According to Google UK’s country manager Mark Howe, new exams set by the company to earn a verifiable certification badge, will help marketers know where best to spend their search funds. The fact that they can all opt-in to a database for brands to search through will also help to boost competition in the field.
But while agencies seem to approve of Google’s new examinations series, many are sceptical that it will make a difference over the way brands approach search agency selection criteria.
One told me: “It’s not so much the agency credentials we’re interested in, more how they will ensure that we are sitting on top of Google, in as many ways as possible, without having to spend too much of our already limited search marketing budget.”
So, while the exams are welcomed, it seems the more interesting component of the whole thing is Google’s decision to open up its API to agencies who apply in time, so that they can utilise its search mechanisms better for free, replacing its previous fees that left some agencies reluctant to utilise it.
Rowe says: “We want to help our partners make the most of these tools so that they can have big, comprehensive search strategies without escalating costs. We are doing this in response to their requirements and to make digital marketing grow in size as much as possible.”
Of course, sceptics say this is Google trying to ensure that the money stays with it, but in fact it could change the face of search marketing. How? Well, for those agencies who aren’t experienced in the search marketing world, it will give them the opportunity to improve their understanding and boost awareness of their clients.
In a sector where spend continues to increase year on year, this can only be a good thing. Indeed, agencies are relieved that Google appears to have caved in and scrapped the charges (that take effect from July).
The search giant has everything to gain from this, having already seen profits soar by 23% this year, it can only hope that search funds keep on coming its way, while its competitors continue to think of ways to catch up.
Speaking of competitors, Yahoo!’s CEO Carol Bartz was in town on Wednesday, dismissing the Google changes as an indication that the brand only does search well.
Innovation, personalisation and video content remain at the heart of Yahoo!’s ongoing strategy, she said, whilst announcing a new ad campaign revolving around search.
Yahoo!’s search, of course, is soon to become Bing, which has widened its advertising in the UK to act as a link between ads on most Channel 4 primetime shows.
Is the court really wide open? I’m not sure, looks to me like Google’s won this latest round of mind games.