“That was the coolest assignment I have ever done”

Alex Lawrence (CMO of FundingUniverse.com) teaches an internet marketing class at Weber State University. (Marketing 4200). It’s currently in its second semester. In addition to teaching himself, Alex brings guest lecturers in to address topics such as online analytics, social media, and search engine marketing. His guest lecturers include entrepreneurs and marketers like Cydni Tetro (Women Tech Council), Patrick Bennett (Showroom Logic), Jerry Ropelato (TopTenReviews), Chris Bennett (97th Floor) and Dave Bascom (SEO.com).

When I taught internet marketing at BYU, I used a similar approach, bringing in experts to share their real-world knowledge about internet marketing subjects. I’ll never forget some of the presentations. One that stands out occurred shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit. A “local entrepreneur wondered what he could do to help out all these victims. His wife encourage him to put his web design skills to work, so he did. In just a couple of marathon days, he built KatrinaHousing.org, which within a week had attracted listings for something like 114,000 available rooms in homes all across the country.” (See 2009 blog post on Citizen 20 percent time)

My assignment both semesters was to cover PPC, email marketing, and affiliate marketing in 3 hours. Of course, that is impossible. It would be easy to teach an entire 16-week course on each of those three topics. Last fall when I taught the class, I assigned a few chapters from Seth Godin’s classic book Permission Marketing, 21 pages about using Google Adwords, and then we focused class time on dividing into 10 teams of 3 students each, assigned each team a domain name, and gave out $100 visa debit cards so each team could run their own Google Adwords campaign.

Two weeks ago I tried to cover some key points about email marketing and affiliate marketing in class, including a demo of Commission Junction’s amazing tools, as well as Google pay-per-click marketing. But this semester I decided to have the students run their first Facebook ad campaign using the $100 visa debit cards we got from Zions Bank.

The 10-day class project is now completed. I am reading reports from the 19 students who ran their first targeted ad campaigns on Facebook. I have been extremely impressed with how creative the students were with their ad copy and use of images and how quickly they learned from their assignment. Each student team tested multiple ads, so they were all able to say “this worked better than that.” Many were surprised at what worked best.

Today one student emailed me his report. He also said, “that was the coolest assignment I have ever done.” More than half of the students have expressed something similar. There is nothing like hands-on learning.

We recently hired the top student in Alex’s marketing class from last fall, even though he has an hour commute every day from Farmington.  He proved himself in that single class project that he has the creative and analytical skills to be a major contributor at FamilyLink. We couldn’t be more excited to work with him.

What classes do you know of at universities or even at high schools where the best assignments are hands-on real-world assignments that really make a difference in the lives and careers of the students?

My favorite example is the experimental computer science course BJ Fogg and Dave McClure taught at Stanford in the fall of 2007 called “Create Engaging Web Applications Using Metrics and Learning on Facebook” (Course number CS 377W.)

BJ is a good friend, and if it wasn’t for him and my small investment in his startup company, I never would have attended the Facebook Platform launch back in May 2007.

During the semester 65 students created and launched 80+ Facebook apps, many of which went viral. Collectively these apps  got more than 10 million installs and made nearly $1 million for the students during the semester. At the semester end presentation, more than 500 people showed up to see what the students had learned that semester. (Click here to view the slide show prepared by Dave McClure and Rob Fan.)

Please share any hands-on educational experience that made a difference in your life or career.

Google may provide query volumes soon

The blogosphere is going nuts over the possibility that Google will be providing monthly query volume by keyword. This is something that Goto.com/Overture/Yahoo Search Marketing has provided for years, but inventory.overture.com has been unreliable for some time. And Yahoo only has a minority of the overall search traffic. There are paid options like WordTracker (which I have used) for query volume and Keywordtopia (which I haven’t used yet) for generating unique words lists based on query volume and amount of competition. But if Google gets into this arena, it will be a boom for all search engine marketers. The screen shot from the adamap.com post shows that Google will display the query volume per keyword as well as the amount of PPC competition for that word. What they won’t do is show the SEO competition. This is what our WebEvident.com Searchability(TM) technology attempts to provide: an SEO “acquirability” score, meaning, how hard will it be to get a top 10 ranking on any given keyword based on the current top 10 results–how optimized is their page, how many incoming links do they have, etc. Unfortunately, WebEvident is only available through third party distributors; its retail site has never launched. If WebEvident could find a partner to build its retail site and share the revenue, I think they would do it. Use the Contact Me form if you are interested in discussing this….

Pay Per Click Marketing Credits: $50 from Ask.com, $300 from LookSmart

My most popular post in the past six months was the one last week about getting a $200 in pay-per-click advertising credit from MSN.com if you sign up for a new account (which costs $5.)

I had record traffic numbers for three days.

So, being the fast learner that I am, I figure that I should give my readers more of what they want. So I’ll keep looking for money-saving offers and credits from online advertisers who want more business.

One of my readers thought the MSN offer was not valid. He said the site was hosted at Rackspace, which made him suspicious and that he called Microsoft who had not heard of this offer.

I signed up for it and actually got the $200 credit in my account, so I’m pretty sure it’s valid. :)

Also, if you search for “MSN Adcenter” on Google, MSN is paying for clicks and sending people to an identical signup page, only with a $100 credit, instead of the $200 credit that I am sending people to.

