The BlackHatters were chatting with one of our friends the other day who told us they had sat the IPA Search exam and how much better they thought it was than the Google GAP exam. It got us thinking so we thought we’d let our readers know a bit more about the two and how they compare.

IPA Search Certificate

What the hell is the IPA? Isn’t that some kind of beer?

IPA Search Exam








No, you bunch of alcoholics! :-)

The IPA is the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising which is a ‘the professional body for advertising, media and marketing communications agencies in the United Kingdom.‘ Check out their website for more details of what they are all about and what their role is (we aren’t regurgitating all that here!)  But anyway, they have an exam for Search Professionals which is inventively named - The IPA Search Certificate.

This exam consists of both PPC and SEO training and questions covering planning campaigns, optimisation, strategies and how Search works as part of the overall marketing mix.

Our Thoughts…

The Good

  1. IPA exam is focused on training newbies to Search on both PPC, SEO and overall digital marketing.
  2. IPA exam is done by the trade body of the digital agencies in the UK.
  3. IPA exam is not just multiple choice (there is a case study in there as well)
  4. IPA exam gives you a cool little logo you can put on your email signatures if you pass.
  5. IPA exam is relatively unknown (compared to the Google GAP Exam) and as such more exclusive!

The Bad

  1. It costs £250+VAT. Which in some ways is good as it makes it more exclusive, but also is much more expensive than the Google Gap Exam. That means you need to find someone to pay for you to do it.
  2. Its not open to everyone. Its for those agencies that are part of the IPA, which fair enough is the majority of them, but still there may be other individuals who would be interested in taking this qualification.
  3. Availability isn’t great. You cant just take the exam whenever you feel like. You have to go along and sit the exam and the sittings are only at certain times, so you may have to wait a while before you can take the exam.

Okay, so what about the Google GAP Exam?

Google GAP Exam

Google Gap Exam







Okay…so its not called ‘The GAP’ any more…now its part of the Google Certification Programme which sounds very swish! The exam is Google’s own certification as a way of users showing proficiency in Google AdWords, which they accomplish by studying for and passing the Google Qualification Exams. There are a number of exams you can take; The Fundamentals, Advanced, Reporting and Analysis, and the Display Exam which touch on different parts of AdWords and users can qualify for all four exams.

If you pass the GAP exams you become ‘individually qualified’ and you’ll receive a lovely certificate verifying your achievement. You’ll get this logo that you can use to put on your CV to show that you are Google AdWords trained.

Our Thoughts…

The Good

  1.  The GAP Exam does provide users with a really good knowledge of Google AdWords, how the tools work and what Google can do.
  2. The GAP Exam is the most recognised qualification in the industry and it comes from Google. The GAP logo is well recognised and you can put it on your CV.
  3. There are four different exams you can take covering a wide range of different products and options within AdWords.
  4. Its open for anyone to take the qualification.
  5. The GAP exam is £50 to take, but often Google will give away voucher codes to take the exam for free and you can sit the exam from the comfort of your own home or office.

The Bad

  1.  The GAP Exam is solely Google focused. Which is fair enough…its their exam. But it doesn’t teach you about other elements of PPC and doesn’t touch on SEO. It’s very Google product focused and is written from Google’s point of view, which if you are the cynical type (like us) means that they are teaching users on all the ways you can spend money with Google.
  2. Its the most recognised qualification in the industry. Which is both a good and bad point. The bad side being that a lot people have this qualification which ‘waters down’ the exclusiveness of the qualification.
  3. The exam is all multiple choice and as such is marked by computers based on the answers users give (unlike the IPA exam which is marked by independents.) It’s easy to cheat the GAP exam and we know of times where many users will sit in a room together to sit the exam and then swap/share answers between them. As a result, it means that anyone can get a GAP qualification and call themselves a PPC professional!

 Our Verdict

The Google GAP exam isn’t great. It’s easily obtained and doesn’t really teach users about Search marketing, but does teach users the fundamentals in AdWords which is important to know. The IPA exam is better in the sense that the exam is more exclusive and gives a much better foundation in all round Search marketing. However, it costs a bit and isn’t open to everyone.

Our advice…if you get the chance to sit the IPA Search Exam its worth doing, but then again everyone has the GAP Qualification, so you need to take that and pass it too!

But who cares what we think, lets put it to the vote!

If you want to find out more about either exams, click here for the Google GAP Exam and click here for the IPA Search Certificate and if you don’t really care…click here for Google Boobies!

If you’ve taken either of these qualifications, we’d like to hear your thoughts. Drop us a comment below…

Brought to you by the BlackHatters.

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  1. Keith Penn says:

    Maybe I’m a cynical type, but yeah, you’re right that Google exams are test of how well we’ve been up-sold on an uncapped Google budget and cross-sold on Google’s display network. There’s a separate exam that’s more relevant to SEO, the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ) – which is exactly what it sounds like. And the poll… less than 30% feel as I do that “both” is better than either one?!

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