At a young age, we are taught to be curious, ask questions and seek out solutions. But as we fall into our careers, it seems our time for learning falls by the wayside. In some industries, however, the importance of learning is integrated into one’s job responsibilities. Every few years, forklift operators, accountants, hairstylists and lawyers all continue learning, bettering both themselves and, ultimately, their employers and clients.

Until recently, with the possible exception of F&I, this continual learning process has been unheard of in the automotive industry. But why? Sure, most dealers have a proven method of selling, know how to communicate with customers and are on top of managing their teams. But if you had the opportunity to take that next step in progression, wouldn’t you take it? One way to implement structured, robust learning into your dealership is to hire an advertising agency that is Google AdWords Certified.

Dealers have come to rely upon AdWords to raise their profiles in Google search returns, and they’re not alone. AdWords works for businesses of all kinds, large and small, and it’s Google’s main source of revenue. The company is known for continuously changing and improving their products and services in response to market demands. One of the current market demands that Google has chosen to address is the need for well-qualified agencies to manage their clients’ AdWords products.

I have fielded several questions on this topic. Let’s start with the four questions and answers that will fill in the most blanks.

1. What Are the Requirements?
Prior to October, the requirements for participation as a Google Partner were easy to meet. That problem was compounded by the fact that no attention was paid to how well the agency served the client once partnership was granted. All an agency had to do was hire one person with a valid Google certification, and they were in. The only way to lose their “Partner” badge was if their certification expired.

All of that has changed. The benchmarks for membership have become more rigorous. Partnership can be revoked if the agency fails to meet any of these three criteria:

• The agency must have at least one certified individual on staff. That person can specialize in search or display advertising or both.

• Individuals must be associated with a Google Partner to become certified. Previously, individuals could achieve certification without ever having worked on an account.

• Only companies spending a minimum of $10,000 over the last 90 days are eligible.

• The agency must demonstrate proficiency in managing accounts.
To track that last, critical requirement, Google now monitors accounts and looks back to inception to make sure clients are getting excellent service. Agencies are evaluated on how often accounts are optimized, the effectiveness of budgeted funds and the level of client retention.

2. How Does One Get Certified?
To become a certified Google professional, an individual must pass a minimum of two out of three rigorous exams offered by Google. The first test is called “Fundamentals.” It requires a minimum of 20 hours of study, and the minimum passing grade is 85 percent. This exam covers the fundamentals of Google AdWords and focuses on understanding the basics of both search and display networks, including retargeting, video and keyword advertising. Successfully completing this 90-question exam in two hours does not yet result in Google certification.

The second exam focuses on applied knowledge in search or display advertising. This exam is more difficult than the Fundamentals exam. Google requires far more critical thinking and a deeper knowledge of the program, and the exam tests understanding of best practices, ROI metrics and analytics.

These tests ensure that the individual understands the capabilities, risks and potential rewards of using Google AdWords to advertise a business.
Although Google only requires a single person within any partner agency to be certified, Google is now revoking partnerships from agencies that fail to deliver superior results. Therefore, it’s wise for an agency to certify anyone who has responsibility for the success of clients’ campaigns.

3. What Are the Benefits?
Along with making it more difficult to achieve and retain the Google Partner badge, Google has stepped up its support to active partners. Google representatives with an automotive background are assigned to agencies with large account rosters, and participation in beta testing programs is offered only to agencies with a good record of demonstrated proficiency. Because the best way to become proficient is to make sure all employees are trained and certified, Google has removed the $50 fee for testing to encourage education and development.

The Google Partner website offers advanced training and an active community of AdWords professionals willing to support one another in advancing the effective use of Google products.

4. Can I Do It Myself?
Google Partner status is not available to businesses other than agencies that manage multiple accounts. Although anyone can take the tests, certification is granted only to individuals associated with a Google Partner agency.

While it is true that anyone, not just partner agencies, can open an AdWords account and start running campaigns, it’s probably not your best investment of time or money. Failing to understand simple concepts such as impression share and market channel funnels can cost a dealership thousands of lost lead opportunities.

Also, Google’s pricing is dependent on the quality of your ad campaign. Campaigns with high quality scores pay far less per click than those that are less carefully crafted. By paying less per click, your budget can be stretched further, resulting in more leads.
Finally, running effective display campaigns means having access to a graphic designer who understands Google AdWords policies. Adding video pre-roll requires not only a video production expert, but also an understanding of the YouTube network.

So the short answer is, yes, you can run your own AdWords campaigns. But utilizing an agency with certified experts can bring far greater returns. In the best interest of the consumer, Google has leveled the playing field among agencies. Dealers can now identify which agencies have attained Partner status. They can also check to see that their own agency is in good standing with Google at any time.

If you would like to see which search engine marketing firms are certified and peruse the profiles of all partner agencies, click on the “Google Partners” tab on the Potratz Advertising home page. The profiles show how many employees are certified, the specialty in which earned their certification, and basic information about the agency itself.

So when will you stop learning? If you want to stay on top of technological developments and make learning a major part of your operation’s culture, then you need to make sure your advertising agency does the same. And in today’s hyper-competitive market, you simply can’t settle for an agency that doesn’t challenge its team to learn the skills needed to help you reach your goals. It is critical to partner with a firm that invests in training and maintaining standards. It will mean the difference of an effective campaign that works or one that is costing you valuable ad dollars.

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