Business Students Take Part in Google Challenge

CIS 431 goes outside the classroom and into the real world of search engine-based advertising.

This spring, School of Business seniors in the Analysis, Design and Implementation of Information Systems course participated in the annual Google Challenge, an international competition that gives students a hands-on introduction to the world of search engine-based advertising using Google’s AdWords technology. The competition required students to select a nonprofit organization and create an AdWords campaign that would achieve specific business goals.  

“The Google Challenge benefits all parties involved — the students conduct a real advertising campaign, the target organization receives free online advertising, and Google gets to demonstrate the benefits of search engine-based advertising,” explains class instructor Marc Waldman, Ph.D., assistant professor of accounting, law and computer information systems (CIS).

The Manhattan College Google Challenge team consisted of Kaitlin Begley ’12, Matthew Jordan ’13, William Mauro ’12, Rory O’Connor ’12 and Lisa Pulis ’12, all CIS majors. The group focused its AdWords campaign on Catholic Charities of Rockville Centre, an organization that has a personal connection to the College through its CEO Laura Cassell ’79, a member of the School of Business Board of Advisors.

The Google Challenge benefits all parties involved — the students conduct a real advertising campaign, the target organization receives free online advertising, and Google gets to demonstrate the benefits of search engine-based advertising

“From my perspective, the real joy of this was the collaboration itself,” Cassell says. “This project offered the opportunity for Manhattan students to connect the Catholic values that are so central to their education to the charitable mission of the larger Church.”

The AdWords program allows organizations to associate keywords with small online ads. When a potential customer enters one or more of the keywords into a search engine, the associated ad appears alongside other relevant web page links, and gives organizations the opportunity to conduct a targeted online advertising campaign.

Based on its initial research of Catholic Charities, the team decided to focus the AdWords campaign on three areas, including services (senior and charity), donations and volunteers. The team then had to identify target keywords, a process that evolves over time based on effectiveness, and participate in an AdWords auction to buy their keywords. Google provided each team with a $250 AdWords voucher valid for one month, and the team used this voucher to bid on keywords.

To help the team make wise budget and keyword decisions, Google also provided tools that summarized activity in an AdWords campaign, such as number of times a particular ad was clicked on and displayed, and keyword search frequency.

A few weeks prior to starting the Google Challenge, the team reviewed the topic of search engine-based advertising in class, which provided a solid foundation to begin their work on the campaign.

The team’s campaign was most successful in the area of increasing the recruitment of volunteers for Catholic Charities. The students found that ads for donations and services faced a surprising amount of competition from other not-for-profit organizations and, therefore, didn’t get displayed as often as the volunteer recruitment ads.

“Being part of this project, I feel that not only has this course provided me with a valuable learning experience but also the opportunity to help a wonderful organization like Catholic Charities,” team captain Pulis adds. “It was great to hear that they were able to benefit from our actions.”