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The Google Ads Search certification shows an employee’s mastery of building and optimizing Google Search campaigns, and showcases their ability to leverage automated solutions which boost campaign performance for specific marketing objectives. In this article we'll share what marketers need to learn in order to get this Google certification. 

The Google Ads Search Certification tells Google, employers, and prospective employers that a person has the ability to perform the following tasks:

  • Convert a brand’s online marketing vision into a coherent digital marketing strategy.
  • Create a Google Search strategy that includes a brand’s wider marketing plans.
  • Create a plan that is designed to increase sales, leads, or site traffic using Google Search.
  • Create a plan designed to attract new and existing customers with Google Search Audiences.
  • Create a Search marketing plan that is aligned with a brand’s digital marketing budget.

Google certifications are in high demand — on an average day there are approximately 220 job listings on SimplyHired and 125 on LinkedIn Jobs with a prerequisite for candidates to be Google AdWords certified. Currently there are certifications for 6 Google Ads products: Google Ads Search, Google Ads Display, Google Ads Video, Shopping ads, Google Ads Apps, and Google Ads Measurement Certification.

Students should prepare by taking the Google Ad Search Knowledge Check Assessment. There are nine modules, each with study guides for the student to read, totaling approximately two hours and 20 minutes. 

Grow Your Business With Google Ads

Google Ads has various advertising products that are designed to help brands reach their customers in the moments that matter, which is when they are using the search engine to locate products and services.

Since the goals and objectives of a brand determine its advertising campaigns, marketers need to understand exactly what those goals are in order to create an effective ad campaign. Specific goals include:

  • Driving sales: Growing online, in-app, in-person and over-the-phone sales.
  • Getting leads: Increasing conversions by driving customer actions.
  • Increasing website visits: Getting customers and leads to visit the brand’s website.
  • Influencing consideration: Encouraging customers and leads to explore the opportunities the brand provides.
  • Building awareness: Reaching a wider audience to maximize the brand’s exposure.
  • Promoting a brand’s app: Increasing mobile app installations and interactions.

Google Ads is designed around three principles: relevance, control, and results. Relevance: they help connect “the right people at the right time, with the right message.” Control: they give brands complete control over their budget. Results: brands only pay for results such as clickthroughs or calls to the brand.

Google Ads enables brands to connect with people who are using Search, watching videos on YouTube, finding apps on Google Play, and more. Brands can select where people will see their ads when they select their campaign type, which include the following:

  • Search: These ads appear above organic (non-paid) results on Google Search and other Google partner sites.
  • Display: These ads can appear across a network of over 2 million websites and apps.
  • Video: These video ads will appear on YouTube and other Google network sites.
  • Shopping: These ads appear on Google Shopping next to search results, near text and responsive ads.
  • App: These ads run across Search, Play, YouTube and thousands of mobile sites and apps.

Explore the Value of Google Search

Google points out that people use Google Search to locate information, to shop, to compare product prices, get directions, or locate something new and interesting, approximately 3.5 billion times each day. As they put it, “when people want to know, buy, go, or do,” they come to Google search. 

Key factors when determining a brand’s ad campaign include:

  • Where they want the ads to be seen.
  • How much they want to invest.
  • What they want to share with customers in the ads.
  • What keywords will match their customer’s search terms.

Search campaigns are designed around a marketing goal (such as sales, leads, or website traffic), along with the actions a brand wants its customers to take. Networks are where a brand’s ads show up. These can include the Google Search Network, which includes Google Search sites, as well as Google Play, Google Shopping, and Google Maps, non-Google search partners (sites that partner with Google to show search ads), and brands can even expand to the Google Display ads network. 

Brands are also able to select which devices their ads will show up on, including mobile devices, tablets, and desktop computers,  and ads can be customized for different devices. Ads can be targeted to customers who are located in (or show an interest in) specific geographic locations, or who speak specific languages. Additionally, a brand’s bid strategy is created based on how it wants users to interact with its ads, with different bidding options available to help the brand optimize for specific metrics. Brands also choose the daily budget they wish to spend on their campaign each day.

The next thing brands must focus on is customizing their keyword lists to either broaden or narrow the matches to suit the goals of the ad campaign. This is accomplished by keyword targeting, that is, matching keywords to those that customers may be using when they are looking for the brand’s products or services. To ensure that ads are showing up in front of a wider audience, and that no keywords are missing that the brand’s customers might be using, the brand would use the broad match and broad match modifier keyword match types. The broad match, which is the default match type, ensures that the brand’s ad show up in front of the widest possible audience. The broad match modifier, on the other hand, still shows the ad to a wide audience while allowing for specifics such as gender, and abbreviations. 

