Free: Part I of the Guide


The guide was last revised in February, 2017

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CHAPTER 1: Individual Certification

In the minds of many people, Google is the only pay-per-click advertising company that exists. There are others, but Google is the standard in search engine marketing and if you want to show some credibility in the field, then you want their certification.

The Google Partners Program is Google’s AdWords certification body. A program Member is anyone who signs-up for a Partner Program account. A Certified Individual is any member who passes the fundamentals exam and one of the advanced exams. Neither members nor certified individuals have to work at a Partner company or meet any other requirements. A Partner Company (or Google Partner) is the company-level certification and only companies (not people) can be described as Google’s “Partners.” Individual people can only say they’re certified.

You can create and edit your Partner Program profile whether certified or not, with or without having an AdWords account, whether leading a global agency or completely unemployed with no paid search experience whatsoever. It doesn’t cost anything and you won’t be required to run any ads or spend any money on a live account.

Who Certifies & Why

Maybe the professional accreditation will reassure clients of the level of service they’d get from you. Sometimes certification is for client-facing roles (like sales) in which talking-shop with the client’s marketing team makes the difference in the choice of which agency they hire. Other times, account managers who never actually see a client would certify so everyone can be assured the individual person assigned to an account is proficient. Some prospective clients will be impressed by the certification, some require it, some don’t care, and others don’t know what it is.

Maybe you are not yet working in the field and certification will demonstrate technical proficiency to potential employers. There are colleges that nudge students to certify so they’ll enter the job market with a better résumé. The expectation is not that they could know their way around an AdWords account, but that on-the-job training won’t start on day one with explanations as basic as “Google is a search engine. A search engine is…”

The People Involved

References to the players involved can have their meanings crossed, so let’s take a minute here. Most scenarios in the certification exams assume that you (the test-taker) are employed at an agency of some sort managing an AdWords account on behalf of an advertiser client, so this guide usually assumes the same thing. There are also questions which put you (the test-taker) in the seat of the individual business owner who’s running her own AdWords account for her own small business.

Advertisers almost never call themselves “advertisers,” but everyone else does. Anyone who spends money on advertising is an advertiser. If they don’t buy AdWords directly, then they hire advertising agencies or Search Engine Marketing (SEM) firms to buy on their behalf. “SEM” can mean either a search engine marketing firm or an individual person who is a search engine marketer. We’ll find the terms “advertiser,” “agency,” “marketer,” and “SEM” used almost interchangeably to talk about the person or company who’s buying AdWords.

Google sometimes uses the titles “user,” “visitor,” or “customer” and this confuses things because everyone involved has users, visitors, and customers. In this guide the terms “user” and “visitor” refer to the individual person who we are all conspiring to serve ads to. Because “customer” can mean just about anybody involved, it’s used sparingly.

The MCC Question

The Partners program almost requires that every individual person be linked to an MCC account. It is not absolutely necessary, but Google will make it unnecessarily difficult to take advantage of the program if you don’t.

If you just want the certification and don’t want anything else from the program, then activating an MCC wouldn’t do anything for you. Not everyone who has a reason to certify really needs one. In-house people in client-side marketing departments have a legitimate reason to individually certify, but no compelling reason to run accounts under an MCC. Job hunters don’t need one either.

If you have an MCC, then whichever email address you use to access it is the one you want to use when you first sign up as an individual member of the Partners program. Google will automatically recognize it and link the two. Any address that’s associated with a Google account will forever be linked to that account.

Switching Employers

A company employing certified people doesn’t have to be a Google Partner, but if it is then at least one person must maintain the individual-level certification to keep it active. A Google Partner company keeps its status as long as there is one certified person under the roof. If there’s only one lone certified individual at a boutique agency, then that person is an administrator by default. The partners portal won’t allow a sole administrator to disassociate from the account without first assigning a new one.

It’s also possible if you quit your job and take clients with you that your old employer could be left with accounts that total less than the spending threshold for company-level Partner badge. Your old company would have to scramble to bring in new money or risk losing their badge. You probably wouldn’t be spoken of very highly in those halls any more.


CHAPTER 2: Company Certification

Individual people get certified, while agencies (as organizations) get a certification badge. If your only interest is in the individual certification and you don’t see yourself involved with an agency’s Partner profile, then you might skip ahead to the next chapter.

