Google has made changes in the way it works with search engine marketing agencies that support AdWords clients.
The changes, announced Monday, will modify how agencies get trained and tested in using the program, provide lower costs for qualified agencies using the AdWords API, and make it easier for advertisers to find certified partners to work with them on digital ads, according to a Google spokesperson.
On the training end, Google will replace its long-standing Google Advertising Professionals (GAP) program with a new Google AdWords Certification program. Those managing AdWords accounts on behalf of advertisers will have to pass a more challenging certification exam. Companies will have six months to recertify under the new program. They will need to have at least one employee who has passed the basic Google Advertising exam, along with an advanced one.
Training options include a webinar series, learning center and on-site training at Google. Those who pass the test receive a redesigned Certified Partner badge.
Knowing it can become a daunting task -- especially for small-to-medium-size advertisers -- to find a Google certified search partner, Google created and updated an online directory that helps advertisers identify certified partners. An online form asks for the client's budget, country, local support preference, language required, and more.
The service also provides preferred AdWords API pricing, allowing developers to build applications that interact directly with the AdWords platform. Agencies and developers of search engine marketing tools use these applications to manage large AdWords campaigns.
Preferred AdWords API pricing gives qualified Google AdWords Certified Partners who manage client AdWords accounts free use of the AdWords API based on the amount of money clients spend. Applying for the status requires agencies or SEM tool developers to have an active profile page and have and become compliant with AdWords API terms.
Marin Software Chief Executive Officer Chris Lien points to the preferred AdWords API pricing program as the most significant change Google made. Historically, third-party vendors have been required to pay fees for accessing the AdWords API, which puts those who support campaigns at a disadvantage compared to in-house teams.
Lien explains that Google will provide select vendors with free access to the AdWords API. "We believe that this represents an important step by Google in recognizing the value that third-party tools bring to paid search marketing, and will usher in a new wave of buyers as a result of the decreased costs of using a tool," he says.
In-house teams aren't charged for bids changed, or keywords created or updated, but agencies supporting campaigns must pay a fee to use Google's API, according to Matt Lawson, Marin director of marketing. Paying to use the API eats away at the return on investment (ROI) for agencies. The cost for growing and scaling campaign gets passed on to the client. Google charges agencies to post new keywords to the API, which in turn gets billed back to the advertiser.
Lawson says vendors have had to prove their value because of the added cost. "Is our value, plus the cost of using the API, worth it," he says. "By eliminating API fees, advertisers will take a second look at API tools." Google will begin accepting applications from developers on May 26, and will start notifying developers about the status of their applications on July 1.