The internet marketing industry has a pretty big problem. People are vulnerable, and their frustration and greed at wanting to rank better makes them fish in a barrel to predatory salespeople.

These folks can tell them what they want to hear, and deliver a product that seems fine to the client, without them knowing there may be harm headed their way down the road.

8 Out of 10 Clients Don’t Trust You

A couple of weeks ago, David Mihm, Mike Blumenthal and Mary Bowling had their 10 minute video hangout  and the first part talked about SEO snake oil.

In the beginning of the video, they talk about a study showing that only 20 percent of SMB’s trust their SEO & PPC firms.

All three of them agree (from the transcript) that Google bears some responsibility as an enabler…

Mike Blumenthal, David Mihm and Mary Bowling say...

But People Trust Google

In the video, David goes on to mention another trust survey by Alignable that shows Google “at the very top of their list”.  While I couldn’t find the survey he was referring to, I did find this one that has Google trusted at #4 among tech companies.

People do trust Google, so therefore, a company using a Google Partner logo is going to benefit. That’s obvious. This is why over the years, there have been thousands of variations of Google logos appearing on peoples websites.


Google Badges Used to be Clear and they said “Click to Verify”

google-certified-partnerAs you can see from the images above,  there are a variety of legitimate and fake badges that have come along over the years, but the real ones were clear about exactly what that badge meant. A badge that says “Ad Words Certified” says what it means, and there wasn’t much wiggle room for the companies that owned or used them.

Now, in order for a partner to use the logo on their website they are supposed to link back, but in some cases they won’t (surprisingly often), and I’d bet that most consumers don’t even know that it’s supposed to.  The old “Adwords Certified Partner” logo not only was clear about what the certification meant, but it also said “Click to Verify” which I think is important.

The “New” Google Partner Logo is Misleading

When the Trusted Photographer and Google Trusted store came along, I sort of assumed we would have “Google Trusted SEO’s” one day.  I figured the Adwords program would expand and there would continue to be new knowledge and capability certifications in a lot of IM disciplines, from Webmaster Tools to Local SEO, and maybe even web developers, and this would all lead to different badges and certifications.

Instead, nearly two years ago, Google changed their logo to simply read “Partner”.  All the logo actually means is that the company or individual is Adwords Certified, but that’s not what Google says…

Google Partner Screen

This is the topic that I brought up to Gary Ilyes of Google during the Pubcon speakers enclave in October.  Brett Tabke gave us a little dedicated time at the end for Google bashing, and I pointed out that this “new” logo was helping scammers get over on businesses by providing false credibility.  There are plenty of “Google Partner” companies out there right now that are actually doing harm, and nothing seems to happen to them.

What Are Googles Best Practices Anyway?

The Google partner qualifications ask for nothing beyond passing two Google Adwords tests and meeting some spending thresholds. That’s it. After that, this is all it takes to legitimately say you’re a Google Partner and use their logo.

Google has defined “Best practices” for Google Adwords, for security, for developers for video, for indexing, for Youtube, and for traffic generation.

Google even has defined “best practices” for domains and in the number one spot it says this:

“Work with a Partner. Partners make life easier. They have the experience and expertise in deploying Google Apps and can reduce the time to deploy by months! We strongly recommend working with our partners.

Google is recruiting new partners (i.e Adwords Certification) like this:


Google Helps You Find Clients

I Think Google is Misleading Consumers

sideGoogle is reaching out directly to consumers and telling them to hire certain companies who are Google Partners. In the case of someone wanting a web design for example, all it takes is for a partner check the box.

Although Google asks consumers make a choice, and differentiate between “help with your website”  and “advertising”,  there is no separate criteria, no certification, or anything in any way remotely associated with webmaster duties.   How does this not mislead the consumer?


What sort of help do you need?

What Can Google Partners Do That is Harmful?

Sleazy SEO GuyRebuilding a website and not 301 redirecting old URLs has always been at the top of my list. Whether it’s ignorance or out and out laziness, there’s no excuse for that.

How about building websites for industry professionals that are all filled with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of pages of 100% duplicate content? Nope, Google has no problem with partners doing that.

