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James Madison teams rise to Google challenge

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli
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2013 First Place Global Winners of the
Google Challenge Social Impact Award

Besides providing answers to life’s most unexpected questions, Google has another purpose — advertising.

Earlier this year James Madison University students helped businesses and nonprofits promote themselves as part of Google’s Online Marketing Challenge. In the end, JMU snatched three of the top 12 awards in the contest and was named a global winner. That’s no small feat considering 2,454 teams from around the world competed in the 2013 event.

As part of the challenge, teams developed an online marketing strategy for businesses with Google platforms. Using Google AdWords and a $250 budget provided by Google, students developed customized search terms to drive traffic to their clients’ websites. The contest also included an optional social media aspect where students could promote a client through Google+, the social media network for the search engine-giant.

Two teams from JMU’s Innovation MBA program received first and third places in the Social Impact Awards, collectively earning $20,000 for the Augusta Regional Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Staunton and the Virginia Quilt Museum in Harrisonburg.

An undergraduate team also was a first place global winner in the Google + Social Media Marketing category for its work with the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Breinigsville, Pa. “We definitely didn’t go into it expecting to win anything, but we definitely wanted to and we knew if we really did try and work hard on it, we could,” says Lindsay Hayes, whose team won the award.

Theresa B. Clarke, a marketing professor at JMU, has been incorporating the contest into her Internet marketing classes since 2008. “I thought it was a really good opportunity for students to get hands-on and practical experience with online marketing,” Clarke says.

Clarke’s Internet marketing class proved practical for Hayes, who landed a job at Rimm-Kaufman Group (RKG) in Charlottesville. As an analyst of paid search at RKG, Hayes manages the paid search for clients who want to advertise on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. “We work with clients who have thousands of dollars for a budget and are managing thousands if not millions of keywords,” Hayes says.

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