Sunday, October 29, 2017

Three steps to using a Google Ad Grant in the digital marketing classroom

This week's guest blogger is Professor Todd Kelsey from Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois. He has worked extensively with Google Ad Grants and also has written numerous books on the subject of digital marketing. Dr. Kelsey provides a three step program to start using Google Ad Grants in the digital marketing classroom to help students learn.

google, adwords, ad grants, nonprofit marketing, search advertising, SEM Search engine marketing
Google AdGrants program helps students learn and nonprofits thrive

What are Ad Grants?

Google Ad Grants provide an opportunity for nonprofit organizations around the world to get an official Google AdWords account with a monthly budget of $10,000 to spend on ads for raising awareness, fundraising, gaining members, etc. AdWords is a powerful tool and the program available to just about any nonprofit.  However, there can be technical challenges and skills required to create and manage campaigns, which may be beyond the resources of many nonprofits.

On the other hand, there are a lot of students who could benefit from getting experience on live AdWords accounts as they learn about digital marketing. The Google Marketing Challenge is no longer available, but students might be able to benefit from and AdWords account that has $10,000 a month available, and the opportunity to help a nonprofit organization?

The idea of the Ad Grant Exchange is to help nonprofits to obtain and manage as grant accounts, and to give students an opportunity to access these accounts, to get experience. In practice many professors have found it to be a great way to help students as they work towards gaining the free Google Adwords certification.  In theory one can be certified by just studying the material However it definitely helps to have access to the tool, and while certifications have been proven to help students get interviews and jobs, the more experience you can gain, the better.

Step 1:  Get AdWords certified. 

The first way for an educator to approach this issue is to get Adwords certified to know what the application is and how to use it.  There are free learning resources from Google and books available on Amazon. Obtaining the certification should be a class requirement as well that can be handled simultaneously with the project.

Step 2. Find a client.  

Next, approach nonprofit organizations directly in the local community or across the world. In Many nonprofits already have Google Ad grants or did have them, but with the turnover at nonprofits in staff and volunteers, the grants often go dormant.  It may be possible for the nonprofit to either obtain or reclaim a grant for use with a digital marketing class. The starting point is to take a look at the Google Resources for Nonprofits website listed below. Dr. Kelsey has also offered to make suggestions and help find a client. If you are interested in learning more about Google Ad Grants or know of an organization that would like some help pursuing or optimizing one, please feel free to contact Dr. Kelsey at

Step 3. Set objectives. 

While the class will be running the project, make sure that the campaign goals and objectives are clearly defined and can be accomplished during a class period.  A goal might be to build awareness, which would be measured by website visits, or could also be something more specific, like requesting information or donating funds.  In either case, the nonprofit will need to provide resources to access its web page and make changes to it to increase the quality score of the ad and its likelihood to be shown. Access to Google Analytics will make the classroom experience richer and create more learning opportunities for the students.

After the project  

Most likely the grant will require some kind of ongoing management when the class isn’t running; It is important to make sure that role is defined during the project and that the ongoing program manager be closely involved in the project.  That person whsould work with the students.  Another goal at the outset is to to define a long term plan that can be implemented over several semesters. Using principles of continuous improvement, the project can be passed to next year's or next semester's class with goals already in place

Good luck and don't hesitate to contact either Dr. Kelsey or me for assistance!  I talk more about how to successfully work with clients in the classroom in my latest podcast for HubSpot or in my Cengage webinar.

Google Resources for Nonprofits
Google Ad Grants Website
Dr. Kelsey's book on Search Engine Marketing in AdWords
Dr. Zahay's Podcast on client projects
Dr. Zahay's Cengage webinar on using projects to aid students' careers

Saturday, February 11, 2017

How to Apply Digital Marketing Certification Content

Applying Principles from a Digital Marketing Certification 

In my prior post on teaching with digital marketing certificates in the undergraduate degree programs at St. Edward's University, I spoke about the available digital marketing certificates, such as Hubspot, HootSuite, Google Analytics and how they could be integrated into a course in Digital Marketing or other University-level courses.  However, as some readers noted in their comments, certifications are just a piece of paper, albeit electronic, and don't  provide real-world application of digital marketing that can aid in the transition to practice.

Certifications Are Like a Driver's License

For example, getting a certificate in AdWords is a bit like getting a driver's license.  When I got my license, I could operate a car, but I lacked the experience to drive in different types of traffic and handle the more challenging aspects of driving.  A driving license let me practice so I could get better.  The same principle applies in digital marketing certification.

