Google Ads certification is an important credential for marketers.
It is one of the few standardized ways to prove a certain level of knowledge or topical relevance.
While it isn’t an exclusive badge, it requires a certain level of work learning the concepts or experience in day-to-day Google Ads use to attain.
What Is Google Ads Certification?
Google Ads certification is a process by which Google recognizes marketers as experts in online advertising.
After passing two Ads certification exams, individuals get a personalized certificate and – if affiliated with a company – contribute to company Google Partner credentials.
Like many Google products, properties, and initiatives, the program has evolved over the years.
The certification program used to be a standalone program and had a cost attached to taking exams.
That changed with the creation of the Google Partners program and has further evolved with the migration to the Google Academy for Ads in 2018.
Individual certification still works in very much the same way it did a few years ago (before Google AdWords was rebranded as Google Ads).
However, the connection with the Google Partners program, the new standalone Academy for Ads, and the changes over the years can be confusing for individuals and students.
Certification has become a minimum or expected requirement even for entry-level search marketing roles for agencies and corporations over the years.
Even when I hire someone who will go through our training program, I know that they were willing to invest time and see the importance of taking the step of getting certified is crucial.
Having that base level of subject matter exposure from Google is much more specific than what a school textbook can provide on how Google Ads works.
On top of that, there’s value in being able to affiliate that individual who is already certified with my company’s Google Partner account.
This step-by-step guide provides a walkthrough of how to get Ads certified in the Academy for Ads, as it can be a confusing process when doing it for the first time.
Step 1: Create or Select Your Google Account
Start by determining the right Google account to use for your certification.
If you work for an agency or a company, you’re likely to be required to use your work email address.
If you’re an individual and doing the certification on your own, you’ll want to pick a Google account that you want to have your certification tied to personally and publicly.
This can be a Gmail account or a Google account that you create tied to any personal email account.
You can easily create a new account at http://accounts.google.com.
Step 2: Join Academy for Ads
When you have your Google account squared away, make sure you are signed out of any other Google accounts.
Like some other Google products, there can be confusion or login challenges when you’re currently logged into multiple accounts.
When only logged into the account you want to use for certification, go to https://landing.google.com/academyforads/.
Click on the “Get Started Now” button.
You’ll be presented with a required acceptance of permissions and terms of service.
Once you click through that, you’re presented with an option of sharing your Academy for Ads account with a company.
If you want to affiliate your account with your Google Partners company account, you can select the “yes” option. (See the next step below for more information.)
If you’re not a Google Partner or aren’t affiliated with a company, you can select “no” and move past this step in the process. (Plus, you can skip to Step 5 below.)
Step 3: (Optional) Connect with Google Partners
If you want to connect your individual account with your company for credit toward Google Partners and other related benefits, you will need to update your profile.
Click on the icon of your photo or initial in the top right corner, then on “My Profile”.
This process requires completion of your profile information that validates and connects you with your company.
You will have to provide a company email that matches the email domain of the company affiliated by the administrator of your Google Partners account.
Google will require you to take a quick email verification step after completing the profile update page.
For help getting connected or verified in this step, you’ll have to reach out to that person in your organization.
This two-step process requires the input of profile information and then the authorization of a Google Partners admin with your company.
Step 4: Prepare for Exams
Google provides both basic educational info and their more extensive academy content.
You can find all of the training content as well as the assessments themselves in the “Google Ads” tab from the Academy for Ads home page dashboard.
If you’re brand new to Ads and the certification exams, you should go through the academy content.
You’ll need to plan on investing at least four hours of time to go through the video and written content and pass the sample exam questions for each module.
If you’ve been managing Ads campaigns, or have deeper exposure, it’s still a good idea to go through the modules – even if you do it at a faster pace.
The sample questions are quite helpful – they are written in the same format as they appear on the real exams.
Unless you have previously been certified and/or have a moderate level of Ads experience – don’t skip the training content!
Step 5: Pass Fundamentals Exam + One Additional Exam
To become certified you are required to pass the Ads fundamentals exam plus one of the additional exams of your choice.
Your certification will then be awarded for that specific product focus area of the second exam you choose.
The additional product advertising exams include:
While search and display are the two long-standing additional exams, Google is heavily pushing video and YouTube advertising.
Any one of the additional exams you pass in addition to Fundamentals will certify you.
I recommend you choose one that is best suited to the specific advertising you do or in an area that you are willing to invest time in learning so it can provide as much value as possible to your current or future role.
If you’re an overachiever or love standardized tests, there’s nothing that says you can’t take them all.
Note that if you fail to pass an exam, there’s a waiting period before you can retry. That’s the only real penalty to not passing.
Be sure to focus on the Ads Fundamentals exam and prepare accordingly as that exam is required for certification and you must pass it.
If you pass it and fail one of the secondary exams, you can still get certified inside of the waiting period by passing one of the other exams offered.
Once you’ve completed your certification, you should be proud of your accomplishment.
While it is a requirement to be certified by many hiring managers and companies, it still takes effort to go through the learning materials and/or to have been working in Ads for a period of time to pass.
Beyond Ads, the Google Analytics exam is also part of the Google Partner program, as well as some newer certifications on mobile sites and digital sales.
Depending on your role and career path, these can be great additional certifications and specializations to attain as well.
Make note of when your exam certifications expire so you can renew in time.
Also, make note of other exams in the Ads suite that you can take to further enhance your knowledge and specialization credentials.
Partner companies can achieve specific specializations based on affiliated individuals having passed additional exams on the specific sub-topics providing value for both the certified individual and the company.
All screenshots taken by author, December 2018
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ’s Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!