I must confess that I have been meaning to write about this for a while now, but I have had a dilemma. I would never want to put anyone off from learning new skills or gaining knowledge. But it's worthwhile considering these three points before getting in to the 89 lessons that Google's Digital Garage provide.
Google launched the Digital Garage as a free initiative to help small businesses and entrepreneurs to take advantage of digital marketing. At first this appears to be an altruistic move by google, but scratch the surface and their intentions become clear.
1: It’s all gone digital.
It is no secret that Google want to maintain their dominance of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and one way to do this is to get an ever increasing number of people buying into their products. This is exactly what Google are aiming to do with the Digital Garage. The study materials start by claiming that “The world has gone digital”, a sentence that fills me with dread. While it may be true that digital has become an important part of the marketing landscape, digital isn’t everything. The Chartered Institute of Marketing have recognised the importance of an integrated approach to marketing for a long time now. Yes, part of this will include digital. But digital isn’t everything and I fear that many small businesses will lose out on opportunities they are better equipped to handle because the digital garage is trying to convince them to invest their marketing budget solely in digital. Which leads me on to my second point…
2: Google aren’t the only digital option.
While helping small businesses take advantage of digital products may appear to be a noble cause, there is a revealing undertone running throughout the lessons. Google will give you a certification upon completion of all 89 lessons and assessments, giving this course the feeling of authority. While the lessons are useful to get an overview of Google products, the assessments aren’t. I do not need to sit through hours of videos and read thousands of words to answer questions about why Google are so good or why I need to use the internet to market my business. This is not a learning experience of value. It is a sales pitch. Plain and simple.
3: Why take an exam that you can’t fail?
Now, it could be said that this enhances the learning experience. But if you are providing an assessment, you should provide an opportunity to fail. At least if you fail the Google Analytics and AdWords certifications you have to wait 7 days before taking the assessments again. With the Digital Garage, it will show you what question you got wrong and give you the chance to change your answer. This reduces the award at the end to a certificate of participation.
Now, it may seem that I am completely against Google’s Digital Garage. But in principle I like the idea. It would be foolish to not recognise that Google play an important role in the digital marketing landscape and as marketers we need to be familiar with their products. The Digital Garage is perfect for the novice who wants to get more information and can be a rewarding experience. However, it should only be part of the learning experience, not the entire thing.