Practice Makes Perfect

Therefore, a certificate in Google AdWords or Analytics is not that meaningful without practice in the discipline.  So I wanted to share how, in our classes, students practice these skills.  Let's talk about the major certifications we use in our classes here at St. Edward's University and how students apply these skills.  All of these certification programs are free to the students.  There are others, but we focus on the ones that are of high quality and are available at no cost.
Hootsuite, application, marketing practice
Students and their clients in Social Media class, Fall 2016, St. Edwards' University

Applying HubSpot Inbound Marketing Certification and Google Analytics

Many of the digital marketing classes are taken by three majors:  Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Digital Media Management.  In the Digital Marketing and Analytics class, each student effectively plans, implements and measures a digital marketing campaign.  The students write weekly blog posts on a topic related to their major or their personal passion in Blogger, which can easily be linked to Google Analytics under settings . They write about the information in Google Analytics and and Blogger statistics each week as they promote their blog and practice with posting different types of content.  The project Students comment on where their traffic is coming from and relate that to the personas from their blog

This project allows students to practice the good blogging principles of HubSpot Inbound Marketing certification such as the use of white space, headings, the effective use of headings and good titles.  Students also learn the basics of analytics that prepares them to become analytics certified in our Marketing Metrics class. The Google Analytics certification allows students to practice on an e-commerce database provided by Google, which is another great way to practice their certification knowledge.

Applying Google AdWords Certification

Google Adwords certification is great and gives students a resume builder and an understanding of paid search. To apply these concepts,  one approach is simply to have the students create sample ads and critique them in class. Another approach is to use a marketing simulation.  

However, arguably the best way to practice AdWords is to have the students compete in the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC) or to work with a client on a project.  In the challenge, students get a $250 budget to work with a company that has not had a paid search campaign on AdWords at least in the last six months.  In a client project scenario, I have worked with companies that provided a similar budget and we have worked on paid search campaigns of interest to them.  Each approach has it's pros and cons, which I will discuss in another blog post.

The good news is that Google now allows students to take AdWords Certification for free, which involves passing the Fundamentals exam and an exam on one other on a topic such as search, video or mobile advertisements.  In fact, Google recommends that students become AdWords certified before or during the GOMC.  We have restructured our courses so that students do the GOMC in the senior course in the Marketing major, having previously been certified in the required Digital Marketing and Analytics course.  I know other Universities where the challenge in the sole focus of a course and I have taught it that way also. The projects can be done simultaneously, but, as I covered in a prior blog post in this series (check out the blog archive), the Challenge is so time consuming that involvement in it can take away from other classroom learning in digital marketing.

Applying Hootsuite Platform Certification

In our social media classes, students also write a blog related to their professional aspiration in the context of a personal branding exercise and plan. Students then use the Hootsuite social media management tool, which is available while they are getting Hootsuite Platform certified, to promote that blog and their personal brand.  This free certification is just how to use the tool and a bit about social media, but does not include the Social Media Marketing Certification, which is now, unfortunately, a paid exam. They learn how to use the Hootsuite. platform and also how to analyze the effects of their posts.

Students also apply the Hootsuite Certification material when they work with real-life clients in the second half of the class.  In addition to making suggestions as to how to manage the process of a social media management tool, students recommend which platforms to use and how frequently to post.  Clients have then implemented these suggestions and had applicable results in just a few weeks of working with students in our class. 

Plan, Implement, Measure

In all of these examples of applications of certification, the students learn how to plan, implement and measure a marketing campaign, whether it be it be promoting their personal brand, launching a blog or creating a paid search campaign.  Certification programs on their own are not effective in helping students understand the material or get jobs after graduation.  These projects provide application for deeper learning and professional preparation. We also incorporate HubSpot Inbound Sales and Salesforce Trailhead in to our Sales class, but I will cover this approach in a later blog post.  

Please let me know what other approach you take in your classes to apply the tools of digital marketing certifications. All of these certifications an be used in conjunction with textbooks that I have co-authored with Cengage to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Comment on this blog, email me at or catch me on social media.  Good luck!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Nine Tips for Coaching the Google Online Marketing Challenge

The Google Online Marketing Challenge as a "Real-World" Experience

This blog is dedicated to techniques of teaching digital marketing.  Previously, I addressed the issue of industry certification and some of the benefits in preparing the students with qualifications that are sought by employers.  There are other ways to provide real-world preparation in the Digital Marketing classroom.

