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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Google Dips Toe in 'Reseller' Channel

Google has taken the first step towards acknowledging the role of webmasters, Search Engine Marketing consultancies (SEM's), and agencies in spreading the gospel about its AdWords paid search advertising program. The company has announced a new program dubbed Google Advertising Professionals, which offers new tools and resources as well as a training and certification component.

"We've opened the door to programmatically recognizing the ecosystem," said Sukhinder Singh, Google's General Manager of Local Search and Third-Party Partnerships.

The most welcome development for those managing multiple accounts will be a new interface called My Client Center, offering SEM's the ability to oversee all accounts under their management with a single login. (No billing flow-through will be necessary to access client accounts, just permission from the client to do so.)

The program will be heavy on learning. Google will offer training modules and tips for increasing one's AdWords campaign management business. In addition, PPC advertising professionals will be given the chance to take an exam in order to become qualified Google Advertising Professionals. Those who pass with a grade of 75% or more will qualify to display a Google Advertising Professionals logo. The time-limited exam will cost $50 and "is intended to be rigorous," emphasizes Singh. Additional hurdles required before being permitted to display the logo include 90 days of experience using the My Client Center interface, and a modest $1,000 total spent within the interface.

To those who might think of this initiative as aimed at mainly small webmasters, Singh points out that the programs will benefit professionals who work at companies of varying sizes. Moreover, since this is just the first step in Google's now-formalized approach to encouraging and training what amount to resellers, Singh agrees that "there is the opportunity to differentiate further," adding more features and different streams in future. "For some time now, Google has recognized that there have been thousands of third parties doing this [promoting AdWords to their clients] organically on their own," says Singh.

This recognition has not yet translated into a formal triage of small-timers vs. big spenders, it seems, even if one is aware that big spenders have important informal relationships with Google salesforces. For now, Google's initiative seems intended to ensure basic competence amongst those advocating PPC marketing, while giving them some resources to better do their jobs. These include tips on what to charge for professional services. This handy primer does come off a bit funny given the high percentage of Googlers who are much more intimately familiar with the world of salary and options than they are with the much grittier realities of open marketplace competition. Maybe it's a good thing that Google doesn't get too esoteric with discussions of the business models of your average webmaster, as that reality could be sobering enough to make one want to come up with a better business idea, like, say, starting a new search engine.

If Google Advertising Professionals are tantamount to resellers, formalized recognition in the form of reseller commissions can't come too soon. For now, Google has no stated plans to offer such commissions, but one assumes that could change.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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