After successfully completing the AdWords Fundamental and the Advanced Search exam, I thought I would share my experiences.
Passing your AdWords exams is all part of making you a certified AdWords professional, and the knowledge gained is fundamental to maintain successful Paid Search campaigns. The qualifications will earn you a level of trust with your clients which can only improve leads.
Plus, as you’ll be receiving your training from Google, you’ll know exactly what Google expects from you – improving your SEO and AdWords efforts combined.
Thankfully I passed the exam both with relative ease, but am very glad that I invested a couple of hours of revision to refresh my knowledge of certain aspects of the AdWords system.
I’m going to talk you through my revision strategy, exam approach, and finally, impart some inside knowledge about the AdWords Advanced Search Exam.
The excellent resources at the Exam Study Learning Center are extremely useful and I would also recommend making use of the AdWords Online Classroom Webinars whilst you’re there, especially if you are relatively new to the AdWords system or taking your first exam.
As ever the AdWords Blog is always full of valuable articles and guidance with clear explanations to keep you updated on the latest developments.
My Exam Approach
I suppose simply acquiring the knowledge to pass the exam can be achieved with hours of study and revision, although the exam will mean very little if individuals are unable to put their knowledge into practice and deliver better campaigns for their clients.
This is why practice is probably the most important aspect of revision. Rather than simply answering questions and trying to remember the right answer, you will be thinking about your own experiences and the decisions you made to improve campaign performance.
For my revision I selected three client accounts and applied the exam questions to these real life campaigns, which in most cases made the answers extremely obvious. By using an e-commerce client, a B2B national advertiser and one of my smaller client campaigns who rely heavily on localised search traffic, I was able to apply each question to a real life scenario which made the exam seem much easier.
Prior to the exams I made sure that I:
- created additional display campaigns;
- ran impression share reports;
- made use of the bid incremental feature;
- and set up mobile targeted ads etc
This refreshed my memory and reinforced much of what I already knew.
AdWords Fundamental Exam
You’ll need to attain 85% in order to pass. You have 2 hours to complete 120 questions, which is a generous amount of time. If you are unsure of any questions you can mark them and return at the end of the exam, which I highly recommend if you’re unsure over certain questions.
Much of the content covered was basic AdWords strategies and covered a range of topics, although a common theme throughout included;
- The benefits of using AdWords
- Keyword matching strategies
- CPM (Cost Per Mille/Thousand)and CPC (Cost Per Click)pricing
- Search and display
- Automatic versus managed placements
- Campaign settings
- Targeting strategies
I am sure no 2 exams are the same, so it’s safer to ensure you are confident in all areas before taking the exam. Although the fact that you have 2 hours to complete and can even afford the luxury of getting 18 questions wrong, means that providing you have a good understanding of AdWords, there is a very good chance of passing the Fundamental exam.
AdWords Advanced Search Exam
The advanced search exam was much more taxing, with questions that certainly required a greater level of concentration. Once again the format was 2 hours, 120 questions and a required pass mark of 85%. I used the full 2 hours (1 hour 45 on the test, and 15 minutes reviewing my marked questions) and there were certainly questions which, in my opinion, were there to catch you out!
Although my revision strategy was very similar I had invested additional time on mobile, video, and image ads, as well as spending additional time using the various campaign tools and running a variety of campaign, ad group, and keyword reports.
Unfortunately for me, very few questions actually appeared to cover these subjects and many of the first 20 (and last 15) were heavily geared towards using the API, Advanced AdWords Editor strategies and functionality within an MCC (My Client Centre).
Another of the differences with the advanced exam was the similarity with the answers and the way they were written, which if you were not careful, you could quite easily select the wrong answer without thinking it through properly.
This is where applying questions to real-life client campaigns became extremely beneficial, as this helped with deciding what answers to dismiss, which usually resulted in two answers that could conceivably be correct!
There were a couple of times I could not choose between two different answers and even found myself answering a question that I knew was the correct Google answer, but not exactly what I would recommend for a new client (relating to the use of a broad match keyword strategy!).
Overall, the exam was challenging but perfectly passable if you take time to revise the areas that aren’t your strong point.
Other areas that cropped up were;
- Landing page optimisation
- Invalid clicks / fraudulent clicks
- Google places / ad extensions
- Policy and editorial guidelines
- Optimization techniques
- Impact of quality score / ad dank on CPC
- Smart pricing / AdWords discounter
Once you have become an AdWords Professional you are rewarded with a shiny certificate, and a listing in the Individual Suppliers Directory, which isn’t too bad at all I suppose!
I personally enjoyed the challenge of the new exam format and becoming a Qualified AdWords professional again and have certainly increased my knowledge in areas that I may have normally overlooked.
I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on any of the exams taken so far, so feel free to share your experiences!
* This article was originally written by Stephen Maguire, but has been revised and updated by Matt Loughlin, Head of Paid Search
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