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 Ads certification exams, individuals get a personalized certificate and – if affiliated with a company – can 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, and more recently a rebrand to Skillshop.
Individual certification still works in very much the same way it did a few years ago with training content and exams (before Google AdWords was rebranded as Google Ads).
However, the connection with the Google Partners program, the move to a standalone platform, and more recent 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, as it can be a confusing process when doing it for the first time or when coming back and encountering the new system and format in Skillshop.
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: Get Started in Skillshop
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://skillshop.exceedlms.com/student/catalog/list?category_ids=53-google-ads.
Here you can find the specific certification you want to start with and click into it.
Within the specific certification, read the overview info.
When you’re ready to dive in, click on the Get Started button.
You may be required to authenticate one more time with the Google account you have set up and want to use.
If this is your first time in Skillshop, you’ll also be presented with terms of service to accept.
Once authenticated, you’re presented with an option of sharing your account certification status with your company and Google Partners account (more on that later).
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: Prepare for Exams
Google provides both basic educational info and their more extensive training content.
The specific Google Ads certifications include:
- Shopping ads
If you’re brand new to Ads and the certification exams, I recommend that you start with the Google Ads Search Certification first.
Search ads are typically the most common type of ads a company will run.
But if you are more focused on something like just shopping, then start there.
Training content is tied to each of these specific certifications.
When you click into any of them, you’ll be presented with options to get started that includes a quick knowledge assessment, then other resources.
You’ll need to plan on investing at least a few hours of time to go through the training content specialization.
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 4: Pass the Assessment
To become certified you are required to pass the assessment in any of the respective certification specialties.
Your certification will then be awarded for that specific product focus area.
You can stop with one specialization, or continue by going through additional specializations until you have mastered and achieved all of those relevant for your desired credentials.
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.
Step 5: (Optional) Connect with Google Partners
Disclaimer: The Google Partners Program requirements are changing in 2021. They were scheduled to update in mid-2020, but have been delayed. This information is for the current process prior to 2021 updates.
If you want to connect your individual account with your company for credit toward Google Partners and other related benefits, you need to have taken the step of sharing your account with your company.
If you skipped the step or said no, you can go back and do this now.
While still logged into Skillshop, click on your user icon in the top right corner and then on My profile.
Then, you can click Edit profile in the upper right. On this page, you’re again presented with the option to share with your company.
This process requires completion of your profile information that validates and connects you with your company from your end of things.
On the flip side, to validate from the Google Partners side, the administrator of your Google Partners profile will need to ensure that they have created a user account for you in Google Ads and verify they can see it connected in the Partners tab in Google Ads.
That account is to be tied to the company master account that is a Partner, as Google uses this to match up against your Skillshop account.
Again, note that this process is scheduled to change in 2021 along with some of the requirements for partner status.
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.
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 on Google Ads product specialties 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.
- PPC 101: A Complete Guide to Pay-Per-Click Marketing Basics
- 8 Simple Google Ads Tips That Will Make You More Money
- How to Conduct a Complete Google Ads Audit
All screenshots taken by author, July 2020