BYU Internet Marketing Student Projects

My 44 BusM 457 students gave class reports today on the 18 pay-per-click campaigns that they ran this semester for businesses. I was very impressed.

Almost all the student teams had prepared effective powerpoint slides which included how they approached their projects, how they brainstormed and chose keywords, and how they started running ads, using analytics, and then optimizing the campaigns.

Many of them showed actual click through rates and even conversion rates, since they had worked with the business webmasters to put tracking codes on the sites.

Here are a few take-aways from today’s reports:

1. Google AdWords is still quite ineffective for local campaigns; even with local targeting, there’s not enough query volume for some types of businesses to make this a good source of customers.
2. Google banned one company from using its online advertising tools. No one knew why. Google also temporarily took down other campaigns because they were “being reviewed.” Google wields a lot of power over commerce and is usually not transparent or communicative. This causes lots of frustration. There seems to be a growing anti-Google sentiment among some of the student teams. More than one switched to Yahoo Search Marketing because they couldn’t run their campaign on Google.
3. Online businesses using pay-per-click need to focus on conversion rate (and getting analytics set up properly) before spending a lot of money on clicks. One student team saw a huge increase in collecting email addresses when they started promising free shipping for early registrants.
4. Use the right marketing tactic for the job. One company found that a single email campaign to 2,700 people on a qualified list brought 30 people to an event, whereas keyword marketing brought only a few clicks.
5. For one company, Google Site Targeted Ads generated 23 times as much traffic as buying keywords. You have to test many things to know what will work best for you.
6. One student team started by bidding on tons of keywords–basically everything the company sold. They spent $105 before getting their first sale. Since it wasn’t their money, they were pretty panicked. By focusing on the company’s best-selling products, and by creating new Ad Groups around each cluster of keywords, and by testing new ads, the student team ended up with 85 sales in the first month and a cost-per-conversion of under $6. The company made an $800 profit in the first month! The team did so well that one of the students was offered a job.
7. The teams that learned how to use the Google {Keyword:default term} syntax ended up with generally higher click rates than those who did not. This makes it easy to have the keywords people are searching on actually show up in the title or text of your advertisement, which almost always results in higher click throughs. You can do it by hand, of course, by it takes forever when you are dealing with hundreds of keywords.
8. Programmers can always do more than non-programmers. One student described his system that looks at keywords that bring people to his site and then he automatically creates an SEO optimized page around that keyword, plus, using Google’s API, he adds that keyword to his PPC campaign. So every day he is automatically generating more pages and more keywords to bid on, with almost no work. I have said for years that the most powerful internet marketing tactics that I know of require developers to build them.

I am very glad that the student teams all got hands-on experience with pay-per-click marketing. They have all been blogging this semester, too, and have been recruiting links and trying to build traffic to their blogs. (Some of my BYU student blogs are listed here.) But I wish I could have given them all hands on experience with email marketing, affiliate marketing, and conversion rate marketing. There’s only so much you can cover in 16 weeks.

But I hope the students caught the internet marketing fever and the entrepreneurial bug. We had some awesome guest speakers this semester who inspired and taught us how to succeed online, including John Bresee (Backcountry.com), Dave Bateman (Property Solutions), Erika Wilde (Stopdirt.com), Robert Stevens (WriteExpress.com), Wendy Hudman (10x Media), John Jonas, Phil Windley, Dan Oaks (DVO.com), Jim Ericson (LDSAudio.com), and the guys who launched KatrinaHousing.org.

It’s been a great semester.

I’m looking forward to the final.

Every student has been assigned to analyze and grade the internet marketing strategy for a different online business. They will analyze how well they are doing with keyword marketing, search engine optimization, email marketing, affiliate marketing, conversion rate, overall traffic, etc.

I’ll blog next week about how they do.

4 Comments

  1. Paul,
    Thank you for teaching our class. You’ve done a great job of helping us gain real world experience and inviting inspirational and knowledgeable internet entrepreneurs to help lecture. I would defiantly agree that 16 weeks has been to short. so… BYU is in need of an advisor for it’s newest club – internet marketing :). We have a CEO club and Marketing club but not internet marketing. I’ll look into requirements. Let me know if you’d be interested. Thanks again!

  2. Paul,
    Maybe the most important thing you taught us was how to keep going. If you look at my site (www.rocks4u.com), especially comparing it to previous versions on the WayBackMachine, you’ll see I’ve gone beyond the class material with affiliate marketing and improving my site by watching the leaders. More to come…
    Thank you!!!
    Anita

  3. Wenona L

    Do you have a list of ‘recommended reading’ for those of us who dont attend BYU. It sounds like a very practical and valuable course.

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