The Google Online Marketing Challenge
With industry growth comes opportunity growth. Opportunities have begun to snowball within digital marketing and have quickly made an impression on universities and their young (and digitally-savvy) job-seeking students. Involvement in the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC) gives marketing students exposure to Google products and the world of paid search campaigns. More importantly, from an agency perspective, participation in GOMC prepares aspiring digital marketing professionals with background knowledge on the fundamentals of paid search campaigns, social media strategy, analytics, content analysis, and more.
What is GOMC?
The competition gives students the opportunity to create and run a three-week Google Adwords campaign for a client who has never before used Adwords. The participants are required to conduct market and industry research as well as breakdown their proposed strategy, campaign structure, and budget scheme in the pre-campaign report.
But, GOMC is more than just a paid search competition. Following the three-week campaign, the teams must report on their results, learning outcomes, and recommendations. An additional optional component of GOMC includes creating, running, and reporting on a five-week G+ campaign for the client. Teams are encouraged to make use of Google Analytics to aid in their reporting metrics.
Why Does It Matter?
GOMC has raised the visibility of an industry that many college students are unaware of. Aside from providing recent graduates with job opportunities, there are several overarching benefits across the board:
- As an agency, you'll spend less time teaching a GOMC graduate the basics of PPC and other digital marketing channels, and more on your agency's specific tactics and strategies
- GOMC gives students a representative view of what it takes to create and execute a marketing plan that integrates several digital marketing components paid search, social, content, analytics all while maintaining client relations
- These new hires bring a fresh view of Google's products, and likely come in with certifications
- Both Google and the university benefit from having students excel in the workforce immediately after participation in GOMC
What I learned from GOMC
GOMC was the most realistic group project I ever participated in while in college. We spent real money, on a real client, and saw real impacts both positive and negative. We used Google Analytics to check for traffic increases, made content recommendations for their landing pages, and incorporated a social media strategy to generate brand awareness. The real-time nature of the 3-week campaign sparked competitive drive, and critical thinking. I learned the importance of making quick decisions without rushing.
Entering the Jellyfish Academy (JFA) a unique training environment with classroom sessions and hands-on training for new hires right out of college - with previous exposure to Google AdWords and Google Analytics provided me with background information on the functionality of the tools. All work and assignments in JFA are for client accounts, taught by senior PPC managers and account managers. By working alongside experts at Jellyfish each day, I was able to begin picking up on industry-wide best practices. I also got to learn about how Jellyfish specific tactics are applied to daily tasks like bid management and ad-copy and landing page testing, as well as larger initiatives like media planning and client strategy.
All of the strategic thinking for my team's campaign during the competition came through the collaboration between us and the client. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was a great example of the types of conversations I'm now having every single day as an account executive.
Closing the gap between graduates and employers
I participated in the 2014 GOMC during my last semester at James Madison University under the direction of Dr. Theresa Clarke, a GOMC veteran. Dr. Clarke's teams find success in the challenge each year and are committed to getting the most out of what GOMC has to offer. A big part of what her highly selective course offers is not only participation in GOMC, but also exposure to digital marketing agencies. Our weekly lecture frequently involved a visit from a JMU GOMC alum and a colleague from their current agency. Networking with these industry experts and gaining insight on what it was like to work in digital marketing certainly had an impact on my job search.
In an effort to give back to JMU, Tom An, Jellyfish's VP of Digital Strategy, and I visited Dr. Clarke's 2015 GOMC class in January. We introduced the class to Jellyfish and gave a lecture straight from the JFA classwork regarding the importance of keywords. Each of the teams then showed us what they had in mind for their campaign structure, and some potential Ad Groups.
Rarely in college do you get to feel anything remotely similar to how the real world actually is, but I've found that my experiences at GOMC and Jellyfish have a lot in common. The competitive nature that was brought out in just a three-week campaign is a constant here. Things are ever-changing, and we all have to be on our toes and ready to act accordingly.