Google’s Online Marketing Challenge

Previously here, we’ve criticized the lack of education related to Search Engine Marketing. There are myriad reasons that this is the case, of course, including the relative newness (still) of the industry, its constantly-evolving strategies, and the unending stream of new technology. This doesn’t translate well to the world of 80-dollar textbooks.

So Google has done what Google does – they’ve taken this matter into their own ever-expanding hands. Announced yesterday, the Google Online Marketing Challenge will have the dual effect of introducing students to paid search marketing and, down the line, adding a thin layer to Google’s already well-lined pockets.

The rough concept:

    • Professors register their classes for the contest, and divide them into groups.

 

    • Google gives each group $200 in AdWords credit.

 

    • Student groups recruit local businesses that have a website, but no paid search accounts, to be their guinea pigs.

 

    • During a three-week period between February and May, the groups run paid search campaigns.

 

    • Students generate before and after reports.

 

  • One group wins.

This is nothing new, of course, as corporations have been gleaning free labor from college students in the form of marketing plans for as long as there have been corporations, marketing curricula, and a desire for free labor. But this is the first I’ve heard in the pay-per-click arena, and it’s a nice program.

I wish there were something to criticize here, because it’s fun to criticize Google’s increasing presence in our lives and in the organization of the world’s information. (Or is it the theft of the world’s information?) But, really, there’s not much here to quibble with.

Google probably could have provided a bit more lead time – I’d imagine that most professors already have their marketing syllabi in place – and Google is being evasive about what’s at stake. (Memo to Google: You’re worth $700 a share. “Participation is prize enough” is an unacceptable answer. So are Google mugs.)

But really, students stand to learn something and, maybe, find an interest in a growing industry with a dearth of experienced practitioners. We know that paid search works, and the local businesses stand to benefit from the short-term marketing efforts of the students.

And, yes, Google stands to benefit when those local businesses continue their campaigns long after the contest has ended. Google wins again. Google always wins. Again.