The Outline of the Challenge 

For example, The Google Online Marketing Challenge is another way that instructors can give their students ‘real-world’ experiences in digital marketing. I have used many tools and techniques over the years and the Challenge has many benefits as well as some limitations. In a nutshell, students plan, implement and measure an online paid search campaign using at $250.00 AdWords budget from Google.  In the process, the challenge requires first finding a client and defining what makes the product/service unique so it can be promoted online.  The challenge can be used to reinforce the strategic marketing concepts that are taught in many classes because search keywords convey the company's unique strengths and positioning.  What follows are some tips for coaching teams in the Challenge.
GOMC, AdWords, search, Google, paid search
Students work in teams on the Google Online Marketing Challenge

Some Planning Tips

1) Emphasize learning. I have coached over 40 teams, many of them quite skilled, and we have never made it to any award level.  In speaking with those who have been selected, it seems that the difference is the dedication of the team, not the skill of the coach.  If the students and you get to fly to California, that is great, but it is also unlikely. Therefore, I recommend emphasizing the team's learnings or outcomes of the project and not necessarily the prizes.  The reflection part of the post-campaign report will help in this area, or instructors may also include other reflection assignments before, during and after the campaign.  I personally grade the challenge on the caliber of the written assignments and the team’s reflection, not necessarily the results of the challenge.  We often have a presentation based on the pre-campaign report so the entire class and sometimes the client can give feedback and we all learn in the process.
2) Expect the unexpected.  Especially when you are a new coach, you may not be able to foresee difficulties.  We had a team pick a support website for a psychological disease, not realizing that Google places many restrictions on that particular advertising category.  Believe it or not, there are sites that promote this particular behavioral disorder and Google goes to great lengths to make sure that it does not encourage this type of behavior in the ad envrinoment.  Inappropriate, dangerous, dishonest or counterfeit products or services are not allowed to advertise on Google’s networks. However, if you find your team in a sticky position, make the most of the situation.  There is a lot to be learned from even negative experiences and one of the women who was on the team that had all the challenges from Google still considers it to be one of her best project experiences and uses the experience in job interviews to talk about how she has overcome adversity.
3) Be prepared for mono-mania. This project can be all-consuming.  I recommend making the project the only project during the course and just having a few examinations and maybe a presentation.  Students will become completely absorbed during the running of the campaign and it is often good to give them class time to work on their campaigns and discuss problems as a group.
4) Consider timing. This project used to be confined to the Spring, which meant that after a few weeks of course intro, finding the client and working on the pre-campaign report, we were almost at Spring break.  Then we had to decide whether to run the campaign over break or how to handle the timing. Students are now allowed to run the campaign for any 21 days over a 31 day period, which means that teams can suspend their campaign over break. In any case, timing can be critical. I have run this challenge in an eight-week class, but we only had two weeks for the campaign. Instructors wishing to run the challenge in a short-form course would be wise to line up the clients before starting and have them present to the class during the first week.  
5) Try it yourself. I recommend setting up an AdWords account and writing some ads. I was fortunate to run a program where I had my own budget and we ran some ad campaigns for events. I got to learn how to do AdWords well while I was coaching my students.  Even so, I learned a lot from coaching the projects. Since the AdWords Fundamentals and other exams are now free, I recommend also taking at least the Fundamentals exam before starting as a coach. 
6) Expect some challenging clients. Even if clients have the best interests of the students at heart, they get busy and sometimes can’t help as much as they would like.  Ideal clients give access to their site analytics to the team, make website changes to improve the relevance of landing pages, and stay involved in the entire process.  Less than ideal clients never return students phone calls or emails.  Make sure the client companies already have a landing page so there is something to work with if the client gets too busy to work with the students.  Involving the clients by requiring them to have some 'skin in the game' like attending class at the beginning, end and middle of the project helps with not only the student experience but the project outcome. 
7) Consider two courses.  I’m not kidding. Most of us that have been doing this for a while are not trying to teach the students Internet Marketing and also have them run the Challenge.  Our approach at St. Edward’s is to get them certified in one course and teach the background and then have them participate in the Challenge or a similar project for another. 
8) Realize this is not Google’s major business. Google does not make money on the GOMC.  The GOMC is a public service that also benefits Google by getting them clients and training future digital marketers to use their software.  However, sometimes Google can  be late in approving pre-campaign reports or crediting accounts with cash and sometimes students don't follow directions exactly to get their campaign credits.  Sometimes there are technical difficulties in getting things set up properly.  All of these potential problems mean that it is important to include enough time in the schedule to correct any problems or difficulties.  I always let the students decide which three weeks they wish to run their campaign during any four week period, just in case a team runs in to trouble.  I build slack time in the course schedule to accommodate unforeseen circumstances.
9) Check for special contests.  Each year, Google runs special contests along with the Challenge. These contests are sometimes for use of social media, sometimes for having a non-profit client and sometimes for being AdWords certified.  Check the challenge guidelines each year to see if your students qualify as these opportunities can be extra ways to win.  
These are just a few tips that I have for you from my years in doing the Challenge.  If you have any questions or comments you can post on this blog or email me. If you would like a copy of the complete GOMC Appendix to accompany the new Zahay and Roberts Internet Marketing text, please email me at  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Three Approaches to Incorporating Industry Certification in Undergraduate Marketing

