Review: Is Google’s New Mobile Sites Certification Worth it?
Google provides a huge suite of products designed to support the digital activities of web developers, Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Tag Manager and Google Optimize just to name a few. But did you know that Google also offers certification programs for its major products?
Until recently, Google offered certification programs for Google Analytics and Google Adwords. Receiving each certification involves passing a test to receive credentials. In both cases, a self-guided study guide/course is available for preparation.
For Google Analytics, it’s one test, 90 minutes, 70 questions, and a required 80% passing score for success. For Google Adwords, you must pass at least two exams: Adwords Fundamentals, and a category specific exam with options that include Search Advertising, Display Advertising, Mobile Advertising, Video Advertising, and Shopping Advertising.
Even if you’re not involved with site reporting/SEO or PPC, WordPress developers that go through the certification process are seen as a greater asset to related web development projects. Being able to understand the purpose of the PPC landing pages you’re creating, or how site structure affects reporting (and SEO!), can help you to create more a more robust website build.
Introducing Google Mobile Sites Certification
After many years with just two certification programs available, Google recently shook things up by adding a third: Mobile Sites certification.
Unlike the Adwords or Analytics certification, the course material comes with the recommended prerequisite of already being a developer.
According to Google:
“This exam covers basic and advanced concepts, including best practices for creating, managing, measuring, and optimizing mobile websites.”
And the purpose of getting certified? Google says this shows:
“A demonstrated ability to build and optimize high-quality sites, and allows you to promote yourself as a Google accredited mobile site developer.”
Before the release of its Mobile Sites certification, I had successfully completed Google Adwords and Google Analytics certifications in one try thanks to a basic background of using both, and a weekend (a piece) dedicated to going through the provided study guide materials.
Having already gone through the process of getting certified through Google twice, I decided to try my hand at the Mobile Sites certification. As with the others, it started with a careful review of the study materials.
Studying for the Google Mobile Sites Certification Test
The study guide/self-guided course is mercifully on the shorter end when compared to the 4-8 hour projected time frame for getting through Google Adwords or Google Analytics certification coursework.
The actual runtime of each course is actually much shorter than that, but you’ll have to account for some time to digest the material, to read the additional resources (when necessary), and to pause and take breaks so your brain doesn’t get overloaded. The more familiar you are with each subject, the less time you’ll have to spend going over the course material.
For any of these tests, it’s pretty well-known that you could just cheat your way through the exam thanks to others who’ve gone through and documented all the right answers. But where’s the fun in that? Especially for Google’s Mobile Sites certification, this means missing out on valuable knowledge, straight from the horse’s mouth.
Anyways, the Mobile Sites certification course has a runtime of just a little over an hour, which is precisely how long it took me to get through. Unlike the two aforementioned Google certifications, you likely won’t need much more than that to get through the material, as it’s easily digestible by anyone who has any level of experience and understanding with mobile site development.
I would personally classify myself in the beginner/intermediate level of mobile site development but was able to keep up with the course materials without much trouble. Since the course runtime isn’t too long, you could easily knock it out in one sitting (which is what I did).
There’s no specific focus on iOS, Android, or otherwise – consider the exam and course material to be operating system agnostic. There is, however, a large focus on incorporating Google’s own initiatives and software offerings.
Because of this, it helps to come into the Mobile Sites certification course and test with an understanding of other popular/related Google products, as they’re discussed in relation to this topic in depth. Specifically, an understanding of the following will be useful in understanding the material and passing the certification:
For the purposes of preparing a person for the Mobile Sites certification, each tool is highlighted in relation to how it can be used to optimize a person’s mobile site experience.
With regards to format, there are no videos or interactive elements in the same vein as the Google Adwords and Google Analytics certification courses. So if you were hoping to sit back, relax, and hit play – no such luck. I was actually a bit disappointed to see how the format changed from Google Adwords/Analytics to Mobile Sites, but it was probably better for me to absorb the material through actively reading instead of passively watching videos.
So put on your reading glasses, as this course is primarily text-based. On a lighter note, there are a lot of fun illustrations to break up the written content. Because of this format, course material is easy to skim. You can easily skip the basics if you’re an advanced mobile site developer.
Regarding the skill required to pass Google’s new Mobile Sites certification, it will certainly be easier if you’re more of a web developer than a web designer. But with a basic understanding, you’ll still be able to get through it – you may just need to spend some more time on the suggested resources at the end of each lesson. That’s the beauty of Google’s certification study guides—they’re very choose-your-own adventure.