For a company to qualify for a Partner Badge, it must have at least one AdWords certified person, manage at least US$10,000 every 90 days under its MCC, and that MCC must be at least 90 days old. The first step for an agency to become a Partner is to sign up for the Partners Program, but being signed-up isn’t enough. Only after meeting the criteria for the badge can an already signed-up agency start promoting itself as a Partner.

Any AdWords certified person can create a new company level Partner account, as long as she’s not currently linked under an existing one. Maybe you’re a lone wolf consultant or do freelance side work. If you’re feeling entrepreneurial then you can create a new Partner company account for yourself and get a company badge – assuming your total client list meets the spending threshold. If the total AdWords spending under your control is less than that threshold, then you (as a company) would not qualify for company level certification, but you (as a person) would maintain individual qualification.

Promoting to Prospects

The Google Partner Portal is the central place to manage qualifying factors like individual employees’ certification statuses and to access Google-approved marketing materials, which ensures you don’t run afoul of any of their “don’t say you and us are too close” policies. Because the Google Partner Program, Google Partner Profile, and Google Partner Portal all share the same initials, we won’t abbreviate any of them here.

If you have not yet visited the portal, then the first thing you’ll see when arriving is an advertiser-facing page which promotes the program to those who might want to hire an agency. Because the content and navigation are meant for agencies’ clients, we need to click the “I’m an Agency” link. Even if you are not “an agency,” it will take you to the side of the site that’s relevant for our purposes.

The Partner Program account is linked to an agency’s MCC, which Google uses to judge that agency’s spending and ensure it at least passes their threshold to qualify. An MCC (My Client Center AKA Multi-Client Center) is designed so a marketer can login to one place and work on many different clients’ accounts while keeping them and their budgets completely separate. They’ll be discussed much more in Part II.

If your company runs more than one MCC, you can create a parent MCC to link them under so your company gets credit for every dollar it passes to AdWords. One agency can’t have two Partners accounts and two agencies can’t share one account. So first, get your MCC straight. Then, create a Partners account to link it to.

Of all the benefits of certification, Google has the idea that the most sought-after carrot they’re holding is “The Badge,” an online link to an image of a badge that an agency can display on their website. Most Partners material is written in badge-centered language which describes it as the actual purpose of certifying. It can be displayed on Partner companies’ websites, marketing materials, and even physical letterhead and business cards. For those electronic formats, it comes in the form of embeddable HTML which means Google can measure how it gets viewed and remotely alter or remove it.

Each person can only be associated with one company account at a time. Administrators can invite new Members in to the portal and can see whenever one takes an exam or if someone’s individual certification will expire soon. They are able to see exam scores, completion times, and the number of test attempts, as well as the status and expiration dates for the different certifications. These reports are tucked away in the often-overlooked My Company tab of the portal.

Few things seem to madden Googlers more than marketers who tell clients they have a special relationship with Google and some special access that others don’t. Most of the policies about marketing your certification or your company’s badge are meant to stop you from exaggerating how close you are to Google. Refer to their own materials for updated policy details, but the theme is that you won’t do anything that implies a relationship with or endorsement by Google.

Google Partner Search

The “Find a Google Partner” page of the portal is an advertiser-facing database of badged agencies. Google sometimes leads traffic to the page from links within the AdWords user interface, help pages, house ads, and ads on outside properties. Partners certification puts a company into the database, making it findable. Your company’s listing there might just be your highest-authority and hardest-won link.

A profile page contains agency-entered info like location(s), logo, and a descriptive paragraph. When registering, you’ll have to choose from lists of industries your company serves, the services you offer, the languages you support, the countries you service, and the minimum budget you’re willing to handle (it can be $0). Profile pages show the number of people in the organization who have individual certifications. Advertisers are able to fill-out a contact form which Google then forwards to the Partner company as a lead. If leads never become your clients and show-up under your MCC, then your company might appear lower in future Find-a-Partner results.

Badged Partner accounts have a Partner Rating score based on “best practices campaign strength” which partially determines position in Find-a-Partner results. The way to manipulate your Partner Rating is to conform to all of Google’s best practices and accept all of their recommendations. You might get automated suggestions for raising your Partner Rating which are meant to encourage you to encourage your clients to accept the recommendations. The Partner portal also contains a library of marketing materials designed to help you sell AdWords in accordance with Google policy.