How to Approach Digital Marketing Certifications

This past September 14-16th, at the Marketing Management Association Conference in Providence, Rhode Island, there were several sessions, including my own, focused on incorporating certifications in digital marketing platforms and techniques in to the Marketing Curriculum in undergraduate programs in business schools.  We teach digital marketing and analytics, social media marketing, marketing metrics and traditional marketing topics at St. Edward's University. However, all of the courses have a digital marketing element and many incorporate industry certification. These approaches are to have the students complete the certification on their own, incorporate a certification in to one course or incorporate certifications throughout the curriculum at The Munday School of Business at St. Edwards's University in Austin, Texas.  There are pros and cons to each approach but the benefits of certification to students are clear.

certification; digital marketing; social media; analytics; adwords

Benefits of Certification

I coordinated the pre-conference workshop on teaching digital marketing with Dr. Janna Parker from James Madison University and Dr. Leila Samii from Southern New Hampshire University. The benefits to certification appear to be indisputable.  Students who receive certifications in industry programs such as Hootsuite for social media management or HubSpot for Inbound marketing get a real world experience and also get a badge or a certificate for their resume or LinkedIn profile.  For digital marketing, where comparatively few students receive this type of certification, at this point certification can be a true point of difference.  The types of certification we discussed at the Conference were Google AdWords, HubSpot Inbound and Hootsuite Platform certification.  The above graphic shows how we have incorporated certifications or 'badges' throughout or Marketing undergraduate curriculum. The three approaches discussed at our presentation and at the conference are outlined underneath this paragraph.

Three Approaches

1) Make certification optional.  In this approach, certifications are optional at the end of particular courses and are mentioned in the course but not integrated.  A benefit of this approach is that students get to choose the certification that are really of interest to them. However, from experience I found that few students take advantage of this option.

2) Use the certification as the final exam.  A colleague of ours, Archana Kumar from Montclair State University, discussed using the Google AdWords Fundamentals exam as a final examination in a retail course where the students promoted an e-commerce website using AdWords. Students took the examination in class and reported a good pass rate by studying for the examination as for any final.

3) Integrate certification in to the course.  This is the approach I am taking this semester with our Digital Marketing and Analytics course.  Students are getting HubSpot Inbound certified because the course focuses on web/mobile design and conversion optimization, email and social media marketing.  The HubSpot modules mirror what is happening in class, although with less of an emphasis on mobile technology. and the general structure of the HubSpot inbound methodology is similar to that used in our class.  During the course the students watch the module and will take the HubSpot Inbound examination.
Students are also studying Google AdWords and getting certified in that program. The AdWords training videos are excellent and include many  Unfortunately, we don't have the time to have them work on a project using AdWords so that might be a more difficult certification project to manage. I will certainly keep everyone posted on our progress.  We just started the process this week and everyone in class became a Google Partner and is ready to go.

How it Works in Class

Using certifications in class is relatively easy.  Each of the vendors has a website where the students sign up for a free account.  Hubspot Academy includes transcripts and PowerPoint slides for its videos, making it the easiest certification to adapt to classroom use. Hootsuite Academy has a series of videos and a learning guide where the students can take notes.  AdWords has a website complete with other resources for getting certified.  With some creativity, each of these tools can be adapted to the classroom.  Students can provide proof of certification to earn class points. 

