Throughout my first year of working in this industry, I quickly learned that my method of learning paid search was considered rare and basically unheard of.

Most of my peers were at some point pushed into learning about PPC through some odd job or another. One person I met recently mainly learned how to use Google AdWords by speaking with someone on the Google support line.

I, on the other hand, was fortunate enough to be introduced to Google AdWords at James Madison University by participating in a course that included the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC).

What is the GOMC?

To provide a quick breakdown, the GOMC is a program in which graduate or undergraduate students participate in teams of 3-6 to run a three-week AdWords campaign for a business or non-profit organization. Google provides the teams with a $250 budget to fund their campaign strategy, which they then communicate through a pre-campaign and post-campaign report.

While there is some sway in the number of teams and the location of the students, one of the major rules is “students must register under a verified faculty member, lecturer or instructor currently employed by an accredited higher education institute.”

Google is benefiting from the Challenge by training future marketers how to use their top revenue-generating product and helping students to sell the idea of paid search to new businesses. But Google isn’t the only one benefitting, as universities and students are getting rewards. Universities are slowly opening up new curriculums and career paths for their marketing departments by creating Internet marketing and GOMC-based courses. Students are obtaining their basic AdWords 101 training while still in school and gaining experience working with a client, budgeting, strategizing, etc. Sure, there is still plenty for them to learn and experience post-GOMC, but the students that participate come out of college with more experience and preparation than their non-participating peers.

Dr. Theresa Clarke’s Internet Marketing Practicum course at JMU has taken home major awards in 6 out of the last 7 years of the competition, including the top prize this year as a Global Winner. The majority of students that are fortunate enough to be selected for the class have pursued promising careers in paid search working for top agencies and in-house teams.

A Missed Opportunity for Agencies

So, why aren’t agencies partnering with or supporting schools that are already participating in the Google Online Marketing Challenge more closely?   There are 3 reasons why digital marketing agencies should help partner with GOMC classes in their local universities:

Don’t Search for the Best, Create the Best

Finding the right people that fit your company culture and have the knowledge and skill set to succeed is hard. It can take weeks, months, or even years to find the right people. Even then, identified candidates might already be working somewhere else, reluctant to leave.

So, instead of searching, why not step in earlier to help shape the learning process? Why not help create a stronger generation of entry-level search engine marketers?   Agencies can volunteer to be guest speakers at an existing GOMC class to offer tips, tricks, and insights in the industry. You can go as far as actually helping the universities to develop a course by providing input into the potential course and curriculum.

This cooperation helps build a pool of strong potential new hires easily at your fingertips and itching to land a job in a new and exciting place.

Savings for Days

Depending on how involved you become in the course and the number of applicants you pool from it, you could potentially eliminate a few days or even weeks of paid training. Do I even need to mention the money, time and other resources you could save? If you throw in the potential money you save in the salary of hiring a new employee versus someone with experience, plus the money saved in recruiting (since you will have a pool of students that will be chopping at the bit for a job) GOMC sponsorship can be a jackpot for fresh talent.

Creating the Next Generation

Back to the point of creating the best: why wouldn’t we want the next generation of search engine marketers to come out of college smarter, better trained and ready for action. Eventually these are the people that will become members of our teams, future leaders, and even our replacements. I don’t know about everyone else, but I would love to know and trust that the new entry-level employee walking onto my team will come in hot, asking the right questions and tackling whatever I throw at them.

Experienced marketers should proactively help nurture students’ potential awesomeness to make our own lives easier in the future. Get the basics (and then some) over with before they even step in the door of the office for their first day, and it will pay dividends down the road.


Frankly I don’t have the answers – at least not right now – on the best method for bringing this course to a university near you. Starting a new course of study at most colleges is no easy task. I encourage agencies to start asking questions on how they can get involved in existing programs and even how they can help aid in bringing to local universities. Together, we can stop the constant search and scramble for the best by creating winners from the next generation.