Google is a resource for helping people find what they need, and a team of Mays students used the online tool to learn more about online marketing.
Students in Marketing Professor Manjit S. Yadav’s Strategic Internet Marketing class (MKTG 438) have been working with 14 local businesses as part of Google’s Online Marketing Challenge. As part of the semester-long challenge, each team received $200 from Google to help a local business use search-marketing â€” specifically, the Google AdWords platform â€” to drive more traffic to their websites.
Winners will be announced in July. “It’s a fun and smart initiative from Google, and this fits quite well with my teaching goals for this course,” Yadav says.
Advertisers using AdWords choose a few search terms related to their business, plus a daily budget and the amount they are willing to pay when someone clicks. When customers search one of the terms or keywords, their ads may appear next to the search results.
Winning teams and their professors in this global competition receive a trip to the Google Headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., to meet with the AdWords team. Regional winners and their professors receive a trip to a regional Google office.
Non-profit organizations whose teams win can receive grants from Google ranging from $5,000 to $15,000.
The Mays students gave presentations to show how much more traffic they were able to drive to these organizations’ websites.
In addition to being a great hands-on learning opportunity, Yadav says, the Google Challenge also helps a number of local businesses. And he considers using a marketing platform program such as AdWords more accountable because as a company, you know each dollar is being spent to attract a potential customer.
“These businessesâ€”especially the non-profitsâ€”often do not have funds or the expertise to use online technologies to enhance their marketing activities. This is a real win-win for everyone,” Yadav says. “Working with nonprofits especially was very enjoyable because they are doing all these things to help people in our communities.”
Andrew Hall, vice president of the Grace Care Centers in Katy, Texas, thanked Yadav for allowing his students to participate in the competition.
“This project was a great success and over the past few weeks we have seen a dramatic improvement in not only our web traffic but our foot traffic in the buildings,” Hall wrote to Yadav. “This project was completed with great ideas and strategies in the business world, and I want to show my gratitude to the students who have helped us in our business development endeavors.”
Brittney Goldberg ’12, a member of the team that worked with the Children’s Museum of the Brazos Valley in downtown Bryan, says the exercise was one of many Mays brings to the students to provide real-world, challenging opportunities to help them gain greater insight into their selected fields.
“This is something that I have grown very fond of over my past three years, and I have learned a great deal from them,” Goldberg says. “With this class in particular, it really said something to me that our professor took the time to find this challenge that Google offers and apply it to our class. I didn’t necessarily perceive this project differently, but it did stand out to me how applicable this project was to my future learning and career environments.”
Additionally, she says, learning to use Google’s AdWords interface is a skill that may help differentiate her from other graduates in her field.
The biggest lesson she learned, she says, was how successful a marketing campaign can be as long as you take the time to communicate well with the client before, during and after the campaign. “We made a point to ask detailed questions concerning what they needed as an organization and what their biggest struggles were,” she says. “This gave us the opportunity to formulate an AdWords campaign that would be successful in helping them out with traffic to their website.
“We were able to see direct effects on The Children’s Museum, with statistics and personal client feedback, so it was very rewarding.
Fellow student Ben Peterson said working with a $200 budget from the largest online advertising platform “gave this project an immediate sense of credibility and potential.”
“Working with a robust platform like Google AdWords allowed our team to custom tailor our advertising solutions towards our target market using real-time data,” he added. “Furthermore, the use of real money inspired us to closely monitor our budget to ensure that we generated as many qualified leads as possible within our three week time frame.”
Peterson called the project one of the most interesting and thought-provoking during his college career, and said the project confirmed that online marketing is “an extremely powerful advertising medium with low barriers to entry and unlimited upside potential.”
Marketing major Cashel Moran ’12, said she felt the students took the project seriously because they were working with real money.
“With actual monetary stakes at hand, I felt that we knew we had the opportunity to really help a small company move into the technological world and expose them to online advertising that many of them had not had the knowledge or budget for,” Moran says. “It was a tremendous learning curve because many students had not used online advertising before but there was a constant driving force that since we had this budget we wanted to learn and excel to truly help a business and contribute to their marketing knowledge.”
The biggest lesson Moran says she learned from this challenge was the nuts and bolts of online advertising. “It takes practice and trials to learn what works and what does not, and a student can only do that with a real client and real pressures,” she explains. “Having to adjust a campaign and understanding what worked for the industry you were working with are such vital skills a student cannot learn anywhere else. Learning the ins and outs of Google AdWords was so important because it is a skill we can take to the real world that many have not been exposed to yet. It is a real-world application of our marketing program that will be one more advantage we have when entering the job market.”
The exercise also changed her perception of online marketing and social media. “Sometimes there is this perception that “If it goes online, everyone will see it,’ when in reality there is a struggle for small firms to compete against big corporations for advertising space. Also, the challenge of getting your ad to appear where you wanted was a challenge I would have never understood unless going through this project.