If you’re not being honest about your minimum spending threshold, this is how that may be revealed. Some may be tempted to exaggerate to falsely inflate prestige. If your profile says your company only accepts clients who are spending at least $5,000 per month while your MCC is full of those spending $500 per month, then Google knows what you’re doing.

Partners Promotional Offers

A linked MCC is necessary for a Partner company to have access to promotional offers to pass on to new clients. These are coupons for “US$50 of free AdWords” or “Spend US$25 and get US$100 of free AdWords.” The idea is that you are now armed with incentives to bring new advertisers to Google.

Visiting the Offers page (within the Partners Portal) will reveal which accounts are eligible for which offers (if any). They vary by country and you can only pass them on to prospects located in the designated one. You can’t apply offers to your own agency’s AdWords usage to promote itself, so no free house ads. Anything other than giving the credit to an advertiser to encourage them to spend with AdWords is against their rules.

Badge Revocability

One of the reasons for the certifications’ existence is that search engine marketing is infamous as an industry where everyone claims they’re experts. There are too many pretenders. How is an advertiser to know who to hire? Self-appointed search experts are evangelizing AdWords which benefits Google. But they don’t want search hucksters butchering advertisers’ paid search efforts, leading to the feeling that AdWords just doesn’t work.

The biggest threat to the value of the Partner Program is every time an advertiser gets burned by the sloppy work of someone who has the qualification. Google’s approach to revoking badges is based on signals it finds inside the AdWords and MCC accounts of Partner companies, and the associated certified individuals. They have specifically mentioned some red flags they look for, such as a lack of negative keywords, the presence of conflicting exact and negative match keywords, and lack of Sitelinks. Google’s approach will go a long way to reassure the world that hiring a certified individual or Partner company ensures they’re not hiring a lousy one.

If your company is in danger of such a defrocking, expect a sternly-worded email. You can also opt-in to Performance Suggestions emails (in the Partners portal) which are automatically-generated periodic emails that can act as an early warning system that something in your MCC isn’t favored by them.


CHAPTER 3: The Exams

This chapter covers the nuts-and-bolts of the new exams, the format, question types, and we’ll see a few sample questions.

About the Exams

In the AdWords universe, there are five certifications based on six tests. To become certified, you’ll take the fundamentals exam and then an advanced one. Advanced tests cover a level of proficiency most working professionals would call intermediate. Each expires in one year, so continued certification requires annual renewal.

All exams have a passing threshold of 80%. You’ll see your score the moment you finish the test.

There’s also the completely separate GAIQ (Google Analytics Individual Qualification) which also lives in the partners portal.

Now is the time to set a goal: Do you just want to pass or do you want to pass with a great score? There are two different strategies and deciding between them makes the difference in whether you can ignore one topic or need to absorb encyclopedic knowledge.

Question Styles

AdWords exam items are multiple-choice questions with four options to select a single answer from. They’re selected by clicking a round radio button, the kind that would unselect one answer when another is clicked. An example:

  1. An English-speaking user in Hong Kong who has set his Google interface language to Simplified Chinese performs a search using Korean characters on In which language will AdWords serve ads?

o Korean

o Simplified Chinese

o English

o Cantonese

Korean is one of only five languages identified solely by its unique alphabet, which will override any conflicting indicators about language, and leads us to the first choice.

Notice that answers are not labeled A, B, C, and D as is often customary. That’s how the choices appear on the exam, without lettered answer labels. Other questions could ask you to “select all that apply,” instructing you to choose more than one check box:

  1. Which of the following bid strategies are suited for advertisers with a direct response goal? Select all that apply.

□ Maximize clicks

□ Viewable CPM

□ Target CPA

□ Target ROAS

The final two options both support direct response advertising, so they must both be selected for this item to be correct. Although an argument could be made to also include the first option, we’ll speak about “best” answers soon.

There are also true/false questions. Bear in mind the options aren’t always ordered in the expected way, as in “A” (the first option) is True and “B” (the second option) is False. The testing platform serves answers in randomized order, so they’re sometimes “reversed” like the example below. Give at least one moment of attention to this before answering a true/false item:

  1. Enhanced CPC bidding is AdWords’ default bidding strategy.



CPC bidding is manual by default, so this statement is false.

