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Are You Ready for the Google Ads Partnership Program Changes?

Google Ads changes their Partnership Program, making membership more competitive (and you better make sure you play by their rules).

Do you like your shiny Google Partner Badge? Awesome. But if you want to keep that badge in 2021 and beyond you better make sure you’re up to speed with the changes Google is making.
Beginning in January 2021, the requirements for Google Partners will change to provide “more transparency, exclusivity, support, and recognition in the market.”
Sounds good, right?! But for some advertisers, the changes to Partnership requirements might be the last thread holding that badge on their vest.
First of all, in the new Partnership Program starting 2021, what do you get? Google lists these three benefits:

New Google Partnership Program Benefits

  1. A new Partner badge with more advanced requirements, more transparency, and more guidance on the actions you need to take to earn the badge.
  2. New status and product capabilities categories to help your company stand out, showcase your areas of proficiency, and provide more exclusivity in the market.
  3. New program benefits that support your business needs and ability to drive customer success.

But at what cost? Let’s take a look at the Partner Program requirements before and after the change.

Google Partner Program Requirements: Before and After


There are three Google Partner requirement categories and the details in all three are changing:

1. Performance

Before:

Performance based on “the revenue growth and retention of your company’s clients, and your company’s growth in overall revenue and number of advertisers.” Basically, you keep your campaigns running, you grow them, add more campaigns, A+.

After:

The new performance requirement is based on the Optimization Score and Recommendations found in your Google Ads Account. The Optimization Score is like a performance report card given to you by Google. It grades your performance on a scale from 0-100%, and the threshold for the Partner Program is 70%.
With the Optimization Score, Google Ads offers Recommendations for your account. Applying the recommendations will increase your score; however, dismissing the recommendations will not impact your score at all. Recommendations can include anything from pausing non-serving keywords to applying Smart Bidding, like Maximize Conversions or Target CPA, to your campaigns.

2. Spend

Before:

The minimum spend required in the last 90 days of your accounts was set at $10,000.

After:

When the new requirements take effect the minimum spend will double from $10,000 to $20,000 spend in the previous 90 days. This requirement change is most critical for advertisers whose average advertising spend floats beneath $20,000.

3. Certifications

Before:

An advertising company only needs one user who is certified in Google Ads. Easy peasy!

After:

Starting in 2021, a company must have at least 50% of eligible users certified (eligible users are any user in your Google Ads account with standard or admin access).
For a company with two digital marketers managing Google Ads for its clients, just one of them needs to be certified. But if you’re a company with a team of 48 digital marketers, the new requirements would mean that at least 24 of them need to be certified!
This means companies with large teams and only a few certified users will need more of their employees to study up and pass that exam.
Just FYI, because I’m an overachiever who wants to be 105% sure we meet the requirements, Randall-Reilly’s entire Google Ads team is certified. At least 50%? Bump that, we’re sitting pretty at 100%!

What Do These Policy Changes Really Mean?

As you can tell, these are some pretty hefty changes to the Partner Program. It requires more spend, more proof of skill, and more reliance on Google’s performance measures and machine learning.
Spend? No problem. Certifications? Check. Performance? Hmm.
There’s a catch with performance. Currently, performance is judged on growth and retention. You manage your campaigns well, your clients stay on and grow. Performance is based on client satisfaction. In the new program, performance is based on Google’s satisfaction.
Think about it. Performance will no longer take into consideration how many campaigns you’re running if you increase that number and if you’re able to increase their spend. Instead, performance will be based on the Optimization Score.
Let me just go ahead and give it to you straight. Client’s don’t care about your Optimization Score inside your Google Ads account. They care about results! If you have a 42% Optimization Score in Google Ads, but your client’s goals are being met or exceeded? Fantastic. If you have a 95% Optimization Score, but your client’s needs are not being met? Failure.

Summing Up the New Program Policy Changes

Short Summary! written on a yellow sticky note with red, green, and orange markers beside it
In the new program, Google is requiring that you improve your performance based on their performance criteria rather than your client’s win.
Well, wait, what about those recommendations you mentioned? Don’t they help increase your score? Yes, they do. But the recommendations Google gives you do not always align with your campaigns’ goal, or they may not even be possible. The most common recommendation I’ve seen is to increase the campaign’s daily budget. Do you know what I forgot to do? Make money out of thin air!
That’s not to say all recommendations are bad, or the optimization score should be ignored. It’s important to understand the ins and outs of Google Ads and all the settings and details that go into a campaign. But it is also important to not make campaign management decisions based on a Partnership requirement if you think it is not in the interest of your client.
So please, keep using Google Ads. It’s an incredible tool, and I deeply, nerdily, love working with it. Stay certified. It never hurts to stay up-to-date with the fundamentals. Most importantly, always manage your campaigns to the benefit of your client. It’s not impossible to keep your client happy and keep your Partner Badge. But if there ever comes a day when you can’t keep both, which will you keep?