SMC Students Place 16th Nationally in the Google Online Marketing Challenge

After competing as part of the Electric Factory team in the Spring 2016 Google Online Marketing Challenge, I was asked to write an article about the results of the competition as well as the overall process of competing. The following article was published on Temple’s School of Media and Communications site. For highlights from my team’s Electric Factory campaign, please see the bottom of the page.

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In Annenberg Hall, there is a secret room that can only be reached by one staircase in an out-of-the-way corridor. This is the home of the Google Online Marketing Challenge, run by academic advisor, Alison Ebbecke. Following last year’s launch, the Google Online Marketing Challenge evolved from an Independent Study into a class, a class like no other.

Every year, teams from around the globe compete to create the best AdWords campaign for a small business. Each team is credited with a $250 AdWords budget and asked to create a three week campaign. For those unfamiliar with paid search, the average small business has an AdWords budget of $10,000 per month.

So how do you create a successful AdWords campaign with a budget running on fumes? Well, the first step is picking a client. Teams in Professor Ebbecke’s class worked with Electric Factory and Reading Terminal Market. Each chose to focus on only one of its client’s events in order to get the most out of the budget.  The Electric Factory team promoted RuPaul’s Drag Race: Battle of the Seasons, a drag show that came to Philly at the end of May. The Reading Terminal Market team focused on Movies at the Market, a series of free movie screenings hosted at Reading Terminal. After identifying campaign goals and KPIs, teams moved on to strategizing, budgeting, launching, and optimizing. The workload was unceasing. Even after the semester ended and some members had graduated, teams continued to collaborate on post campaign reports for a June 1st deadline. These reports served to summarize the campaign for Google and both clients. Writing them involved interpreting data to find the underlying story of the campaign. Through this, students learned valuable AdWords lessons that can be applied to other real-world campaigns and brands. As Media Studies and Production student, Niani Patterson says, “The GOMC is a preview for how the search engine marketing world operates on a daily basis.”

If this class is any indication, members of both teams will be fully prepared for the search engine marketing world. The Electric Factory campaign generated 189 clicks with an average click-through rate of 2.64%, almost 60% higher than the industry average (1.66%). The Reading Terminal Market campaign resulted in a total of 20,455 impressions and 175 clicks. The team created additional value for their client by improving the landing page for the Movies at the Market event, effectively increasing the percentage of new sessions by 55.54% and time on page by 25%.

Upon submitting the post campaign reports, students had to wait an agonizing two months to receive their rankings from Google. When the scores finally came, everyone was impressed. Despite competing with 600 teams from the United States and more than 2000 worldwide, the Reading Terminal Market and Electric Factory teams both ranked as top performers, respectively finishing 16th and 34th place in the U.S.

And what do the students get for the time and energy they dedicated to their campaigns? For the impressive results they achieved? They get the invaluable opportunity to list a Google AdWords certification on their resumes. An essential part of the Google Online Marketing Challenge is participating in the certification exams. Two exams are needed to become certified in AdWords with each exam taking up to 120 minutes. That’s the same length of time it would take to complete the SATs. Although certification is a rigorous process, Kia Street, a recently-certified member of the Electric Factory team says, “The professional certification communicates to future employers, clients, colleagues, etc. that I am recognized by Google as having the necessary skills to grow a business using Google AdWords.” A certification such as this truly opens doors and while the amount of time and dedication the competition requires may seem daunting, in the end, members of both teams agree: it was worth it.

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