Passing the AdWords Certification Exam
By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief
The Web is woefully short on professional accreditations in the realm of digital advertising.
While there is a seemingly infinite number of “courses” that Web professionals can take and, of course, learn a great deal from, most don’t really receive any significant benefit from learning about the specific topics they cover outside of the knowledge itself because there is no way to validate what has been learned.
Few advertising certification exams are more meaningful to digital businesses in this regard, however, than that of the AdWords certification exam.
If you are responsible for the management of AdWords campaigns, engage in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on any network or simply want to learn more about how this vital digital ad ecosystem works, taking the certification exam is an important step in your career.
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After nearly 20 years as a digital professional, I personally had never considered taking the exam. That changed in early November, when on a whim, I took the test. Without any preparation, my score was 79 out of 100 – just one question shy of passing the exam (Google requires a score of 80 percent to pass). Not bad for not preparing at all, but not good for someone who not only advocates the use of paid advertising for enterprises of all sizes, but also regularly engages in the practice and writes about best practices for the channel with regularity. I vowed to try again and proceeded to download and review the materials AdWords provides (Google by the way forces a one-week waiting period after each failed attempt). After a week of rigorous study, I took the test again and passed with a 92 percent. Not perfect, but definitely better.
While it may not matter what the score is on the big picture side of things, Web pros will begin to clearly understand the benefits of the advertising platform and what it can (and cannot) do to help accelerate the success of an enterprise.
In order to take the exam, it is necessary to sign up to be a Google Partner (open to both agencies and individuals). This is not the same as a “Trusted Partner,” but it does open up some opportunity for those looking to provide some validation to their clients or employers. Once signed in to Google Partners, the Certifications tab will direct users to the actual certification tests. In order to be officially certified, it is necessary to take two tests – the AdWords Certification and one specialty certification (display, shopping, video, search, etc.).
It is highly recommended that test takers go through Google’s official study guides, very detailed documents covering key concepts, strategies and techniques that can be used when managing an AdWords account. The PDF study guides are broken down into easy-to-review sections but Google also offers an online study guide although it is somewhat cumbersome to navigate.
There are also numerous paid guides available that provide training and sample questions for the exam. As Google indicates, however, the test is actually “open book” – meaning that it does not prevent test takers from searching for the answers during the test. That’s incredibly helpful, of course, but professionals are really only doing a disservice to the entire ecosystem (and themselves) if that’s the approach they decide to take.
Again, taking the exam is an excellent opportunity to validate that one understands how the platform works. Since Google requires that the certification be renewed each year, make the commitment to engage in regular study of the platform (consider reviewing Website Magazine’s own ’Net Advertising column as a starting point) and you will be on the fast track to Web success.