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Those with extensive experience in WordPress web development will likely already have a good understanding of the tools and topics relating to the Mobile Sites certification. To give you an idea of what to expect, here are the major lessons and areas of focus for Google’s Mobile Sites certification course:
- Using Google DevTools
- The critical rendering path: DOM and CSSOM
- Critical resources: scripts, files, etc.
- Testing site performance: browser tools, system tools, device emulation, different locations, and impaired networks
- Evaluating resources on a page and data compression
- Optimizing images/fonts: implementing a caching strategy, consistent URLs, ETag, intermediaries, cache lifetime/hierarchy, and churn
- The mobile user experience
- Optimizing site search on mobile
- Using mobile sites to drive conversions (specifically, by means of streamlined form entry)
- Testing/optimizing mobile experience (using Google Analytics)
- Using Google AMP to improve page speed (page speed is actually a huge focus for all of these topics)
- Creating progressive web apps
If you already consider yourself to be an expert on one or many of these topics, you probably won’t miss anything by skipping those related lessons. However, with an investment of fewer than 10 minutes each, it might be worth brushing up – especially to get Google’s take on the topic. I didn’t skip any of these course materials, especially because the time investment was so low.
Taking the Mobile Sites certification can be useful to get in the Google mindset regarding the technical/user experience aspects of the websites you’re working on. If you’re not already, you need to become intimately familiar with their recent mobile-first initiative that includes a crackdown on email popups, and favorable indexation for websites that adopt their AMP page formatting.
Besides these technical pieces, when going through Mobile Sites certification course material, you’ll notice a heavy emphasis on user experience design. If this is not something you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, this course may be the perfect primer for getting in the right mindset for implementing these best practices into your own WordPress website designs.
After all, if the user experience of a website is bad, it’s hard to expect visitors to convert in the way you want them to. They’re more than likely to abandon the website before taking any favorable action, or before bothering to learn about what the company does. I enjoyed the various perspectives covered throughout the course, and they gave me something to think about with the websites I’m designing for clients.
Besides understanding Google’s various related products, intermediate/advanced mobile development, and the idea of providing a good user experience, you’ll also want to understand important digital marketing metrics, as they might be interpreted on Google Analytics. The following are specifically mentioned throughout the Mobile Sites certification course (and in the certification exam):
- Bounce rate
- Conversions, and setting up goals
- Average order by device
- Shopping behavior analysis (evaluate funnel drop off)
- Cart abandonment, and if it’s caused by a technical problem
- Site search reports, specifically the % of visits on mobile (and how the prominence of a search bar influences this)
- Using browser and screen resolution data to make decisions that impact user experience
Taking the Mobile Sites Certification Exam
The Mobile Sites certification exam is very similar to the format of Google Adwords and Analytics certification tests, but here are the specifics:
- 90 minutes to complete the test
- 65 questions total: multiple choice and true/false
- 80% passing score required for certification
- 12 months of validity
Also, like Google’s other certification tests, you’ll see a mix of questions that directly relate to course material and others that require a bit of extrapolation or additional research. For example, when I took the test, a question came up that asked about the purpose of Facebook’s 2G Tuesdays. This was definitely not covered in the basic course material but was easy enough to answer after doing a quick Google search.
The time allotted for the test and the level of difficulty regarding questions seems to be well balanced. You can answer each at your leisure without worrying too much about running out of time. So take the time to try and understand what each question is asking, instead of rushing through the test. I was able to knock it out in about 25 minutes after completing course preparation.
Is Google’s New Mobile Sites Certification Worth it?
In a word, yes (although there’s certainly a mix of opinions).
Combining the total time it takes to get through the course material, and the time allotted for test itself (if you were to use up the entire 90 minutes), the whole thing would take an investment of fewer than three hours, and much less than that if you think you’re prepared enough to take the test without going through the accompanying course material.
In fact, if you’re a developer who deals with advanced mobile issues, I’d recommend skipping the course material and trying your hand at the test. You’ll get more tries if you fail!
The implications of passing and advertising your results are not yet clear. After all, the Google Mobile Sites certification is still brand new as of writing this post. That said, it’s easy to see the benefits associated with participation in Google’s Partner program, and their cornerstone Adwords and Analytics certifications.
For the latter two, I’ve seen some job postings specifically asking for these certifications, and they definitely help you stand out amongst others who haven’t bothered with them. Understanding the benefits associated with passing these tests might be extrapolated to a successful passing of the Google Mobile Sites Certification.
At the absolute worst, spending a few hours to get certified will be nothing more than another accolade to add to your LinkedIn profile. But at best, it will create a positive association between your web design business, and the clients who are seeking cutting edge developers to help them create a mobile site that Google will love.