The randomized answer sequence also means that “none of the above” is reworded as “none of these options is correct” so that the option still makes sense when served in any of the four slots. Imagine if “none of the above” were (by chance) served as the first option like this:

  1. Which of the following goals is appropriate for an uncapped budget?

o None of the above

o To increase offline sales at a brick-and-mortar physical clothing store

o To increase online sales at an office supply e-commerce website

o To increase web traffic for a public health campaign with a fixed budget

Employing the phrase “none of these options is correct” fixes the problem created when answers are randomly sequenced, like this:

  1. Which of the following goals is appropriate for an uncapped budget?

o None of these options is correct

o To increase offline sales at a brick-and-mortar physical clothing store

o To increase online sales at an office supply e-commerce website

o To increase web traffic for a public health campaign with a fixed budget

If none of the options were correct, then the wording of the first answer choice would make sense in any of the four positions. But, the third choice in this sample question is an appropriate goal for an uncapped budget and correctly answers this question.

When the “all of these options are correct” option is present, we can choose it even if we don’t know if all answers are correct. If there are three other choices and we know for a fact that two of them are correct, but aren’t sure about the third, then we still know that only one (not two) can be selected and can default to the “all of these options are correct” option. What you need to know for the exam is covered in subsequent parts, so don’t worry if these sample questions in Part I don’t make sense yet.


CHAPTER 4: What to Expect

Clever Kevin Traps

You’ve met people like our fictional friend Clever Kevin before. He doesn’t understand that he’s not the first person to think of the things he thinks of, and when he began working with AdWords he kept inventing ways to out-Google Google. He has this idea that it offers him a platform to trick gullible internet users without being noticed.

Clever Kevin’s intentions aren’t always malicious, as sometimes he just mismanages a client’s budget because he thinks account management is simpler than it is. One way for Google to wake him up is to fail him on a test, so we’ll have to recognize the exams’ Clever Kevin traps.

Just as Google wants to indoctrinate the world’s marketers to follow Google’s best practices, they also want to put an end to worst practices and one of those tools is the certification program. Worst practices are all those things that Google wishes Clever Kevin didn’t do so if there’s an answer choice that involves doing them, then you can eliminate it. Tactics to trick internet users, competitors, Google, and anything that smells spammy are all things that will always be wrong on all AdWords exams. Always!

The Economics of Limited Time

Clever Kevin smiles whenever he considers the prospect of an internet-mediated test. He might be the first person to ever think of sitting down with two screens and testing on one while looking up all the answers on the other. Why hasn’t anyone ever thought of this before?

Looking up answers takes longer than knowing answers, and the time limit will keep this from working very well. The number of questions can easily be handled in the time limit by someone who knows the answers. They can’t all be answered correctly in that time by someone who’s cranking his neck off to one side looking at help menus and hoping the next answer is just behind the next click. There should be no expectation that just anyone can sit down in front of two devices for a perfect score. Just anyone would run out of time.

The testing site is responsively designed by people who are obviously not concerned that allowing the test to be taken on a phone makes it easier for anyone to have an additional screen open at the same time. They must be confident that an unfamiliar person could not ace the test that way. Keep this very guide nearby when testing, but don’t rely on having the time to search for answers.

Having said that, the time limit is not so severe that there’s need to speed-read. You’ll have enough time to fully evaluate every question and answer choice, and you should do so. The first answer choice may be correct, but a subsequent one may be more correct (or “best”). Time limit fears shouldn’t cause anyone to pick the first plausible one and move on without even reading the remaining choices. The highest scores are achieved by those who know the subject well enough that they have the luxury of taking their time.

The Math’s Not All That Hard

Any given day of search engine marketing work requires a higher proficiency in mathematics than is needed for the tests. Let’s look at a sample math question before talking about how we don’t need to worry that much about math questions:

  1. If you set a default Max CPC bid of $1.00 for your ads, and set a +25% Bid Adjustment for weekends and a +100% Bid Adjustment for mobile ads, then what is your max bid after adjustments when both conditions apply?

o $2.25

o $2.50

o $1.25

o $1.00

This one requires us to combine adjustments. First, the $1.00 default CPC is adjusted up by +25% to $1.25. Then, that $1.25 is adjusted up +100% to $2.50, which is the second answer choice.

