Today’s marketing agencies are full of badges, certificates, insignias and ratings. As a result, it is very easy to become desensitized and drowned in the sea of certifications. When evaluating a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Search Agency, how do you sort through what are simply pay-to-play “credentials”, versus actual merit based achievements? Which certifications are available to anyone for a fee, and which are actually awarded to a select few?
To help you to distinguish the truly qualified agencies from the rest, I’ve put together a certification language lexicon.
Individual Qualification in Google AdWords
There is a small fee to be qualified, but you must first pass the challenging Advertising Fundamentals exam as well as at least one equally rigorous Advanced AdWords exam. Solid Cactus is proud to have been one of just handful of companies invited to participate in the Google Display Advertising Advanced Exam beta at Google, New York in 2010. We helped to shape how the test was administered and scored.
Becoming AdWords qualified opens up doors to additional fancy resources. What’s the catch? The Fundamentals qualification is valid for just two years; the Advanced qualification is valid for just one year. As a result, the test(s) need to be re-taken to stay qualified.
Google AdWords Certified Partner
This status is reserved for agencies that have at least one employee with Individual Qualification, and that have an agency account (known as My Client Center, or MCC) with managed ad spend totaling at least $10,000 over the past 90 days.
Google AdWords Premier SMB Partner (PSP)
Now you’re playing hardball. Currently an elite club of just sixteen lucky members, including Solid Cactus. These agencies must meet strict and ongoing certification, training and knowledge requirements by Google. Many agencies strive to achieve this, but as you can see, few are chosen. These companies are the real deal for enterprise level online marketing.
In fact, here’s a direct quote from Google: “Because of the close nature of the way we work with our premier partners, we typically only work with companies that are committed to build their businesses around Google AdWords products and have the ability to build a base of several hundred, and in many cases, several thousand advertisers.”
Bing Ads Accredited Professional
This certification process typically costs $15, though you can usually find promotions to take the test for free. This is the equivalent of the Google Individual Qualification. The test is similar, and while not easy, can feel like a breath of fresh air after you have suffered through the Google testing. This one has a short shelf life of one year, so it must be retaken annually to maintain accreditation.
Bing Ads Accredited Professionals can also opt-in to the “Find a Pro Directory” but just be aware of the following, “Microsoft provides the Find a Pro feature for informational purposes only. We do not endorse any Pro and have no responsibility or liability for their qualifications, services, or your interactions with them.” That being said, inclusion in the directory does prove that the listed companies have employees that know their way around the platform. As a general rule, you can expect the higher the number of “members”, the better.
There’s also “Preferred Companies”, denoted with a red star. What does it all mean? Currently, it signifies that the company manages three or more Bing Ads accounts, and employs at least three professionals who are certified in the Bing Ads Accredited Professional program. However, this program is currently in a state of flux.
Bing Ads Authorized Reseller
This is similar to the Google AdWords Certified Partner status, where inclusion in this program means you meet an expert level of online advertising management, expertise and standards, and in return, become friends with benefits—thus entitled to resources and support not available to the random guy or girl next door.
If you think that was confusing, you should see the various tests! The thing to keep in mind is that agencies like Solid Cactus who achieve and maintain all of the above certifications are few and far between. Our team takes spending your advertising dollars very seriously and we maintain the highest standards. If you are handling your own advertising or are working with someone that doesn’t actively maintain certifications, you should seriously consider an Enterprise level agency like Solid Cactus in 2013. While the certifications are great evidence, the experience is what makes all the difference.