After a few weeks of studying, I’m pleased to say that I’ve beaten the Google AdWords Specialist Challenge, by passing all of the AdWords exams! This includes the AdWords Fundamentals exam, plus all 5 specialisms: Search, Display, Mobile, Video & Shopping. However, to earn the regular certification you just need to pass the Fundamentals exam plus one specialism… so should you take the AdWords exams and get certified?
- The content is good. As well as useful information in the AdWords Help Centre, there is also a dedicated study guide for each exam. Other than a few typos here and there, overall the content is of a pretty high standard: the key information you need to know is presented in a clear, well formatted, and and logical way.
- It’s great for learning the basics. If you’ve never even seen AdWords before, the Fundamentals exam (as you’d expect) is the perfect way to learn the essentials, from setting up an account using best practices to some basic (and more advanced) optimisation techniques. If you already know all that, then just skip over it… but it can be a useful refresher even for more experienced advertisers.
- It’s all about the right length. Both the study guides and the exams are about right in terms of length- detailed enough to provide a lot of valuable information and advice, but without too many superfluous additions. It will probably take somewhere between 5-10 hours to study for an exam (depending on the exam and your experience), while the exams themselves are between 1-2 hours long.
- It’s free. Both the study guides and exams are completely free. Ultimately, Google wants as many people as possible to learn the material and spend money with AdWords. So, the only real commitment is time.
- More focus on case studies would be better. In the study guides, there are plenty of useful best practices and optimisation techniques. However, I think these would be well complimented by a few more example case studies- including some more data-focused and visual optimisation examples that go beyond basic scenarios. While there isn’t always one “correct” method of optimisation for any given scenario, I think it would still be useful for the guides to provide more insight into the real day to day activities of an advertiser.
- The exams should include some data analysis. This point is similar to the one above. Considering campaign optimisation usually involves a lot of data analysis, it seems surprising that every single AdWords exam question consists of just text. While there are a fair number of hypothetical scenario questions, these are typically fairly simplified compared to looking at real data. Based on this, I think a few visual data analysis questions – based on something you could actually see in AdWords – would be useful both as a test and a learning exercise.
- The exam content could be better. At times, the choice of exam questions seems a bit odd. Firstly, the questions aren’t always reflective of (in my opinion) the most important information- I would argue that understanding optimisation processes and best practices is more important than memorising specific technical information (e.g. Display ad dimensions and Product Feed attributes) which can easily be looked up when required. Secondly, there’s a strange mixture of question difficulty: alongside in-depth technical questions, there’s some which essentially ask what the campaign type is used for or why AdWords is good.
- It won’t make you an AdWords expert. While the AdWords exams are great at introducing you to the important concepts, getting certified is really just the start if you want to use AdWords effectively. Ultimately, real experience is still extremely important. It would be great to see some sort of AdWords account simulator to be used as a learning resource (like the Google Analytics Demo Account), to help bridge the gap between theory and practical experience.
So, Should You Get AdWords Certified?
Overall, it’s well worth getting your Google AdWords certification.
Not only will you probably learn a lot you didn’t know already – helping you to improve the performance of your campaigns – but it also demonstrates your capabilities to your peers, (potential) employers and clients alike.
So, ready to start getting certified? Just head on over to the Google Partners site.