When I first heard that Google was offering certification on its marketing tools I was very excited. I have been in the business-to-business, for-profit training world for 16 years now, so I know the value certification can bring. When I hear certification, I think qualified professional. If Google has developed a program to offer the business community qualified professionals on their AdWords and Analytics products this would be a significant step. It would be a significant step because for most enterprise, non-agency, organizations Google PPC and Analytics are like voodoo, much like networking computers was in the 1990s to IT professionals. When something is like voodoo that means fear, uncertainty and doubt reign supreme. A good certification acts like cleanser to that fear, uncertainty and doubt.
So how does the Google AdWords and Analytics certifications stack up to others? From my experience the best technical-based certification is the Cisco Systems certification track. Cisco did a magnificent job of tying certification to their product sets, but also to the technologies around the products. Also, they did a fantastic job of ensuring their partner channel, which makes up at least 80% of their sales, had strong certification requirements before they were allowed so sell Cisco gear. So I decided to judge the Google certification track against what I know of Cisco’s, taking into consideration, of course, that Cisco is about 15 years ahead of them.
To make this comparison we had our Marketing Director go through the process of becoming a Google Certified Partner.
Since he started the process the requirements have changed. The current requirements for a Google Certified Partner Program are:
- Have managed at least a $10,000 spend over 90 days
- Have at least one individually qualified employee
- Note Google’s terms and conditions
The current requirements for a Google Certified Individual are:
- Pass both the Fundamentals exam and one of the three advanced exams
- Be aware of and in compliance with Google’s program terms and conditions
The changes they instituted are a good sign. It means Google is taking the time to learn and grow the credential based on what the market needs. The initial feedback was the exam and training was inexpensive, and the initial exam was easy. This wasn’t a good sign. A good certification has a difficult exam, a tough application process to sit the exam, and a relatively high exam cost (the PMP certification exam from PMI is over $300, including application costs).
The real “zinger” in my mind was the spend qualification. In order to achieve the certification your organization had to have a certain level of monthly spend with Google. I understand the goal. They want to make sure you are a practicing professional. This is especially good from an agency prospective. In a way, this is what Cisco did in mandating certifications for partners. Google mandates spending to ensure the certified person/organization is using the skills (at least that is one way to look at it). So if I was an organization using an agency for my Google work, this makes sense. The issue is for enterprise organizations and individuals.
The ultimate goal for a good certification is to provide the hiring community with an excellent filter to judge applicants. With Cisco CCNA (Certified Cisco Network Associate) designation an HR professional asked to find an entry level Network Engineer would use the first filter of CCNA or no CCNA. From there they can than whittle the pile down by relevant experience. A strong Google Certification should be a tool HR and hiring managers can use when looking for internet or electronic marketing professionals. Skilled professionals will use the Google tool, which would in the end increase revenue for Google without having to have the revenue requirements. Basically, the revenue requirement significantly reduces the growth of the certification and ultimately forces the enterprise to look to agencies for help…and based on my 16 years of marketing, we would much rather use internal resources than an agency for a number of reasons.
Above we talked about a change in the Google certification process that resulted in the exam getting a lot harder and more expensive (there are now two exams). This is a great change, however the revenue requirement still stands, and there is no application to help determine if a professional qualifies to take the exam.
In the end this is a solid start. We have received significant value sending our Marketing Director though the process and luckily, even though we are not an agency, we have the monthly spend to qualify him for the certification. So I would strongly suggest moving in the direction to get your marketing professionals certified. They will learn how to more efficiently run campaigns and monitor results, which will save you money even if you don’t currently have the monthly spend to get the final designation.