Opinion: Google Partners Program incentives should include actual client goals


I received an email yesterday about new challenges and rewards in the Google Partners experience, so I headed over there to see how things are going these days.

Have you visited the Google Partners Rewards experience? It simplifies the steps for how “points” are obtained by agencies and shows you exactly what you can do to gain those points (and what those points buy you. Google-branded Tile anyone?).

According to the page, you can earn points by these seven “challenges:”

  1. Audience challenge
  2. Search automation
  3. Display automation
  4. Non-last click adoption
  5. Host a live stream event
  6. Participate in a training
  7. Team certifications and specializations

Expected culprits like certifications and training achievements give agencies ways to gain points for swag-winning fun, but some of those categories for swag-winning points have of a more ominous tone to them.

For instance, incentivizing an agency to add Search or GDN automation into a percentage of accounts so they can get that Google ping pong table doesn’t begin to hit upon actual client goals. This is to say nothing of whether or not that automation is, at this time, even what is needed by that account.

The fact that Google isn’t incentivizing agencies on what is best for their client accounts is sadly no longer a surprise to me, but it does remind me of conversations I’ve had with many PPCers (including Googlers) over the years. Conversations which often involve the wish for Google’s agency and rep program be re-centered around what is best for individual account goals, rather than what will accomplish Google’s internal purposes.

Admittedly, Google is a business and therefore has its own incentives to hit (though much argument has been had in recent years on the line they walk between business and service, especially in light of EU rulings and other concerns. An argument I won’t even try to wade into in this short post, especially since I get confused by it myself).

That being acknowledged, I don’t mind saying that incentives offered to agencies which may or may not align with an individual client account is a significant concern for me – both for my clients, my own business and the industry itself.

Ultimately, I believe that what is in Google’s best interest, my agency’s best interest and the client’s (you remember them, the ones who fund *all* of this) best interest is all the same – client account success.

Clients measure success differently, which complicates the matter. But it’s 2019, and we have data coming out of our ears and more likely than not, we have specific goals for many accounts we manage. Not an agency? Guess what; in-house teams have goals as well.

What if we all worked together on what our clients actually wanted to accomplish.

Google Partners Program reward swag

Is there an alternative?

Rather than give agencies arbitrary point numbers based on which percentage of their accounts have some sort of automation in them, why not have a section in every account where the client goals are added and updated to align Google’s rewards program, account opportunities recommendations, alerts, etc. with the goals we are actually trying to reach.

For example, 2019 goals for account ABC are to hit a 600 percent ROAS target and raise tracked revenue by 10 percent year over year.

That is information all within Google and would be something that could be measured and used for all of the aforementioned automated alerts and opportunities.

Instead, we have goals like “Get 100 percent of your clients on Search and GDN automation and you can have a Google mini-fridge.”

Do I think automation is bad in itself? Nope. Do I think implementing automation by testing over time and strategizing thoughtfully (even if that means *not implementing* in a specific account) is the better plan, rather than pushing it live just to clad our agency in Googley sweatshirts?  Yeeeeaaaahhhh.

Am I surprised by this updated Partner Points program? Not at all. This post is just one more effort of mine to shout into the increasingly feedback-less void that is Google Ads (they recently eliminated all of the accounts they were actively following on Twitter to just five accounts) to request that we refocus on what is best for our individual clients. Not just what is best for Google.

Automation forced too quickly won’t help Google ultimately. Helping us hit the actual goals of our clients will make happy clients who will spend more, and *THAT* will ultimately help Google.

Final thought, having some sort of mechanism for measuring and exceeding client goals is part of what could be used by Google to actually begin to recognize and assist high-performing agencies (not simply high-spend agencies) and is something I wished for a very long time ago: Is it time for a PPC management quality score?

Of course, if we did have a mechanism for accurately measuring agency quality, we’d then have to solve the problem of where all of those less-than-stellar digital agencies tacking PPC onto their services get their Popcorn machines?

Truthfully, I’m not as concerned about that problem.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Kirk is the owner of ZATO, his Paid Search PPC micro-agency of experts, and has been working in Digital Marketing since 2009. He has been named one of the Top 25 Most Influential PPCers in the world by PPC Hero for 3 years in a row, and has written articles for many industry publications. He is one of the hosts of the weekly #PPCChat on Twitter, as well as an avid conference speaker, having traveled across the US and UK to talk about Paid Search (especially Shopping Ads). Kirk currently resides in Billings, Montana with his wife, five children, and little sleep.



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