Before graduating from James Madison University in May 2011, I got the opportunity to participate in Dr. Clarke’s marketing independent study course. Under Dr. Clarke’s direction, our class got the chance to participate in an academic program offered by Google called, the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC). GOMC is a great opportunity for students to gain real world experience in the niche field of search engine marketing.
The Google online marketing challenge is a global competition open to any higher education institution around the world. Student teams are given $200 vouchers to run a three week Google AdWords campaign for a client of their choice. The campaign window can be any 21 consecutive days between January and June. Students are responsible for developing a complete AdWords account structure for their client and effectively managing their account to maximize performance results over the three week campaign window. Each team is responsible for developing a pre-campaign and post-campaign strategy report to be reviewed by Google and an independent academic panel. Google and the panel selects three regional winners and one global winner based on the success of the campaigns and the quality of the strategy reports.
After finishing up the semester in May, my team and I had a long wait for August when the challenge results were announced by Google. Turns out all of our hard work paid off! My team and I were announced the 2011 Americas Regional winners! As the regional winners, we won a trip to the Googleplex in Mountain View, California and each team member received a free Mac Book Pro! Pretty cool right?
Tips for Future Participants:
For those of you that were planning on participating this year or those that just decided they are going to participate after reading about the prizes my team and I won, here are some tips. The most important success factor that will help you do well in the challenge is to continuously monitor your account every day, several times a day. Something I learned about pay-per-click advertising is that it is not something that can be set up and left alone. It is important to make sure that you are constantly in the account testing ad copy, managing bids, running search term reports, and monitoring your budget. Google offers a wide variety of tools to help you optimize your AdWords account. Take advantage of them! Some tools in particular that my team found useful include, Google Analytics, Keyword Tool, Google Traffic Estimator, Insights for Search, and AdWords Editor. Also, make sure to take advantage of the reports that you can create right in the AdWords interface. My team and I found the search term report extremely helpful because it allowed us to see all the search queries that were triggering our ads. This allowed us to discover keywords that we wanted to add to our account, as well as what we wanted to add as negative keywords to help minimize irrelevant impressions. Just remember, it is important to test different approaches to AdWords to discover best practices that produce performance metrics that align with your client’s goals.
I highly recommend that all students take advantage of the opportunity Google has given to higher education institutions around the world. The challenge provides students with, “real money, real results, and real experience”. Participating in the challenge not only helped me grow academically, but professionally as well. In fact, it was the Google Online Marketing Challenge that helped me discover I wanted to start a career in search engine marketing and how I ended up here at Search Mojo today!