Growing with Google

A Technion team, winner of the Google Online Marketing Challenge, is off to London after parlaying $250 in AdWords credits into a successful web marketing campaign

(left to right)  Alex Zhitnitsky, Oshir Rosenhack, and Boris Friedman photo credit: Courtesy)
(left to right) Alex Zhitnitsky, Oshir Rosenhack, and Boris Friedman photo credit: Courtesy)

An Israeli team from the Technion has won the Middle East/Africa division award of the prestigious Google Online Marketing Challenge. As a result, the team will be traveling to Google’s offices in London, where they will get a firsthand look at the latest and greatest in marketing techniques being developed by the web search giant, and share their successful strategy with other winners.

In the challenge, teams from colleges and universities around the world were given $250 of AdWords credits from Google to design an effective online marketing campaign for the organization of their choice. Adwords is Google’s chief advertising program, consisting of the small text or image ads that appear on Google search page. Advertisers choose keywords (the most popular words cost the most money), and their ad is displayed on pages with search results using those keywords. Thus, if an advertiser bids to use the word “Israel,” the ad will appear on a page in which a Google user searches for information related to Israel.

The trick in the Google challenge is to leverage their $250 credit in as effective a way as possible. Popular Adwords can quickly eat up team budgets, so choosing the right words and knowing how to leverage them – how to use them in what kind of ad, using just the right approach – is crucial.

The Technion team was one of 22 teams from Israeli colleges to participate in the contest, and included three students – Alex Zhitnitsky, Oshir Rosenhack, and Boris Friedman – along with their academic adviser Sarit Moldovan from the Faculty Industrial Engineering and Management. The team chose as its project the recruiting of volunteers for Perach, a tutoring project that pairs up needy children from underprivileged backgrounds with university students who act as their tutors. The project was declared a rousing success – both by Perach and by Google – and resulted in the recruitment of over 150 new volunteers for the tutoring program.

Zhitnitsky, the team leader, said that while the team could have chosen any business, “we wanted an organization that would do something positive for the community, and Perach was our first choice. We worked closely with Deputy Professor Moldovan, our academic advisor, who showed us that the more specific a concept, the more aggressive the pitch should be. Thus, when we used terms like ‘scholarship’ (students who participate in Perach get a break on tuition) or ‘volunteering,’ we used an assertive appeal, but when we used more general terms, like the names of universities, we used a more neutral approach.”

Google made over $25 billion on AdWords last year, and it’s an industry in and of itself – meaning that it makes sense as a career path for students, said Dr. Ofer Mintz, a lecturer/researcher on web marketing at the Raphael Recanati School at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center (IDC). In a recent interview, Mintz said that Google – and AdWords – was likely to get much bigger.

“Between 96% and 99% of all Google users don’t even click on AdWords ads,” Mintz told The Times of Israel. “Google, which is the clear leader in online search, has a lot of growing to do. Learning how to manage AdWords campaigns is clearly a career path” for students, said Mintz, who, as they learn the skills needed to succeed in online marketing, can grow with Google.

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