The math itself is often more straightforward than the definitions of terms needed to identify what kind of result you’re being asked to produce. Many numbers-filled questions aren’t asking you to calculate anything, but they’re really looking to see if you know a numbers-related definition. Let’s see a widely-known one:

  1. You set the Max CPM of an ad on the Display Network to $10. What is the most you would pay for 1,000 impressions?

o $100

o $1,000

o $10

o $1

There’s nothing to do here, because 1,000 impressions at a rate of $10 per 1,000 impressions is $10. It’s only necessary to know that CPM (covered later) is a term that means cost-per-thousand-impressions. The take-away is that many “math” questions are really vocabulary questions. In Examland you might encounter acronyms that aren’t often used in the real world, so this guide will include less-used ones known to make appearances on exams sometimes.

For good measure, have a calculator by your side, even though test-takers report a range of just one or two questions per exam which call for a calculation of any kind.

The Testing Interface

You need to register for the Google Partners Program in order to take any of the exams. After the Terms of Service you’ll be asked about your job function, and then your interest (as an individual) in different channels, countries, and industries. You can leave these blank. Inside the portal you’ll see the exams listed. To attempt one, click it and proceed to that test’s page.

All the usual test-taking advice applies so please eat a hearty breakfast and don’t forget that scratch paper. If you’re taking the exam on a device that’s not physically plugged in to a wall, then be sure it’s charged. The testing site is responsively designed so you can take it on a tablet or phone.

Take the test from home if you can get enough distraction-free time. If you have to slip-away from the keyboard for a break, you can just walk-off without the concern of being cornered in a workplace hallway conversation while a test timer counts down at your desk.

You’ll see a Start Exam Now button. Don’t dare press it unless you’re ready for the timer’s unpauseable countdown to begin. Once you click Start Exam Now, you’ll find yourself looking at the first question, and your first possible glimpse of the timer (for a 120 minute test) would read “Remaining Time: 01:59:59” as it will have already begun counting down.

Once you press Confirm Answer on the final question, the test is done and you’ll immediately see your score report page which shows the number and percentage of correct answers, and an explicit pass/fail statement.

There will be no diagnostic feedback. Once back in the Partner Program portal, you may see “not yet attempted” still showing under the relevant exam box. If so, don’t worry as a delay of up to 48 hours in posting is common and it’s unlikely that there’s actually a problem. If your result is not reflected after two days and you still see “not yet attempted,” then it’s time to make use of the Help page’s “contact us” feature, or retake the exam.


CHAPTER 5: Exam Management

This chapter focuses on tactics related to specific kinds of questions you’ll face and counter-tactics when you’re confronted with poorly constructed questions.

Best & Least-Worst Answers

Search engine marketing in the real world often involves problems that could be solved in several different ways, and the task on any given day is to choose the best solution for that particular instance. Examland’s problems can also have more than one fundamentally correct answer, but it’s expected that only one is “best.”

On the test you’re not always trying to pick your best answer, but Google’s best one. This does not mean that all “best answers” financially favor Google such as “raise bids” or “uncap that budget already!” It means if an answer is factually correct but you know Google wishes everyone did something in a different way, then consider all choices before answering. As in the real world, the subjectivity of a “best answer” can be frustrating or it can be managed.

Some marketers believe in dayparting their campaigns by running ads only during some hours of the day, while others don’t. Google offers a feature for it and the answer they would count as correct is the one that involves using their feature.

For another example, no matter how you feel about the issue, Google believes both their search and display networks are great places for branding efforts. Keep that in mind if you were to be asked:

  1. Which campaign type is appropriate for brand advertising?

o Search Network Only

o Both Search and Display Networks

o Display Network Only

o None of these options is correct

Sometimes answers do financially favor Google, and in this example, the second option would be the one they’re looking for.

Often Google’s best answer is factually incorrect. In this next example below, all answers are outright wrong except for the second one, which is only half-wrong, making it the least-worst answer:

  1. Which of these ad formats can be shown on the Search Network only?

o Image ads

o Text ads

o Video ads

o Lightbox ads

Text ads are the only type on the search network so the others are wrong for that reason alone. But text ads can also be shown on the display network which makes it an incorrect choice too, just less incorrect than the others.

