all, is it worth it? Chris Khoo shares his experience, and answers these and other questions.

I’ve just done the Google Adwords exam, and I’m glad to say that I passed.  I’m officially half-way through to becoming a “Qualified Google Advertising Professional.”

So, what is it?  It’s a certification for Internet marketing professionals that demonstrates a high level understanding of Google AdWords(http://adwords.google.com/). The certification also focuses on optimization techniques in AdWords, which can mean the difference between a successful campaign and a failed campaign. So for Internet marketers like me, I’m sure adding this certification to my resume won’t hurt.

When I did the exam, there were 104 multiple choice questions to complete in 90 minutes. It was all done through the Prometric website, the testing provider for the Google AdWords exam.

But before I go on, let me clear the most obvious question first: is it hard? To tell you the truth, it was very easy, but I had put a lot of effort into studying the Learning Center (http://www.google.com/adwords/learningcenter/) before taking the exam. Later on, I will detail how I prepared for it, and also give you a few pointers for taking the exam.

Maybe you’re thinking, ”Oh no, not another computer-based certification…we’ve got Microsoft, Cisco, Novell, Adobe, A+ already… do we need Google certification as well?”

My positions is that this is just what the online advertising industry needs to establish a professional standard. After all, would you like Joe Bloggs off the street performing heart surgery on you, with no degree or qualifications? Or would you have your eyes checked by someone other than a qualified optometrist? Just like being a Microsoft, Novell, or Cisco professional, it’s good that there’s something now to certify the skills of a Google AdWords professional.

The Requirements

What are the requirements for being a Qualified Google Advertising Professional?

You have to:

  • Sign up for, or have an existing Google AdWords account.

  • Sign up for the Google Advertising Professional program(https://adwords.google.com/select/professionalwelcome), and gain access to your own Client Center(https://adwords.google.com/support/
    bin/answer.py?answer=7725&hl=en_US
    ), where you can manage up to 500 AdWords accounts using one login.

  • Accumulate at least a US$1,000 total spend for all your accounts in your Client Center within a 90-day period. (The 90-day period only applies after you’ve signed up for the program. So even if you’ve managed million dollar AdWords campaigns in the past two years, it doesn’t count towards your certification. You have to start from scratch, like everyone else. Does Google Sandbox ring any bells?)

  • Pay US$50 to sit the exam, and get at least 75% right.  Also, if you fail you can only take the exam twice a month, so try to make a good effort not to fail a second time.

As explained above in the “What?! Another Certification?” section, being a Qualified Google Advertising Professional gives you recognition for being proficient with the AdWords system.

Google also mentions the benefit of being able to parade the official Professional logo on your *website, stationery or other promotional materials.

Google Advertising Professional: How I Did It, and Is It Worth It?

* If you look at the small print on the Program Rules of Use page, it says that “You may not display the Qualified Google Advertising Professional Logo in connection with or near a search box.”

Anyhow, down to business. Here’s a summary of what I did to pass the exam…

Studying the Learning Center

I receive plenty of newsletters regularly and earlier in November, I was sent a some news that Google had started its Advertising Professional program. I immediately jumped onto the website, read about the program, its requirements and benefits, and then stumbled upon the Learning Center, which I found to be a great resource.

I was keen to get this certification, however at the time, more work started piling up. Fast forward two weeks, and I was back at the Learning Center, with an empty schedule during the weekend to get focused and pass the exam.

My immediate impression of the Learning Center was a bit dull, since I knew most of it already.  However, I would not discount it as a learning tool, as it covers just about every possible nook and cranny of the AdWords interface.

To give you a sample, here are a few questions to test your knowledge.

  • Do you know what Google Smart Pricing is, and how it works?

  • Do you know exactly how billing works, or to be more specific, what options you have for pre-paid or post-paid accounts?

  • Do you know how overdelivery credits work?

  • Do you know what happens with Chinese or Japanese characters in the Ad Title, Ad Text and Display URL?

  • Do you know the policy for image ads on Google partner sites?

