Dear Google, Please Clean Up Your Certified Partner Program

By Greg Finn

Google's Certification Program is supposed to help separate the quality professional companies from posers. A full Learning Center exists to help train advertisers. By taking a few tests, users or companies can become certified (there are also a few requirements that go along with it as well.)  While the idea behind the program is great, the tests are painfully out of date.

Being a Certified AdWords partner, I had to re-up on a test to stay up-to-date. Having taken the advertising advanced program last year, I opted for the Display Advertising exam, as we do quite a bit of this everyday and I figured I'd breeze through it. I quickly noticed a problem -- nearly half of the content from the tests doesn't currently exist, and hasn't for a long time.

Here are just a few sample questions that I encountered when I took the test yesterday:

Q: "Where can you find the Wonder Wheel?"

 Q: "Which report will show Display Network placements?"

Q: "What data can you find within YouTube Insights?"

  • Best Listed Answer:  "Video view and geographic data"
  • Correct Answer:  YouTube Insights has been retired since Nov 2011 and is now YouTube Analytics.

Thankfully, I've been using AdWords forever and passed with 15 percentage points higher than required, but many won't. I'd estimate that at least 50% of the test was absolutely incorrect as it was totally out-dated. The worst part, however, was the fact that the Learning Center didn't even address the questions. Instead, when a feature was removed, it was simply dropped form the Learning Center and kept on the test. Instead of re-writing or re-tooling content, a variety of links have simply been removed, like the Guide To Optimizing campaigns for the Display Network.

The exam costs $50 to take, yet provides inadequate training, and tests on non-existent features. This is a big step for many new advertisers and is how Google judges which companies they partner with. Google needs to seriously fix this program and consider refunding the test fees for anyone that failed within the past year.

By Greg Finn


  1. Author's Headshot
    David Cox July 17, 2012

    I am studying to take the test and have also been very impressed with the number of 404 errors. If google was trying to have no navigation errors, unique and relevant content it is clear that they should not rank for the effort. But do as I say not as I do. If this is there source of revenue you would think they would put some effort into it.

  2. Author's Headshot
    Greg Cooper July 17, 2012

    I took the Fundamentals exam too and same thing. Luckily I passed, but there were a few things on there that didn't make sense or were incorrect.

    Oh well, I gots me my certificate!

  3. Author's Headshot
    George Brewer July 18, 2012

    I agree with your article. It's a very bizarre set up. I am very familiar with the text because I have only just taken the Fundamentals exam and about to take the Reports and Analytics exam. The curriculum is very outdated. About 30% of the R & A syllabus revolves around the Website Optimiser which will be obsolete in just over a week (though a different version will appear in Google Analytics).

    Google Analytics is another 30% of the R & A syllabus. The exam notes have not yet caught up with the GA changes that have happened this year.

    It's as though you have to learn two different sets of exam notes in order to be prepared: one set for AdWords functions that no longer exist and one set for existing functions.

    One thing is for sure, Google do not make it easy for you! That whole section needs a complete overhaul.

  4. Author's Headshot
    Olaf Pijl July 18, 2012

    I agree, all of Google's SEA tests contain many obsolete questions. And localized tests are even worse: my (Dutch) colleagues all take the tests in English, because some of the questions are so badly translated (Google Translate?) there's no telling what the actual question is!

  5. Author's Headshot
    SearchCap: The Day In Search, July 17, 2012 - Google Search SEO July 18, 2012

    [...] Dear Google, Please Clean Up Your Certified Partner Program, Cypress North [...]

  6. Author's Headshot
    Pieter July 23, 2012

    It seems that Google doesn't want to maintain high standards to the Adwords advertisers. The Adwords interface has been changed quite a few times, to make things easier for the regular users. Advanced Adwords agencies are left behind (with worthless badges).
    A lack of good professional testing or a change of direction in strategy by Google?

  7. Author's Headshot
    Jonathan Maloy October 29, 2012

    Just took the reporting exam yesterday (10/28/12) and there is still a lot of outdated questions (Website Optimizer references), though not as many as the fundamentals exam. That one has even more questions that are irrelevant. Would be nice if Google updated them sometime soon...

  8. Author's Headshot
    matt February 12, 2013

    Thanks for this post. Very helpful information 🙂

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Meet the Author

Head of Performance & Innovation / Partner

Greg Finn

Greg is the Head of Performance and Innovation for Cypress North's digital marketing team and one of the founders of our agency. In 2010, he and Matt Mombrea started Cypress North in Buffalo. Greg oversaw the opening of our second office in 2022, located in his hometown of Rochester.

As Head of Performance and Innovation, Greg co-manages our digital marketing department and works closely with our team to ensure all our clients achieve the best possible results. He is always looking for ways to test new digital marketing techniques and technology, and oversees all teaching and training efforts to ensure our agency stays ahead of the curve.

Greg is also a co-host of our weekly Marketing O'Clock podcast, where he and the team provide updates, insights, and hot takes on the latest SEO, PPC, and social media marketing news. In addition to weekly news shows, Greg hosts our Marketing O'Torial digital marketing tutorials and often co-hosts bonus Marketing O'Talk episodes that bring together panels of digital marketing experts.

With nearly two decades of experience, Greg is a known and trusted voice in the digital marketing community. He’s a contributor for Search Engine Land, a member of the Search Marketing Expo (SMX) programming team, and has been a featured speaker at some of the largest search engine conferences, including SMX, eSummit, and Pubcon. 

When he’s not working or staying updated on the latest trends, Greg enjoys watching his kids play sports and coaching their soccer team. He’s been named the runner-up “Greg of the Year” on Marketing O’Clock’s annual Clockscars Awards four years in a row. While the coveted award has evaded him for many years, Keanu Reeves has not. Greg once saw him at Gabriel's Gate tavern in Buffalo (and noted he was very tall.)