Pros and Cons

In general, these industry certifications work well.  One clear benefit to the instructor is not having to record all the information or keep it updated. Everything is done by the industry vendor.  However, that means that when the vendor makes changes, the instructor has to be flexible and so does the class. I have had vendors change certification modules in the middle of the semester and it has sometimes been an inconvenience to the class.  Clear communication and using the experience as a learning tool helps ease any problems encountered. Overall, the benefits for the students seem to outweigh and personal inconveniences. 

Industry Certifications Still New

In summary, there are many approaches to integrating certifications in to our Marketing curriculum to benefit our students.  As these industry partnerships are new, there is a learning curve and time will tell which approaches are the most effective.  Do you have any ideas/experiences  on the subject?  For more about our "Teaching Digital" workshop, check out the MMA site.  There is also more detail on my presentation on Slideshare.  For information on certifications, look upHubSpot Inbound certification, Google AdWords and Hootsuite Academy.  If you would like to look at sample syllabi, send me an email at and I can put you on our distribution list. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Three practical techniques for teaching Digital Marketing

Workshop on Teaching Digital Marketing 

This blog will focus on teaching digital marketing for educators at the undergraduate and graduate level.  I will be drawing on my experience since 1999 of teaching digital marketing and those of my talented colleagues in the area.  Although digital marketing seems daunting to teach, there are a lot of resources available that were not around when I started teaching in the field almost 20 years ago.

I wanted to introduce this blog on teaching digital marketing by pointing out that next week at the Marketing Management Association meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, on Wednesday, September 14th, I will be part of a team that  will present a Workshop entitled "Tools and Technologies for Teaching Digital Marketing  II."  This  program is a follow-up on last year's session which focused on vendor offered tools such as simulations, online challenges and training in social media management tools.

Goals are to Reduce Fear, Provide Practice and Resources

The session will be presented by me, Debra Zahay Blatz, St. Edward’s University, Janna Parker, James Madison University and Leila Samii, University of Southern New Hampshire. Professors and doctoral students who are interested in teaching a digital/internet marketing course or incorporating the material into their existing courses are the target.  The goals are to reduce the fear surrounding teaching digital/internet marketing classes by providing resources, to demonstrate some of the tools available for classroom use, and to get in a little practice as well.

No Experience Necessary!

This session is designed for those interested in teaching a digital or internet marketing course or incorporating the material into existing courses. These programs and techniques require no prior experience. We will demonstrate some of the tools available for classroom use and discuss how these tools can be used to develop a student’s personal brand and help them gain valuable certifications to position themselves in the workplace.  No prior experience or prerequisites are needed. Attendees are encouraged to bring a laptop or tablet device for hands-on engagement with some of the tools and technologies presented.   There will be new material covered so those who attended last year’s session will be able to learn from a different perspective.

The following three sets of tools and techniques will be discussed.

Technique 1: Industry Certificaiton

 I will talk about how to effectively incorporate certifications into the classroom, such as those offered by Hootsuite, Hubspot and AdWords. 

Technique 2: Partnership with IBM's Academic Initiative

Dr. Samii will present a technique for social media analysis with IBM’s Watson.  

Technique 3: Commercial website development tools.

Dr. Parker will talk about using Weebly, Wix and Workpress for personal webpages.  Here is the tentative schedule.

Schedule for Fall MMA Pre Conference Session, Tools and Approaches for Teaching Digital Marketing

8:30-8:35:  Introduction
8:35 to 9:10 Personal Branding Websites:  Parker
Use of Weebly, Wix, Wordpress to create personal branding websites, sample assignments and results.
9:10 to 9:45:  Certification Programs:  Zahay
Hootsuite, Hubspot, AdWords, Analytics and More!

9:45 to 10:20:  Approaches to Teaching Social Media: Using social media for research, data analysis with Watson. (Samii)
Program, what it is, how students can benefit, some examples.
10:30 to 11:30:  Workshop:  Break out sessions where we break in to groups to show how to access the various tools.

Contact:  Debra Zahay, Leila Samii, Janna Parker

You may still register for the conference here. We hope to see you there!  Please follow this blog to continue to get tips and feedback on teaching Digital Marketing at the University level.  I will talk about working with industry programs in depth and project and assessment ideas in the coming months.