General “CEO answers” are right more often than specific “worker bee answers.” A question about how to optimize an account would more likely be correctly answered with “monitor the account” than “monitor the search terms report for possible negative keywords.” Those can both mean exactly the same thing, but one is more general than the other and many answers skew towards the general end of the spectrum.

Also keep an eye out for any answer choice with the word “predetermined,” which can probably be eliminated based on that one word. Should we stick to a predetermined cost-per-click? Nope.

Managing Helpful Test Traits

There are times when your right answer would be counted wrong because there’s something wrong with the exam. There are other times when there’s something wrong with the exam that can point you towards the correct answer. In this section we’ll review how to take advantage of helpful question design traits and in the next one, how to prevent being hurt by harmful ones.

Many question/answer combinations are designed to be two clauses of the same sentence, when the question begins a statement and the correct answer finishes it. You can often eliminate choices that (as the end of a sentence) don’t grammatically agree with the question (as the beginning of a sentence). An example:

  1. Interest Targeting is a method in which:

o Individual IP addresses are targeted.

o Scheduled delivery of interesting dayparts.

o A specific geographic area is targeted.

o Users are targeted for their interests.

The second option could not be the second half of the sentence begun in the question portion. Combining them would result in nonsense: “      Interest Targeting is a method in which scheduled delivery of interesting dayparts.” So, this choice can probably be eliminated before considering the remainders. Of those, Interest Targeting is a method of serving ads to users who have been identified as having interest in a given category (the last answer choice). If you weren’t certain about this one and dayparting seemed like a plausible answer, then attention to potential inconsistencies can aid the process of elimination.

Some answers can be eliminated without even considering how they would pair with the question. When constructing a test, it’s natural for the test-maker to be less attentive to the wrong answer choices than the correct one. If one of them is gibberish (like the second choice below), then it’s under suspicion as a good candidate for elimination:

  1. AdWords Discounter:

o Calculates the Actual CPC or CPM to be paid

o Offer offers new advertiser program

o Finds the lowest priced clicks

o Discounts clicks when campaign budgets are uncapped

Even if you didn’t recognize the first option as the correct one, you could at least eliminate the second one without knowing any more on the issue. Most poorly-constructed answer choices are wrong.

However, some poorly-worded ones could still be correct due to a question-creator’s oversight. So if an answer doesn’t pair well with a question (like the third one below), then you should suspect that it could be wrong but don’t thoughtlessly eliminate it solely for that reason.

  1. You set ad rotation to Rotate Evenly. You should then expect AdWords to:

o Optimize for conversions after 60 days

o Rotate ads indefinitely

o Begins to optimize for clicks after 90 days

o Optimize for conversions after 90 days

If we know the third one is right, then inconsistent syntax should make us hesitate, but not completely stop us from choosing it. Although mistakes in answer choices can assist you in narrowing down the field, this phenomenon qualifies as a harmful test trait when the question-makers’ error could mislead you to eliminate a correct answer that’s just poorly-worded.

Managing Harmful Test Traits

These aren’t the most skillfully crafted questions and the test creators’ errors are the test takers’ problem. Let’s begin with one of the more forgivable types.

Beware of negatively-phrased questions. Sometimes you’re looking for the only one that’s not right:

  1. Exact Match will not:

o Be the default option

o Match plural forms

o Match variants

o Be designated by the use of [brackets]

Exact match is designated by the use of [brackets] and can match plural forms and variants of keywords. The only one that is not true is the first option because exact match is not the default match type. We deliberately identify and select the choice that’s not true for a negatively-phrased question.

Beware of changes in voice, tone, or tense which can cloud the question. Inconsistencies like this are common:

  1. A business owner wants to temporarily suspend advertising one of her products. She should consider that when an ad group is paused:

o All previous performance statistics are deleted

o The ads it contains will not be reviewed until it is un-paused

o All ads within the same ad group are paused

o All ads within the same campaign are paused

The passive wording of “when an ad group is paused” makes it less than clear that our business owner (and not Google) is the one who’s doing the pausing. Regardless of who pauses an ad group, all ads within it are paused so the third statement is the only true one.