Even if you can answer all of the above without batting an eyelid, I would still recommend you sit through the Learning Center, as it covers a lot of features that you might not have used before.

For me, this was a weekend of sitting in front of the computer, listening to the audio and watching Powerpoint-like presentations at the Learning Center, and taking down notes at the same time.

Even if you’re not interested in certification, the Learning Center is a wonderful resource for businesspeople who want to improve their Internet marketing knowledge. The sections on “Advanced Optimization” and “Selling AdWords” are worthwhile, as they cover topics that are key to Internet marketing success.

Come Sunday night, I finished studying, and was keen to test my knowledge. I clicked onto the Prometric website, and it asked me to set up a separate account. I went through the signup process, and clicked Next several times until I finally arrived at the main interface.

I then clicked on the Take Test link.

To my surprise, it said there was no exam to take! I was dumbfounded. Here I am, crammed full of AdWords knowledge, wanting to pass the exam, and was denied.

Without much time left to investigate, I waited till Thursday before logging into Prometric, and voila! I could take the exam. This was slightly annoying since my AdWords knowledge had lessened, but nevertheless, I felt confident enough and proceeded to pay the 50 dollars and get on with the program.

So my advice? Make sure you create your Prometric account first, and check that you can see the Google Advertising Professional exam in the exam list, before studying for it.

Preparing for the Exam

I’m no stranger to computer-based certification exams. I have an MCSD, and most of an MCSE, so I knew what to expect. However, this being an unrestricted test that could be done anywhere, with open-book materials in front of you, some things you should ensure before starting the exam are:

  • A fast and reliable broadband connection – to save time loading between questions and to ensure you don’t get disconnected,

  • Having Google Toolbar installed, so you can execute search queries quickly, and

  • Having three other Web browser windows open:

    • One on your own My Client Center interface (for interface-related questions),

    • the Learning Center (for questions that you need confirmation on), and

    • a blank Internet browser window, so you can use the Google Toolbar to search and clarify your answers.

Other general skills to have are:

  • Being able to read quickly with comprehension (because reading 104 questions in 90 minutes can be tiring),

  • Good typing speed for doing searches in Google, and

  • Using Alt-Tab to switch between windows quickly.

Now for some numbers. The exam I took was 104 questions, to be completed within 90 minutes. With some calculations, that gives about 52 seconds per question, or roughly a minute per question.

That doesn’t give you a lot of time to think, so the exam interface has provided a tick box with each question, which allows you to mark the question for future review.  My advice is to make use of this feature extensively, as it is better to tick an answer, move on and finish the exam as soon as possible. This leaves you time to review your answers.

When you finish all the questions, a summary page will appear, showing the questions that were and weren’t completed, and more importantly, the ones you marked for review. You can click to go to any question and review it.

But before I go on, one niggling problem I had with the summary page was that it loaded up separate dynamic images for all 104 questions.  These images were simple ticks and arrows, and indicated which questions were done, not done, or were marked for review.  Every time I returned to the summary page after reviewing a question, I had to wait about 3 or 4 seconds for the page to load.

This becomes a problem if you have a lot of questions to review and the clock is ticking away. So keep in mind that you can’t be too liberal with ticking all the questions for review.

When you finish the exam, you are automatically presented with your mark. You must have answered at least 75% of the questions correctly to pass. So if you had 104 questions, assuming all questions are equally-weighted, you need to have answered at least 78 questions correctly to pass.

Post Mortem

So, what happens now if you’ve passed?  If you haven’t had a total spend of US$1,000 in a 90-day period, then you’ll have to do that before you become a Qualified Google Advertising Professional.

Also, before you start thinking it’s all over, the program requires you to renew your certification once every year, as mentioned officially here (https://adwords.google.com/support/select/professionals/bin/
answer.py?answer=12255&query=year&topic=0&type=f)
.

If you’re interested in taking this exam, I encourage you to take it up.  It will solidify your knowledge of AdWords, and prepare you for managing successful campaigns. However, don’t underestimate the exam – the pass rate of 75% is quite high, so you do need to prepare.

Oh, and my final score? I’m quite content with 84%.

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