How about claiming an unclaimed business at Google, then leasing the page back to the business? That’s an all too common practice, and there’s nothing in Google’s guidelines about it.

What about building a website on a development server. and forgetting to block it from the search engines in robots.txt, so the site gets indexed elsewhere first. Or worse, remembering to block it, but then forgetting to REMOVE the block from the robots file when it goes live, so the site never gets indexed at all?  Nope. No problem with incompetence as it relates to the Google partnership.

How about building hundreds or thousands of websites for clients, but with a back-end containing an intricate link rotation scheme? One that generates backlinks to each other to help them rank higher. Nope. Google doesn’t care, and I’ve reported that one more than once.

Although there have been cases of companies being penalized and even certain marketing firms being penalized, I’ve never heard of anything actually happening to someones Google Partner status, have you?

Why is there no mention of the words “best practices” in Googles Webmaster Guidelines?

There Should Be Consequences & Higher Standards

Google recently filed a lawsuit against someone posing as Google and they do make this partner complaint form available, but I don’t recall reading any news about anything bad happening to a partner for work they’ve done.

When a website gets caught doing something specifically against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines like developing unnatural links, Google penalizes them. So when a partner actually sells them that activity,  there should be repercussions of SOME sort against the partner, don’t you think? Perhaps they should lose their Google Partnership? Maybe go on some sort of probation?

Perhaps, Google should “out” the partners like Yelp has been doing for years. Yelp warns their users that businesses are using Yelp to mislead the consumer. I think that’s a good thing. Why Not?

I know I said “higher standards” but I guess I meant at least SOME standards – for demonstrating competence with WMT / search console, local SEO and Google Maps, etc.

google-partnerI Think Google Should Change This Partner Logo

It’s my belief that the current Google Partner logo is causing a tremendous amount of confusion among consumers. To the general public, the logo implies that as a “Google Partner”, the organization has a broad knowledge about a variety of Google topics, and are held to a certain standard.

Either those standards should be raised and enforced, or the logo should say what it means… that it’s simply an ad agency.

5 thoughts on “You Trust a Google Partner, Don’t You?

  1. I agree with all of these! You have to give Google a tiny bit of credit for creating some type of certification for their AdWords tests. Although it does backfire in a way. The worst are those scammy agencies telling local business owners they can help them with their Google rankings.

    Which is why most business owners smartly hire from referrals only.

  2. This is an excellent article and I’m glad to see someone else bringing up the problem of SEO agencies trying to pass off the Google Partner badge as an “SEO badge”. One of my local competitors even had the audacity to state on their website that the badge is awarded based on the “qualifications and experience of managing SEO”. It’s really a shame that they’re doing this, especially when some of them have no idea how to run an SEO campaign.

  3. I got my partner status yesterday. So it’s interesting to see how other people might view that!

    Was surprised to get it because all my Adwords clients are non-profits with a Google Grant, using a free budget. I’d been told that because I wasn’t spending clients’ actual money I wouldn’t achieve partnership, because it wouldn’t count towards the spend requirement. Yet I did. Maybe they changed the rules?

    The exams should be tricky for anyone without experience, with plenty of jargon, and a few unclear questions. I didn’t cheat… but I’m aware that anyone can simply look up the answers from several websites. So certification doesn’t necessarily prove knowledge.

    Performance should be the factor that sorts out the experts from the clueless. Google say you only get partner status after a whole year of having a manager account and achieving a level of good performance for clients, seeing growth and getting results. But… there’s no data to help me understand how that was calculated, except a single green bar. Did a real life person make the decision? Or an algorithm? I would actually like to know what Google thinks I did well.

    Google can be so opaque.

    1. Interesting to hear, Jason, that they told you the non-profit work wouldn’t apply, yet it did. i think that sort of supports my hypothesis that it’s more about parters just maintaining a spend, than it is about actual performance. Has anyone ever been declined because someone thought they weren’t working up to par? I don’t think so 😉

      Congratulations, and yeah the test is not “easy” by any means, but I think they’re designed well. I do actually new things each time I have to take it.

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