Google Ads is forcing agencies to use its recommendations or risk losing their Google Partners badge

Google Ads is changing the requirements for its Google Partners badge program by the end of June 2020. One change, in particular, requires partners to adopt a high percentage of recommendations that are made by Google’s machine learning or risk losing their badge. Agencies are claiming Google’s optimizations are ignoring their expertise and don’t make sense for their clients’ campaigns.

Google Partners versus Client Partners
Cypress North created the Client Partners badge as an alternative to the Google Partner badge

Google Ads is making significant changes to its Google Partners badge program, and it has many partners up in arms. Google stated that the changes are being made to maintain a high standard for their program, and the changes will apply to all new and existing partners. The changes are expected to go into effect by the end of June 2020.

New Partner Badge requirements

CriteriaOld RequirementNew Requirement
PerformanceDeliver solid overall ad revenue and growth, and maintain and grow customer base.Maintain a quality score of 70% or higher. Score is based on accepting machine learning recommendations.
SpendMaintain 90-day ad spend of at least $10,000Maintain 90-day ad spend of at least $20,000
CertificationCompanies must have at least 1 user certified in Google AdsCompanies must have at least 50% of their users certified in Google Ads

The change partners are the most upset about is the new Performance requirement. Greg Finn, Partner at Cypress North, articulated his concerns to Coywolf News.

The Google Partners program now favors compliancy over expertise. The new changes will require Partner agencies to adopt Google’s Machine Learning recommendations for their clients in order to stay in the program. Previously agencies could view and choose what to implement while dismissing others, but now all Recommendations will be counted for partners.

While some Google recommendations are helpful, others are downright harmful to the client performance. We believe that a healthy partner program should work to support agencies and enable clients to do better, not to push initiatives from the Ad Platform. There is a moral dilemma when an Ad Platform dictates what accounts should do and where (and how much) to spend. Additionally, forcing agencies to implement Platform directives or lose their status is more than problematic as the agency should be looking out for the client’s best interest.

Finn thinks the changes are so unacceptable, that he created Client Partners, a new alternative badge for agencies to show their clients that they prioritize their best interests.

Client Partners Badge
The Client Partners badge, an alternative to the Google Partners badge

Google Ads responded to the initial controversy by tweeting the following message:

It’s clear our announcement on changes to the Google Partners program didn’t fully address all the questions and concerns from our partner community. So we’ve provided more information in this article. Thanks for the feedback, and please keep it coming.

However, it didn’t appease the main concern, which is the 70% recommendation requirement. Finn said his agency “will always prioritize their client’s best interests. They won’t sacrifice performance by making changes to their account simply to obtain a badge or a certification from an ad platform, regardless of their market power.”

It’s clear that Google Ads is confident their automated recommendations are the best way for partners to optimize their accounts. What’s not clear is if partners will accept that or if they’ll abandon the Partner Badge program altogether so they can better serve their clients.

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Jon is the founder and Managing Editor of Coywolf. He has over 25 years of experience in web development, SaaS, internet strategy, digital marketing, and entrepreneurship. Follow @henshaw