Working in online marketing we get quite used to some of the big names in the industry making changes and ‘moving the goalposts’ on a regular basis. Whether it’s a new search engine algorithm or a different format for displaying search results, everyone in the industry has had to get used to plenty of changes from the likes of Google in the past.
These changes do not always turn out for the better, but we are usually able to at least understand the intent behind them. However, the latest changes to the Google Partners programme, announced by the search engine giant last week, have completely baffled us and, from what we hear, have met with a similar reaction from a large number of our colleagues at other companies who are Google Partners too.
The Google Partners programme was launched a few years ago and, in Google’s own words it is ‘a marketing programme for advertising agencies or third parties that manage Google Ads accounts on behalf of other brands or businesses’.
The programme was set up with the clear aim that attaining status as a ‘Google Partner’ agency would be something that agencies would strive for, as it then demonstrates a level of expertise and competency with managing Google Ad campaigns that will help the agencies attract new clients. It was intended, in effect, to be some sort of ‘badge of approval’ from Google to help highlight those agencies that clients should feel comfortable employing to look after their Google PPC campaigns.
This is pretty much how it has been seen until now with the requirements to qualify as ‘Google Partner’ largely focused on passing certain certification tests to demonstrate a level of knowledge as well as maintaining a certain level of performance. However, Google has now announced that, by the end of June 2020, the criteria related to ‘performance’ are going to change and will then be based purely upon whether an agency implements the recommendations that Google makes. This has left us, and a number of other agencies, very uncomfortable with the things that we will now be forced to do in order to remain as a ‘Google Partner’ agency.
Google’s generates a significant number of automated ‘recommendations’ for each and every Google Ads account. Previously these suggestions could be looked at, and, depending upon their merits, either implemented or dismissed. Whether they were accepted or not did not impact upon the status of the ‘Google Partner’ agency, which is completely logical as there may be very good reasons why some of these recommendations may not be applicable to a particular client’s account or campaign and why any agency would therefore not wish to implement them.
The agency, if they are doing their job, should know their client and what they are aiming to achieve from their ad campaigns, as well as what their target audience and available budget is. So, when Google’s automated recommendations say a budget should be increased (as they frequently do), a new keyword or site extension should be added to a campaign, a different bidding strategy should be used, or any of the myriad of other recommendations that can be made, there may be very legitimate reasons why the client would not want the agency to implement these changes.
For example, the client may only have a certain PPC budget and would therefore not want to spend more by increasing a campaign’s spend and they may not want to target a particular keyword because it is too generic and not specific enough to their niche. In addition, they also may not wish to put specific prices on their ads because their pricing structure is more complex and requires interaction with a customer in order to quote them first and they may not want to use a bidding strategy focusing on gaining impressions when they are really concerned with gaining more conversions.
In our experience, we reject around 30-40% of the recommendations that Google automatically produces for all of the reasons already mentioned, as well as a whole range of others. What it all comes down to is that we know our clients and what they are aiming to achieve better that Google does.
Until now the fact that we haven’t blindly implemented all of Google’s recommendations hasn’t been an issue, but with the changes announced for Google Partners, it looks like this is going to change. The ‘performance’ element of the Google Partners qualification is now going to be based solely on whether a high enough percentage of the search engine’s automated recommendations are accepted and implemented. Whilst we don’t yet know what the threshold is going to be, the preview of what our status is going to change to indicates that our current level of dismissal of Google’s automated recommendations of 32.1% is clearly too high.
So, what does this mean..?
Well, if the changes go ahead,as Google has indicated, it ultimately means that we are going to have to choose whether we want to remain a ‘Google Partner’ or whether working in the best interests of our clients is the most important thing for us as an agency.
If it comes to this then it will be an easy decision for us to make and we will have to take a stand, waving goodbye to the ‘Google Partners’ badge whilst explaining to our clients that we have been forced to do this because we do not want to be in a position where we are not free to manage their campaigns in the way that they would rightly expect us to.
Author: Rob Massey. Rob has over 15 years experience within the online marketing industry, and primarily focuses on PPC marketing on Google, including Google Ads, Shopping, and the Display Network.