Launched in 2013, Google’s Partner Programme often serves as a confirmation of an agency’s skill and expertise to help clients grow their customer base and revenue income using pay-per-click advertising. To showcase it, agencies are required to not only pass certain exams proving their knowledge, but they also need to cover a certain spending threshold on Google Ads every month.
This partner program was initially introduced to help agencies improve their reputation and to give their clients more confidence in their abilities. As a Google Partner, agencies highlight three major benefits of the programme to clients:
- Receive expert services: Companies like After Digital that have earned a Google Partner badge have employees with Google Ads certifications managing their clients’ accounts. In other words, the staff are highly trained in producing effective PPC campaigns and know the ins and outs of Google Ads. Knowing this, you can rest assured that your certified agency will deliver the best results possible.
- Benefit from complete use of Google Ads features: There are many features and settings within Google Ads that can have an effect on your campaigns' performance. As a Google Partner, we have access to the full range of features that are only available to certified bodies. Additionally, to help you get a leg up on the competition, Google gives its partners exclusive access to their latest updates to the Google Ads system before they let the public use them. When you work with a Google Partner agency, you also have access to those beta features.
- Access quick and quality customer service: When you are running a campaign, issues can come up that can bring your campaigns to a halt. Working with a certified expert ensures you will have access to a dedicated Google representative whom your agency can contact at any time without having to wait in line. This means that as issues or concerns arise, you are guaranteed to have a direct line to solve them quickly.
However, Google has recently announced that agencies should expect upcoming changes to the programme that will go into effect by the end of June 2020.
To give you an idea of what’s changing and what this means for both agencies and their clients, we’re taking a look at the upcoming changes and what you can do to stay a partner.
What are the new Google Partners Badge requirements?
Google Ads is making significant changes to its Google Partners Badge programme, stating that the changes are being made to maintain a high standard for their programme, and that they will apply to all new and existing partners. Here is a summary of the changes we should expect:
Ad Spend Requirements
Currently, Google Partners must meet a 90-day ad spend requirement of $10,000 USD across your managed accounts. Under their new requirements, the required ad spend for Google Partners has increased to $20,000 over 90 days to show that your company has a healthy amount of activity. It is evident from this change alone that in order to keep their Partner Badge, many agencies will be forced to drastically double their ad spend in the next few months; either by trying to sign up as many clients as possible or by increasing the monthly ad spend of existing clients.
The second major change is to do with certifications and how many your employees hold. Currently, a company needs only one user certified in Google Ads who has admin or standard access to any Google Ads account linked to the company’s Google Partners Programme. But, under the new changes, you’ll need to have at least 50% of its eligible users earn updated certifications from Skillshop. Understandably, this shows that Google wants to ensure the people who spend their time working with Google Ads accounts regularly, actually understand campaign optimisations they are making.
The downside is that even professionals with over 20 years of experience running PPC campaigns, will not be exempt from having to retake the exam and earn a certification once again. For larger agencies this might mean getting hundreds of staff certified before the June deadline.
Company Performance Requirements
The final new change coming to the Google Partners Programme is to do with the agency performance, in terms of maintaining and growing a solid customer base. Currently, Google judges a company’s performance based on their ability to retain clients and sign-up new ones.
However, with the new requirements, agencies performance will be evaluated by whether they follow Google’s optimisation score recommendations. While previously agencies could pick and choose what to implement from Google’s recommendations, dismissing them now is not an option. This means that if agencies want to stay in the programme, they will need to strictly adhere to Google’s Machine Learning recommendations for running their clients’ accounts.
What does this mean for you?
Needless to say, the changes introduced by Google have not been welcomed very well by most agencies and many have criticised Google’s implicit intentions behind the changes. One change, in particular, requires Google partners to achieve an optimisation score of at least 70% by adopting as many of Google’s recommendations as possible. If you have ever looked at Google’s recommendations, you know that they can be very inaccurate sometimes. For instance, a client might be running an out of hours campaign when there is no one at the office, but Google wants you to ‘optimise’ the client’s ads by adding call extensions.
In an interview with CoyWolf, Greg Finn, Partner at Cypress North, expressed his concerns that ‘the Google Partners program now favors ‘compliancy over expertise’ and that ‘while some Google recommendations are helpful, others are downright harmful to the client performance’. In other words, agencies are being asked to put their expertise aside in order to hit specific optimisation score quotas in client accounts.
And while the Google Ads recommendations often directly benefit Google, agencies will still be held liable for the work they do under Google’s directions.
What is our response to the Google Partner Programme changes?
With the changes to the Google Partner Programme, it is extremely hard to find an outcome that benefits everyone – the client, Google, and the agency. At After Digital we always put client needs first and will continue to do so, even if this means forfeiting our Google Partner status.