Beware of questions containing words that infer important information, but don’t say it directly. The word “placement” should immediately tip you off that this question is about the display network:

  1. Text ads can show on a placement when:

o Keyword targeting matches

o Topic Targeting matches

o All of these options are correct

o Interest targeting matches

The Question could have read “Text ads can show on the display network when…” and still lead to the same answer that all of these options are correct

Beware of questions which use “quotation marks” for no good reason. Quotation marks are used in Google’s exam questions (and in this guide) in the same way they’re used in the rest of the English language. But they’re also used within the AdWords user interface to designate Phrase Match keywords. Be mindful that such marks around a keyword on a test don’t always indicate phrase match is in play:

  1. Which of these queries would your keyword “water skis” be eligible for if you set it to exact match?

o Skis

o Water ski sale

o Water skis

o Water sports skis

The specific mention of Exact Match should override any thought that the quotation marks are designating a phrase match keyword. The only option that exact match would serve an ad on is the third choice.

Beware of obsolete questions. The Traffic Estimator doesn’t exist anymore, but that doesn’t mean all questions about it have been scrubbed from the exam:

  1. You are conducting keyword research. The Traffic Estimator is a free tool used to estimate:

o The incoming traffic of the keywords in an ad group

o The volume and costs of keywords

o Your ad position for selected keywords

o The traffic your competitors receive on a keyword

The Traffic Estimator previously estimated keyword volume and costs before it was replaced by the Keyword Planner. Any question that’s been spotted still circulating in the past 12 months is covered in this guide.

We’re done looking at sample questions. To see more like them and take practice tests, I recommend iPassExam who’s already doing practice questions better than I ever could. It’s a paid service (and not my company) so if there’s a current discount code, find it at:

The Strikethrough Tactic

The same process-of-elimination technique that you’ll remember from school is useful here. Even if answer choices are not labeled A, B, C, and D, you can use those labels anyway to keep track of which ones you can safely eliminate on old-fashioned scratch paper. It’s especially useful when evaluating answer choices with multiple clauses. Let’s narrow one down:

  1. If you replaced the broad match version of a keyword with an exact match version, you should expect:

o A lower CTR and higher volume

o A higher CTR and lower volume

o A lower CTR and lower volume

o A higher CTR and higher volume

It’s entirely possible a person who is well aware of the impact of widening or narrowing match types would not pick the right answer to this question because of the way it’s presented. Start eliminating based only on the first portion of the answer. Imagine this is all you saw:

  1. If you replaced the broad match version of a keyword with an exact match version, you should expect:

o A lower CTR

o A higher CTR

o A lower CTR

o A higher CTR

We can eliminate the first and third choices based just on the first portion of the answers because we assume that narrower match types generally produce a higher CTR. Continue eliminating based only on the second portion of the answer, as if that’s all you saw:

  1. If you replaced the broad match version of a keyword with an exact match version, you should expect:

o a higher volume

o a lower volume

o a lower volume

o a higher volume

We can now eliminate the first and last choices because we expect a narrower match type to produce lower volume. If both halves of the remaining possibility are true, then you have your answer:

  1. If you replaced the broad match version of a keyword with an exact match version, you should expect:

o A lower CTR and a higher volume

o A higher CTR and a lower volume

o A lower CTR and a lower volume

o A higher CTR and a higher volume

Both a higher CTR and a lower volume of clicks are found in our single remaining answer, the second option.


CHAPTER 6: Examland

Google doesn’t make all ad formats and reporting metrics available outside the US, so there may be some covered that aren’t (yet at least) applicable to another market. Although drawing from global advertising examples, this guide is oriented to the US test versions. There are others and the difference between them is more than just the spelling of “optimize” versus “optimise.” While different versions are nearly identical, the two areas of most difference are policy questions (like ads related to gambling) and geographic targeting questions (like whether individual postal codes can be targeted). If you’re taking a version other than the US one, then be sure to review information about those two topics specific to your domain, in addition to what you find here.

