University of Alabama MSM Students Place in Top 10% in the Google Online Marketing Challenge

In the Spring of 2015, I taught a special topics class on Digital Marketing - specific to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google AdWords. Bringing 42 Masters of Marketing students along for the ride, they all completed Google AdWords Certifications and competed in the international Google AdWords Challenge. The Google AdWords Challenge is an interesting contest for higher education students. Student teams create Google AdWords campaigns for local businesses and non-profit organizations. From budgeting to keyword placement, students are exposed to a variety of key digital marketing topics.

I decided to take on the Google Online Marketing Challenge after meeting Mary Lawlor an instructor at the Dublin Institute of Technology while attending a conference in Ireland. Mary's good thoughts and advice on running the challenge within a classroom setting were especially helpful and encouraging that the challenge would make for an excellent special topics class. As a brand new class in our Master's of Marketing curriculum, the Google Online Marketing Challenge was something entirely new to myself to teach and new to the students to learn.

Fortunately with the help of local Tuscaloosa company, Randall Reilly we were well on our way. Aaron Craddock, the Director of Performance Marketing at Randall Reilly and an 2016 Executive MBA Candidate, jumped into the mix with his team to teach alongside me in the classroom. Blending a corporate opportunity within the classroom really gave the students a real-world experience and allowed them to see the importance of effective digital marketing. Aaron and his team worked with our students to make sure they were certified in Google AdWords by the middle of the semester.

During the planning process, our student teams paired with companies and non-profit organizations to form campaigns for the challenge. This included one student team that paired with University of Alabama alumni, Brian Clark is the President and Co-Founder of and has previously been a guest speaker in my classes. The team included Amber Bara, Quintin Howze, Raphaela Guimaraes Petermann, Shweta Gamble, and Siddik Bozkurt. After working with on the challenge, the team finished with a Strong designation, ranking them amongst the top 10% of over 1,500 competitors internationally.

I learned a lot from teaching this class. While I have been Google AdWords certified for several years, teaching 42 students the process of Google AdWords while ensuring that they would gain certification status was a new challenge for me in and of itself. The Google Online Marketing Challenge was a bit difficult to adapt to the classroom; however, I never lacked for resources. Multiple resources provided by Google really helped bring about the teaching process. Working with our corporate partners also brought the campaigns into a realistic light. No longer was it just theory - it was action - and real dollars were being spent in the process. This was very different than a read the textbook, answer the homework questions, and solve the test class. The entire process of the challenge was a test from day one.

While at times the challenge could be stressful, I found that the total return on investment for our time and energy was high. Not only did one of our teams rank in the top 10%, we also had multiple job offers for our students waiting for them due to the fact that they were Google AdWords certified and had successfully completed the challenge. Student reflections showed at times the frustrations the students felt, but at the end of the process students were overall proud of themselves for stepping up to the plate and learning something new and exciting. That in and of itself, was an excellent reward for us all.


A BIG thank you goes to Mary Lawlor, Brian Clark, Aaron Craddock and all our MSM Google AdWords Challenge Partners.

#digitalmarketing #Google #GoogleAdWords

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