If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of working with a Google product, it’s that Google is free to pretty much change anything they want, whenever they want to change it. Some of these changes are welcome and exciting (Hummingbird) while others are more puzzling and received with rage trepidation (Enhanced Campaigns).
So when Google decided to completely overhaul the way Adwords interacts with PPC Agencies, it goes without saying that I was skeptical. Fifteen days ago Google even sent me an advent calendar filled with chocolate to count down the release of their new agency program, now called Google Partners.
So what’s the difference? What’s so shiny and new about the Google Partners program? Lucky for me Google decided to summarize everything in a 2 hour mostly live webinar that took place earlier today. Lucky for all of you, I’ll now summarize that 2 hour webinar right here on this blog.
The Cornerstones of Google Partners
The new Partner program is based around 3 cornerstones, or major points of focus:
- : Google wants to show potential advertisers that there are people out there truly qualified to be running campaigns. Any agency is free to join Partners, but Google has also created a “badge” to give to only the most qualified of practitioners. More on how to earn this badge, and what it really means, will come later in this summary.
Connection to Google: Google also wants the members of its Partners program to feel more connected, both to Google and each other. There will be a community on Google Plus that is dedicated to current members of the Partner program, which will serve as a giant think tank and resource for all PPC Managers.
Connection to Advertisers: Google will now be actively helping you get into contact with potential advertisers who are looking for someone to manage their accounts. This includes television commercials promoting the program, as well as a dedicated landing page for advertisers and a search tool that helps them find qualifying partners.
Certification works a lot like it used to under the old program with a few key differences. There are still 3 basic tests you can take (Fundamentals, Advanced Search, and Advanced Display) and you still need to pass any two of them. The big news is that all three test and now FREE to take. No more $50 per test to renew or pass a certification!
The actual test content looks to be unchanged, and all current certifications will cross over. In other words, if you already have a current certification with Adwords prior to the switch with Partners then you don’t have to worry.
You can even now take the tests on a mobile device, which actually looked pretty nice during the webinar. You can also launch the tests, as well as any study materials you might need to brush up on, right from your Partners page. Everything is central to one location and much more convenient than it used to be.
As a side note, all promotional offers you qualify for are now fully functional from your Partners page as well. There’s even a search function which checks all accounts tied to your MCC and looks for any that could use a promotional coupon, and lets you know which accounts are ready for one. You can even apply the promotional code from your Partners page without ever logging into the account directly. Codes can also be emailed to potential clients’ right from the Partners page as well.
Getting the Badge
Ok, back to the “Badge” system I mentioned earlier. This is Google’s way of rewarding those agencies that go above and beyond in both the knowledge of the Adwords platform and client service. The badge itself seems to be nothing more than a small marker that shows up for qualifying agencies in the Partners search tool. 3 criteria must be met to qualify for the badge:
- 1) Pass the certification tests
2) The ad spend of your MCC account must reach at least $10,000 over three months, with ad spend accruing on 60 of the last 90 days
3) Partners must meet certain “best practices” criteria
The “best practices” criteria are where things get vague. From what I learned in the webinar it looks like Google will automatically check up on the accounts tied to your MCC and look for things like the implementation of ad extensions, negative keyword use, and other basic optimization practices. Google will use these criteria to place you on a “quality threshold”. The threshold will have a minimum limit for badge qualification, as well as the average quality level of all accounts program wide. This will allow advertisers a chance to compare potentials partners using a common scale.
Getting the badge will not only help your agency stand out in the partners search page that advertisers will be using, but it will also help you rank higher up in those results.
Google itself related the new Partners program as the sum of all previous efforts and services designed to help out agencies using Adwords. The biggest changes, as far as I can tell, are the functionality of the Partners page (applying promotional offers directly to accounts and taking the certification tests for free) and the new Badge system.
Fair warning: I’ve read the new system is still a little buggy which is why I’ve waited to get Big Leap up and running on the new program. Once things are running smoothly, it should be interesting to experience all these changes first hand. Getting recertified for free is a pretty cool bonus too.