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MBA Marketing Academy Aiming for Third Google Grant

Here is a true “win-win” situation. UI alum Matt Cardoni and students of the Tippie MBA Marketing Career Academy have linked up to help nonprofits increase web traffic to their sites using search engine marketing.

Cardoni (MBA06), an account director at Performics who advises clients on digital and marketing strategies, had recently obtained a few Google AdWords Grants for several civil rights- and environmental-based nonprofits. The grants provide each organization with up to $10,000 a month in Google paid search ads. (When you do a Google search, these are the ads that appear at the top of the search results.) Companies clamor to be among the top paid search results because most people never go past the first page of search results.

But Cardoni says he didn’t have enough spare time to “manage the grants to their full potential,” he says. So he reached out to Tom Gruca, the faculty advisor of the Tippie MBA Marketing Career Academy who brought Cardoni to campus last fall to train 30 MBA Marketing Academy students on Google’s paid search and analytics basics, and the students visited Cardoni at Performics for a few more training sessions.

“Armed with paid search skills and using the Google Grants AdWords accounts as a sandbox, the team could now manage the nonprofits’ paid search campaigns themselves,” Cardoni says.

“This is a major win for our students,” echoes Gruca. “Google Grants are a great way for our students to learn hands-on digital marketing skills. The experience they gain with AdWords and Google Analytics helps them become more marketable in the workforce.”

Last fall, then first-year MBA students Zachary Daul, Sean Nehf, Sarah Monson, and Maggie Pearthree worked with Climate Cycle, a Chicago nonprofit established in 2008 to educate and inspire youth to “green our world.”

In a nutshell, the team created a strategy to drive traffic to Climate Cycle’s website by creating the ad copy and selecting keywords that were relevant to the nonprofit, words and phrases such as “help the Earth,” “global warming,” or “climate change.” Once the ad copy was in place, the team examined how well those keywords performed by examining the quality score in Google Analytics. New keywords could then be chosen and analytics examined until just the right combination of words would get the highest score.

“Paid search is a digital scavenger hunt,” Cardoni says. “Each time someone clicks on your ad, the company pays. It’s important that keywords represent your company, product, or advertising objectives. The higher the quality score, the less the company pays per click. If you include keywords that aren’t relevant to your company, it’s going to cost you more.”

According to Cardoni, they had a significant impact on Climate Cycle’s website traffic.

“In the past 12 months, the grant has sent more than $120,000 worth of Google traffic to Climate Cycle’s website,” he says. “That’s a significant contribution to climate Cycle’s website traffic, generating more than 75% of site traffic in the past six months,” he says.

“The nonprofit organization wins by getting free online marketing help,” says Cardoni, who was recently named to the organization’s board of directors. “The world benefits, too because these awesome organizations are getting more visibility,” he says.

With the success of this project, this fall Gruca says the Marketing Academy will again offer the opportunity to MBA students, and he’s taking it to a new level. This year the teams will participate in a 10-week competition where teams of 2-3 students will use AdWords to increase traffic on a nonprofit’s website. The teams will be working with these nonprofits:

  • Archeworks (Chicago-based nonprofit that advances design in the public interest and inspires collaborative action to shape healthier, sustainable, and equitable communities);
  • Erasing the Distance (arts organization in Chicago that uses power of performance to disarm stigma, spark dialogue, educate, and promote healing surrounding mental health issues);
  • Nature Museum (250,000 specimens of Chicago and the region’s natural history; restoration and conservation work benefit local ecology);
  • OneIowa (one of Iowa’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations working toward full equality for LBGT individuals in Iowa);
  • Open Books (nonprofit bookstore that promotes literacy in Chicago and beyond);
  • Working Bikes (nonprofit donates more than 6,000 bicycles each year to international and local partners);
  • Climate Cycle (nonprofit that helps youth gain tools to respond to global warming and benefit from the emerging green economy);
  • Center for Neighborhood Technology (combining rigorous research with effective solutions, this nonprofit gained reputation as an economic innovator and leader in the field of creative sustainable development).

In September, the Google Grants University project was named one of two finalists for the U.S. Search Awards in the area of Best Use of Search–Third Sector (Nonprofits). This is the first national competition highlighting outstanding examples of search-based campaigns in 22 different categories.

On October 23, the awards will be announced in Las Vegas and perhaps the students and their clients will add another “win” to their accomplishments.

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