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Google Ads in 2021: What Will Change and How Will it Affect Your Rankings?

Google Ads in 2021: What Will Change and How Will it Affect Your Rankings?
The Google Ads platform is one of the most valuable tools for companies attempting to build an online presence and conducting digital marketing campaigns. Digital marketing agencies also rely on the platform to create, manage, and analyze the marketing campaigns that they carry out for their clients. It’s not uncommon for Google to make small updates to the platform, but they recently announced some big changes that could have an impact on how digital marketing professionals interact with the platform. So keep reading to find out what changes Google Ads will be implemented in 2021 and how it may impact your rankings. 

What’s Changing? 

Google Ads has already undergone some changes this year and has plans to implement additional changes that may affect how you use it going into 2021. So what exactly has changed? The most impactful changes were the ones Google made to its Google Partners program. 

Google Partners Program 

Google Partners is a marketing program used by many advertising agencies and firms that run and manage digital marketing campaigns on behalf of brands and companies. In order to become a partner in the program, Google screens candidates by requiring them to first meet certain qualifications. To qualify for partner status, you have to:
  • Pass a Google Ads certification test
  • Meet spending requirements across the accounts you manage
  • Perform well by demonstrating consistent client and company growth 
Once businesses have earned a Google Partner badge, they are free to place it on their website, business cards, and other marketing materials in order to show people, including potential clients, that they are skilled in using Google Ads programs. Since so many businesses run digital marketing campaigns that use Google Ads, the partner badge is significant because it shows that certain employees within an organization have demonstrated a level of expertise with such a widely used marketing program.   There are also other benefits given to qualified partners in the program, such as access to support tools, resources, training, and additional events not available to non-partners, as well as the opportunity to earn company specializations. Earning a company specialization demonstrates to clients that your firm has specific expertise in one of the four Google Ads products:
  • Video advertising 
  • Display advertising
  • Shopping advertising 
  • Search advertising
Google Ads in 2021 Example of Google Ads’ search advertising tool  Seeing as many digital marketing firms have earned partner status in the Google Partners program, it was a bit of a shock when, in February 2020, Google announced that it was going to make some major changes to the program that would go into effect by the end of June 2020. Three of the announced changes that stuck out the most were: 
  • Maintaining a quality score of 70% or higher. This specific quality score requirement is a new addition, as it used to be that partners just had to generate solid overall ad revenue, demonstrate growth, and maintain a consistent client base. Many people objected that this new requirement would force partners to follow Google’s Machine Learning recommendations since the quality score is largely based on implementing those recommendations. Some digital marketing experts chimed in, expressing concerns that the Machine Learning recommendations are not always in the best interest of their clients.
 
  • Maintaining a 90-day ad spend of at least $20,000. This is double the amount of the old requirement, which required partners to maintain a 90-day ad spend of only $10,000.
 
  • Companies must have at least 50% of their users certified in Google Ads. Requiring 50% of a firm’s users to be certified in Google Ads is a dramatic shift up from the old rule, which required that firms have at least one user certified in Google Ads. For a large firm, this could prove extremely difficult to actually implement. 
It’s not surprising that there was an outspoken reaction to these changes from people who work in the digital marketing industry. These announced changes were met with mostly negative feedback from professionals who argued that the new requirements are too restrictive and force companies to adopt Machine Learning recommendations when using Google Ads, even if those recommendations don’t do their clients any favors.  Amidst the backlash, and in response to the announced changes, one man actually devised an alternative to the Google Partners badge. Greg Finn, the partner at the digital marketing agency Cypress North and an outspoken critic of the proposed changes, created the Client Partners Certified Badge in an attempt to counter the Google Partners badge and create a more client-friendly certification program. Many critics of the changes were pleased when, in April 2020, partners received an email from Google Ads announcing that, rather than going ahead and implementing the changes in June as planned, they would wait until 2021 to make the changes to the Partners program official due to the coronavirus pandemic.  In addition to delaying the changes to the Partners program, Google has provided new and adjusted guides and resources in order to help businesses manage marketing campaigns on their platform during the coronavirus pandemic. 

How Your Rankings Will be Affected 

Since the changes to the Partners program have been delayed until 2021, the business will go on as usual for the time being. Google hasn’t yet given a specific timeline or announced an exact date for when they plan to re-implement the changes to the Partners program, but hopefully, that information will become available in the next few months. Once the changes do go into effect, though, you’ll have to comply with the ones listed above if you want to become a partner in the program and earn your badge or keep the badge you already have.  The most controversial change, and the one most likely to have an impact on your rankings, is the new requirement that firms have to maintain a quality score of 70% or higher in order to qualify as a partner. This means that you’ll have to adopt Google’s Machine Learning recommendations more often, which could have an effect on your rankings. While it may offer some good recommendations, it’s also known to offer ones that don’t necessarily cater to your client’s needs. So, if you want to stay in the Partner program, you’ll need to find a balance between accepting enough of the Machine Learning recommendations to keep your badge while, at the same time, looking out for the best interests of your clients.  What do you think of the proposed changes to Google Ads? Are you for them, against them, or entirely indifferent? Leave a comment below and get the conversation started!

About The Author

Samantha Rupp

Samantha Rupp holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. She is the managing editor for 365businesstips.com and runs a personal blog, Mixed Bits Media. She lives in San Diego, California, and enjoys spending time on the beach, reading up on current industry trends, and travelling.
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