Another type of search is phrase match, which is essentially putting quotations around the keywords, which assures brands that their ads will only show up if the keywords within the quotation marks (or close variations) match a person’s search terms. Finally, there is the exact match, in which brands place brackets around their keywords. This ensures that ads will only be displayed if the search means the same exact thing as their keyword. Additionally, brands can use negative keywords, which through the addition of a minus sign ensure that ads will not be displayed if the negative keyword is included in the search.

Brands can also use Dynamic Search Ads, which enable their ads to show up for searches that are relevant to the brand, including ones the brand did not include. Dynamic Search Ads utilize Google’s deep understanding of the brand’s website to customize and target ads by dynamically generating an ad headline and destination URL for the most relevant page on the brand’s website. 

Understand the Google Ads Auction

In this section, the student will learn to describe the ads auction system, learn about how Google Ad Rank determines a brand’s ad position, along with the three factors that affect ad quality. 

The way Ad Rank works is that the ad with the highest Ad Rank gets to show up in the top position, the ad with the second highest Ad Rank gets to show up in the second position, etc. One could say that Ad Rank has five factors: bid price, ad rank threshold, context of query, ad extensions impact, and auction-time ad quality. 

Additionally, there are three main factors which determine how Google views the quality of an ad: expected clickthrough rate, ad landing page experience, and ad relevance. The Quality Score is Google’s estimate of the quality of a brand’s ads, keywords, and landing pages. The higher the Quality Score, the lower the price and better the ad positions. 

Deliver the Right Message with Text Ads

Text ads are, as would be expected, ads that consist of text, and they show up above and below Google Search results. As with many other search results, text ads will include a headline, a URL, and a description. The description field can have 90 characters. 

When creating text ads, brands should add three to five ads per ad group, each ad rotation should be optimized, and each campaign or ad group should use at least three extensions. By doing these things, brands may receive up to 15% more clicks or conversions according to Google. 

Responsive search ads enable brands to create ads that show more relevant messages to its customers. Like text ads, responsive ads require a headline, description, and URL, and the more headlines and descriptions that are entered, the more opportunities there are for Google to test and serve those ads that match people’s search terms. Google Ads take the headlines and descriptions and assembles them into multiple ad combinations in a manner that reduces the opportunity for redundancy. 

Responsive search ads are more flexible, literally, adapting to different device widths, more relevant to what is being searched for, has more reach with customers, and improves ad group performance. Up to 15 different headlines and 4 descriptions can be added for a single responsive search ad. 

Make Ads Relevant With Search Ad Extensions

Search ad extensions improve the relevancy of what is shown to people when they search using Google, enhancing their experience and increasing engagement. Ad extensions increase the chances of matching a user’s moment and showing personalized results that take into account a user’s intent, the device they are using, their interests, location, and relevancy. This translates into more qualified leads, and more interest by the user in performing actions as directed by the ad. 

The right ad extensions enrich the text ads by providing additional information about the brand. There are three basic extensions that should be used to enhance text ads:

  • Sitelinks: Appear under the text of search ads as additional links to specific pages on a brand’s website.
  • Callout extensions: Appear as short, 25-character snippets of text that are used to highlight details about what makes a brand’s products or services unique.
  • Structured snippets: Highlight specific features of a brand’s specific product or ranges of products or services.

Additionally, location extensions enable brands to display their business address, phone number, and a map marker next to the ad text. For users that are searching via mobile devices, a directions link is also provided. Affiliate location extensions enable product manufacturers to drive traffic to retail partners, and display a headline and URL for the manufacturer’s website, text that describes their product, along with the closest retailer for that product. Call extensions extend text ads with a phone number, which enables mobile users to more easily place a call to the brand.

Other types of extensions include app extensions, which are used to drive traffic to the brand’s website or app store from the text ad, price extensions, which display the prices of a brand’s products and services, promotion extensions, which as the name implies display promotions, and message extensions, which are a mobile-only format that allows a brand’s clients to communicate via text messages.

Finally, automated ad extensions provide relevant content to users up front, and they are served by Google when it believes it will have a positive impact on the campaign performance. The fully automated extensions are created by Google through the use of machine learning without any action from the brand, although advertiser-provided extensions will always supersede automated extensions. Dynamic sitelinks are automatically generated to direct users to a brand’s relevant content. Seller ratings (stars) extensions are another automated extension that shows customers the brand’s rating. 

Increase Efficiency With Automated Bidding

Google Ads automated bidding enables brands to account for all of the available signals that a user is providing as they search, allowing the brand to reach the right user at the appropriate time with a message that will appeal to their interests.  

Machine learning is used by automated bidding in order to algorithmically enable brands to set the most appropriate bids for each ad auction. In this fashion, automated bidding is able to cross-reference user data with context to determine the user’s intent and set the proper bid at the time of the ad auction. 