The Tests are Updated and Outdated

Many questions and answers on the tests are outdated, which favors those who know through experience. This is one way that experience can trump book knowledge, even in academic-smelling standardized testing. If a question asks about a feature that was discontinued last year, then why would someone who learned AdWords this year know the answer? When an obsolete question that hasn’t yet been scrubbed from the test is presented, the person who knows the obsolete answer is the one who remembers it through obsolete experience.

I wouldn’t be doing right by you by not covering outdated questions that are still appearing on exams. So, the policy in effect here is: If a question has been seen on an exam in the last 12 months, then it’s covered, even if it should not rightfully still be in circulation.

Whenever that’s an issue, I’ll make an exam-centered comment about the old way and quickly move on. If you read something here that’s out of date and it’s not explicitly marked as being so, then I invite you to scold me at

Most test questions assume the test-taker is a search engine marketer who works at an agency and manages someone else’s AdWords spend. If you’re in-house at an e-commerce property, then you’ll be asked some questions that are based on the kind of experience you might not have (like client relationships). If you work solely on political campaigns, then you’ll face questions about things (like ROAS) that you might have to prepare for by reviewing the same materials as the inexperienced new arrival.

No matter your background, you can create experience by creating a dummy AdWords account. Don’t fund it, but you can set it up as if you were expecting to run a campaign that was pre-optimized so well it would be profitable from day one. You can create ad types you never had a reason to create before just to see what they’re made of. Tools like the Keyword Planner are only accessible from within an AdWords account, even a dormant one.

This material will be out of date the moment it’s published. Google will never finish building AdWords or rotating new questions into the exam, so I’ll never finish writing this guide. In a seeming contradiction, this guide is updated frequently because the test is updated frequently and it’s outdated because the test is outdated. You’ll find that if it’s on the test, then it’s in this guide.

Maximizing Scores

The biggest AdWords advertisers are buying a variety of products from Google, much more than just cost-per-click text ads on To be entrusted to handle large and complex accounts with big budgets, you can prove your mettle by getting a super score.

If you work for a Partner agency, then the account administrator (and probably your boss) can see your scores and you can’t afford to just barely pass. Likewise, if you’re not yet working at such a place but want to, then showboat some serious search engine chops by scoring higher than others who already work in the field.

YouTube is full of tutorials so you can see how things like Manager Defined Spend work, even if you personally don’t have administrator-level access to a live account to try it out yourself. One caveat: Tutorials are intended for use in the real world. Sometimes a practice which you should absolutely follow when there’s real money on the line is different than what Google wants you to do, and the exam is a test of how well you know what Google wants you to do. Online tutorials are reliable for procedural instructions of things like how to properly set geographic targeting options, but not for the “why” questions involving how you “should” handle things like bidding strategy. You may even learn a clever real world trick that Google actively discourages by setting it up as the wrong answer on the test.

YouTube and YouTube Analytics are tools used by more people than just marketers, such as the legions of video content producers. All those YouTube stars who have become internet-famous by creating channels dedicated to fusion cooking webisodes, make-up tutorials, and do-it-yourself decorations also use those same platforms. So a further word of caution is needed before you consult materials specifically about YouTube. Most of them are oriented towards these content creators and not advertisers or agencies. There’s even an official Creator Academy which is a great way to start vlogging, but will waste your time for the fundamentals or video exams because it has nothing to do with advertising. Unlike AdWords and the GDN which are both firmly marketers’ territory, we have to be sure when learning about YouTube and YouTube Analytics that we’re learning something relevant to us.

No Need to Crack Google

Stop reading online speculation about the dark inner-workings of AdWords! At least for a while. For the purposes of certification exams, it doesn’t really matter how the AdWords black box works. We just have to know how Google publically says it works.

The algorithms underlying auctions are certain to be both top secret and mind-blowingly complex. If Google is deliberately evasive about something, then we can be sure there will be no test questions about it. So don’t sabotage yourself with concern about how Google “really” works. The correct answers to exam questions will always be things that Google wants everyone to know. Top-secret factors have zero chance of showing up on an AdWords exam.





Buy the Google AdWords Certification Guide which preps you to pass the Fundamentals, Advanced Search, Display, & Video Exams on the first try.

In paperback and ebook.

The Google Display Exam and Video Exam Prep Guide for AdWords Certification (Covers Both Tests)


The Google Display Exam and Video Exam Prep Guide for AdWords Certification (Covers Both Tests)