Digital Marketing: From College to the Real World

| 07 Apr, 2015

The digital marketing industry is continuously changing and growing. While the constant change and growth are exciting, it can also make it difficult to find students with the skill set needed for a career in digital marketing.

The Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC) exposes students to the world of digital before graduation and gives them valuable knowledge to help them land a job in the field. I had the opportunity to participate in the GOMC as an undergrad at Penn State University and recently went back to share my knowledge with this yearŠ—'s participants.

What is GOMC?

Every year, Google offers college students around the world the opportunity to create and execute online marketing campaigns for a business or a non-profit using AdWords. The students break into teams, choose a business, and are given a budget for a three-week campaign. The groups are responsible for everything from coming up with the campaign strategy to creating pre- and post-campaign reports. The competition gives students hands-on experience with paid search, social media, and analytics.

What I learned from the challenge

I participated in the GOMC at Penn State in the spring of 2014. The class, led by Dr. Jim Jansen, had about 100 students both in the classroom and online. We broke out into teams of three to six members each. Penn State teams have placed in the challenge for the past five years. Last year, three teams placed in the Final Global 15.

The class was challenging for me. It was all new information. I had never been exposed to anything like it before. It was an amazing learning experience and ultimately encouraged me to pursue a career in digital marketing. I loved that we had our own budget, our own client and the independence to manage the account. I figured out early that PPC accounts are responsive and even a little change can impact the account. The competition timeline is short and the budget tight, so we were constantly checking and changing our accounts.

We were responsible for structuring our accounts from scratch, creating the ad copy and the keyword lists. We learned about metrics like CTR and CVR to help gauge account performance and we ran tests to continuously improve our accounts. The GOMC class was a top-level overview of a lot of things I use in my day-to-day tasks now as a PPC executive. What seemed difficult and confusing to me during the challenge, I am now training people in. After participating in GOMC, I felt comfortable talking about basic PPC, and I think it gave me the edge over other recent grads to earn my spot in the Jellyfish Academy, a hybrid position that allowed me to continue my training while gaining experience on client accounts.

Headed back to Penn State for this yearŠ—'s challenge

I headed back to my alma mater with Jen Thorpe, our operations director (also a Penn State grad), to visit Dr. JansenŠ—Ès GOMC 2015 class. We presented PPC best practices and shared tips on everything from budgeting, to account structure, to ad copy. The teams were preparing to launch their campaigns the next week and were eager to share the progress they had made so far. 

GOMC is a great program and I hope more schools consider accepting the challenge. It teaches a specific skillset and allows students to gain PPC experience before graduation. The students are passionate and by offering them this opportunity, Google is helping to create the next generation of digital marketers.

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