Selecting the right strategy depends on the networks that the ad campaign is targeting, along with the goals of the ad campaign. Awareness-based bidding strategies ensure that ads are visible for certain search queries and/or locations on the page. Consideration-focused bidding strategies are used to drive as many clicks as possible within the target spend amount that the brand has chosen. Conversion-focused bidding strategies are used to track actions after the user clicks on the ad, with a goal of maximizing conversions. Finally, revenue-focused bidding strategies are used to track the revenue that is associated with conversions in order to maximize the value at a certain return-on-ad spending target.  

Reach Valued Customers With Search Audiences

Google Search Audience solutions consist of a set of strategies and products that are designed to help brands reach high-value customers specifically when they are ready to make a purchase. Audience solutions enable brands to create audience lists that they can layer on their ad groups. Through a combination of intent and insights this is then used to deliver the most appropriate message to the customer that is most likely to make a purchase. 

Search Audience is most appropriate for those brands whose goals include awareness, consideration, and conversion and loyalty. It can be used to drive awareness to specific people based on advanced demographic information such as education, parenting stage, home ownership, and marital status, or even people that have demonstrated a strong interest in a specific topic. Brands that wish to drive consideration among prospective customers that have previously interacted with a brand or those who are considering buying from another brand can be reached through Search Audience. Finally, Search Audience can be used to increase purchases and brand loyalty by uploading the brand’s own data into Google Ads in order to reach custom segments across multiple devices. 

Search Audience enables brands to create audience lists based on many different variables. Affinity Audiences are used by brands to aggregate users that have already demonstrated a qualified interest in a specific topic. This allows brands to target those individuals that would be most likely to be interested in the brand’s products or services. Detailed Demographics enables brands to reach customers based on their activities on Google, which itself provides access to detailed demographics about those customers. In-Market Audience solutions enable brands to recognize the difference between interest and intent, allowing brands to reach customers when they are in a buying state of mind.

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads enables brands to use the data that has been collected from previous search campaigns. This data may come from people that have visited the brand’s website, those that have added content to a shopping cart only to abandon it later, and customers that are new to the brand’s website. This allows the brand to serve unique ad creatives and set up ad group bids based on customers’ past interactions with the brand’s website. 

Boost Performance With Optimization Score

Google’s Optimization Score can be used to help brands achieve the highest potential for their advertising campaign by making recommendations directly in Google Ads. The Optimization Score estimates how well the brand has set up its Search campaigns, and it can be found on the Google Ads Recommendations page. The Optimization Score is created in real-time, and instant improvements can be made by following some of the recommendations that Google provides. 

The Optimization Score goes from 0% all the way to 100%, with a higher percent indicating that the brand’s account is performing closer to its potential. It’s calculated by an algorithm that analyzes key aspects of each account such as statistics, industry trends, and settings. If something is detected that can be used to further optimize the campaign, a recommendation is made. 

Increase Conversions With Performance Planner

As has been said by many people, when one fails to plan, one plans to fail, and digital marketing is no different than any other endeavor in that respect. Google Performance Planner enables brands to plan their Google Ads budgets in advance on a monthly basis. It can be viewed as a forecasting tool that uses machine learning to recognize the possibilities that would best improve a brand’s ad campaign. 

Performance Planner initially generates a forecast of what a brand’s ad campaigns will achieve during a future period. Then by using Google’s seasonality data and insights, it predicts the results if the brand were to use optimal bids and average daily ad budgets across its campaigns. Finally, when a brand selects a spend point, Performance Planner improves ROI by adjusting those bids and daily average spends. 

These forecasts are created using Google data and the brand’s own historical performance data, and then they are verified through the use of machine learning. This enables brands to discover the most appropriate bids and budgets for maximum conversions.

Performance Planner is used by creating a new budget plan in order to understand the most appropriate bids and budgets for the brand’s campaigns to best drive conversions. Next, the brand should continue to explore additional optimizations. Changes that have been recommended should be reviewed and implemented as suggested. Finally, external factors should be recognized and optimized for the target metrics by using Performance Planner on a monthly basis.

When a brand has used Performance Planner to devise a plan with a target date, budget, campaigns, target conversion volumes, and target cost-per-acquisition (CPA), it will provide specific recommendations for driving maximum conversions and ROI. These suggestions will request changes to either average daily budget and campaign bid scaling, average daily budget, or average daily budget, campaign-level target CPA or campaign-level target Return On Ad Spend (ROAS). 

The Google Ads Search Certification Exam

There are a total of 50 questions in the Google Ads Search Assessment, and they are randomly pulled from a pool of 170 questions. Students have 75 minutes to complete the exam. Students must have a score of 80% or greater on the certification exams to pass, and the certification is valid for 12 months. If the student doesn’t pass an assessment, it can be retaken one day later. Once the assessment has been passed, the student will be awarded a digital certificate, and their certification can be displayed on their LinkedIn profile.