JMU Team Dives into 4th Google Online Marketing Challenge

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Competition plus career advice equal unique course at James Madison University.

JMU Participates in 4th Google Online Marketing Challenge

“These kinds of interactions give the class a fresh perspective on why certain aspects of campaign management are so crucial - from people who actually do this for a living.” - Dr. Clarke

Marketing students from more than 50 countries around the world are once again participating in the fourth edition of the Google Online Marketing Challenge, the annual online advertising competition. Participating students receive $200 of free online advertising with Google AdWords and then work with local businesses to devise effective online marketing campaigns. Students outline a strategy, run a campaign, assess their results and provide the business with marketing recommendations. Teams then submit their reports to a panel of independent academics who assess campaigns based on account structure, optimization techniques, account activity and reporting, performance vs. budget and the relevance of responses.

Once again, five teams from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia (JMU) are participating in the Challenge under the direction of Marketing Professor Theresa Clarke. The Challenge is the backbone of a special topics course offered to JMU undergraduate students. MKTG 490 explores various dimensions of internet marketing and paid search advertising, and this year 15 JMU students have paired off with five area businesses that include a farm, a salon and a nearby tourist attraction to test their marketing mettle.

Teams from JMU dominated the 2008 and 2009 Google competitions, and in 2010, all five JMU teams place among the top 100 teams globally, the school’s most consistent performance to date. James Madison’s undergraduate college of business ranks in the top 5% in the nation according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

The Challenge engages a broad spectrum of skills in advertising, e-commerce, integrated marketing communication, management information systems, marketing and new media technologies. Dr. Clarke brings in guest speakers at various stages of the competition to demonstrate to students how these disciplines translate to real-world careers.
Alexandria-based online marketing agency Silverback Strategies was one such guest in Clarke’s classroom. The Google AdWords campaign management and SEO team from Silverback gave the students a look at how Challenge skills are applied to Silverback’s business every day.

“I received great feedback from students about the Silverback visit,” says Dr. Clarke. “These kinds of interactions give the class a fresh perspective on why certain aspects of campaign management are so crucial - from people who actually do this for a living.”

Silverback’s Director of Paid Search Andrew Nelson encouraged the students to monitor and continually finesse their campaigns right up to the end – which is standard operating procedure at Silverback. They also discussed some of the newest analytical tools and filtering features in AdWords – demonstrating how monitoring available technology can be as important as monitoring campaign performance.

“It’s so rewarding to speak with students who display such a high level of skill plus the desire to learn more about our industry,” says Nelson. “It’s clear these are the people who will be steering the future of online advertising. Courses like this are crucial to the evolution of the industry, and we need more professors like Dr. Clarke who find creative ways to integrate this material into their curricula.”

In addition to teaching courses at JMU, Dr. Clarke is co-editor of Advances in Electronic Marketing, and her research has appeared in a broad range of elite journals related to technology, marketing and the Internet.

Follow the JMU team’s progress at Dr. Clarke’s Google Challenge blog at: http://theresabclarke.com/2011googlechallenge

Read more about the Google Online Marketing Challenge at: http://www.google.com/onlinechallenge/

About Silverback Strategies:
Based in Alexandria, Virginia, Online Marketing Agency Silverback Strategies partners with businesses large and small to provide state-of-the-art web design, SEO Management and pay-per-click campaign strategy, consulting and execution. The company’s SEO professionals are frequent presenters at educational institutions and marketing organizations on the topic of Internet campaign management. For speaking and media inquiries, contact 888.434.7775. Or visit Silverback Strategies on the web at silverbackstrategies.com.

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Joseph Erfe

Theresa B. Clarke
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