Google Partners: More Of The Same?

This week, Google announced their new Adwords agency program, Google Partners. It replaces the old Google Engage, and the rollout was much-ballyhooed by Google. They even sent out chocolates in an Advent calendar-type box, counting down to the Google Partners 2-hour livestream this past Wednesday.

While the chocolate was delicious, the livestream was not. Only about 20 minutes of the 2 hours was devoted to talking about benefits of the new program; the rest of the time was filled with speakers giving keynote-ish talks about sales. Chatter on the Twitter hashtag was not positive, to say the least.

Given the rocky start, I was not feeling bullish about Google Partners. Kicking things off by wasting 2 hours of busy agency PPC’ers time was not giving me the warm fuzzies.

Later on Wednesday, though, I got an email from a Googler who’d been assigned to our agency. The email was legit-looking, unlike emails we’d received recently that, honestly, we thought were spam. I agreed to a call with the Googler, eager to hear if we were actually getting an agency rep, or if we were just going to hear more sales pitches.

The call was yesterday. Overall, I’m feeling lukewarm about Google Partners – not ecstatic, but not as angry as I was a few months ago.

Some of the positives from the call:

Google has revived agency support for specific accounts.

They’ve essentially gone back to the model they had a year or two ago – assigning quarterly reps to specific accounts by vertical. To someone like me who’s done PPC for years, this wasn’t new – but it was a huge step forward from the previous “we can only help with large new business accounts” approach.

In addition, the rep told me that she could help with other clients not assigned to her – at a minimum, she’d try to find out if the other accounts had an assigned rep, or if there was some way she could help. This was definitely encouraging – instead of saying “I can’t help you with existing clients,” Google is now saying “Let me see how I can help you.” Huge step forward.

Roles are more clearly defined.

I’ve gotta hand it to the rep I spoke with – she was prepared. She’d reviewed the accounts that were assigned to her, and sent me a spreadsheet outlining the exact topics we’d be discussing and focusing on. She also sent me a helpful outline of who can help with what:

google roles
While the accounts she is assigned to are only a fraction of our client base, it’s a start.

The spreadsheet also included a resource list – sites we can go to for help with Google products, case studies, and other pitch materials. I was familiar with most of the sites, but it’s nice to have them all in one place.

The rep is local.

One of my biggest complaints over the years has been the weird way that Google assigned teams geographically. I live and work in Michigan, and Google has an office in Ann Arbor. Yet, despite my repeated insistence that they assign me a rep out of that office, we’d get stuck with someone in California – 3 hours behind us time-wise. I complained repeatedly that having to wait until 11am EST at the earliest to get someone on the phone was not helpful when we had a crisis; it didn’t matter.

Until now. The rep I spoke with yesterday is based in Ann Arbor. Yes! She even invited me to come meet with her. I’ll definitely take her up on that. While it may seem like a minor thing, the ability to meet with your rep face to face can’t be overstated.

The call wasn’t all rainbows and chocolates, though. There were some definite negatives:

We still have multiple points of contact for our agency.

I probably sound like a grumpy old lady, but I miss the old days where we had one rep for our entire agency. It was so nice to call someone we knew well, and who knew all of our accounts. Although the reps changed frequently, we often had the same rep for a year at a time.

It seems as though those days are gone forever. Google is still assigning reps on a quarterly basis. So, just about the time you get the person up to speed, they’re gone. Can you imagine if your clients switched agencies every quarter? How well do you think their campaigns would perform?

There’s still a heavy sales push.

The list of “optimizations” in the aforementioned spreadsheet was full of the same old stuff: use mobile, use sitelinks, use display, etc. The thing is, we DO use those things when they make sense for our clients. But some of our clients only have one landing page, for example. This means we can’t use sitelinks. A lot of our clients don’t have mobile sites; and they’re B2B to boot. So, no mobile for us.

The bottom line is, we’re agencies. We know that Google offers these things. If clients use them, it potentially makes us more money. And when we don’t use them, there’s a good reason why. Please, Google, stop pushing stuff we can’t use.

To sum it up, we’re back where we were a year ago.

Google Partners isn’t all that new. The service levels are back to where they were a year or so ago. It’s déjà vu all over again.

The only new thing I’ve heard so far is that Google can revoke your partnership if they think you’re not using “best practices.” Yikes. We all know how Google defines best practices: “Use all our stuff and bid as high as you can.”

In their defense, it’s still early. I’m hopeful that we can finally make some progress.

What’s your take on Google Partners? Is it a step in the right direction, or is it more of the same? Share in the comments!

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Comments

  1. It’s clear that Google Partners needs us. But they still haven’t answered the essential question – why do we need them?

  2. It remains to be seen how they enforce ‘best practises’ (which as you point out are not necessarily best practises and some of which are not needed or wanted by some clients). I will bet you 1 Zillion dollars they will be very very lax in their enforcement if you have clients who spend significant amounts with them. However, I think it is tie to remove some old clients from my MCC who I no longer support (I know I should have done this ages ago…)

  3. Melissa,

    Things are changing… Google Partners revamp is only a small part of it. I had the pleasure of joining a roundtable discussion with other agency owners this week at Google to discuss many of these issues. Long story short – they know the agency rep system is broken and they have a strong desire to fix it (and yes, this is a major shift in ideology for Google).

    I’m optimistic for the future – there are many, many wheels turning behind the scenes that *could* make many of us agency folk far happier than we’ve been with Google in a very long time. But we will have to wait and see!

    • Melissa Mackey says:

      John, this is great to hear and is long overdue. I’m glad to hear that Google wants to fix the agency rep situation; after all, like it or not, we control a lot of budget. Let’s hope you’re right and the future is bright for us!

    • Glad to hear there’s hope, but how did they miss the mark so badly? A small roundtable was enough to let them know the current system is broken and I’m fairly certain it could have told them that Google Partners wouldn’t be nearly enough progress for such a large roll out effort. Come on Google. Get your $#!* together!

  4. Thanks for writing this Melissa. I’ve been receiving all of the Engage for Agencies info in the mail, as well as the box of chocolates regarding the move to Partners. I hate that we’re still going to have multiple contacts at Google. For over a year, we were working with a “new business” rep at Google who would help us bring in new clients, and set up invoicing for them. The only problem in working with this new business rep was that our client had to be a brand new advertiser to Google. If the client opened an account in the past, and did not have their own rep (typically because the client never spent enough with Google), the new business rep was not able to help. Now this new business rep has moved on to another area in Google, and I’m concerned I’m not going to receive the attention I was getting from him. I’m really hoping Google uses the Partners program to really become true partners with us.

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