So You’re Thinking About AdWords Certification…

If you’re reading this blog, then chances are you are a serious pay per click marketing professional, or you would like to be one someday. And that’s great! There are a lot of job opportunities out there for online marketing professionals, and it’s an exciting new field. However, the field is so new that there are not many opportunities in higher education to specialize in PPC marketing. You can’t exactly get a college degree in PPC…yet.

So how do you prove your PPC chops to potential employers? Right now, the gold standard is Google’s AdWords certification. Just about everyone who is running a PPC campaign is running it in Google, so if you’re going to learn how to do PPC, you had better know how to run a Google AdWords campaign effectively. The Google AdWords certification tests your knowledge of the platform, and best practices to ensure that your campaigns are profitable.

Preparation for the test is totally free, so there’s no reason not to study for it. You can access all of the lessons online at the Google AdWords Learning Center. Lessons are available in text or video format, and they cover just about everything you need to know about what’s going to be on the certification exam.

The exam itself is about 100 questions, and has a two-hour time limit. It is open-book (which means you should probably leave a tab open to the AdWords help center as you take the test), but you’re going to need some serious time management skills in order to finish before the clock runs out. In order to pass, you’ll need to score 85% or better. There is a $50 fee to take the test, but keep in mind you have to pay that every time you retake that if you fail. Use that as a motivator to get it right the first time around.

Passing the AdWords certification exam isn’t all you need to get certified – it’s only the beginning. In order to be registered as a qualified professional, you also need to manage $1000 or more in AdWords spend over a 90-day period. You can either do this with your own account, or link to an existing account through your own client center account. The trickiest part of getting certified is getting someone to trust you with their AdWords spend. If you pass the test beforehand and show that you know your stuff, you’re going to have a better chance of landing a client who will help you finish your certification requirements.

Here’s some advice from someone who has taken and passed the exam. First, keep in mind that the correct answer on the Google test may not necessarily be the best real-world answer. I know this may sound counterintuitive, but think of it this way: Google has a vested interest in training people to spend as much money as possible on AdWords. So, a lot of Google test answers go like this: “Q: How do I improve performance in my Google account? A: Spend more money on Google!” So, be extra careful on the strategy questions. Second, two hours is definitely not long enough to finish all of the questions. Study and memorize as much as you can before you start, because looking up the answers burns up precious time. Skip too many questions, and you won’t make it to 85%.

Once you pass the test and meet the ad spend management requirements, you’ll get a nifty icon to put on your website that tells the world that you passed the certification. As an added bonus, you’ll also get some AdWords promotional credits to give to your clients. But, most importantly, you will be recognized as an expert in the field. This will help you get work if you’re a freelancer, or help you land a job if you’re looking for a 9 to 5 gig. Good luck!

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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14 Responses to So You’re Thinking About AdWords Certification…

  1. It’s not *too* difficult, and in my experience has definitely been worth doing.

    If a client has to chose between a PPCer with the Google Logo and one without, then the odds are in your favour..

  2. Rachel says:

    I agree with Jordan, of course youre going to be looked on more favourably with the logo. The exam isnt too hard, but it is worth checking if your ready for it sitting some mock papers at http://www.ipassexam.com it does save on some embaresment if you only sit the exam, when you know youre going to pass!

  3. Rob Hartley says:

    You are right – the exam is certainly worth taking if you are manging Adwords accounts.

    The way the exam works, you are not able to view the learning centre in another tab – the system which Google uses for the exam “locks” your web browser so you can not access any other websites while you are taking the test.

  4. Shawn says:

    Great tip, Rob. I guess it’s been a while since I last took the exam, so I forgot about that little detail.

  5. Thanks Shawn, very helpful.. I’m taking it within a week..

  6. John says:

    I hear what you are saying about the time factor and trying to look up answers. I wonder if they would care if you had another PC open in the same room. I have an Ubuntu 3 feet away.

  7. Barry says:

    Thanks for the post. I took the certification tests while being employed by another company and am now going back and doing them now for myself. It has been a while since I took them and couldn’t remember if you have to pay again if you fail. I appreciate the information you included.

  8. Zeller says:

    Is there anyway to take a practice test? I just graduated college and I like the SEM field. I just finished reading all of the fundamental exam material.

    • When I first took the exam, they had quizzes at the end of each lesson in the Learning Center that functioned pretty much like a practice test. They’ve reformatted their test quite a bit since I took it, though, and it looks like those quizzes aren’t there anymore.

      If I were in your position, I would start by reading through all of the lessons here: AdWords Certification Program Learning Center. Take copious notes – you can use them on the test.

  9. I am about taking it again – this weekend and it would be my 3rd time taking it as I have been certified since 2005 and am required to renew it every 2 years.
    I am a bit gutted about the absence of mock questions usually at the end of each lesson in the latest reading material though.
    It kind of gives you an idea of the angle to take when answering questions – especially the tricky “what would a Google professional do in this scenario questions” that require a SPEND SPEND SPEND answer.

    • Great points, Kunle. Back when I took my certification exam, I remember there being a lot more practice questions and detailed study guides than they are now. And you’re spot on about the “SPEND SPEND SPEND” part, too. When in doubt, just choose the answer that requires spending the most money on Google.

  10. sid says:

    I am having problem with understanding the requirement. After you pass the exam you have to spend money 1000 dollars in 90 days for the certification. That does not seem right On their page they say pass the fundamental exam and then pass the advance exam and you are done. They would have the logo. I am a professional and just want to get the adwords certification for better job hunting. Please let me know about the $1000 spend

    • The $1000 requirement means that you just need to manage $1000 in AdWords spend over a 90 day period in order to complete the certification. It doesn’t have to be your money – you could manage the account of a client or your employer. Your best bet would be to find some freelance gigs on eLance or Odesk, and just manage a few small accounts until the 90 day period is up.

  11. Rishi says:

    They changed it recently so you don’t need to maintain the $1000 ad spend as an individual. It has been lowered for companies from 10,000 to 1000.

    Individual Requirements: https://adwords.google.com/support/select/professionals/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=12241

    Company requirements: https://adwords.google.com/support/select/professionals/bin/answer.py?answer=18572