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MCC Students Rank in Top 50 in Global Google Challenge

Fall 2008 | Archives

map A team of three Metropolitan Community College students placed in the top 50 teams representing the Americas in the international 2008 Google Online Marketing Challenge. More than 20,000 students and 1,600 teams from 47 countries and six continents competed using Google AdWords to create, execute and evaluate online marketing campaigns for local small businesses (fewer than 100 employees).

Robert McIntyre, Dan Pollreis and Katie Wortmann´s high-ranking campaign for Glass Harmony Gallery in Omaha, Neb., originated in Metropolitan Community College´s Marketing for the Entrepreneur course taught by Heather Nelson. Nelson had taught Google´s pilot curriculum on search engine marketing in a course last year at MCC and learned of the global online challenge through that relationship. While the challenge was for university programs, MCC´s participation in the pilot program allowed the College to be a part of the challenge—the only community college to do so worldwide.

"This challenge opportunity was a way to bring the real life business world together with a student learning activity to apply their studies firsthand," Nelson said. "The students truly had an opportunity to interact with the business owners and key employees to understand their business strategy and create and implement an online marketing plan to integrate into the business´s existing business initiatives."

The student teams received $200 in free online advertising with Google´s AdWords program and then worked with the local business of their selection to determine the online marketing campaign. AdWords allows businesses to place ads targeted to Google users who are searching for specific keywords or phrases. AdWords clients select the keywords and phrases related to their business. The ads then appear on Google when people search using one of the selected keywords. The business pays for the advertising using a pay-per-click model. When someone clicks on the business's ad, AdWords charges the business's account according the the ad rate. The ad rate is based on a predetermined click rate set by Google that takes into consideration the demand and popularity of the keywords.

The teams outlined strategies, ran their campaigns, assessed the results and provided the business with recommendations to further develop the online marketing. Two reports were required: a pre-campaign strategy outlining the marketing plan and a post-campaign summary evaluating the success and provided recommendations for improving the effectiveness. For each of the business partners, this was the first opportunity to market online using Google´s AdWords ad marketing platform.

A panel of academics from around the globe judged the teams´ work, first looking at the campaign statistics determined from a Google algorithm that examines more than 30 factors of the AdWords account and campaign. Then the panel judged the written reports according to a predetermined template. The grand prize for the winning team was a visit the Google Headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., to meet the team that created AdWords.

In addition to the Glass Harmony Gallery team´s ranking in the top 10 percent, the eight other teams in Nelson´s class ranked in the top 50 percentile of teams in the Americas, and three of those teams ranked in the 80 percentile.

"Our students were competing against four-year bachelor and even graduate programs. This just shows the caliber of work that our students put in," Nelson said.

This fall, Nelson is teaching a course on search engine marketing at MCC´s Elkhorn Valley Campus. She will incorporate the 2009 challenge into her course this spring; the 09 challenge formally opens in October 2008. The challenge is open to any higher education institution from anywhere in the world and can enter any class, graduate or undergraduate, regardless of discipline.

Learn what the Google Challenge was like from a student´s perspective:

"This class wasn´t like any other that I´ve taken. I learned so much about search engine optimization, cost per click, keyword-based marketing, content sites and other areas of web marketing that I didn´t know about. I work in marketing, and the field is growing and changing so fast!

"This was an extremely beneficial class. The material was completely new and relevant to the industry. We weren´t just studying case studies and theories; we were managing an actual campaign. There is no better way to learn than actually applying what you're studying, and this class was a perfect example of that.

"Not only did the class benefit the students, it benefited local small business owners by giving them $200 to put towards an AdWords campaign and a web marketing team. It was just another way that MCC contributes to the community.

"This class was an amazing opportunity, and I am thrilled with my group´s outcome. Heather is a wonderfully innovative teacher, and her classes have really helped me stay current in my field."

– Katie Wortmann, member of MCC´s Google Online Marketing Challenge team that ranked in the top 50 for the Americas

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