I know this opening title seems like a hot take – but stick with me here. I’m going to walk you through how we learned the Google Partners Program is a scam simply meant to help Google make more money.
For context Johnson Jones Group manages just about $300,000 per year in our clients’ Google Ads spend – not the biggest spender, but quite a significant amount nonetheless.
Once we learned about the Google Partners Program, we were quick to jump in; it seemed to be a great qualification to have featured on our site!
Before we start our list of grievances, let’s go over some of the program requirements:
Google Partner Program Requirements
MCC or Manager Account
The first and most important program requirement is having a registered MCC or Google Ads Manager account. With a Manager Account, you can easily manage multiple client accounts with dozens, if not hundreds of pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.
I feel like I can’t complain about this one – I’m assuming you already have a manager account, with a bunch of PPC campaigns if you’re trying to be a Google Partner anyway… so this seems like a no-brainer.
In order to participate in the partners program, 50% of your company’s Google Ads specialists/managers/strategists/worker bees must be certified by Google as a “strategist” – this involves working with Google’s training program: Google Skillshop and passing a simple test.
Feel free to check out more about this nonsense here – and whether or not it’s worth it
Google requires a minimum spend of $10,000 EVERY 90 DAYS (absoloutely stupid amounts of money). If you and the accounts you manage fail to spend this much every 3 months, then you’ll be disqualified from the program within 60 days. That’s red flag #1…
…There will be more.
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Google does this thing where it gives your PPC campaigns an “optimization score” – this score supposedly shares how well your campaigns are set to perform.
Google also gives campaigns “optimization suggestions” to help the campaigns perform better
Google Partners Program requires a minimum aggregate campaign optimization score of 70%.
We’ll do a deep dive on performance later in the blog.
A Fictional Case Study
Let’s pretend here for a second:
In this hypothetical, let’s say your business is a small Google Ads management business, totalling $3,000/month in boutique, niche advertising. Your clients are happy and you’re finding success, but you want to keep growing.
A big fish client might see this “Google Partners Program” badge and gives you their business! “Certified with Google? Damn, ok – I trust them!”
It makes business sense to get this certification, right?
So you make poor overworked Jared spend a whole week working through Google’s Skillshop training program to get certified.
✓Now 100% of your managers are certified!
You next have to convince your clients to increase their budgets to account for at least $3,334 per month in. So now your clients are apart of this scheme (red flag #2).
✓ You now meet Google Partners Required $10,000 90-day spend.
Lastly, you need to get your scores optimized to meet 70%
(I have a lot to say about the optimization process, but for now – let’s just say this fictional business get’s its scores up to 70% for the sake of the exercise).
✓ You now meet Google Partners Required 70% minimum optimization score
Nice. You did it. Good job.
Congrats, You’re a Google Partner. Now What?
Now that you actually have the friggin requirements met, you finally get your reward: A Google Partners Badge!!!!!!!!! WOW!!!
Let me be clear:
THAT’S ALL YOU GET
You get to be a part of their little club. That’s it. I’m about to go off – get ready.
The Scam – Overview
Honestly I have to give Google credit. There’s a reason why they’re so successful, and it’s not just the algorithm. They’ve managed to bamboozle thousands of manager accounts into spending more money than they wanted to, and/or actively making their clients’ accounts worse.
Let me be clear, Google can’t make you spend more than you want to on ads. They let you set a limit to your campaign budgets – that is until you get this message:
“We’re here to help you” GTFO of here. “Uh-oh, you better do what we say or you can’t be in our club” – I grew out of that in middle school, my guy.
In order to meet these requirements, you’ll need to “meet the partner requirements within the next 60 days” I mean – you already have a manager account… and your guy Jared is still certified so…
That means you either spent too little, or your accounts weren’t optimized.
So you have to either spend more (red flag #3) or optimize your accounts…
The Scam – Optimizing Accounts
This is really the meat of it. I’ve reference another GREAT blog by Store Growers
Here’s a small sample from it:
Not all recommendations are bad, but many of them aren’t exactly tailored to a specific campaign. The common theme behind a lot of them is about increasing ad spend and the adoption of new features. Both which are great for Google, but necessary for the advertiser.
Well said, Dennis. I love the word choice here: optimize. It’s honestly brilliant – optimize for who? Let me share with you some current and active Google Optimization suggestions:
Hm… wow would you look at that first suggestion. How considerate of Google to suggest I spend more money with them!
To be clear, this “Raise your budget” suggestion is on nearly every one of my accounts under 70% optimization score. Raising your campaign budget CONSISTENTLY increases the optimization score by at least 6% (red flag #4). Here’s another example:
So let’s review: Google you’re not meeting Google’s Partner Program requirements, so you either need to spend more money, or optimize your campaigns better… by spending more money.
Here are some other Google Optimization suggestions
All of these suggestions help Google make more money.
Not only are you spending more of your client’s money, but these suggestions actively hurt your client’s PPC overall return.
- Target CPA bidding strategies cost more and bring in fewer conversions most of the time
- Display Expansion campaigns are strictly for brand recognition, and have the lowest direct return of any Google advertising campaign.
- Dynamic search ads are written by Google and have statistically performed worse than customized responsive search ads (lower CTR, higher CPC, higher CPA).
- Broad Match keywords can help an account, but often lead to unqualified clicks and wasted daily budgets.
So now that I’ve cleared that up – we’re seeing how Google makes you spend more, and have your campaigns perform WORSE – all for the sake of……………???
Being in the club? Having a badge? Is this the Emperor’s New Clothes? Do customers even know what the badge is?
I guess not.
Is The Google Partners Program Worth It?
Unless you’ve skipped to this section from the top, (I see you) – you should probably know this answer by now.
If you have skipped to this section from the top – uhhh it’s not.
Once again, you have to spend more of your clients’ money, it will actively hurt their performance, lower their ROI for your business relationship, to get… this
What a joke. I’m sorry if I seem salty about this, but I spent months trying to maintain my optimizations scores, and balance them with my clients’ ROI, only to constantly experience lower conversion rates as a result.
Google has a multitude of shady practices, but this one is its most openly egregious. It seems ironic since we depend on this platform for a majority of paid advertising, but at least I now have (more) control over my accounts, my campaigns, and my clients’ ROI.