The Alexa chart for Startadcenter.com is excellent. This promotion is going very well for Microsoft.

So far I’ve had 3,000 impressions and no clicks on my ad campaign, which is locally targeted Utah users only. Today I added another 50 keywords and am going to use my MSN credit to get more blog readers.

Back to the topic of today’s post: more credit for signing up with other advertisers.

At Search Engine Strategies Chicago I visited most of the booths of the companies in the Exhibit Hall, in between attending sessions.

I found a $50 credit from Ask.com which I was given permission to blog about. Ask.com’s market share has been creeping up lately, and with the launch of Ask City, their traffic should grow even more.

To claim your $50 credit from Ask.com, sign up at sponsoredlistings.ask.com, and enter promo code SESCHI06 during the check-out process.

Even better, I picked up a $300 credit from LookSmart for setting up a new account. The product manager at the booth wasn’t sure that I could blog about this. This might, of course, be limited to SES attendees only.

But just moments ago, he called me from the airport and told me that I have permission to blog about this $300 credit.

The offer expires on 12/25/06, so you better act on this quickly. Visit AdCenter.LookSmart.com, click on the sign up button, and enter this coupon code at check-out: SESCHQ4

This offer is good for first time LookSmart advertisers only and your daily budget must be set to $10 or higher.

So thanks for reading my blog today. It feels good to give out $350. Consider it an early Christmas present from me to you.

In return, please tell all the internet marketers you know about these excellent offers. I would appreciate links to this blog post.

Get $200 in PPC (pay per click) advertising credits from MSN

My friend Dave Martin sent me a link to a Microsoft web page that offers $200 worth of clicks from MSN AdCenter if you sign up between now and January 15, 2007. There is a $5 fee to get an account.

MSN AdCenter Home Page
$200 free offer page

I would like to think that 1,000 of my readers will each pay $5 to get an MSN AdCenter account. Microsoft will make $5,000. And my readers will get $200,000 worth of free PPC.

Everyone I know should do this. And everyone should spread the word to everyone else.

I’m not the first to blog about this. A few others have already posted about this aggressive Microsoft offer.

Internet Marketing Update

I’m in Hawaii on business, and don’t have time for any thoughtful posts, but here are a few items that I will be exploring more in depth later:

  • Amazon is introducing a pay-per-click network called ClickRiver. Internet marketers need to try this, but it’s in beta right now.
  • Turn.com, a venture funded CPA network is launching today at an O’Reilly Web 2.0 conference, along with 12 other companies. I will definitely ask my portfolio companies to sign up as advertisers and see how well this CPA network works. CPA stands for “cost per action”, so unlike Google where you pay per click, with Turn you pay per lead or pay per sale. Turn, in effect, will be a powerful affiliate for any ecommerce company or other web site. Turn has raised about $18 million, I think, from VCs.
  • Last week MarketingSherpa was acquired by MEC Labs which publishes MarketingExperiments.com. I’ve been telling my Provo Labs Academy members that these are the two most important newsletters for them to read. And now they are under one roof.
  • Comscore has released its first analysis of mobile phone internet access in the U.S. and Europe.
  • The Utah Jazz are 4-0, one of only 3 undefeated teams in the NBA. BYU’s football team broke into the Top 25 for the first time in years. I think they are going to run the table. The sports gods are smiling on Utah. This is turning out to be a very good year for us.

Google Click to Play Video Ads

It’s hard to stay current as an internet marketer. There are new options and channels to test every week. I quiz my BYU students every week on all the MarketingVOX headlines for the week, and literally every week there are new ways to spend online advertising dollars. The question is, which new channels and tactics will be profitable, and which will be a waste of time?

That’s where Provo Labs Academy comes in. We encourage the sharing of marketing information among our 30 or so startup companies, including our own portfolio. Soon, we will expand our audience to include entrepreneurs and marketers from around the world.

But I haven’t found anyone yet who has tested Google’s Click to Play Video Ads, which were announced back in May.

I’m interested in knowing if any readers have run a test using this new service. You don’t actually get to play a video on Google’s own search results page, but you can have your videos played on other websites that are in the Google publisher network.

I’m also curious if anyone has found Google Site Targeting to be a successful tactic for very expensive keywords.

How do you select the sites that you want to advertise on? Do you check each one out to make sure they are displaying their AdSense ads above the fold? Do you check the sites to make sure they are appealing to your target demographic?

How has your cost per acquisition compared to Google Adwords for search as well as for site targeting?

Finally, what online message boards and forums do you belong to where real marketers are continually sharing actual data from campaigns with each other?

Landing Page Tools

As important as it is to increase clickthroughs from your Google/Yahoo/MSN keyword campaigns by using Dynamic Keyword Insertion, it is even more important to match each one of those ads with a customized landing page that will maximize your conversion rate.

Here’s a good article that lists 11 things you can do to improve your landing pages.

My BYU internet marketing students are going to run some lead generation campaigns starting in November. Each team will be given a budget of $100 and will be able to choose their external marketing tactics. (We’ll discuss dozens in class so that can be familiar with a wide variety of traffic building tactics.)

Then, each will be given a landing page which they can use, which will include their lead capture form.

If they want, they can customize this landing page. Perhaps they can test dozens of variations until they have found the page that works best (or the page that works best for each keyword).

So I’m trying to find some landing page testing/optimization tools that the teams might want to try out.

There are high end tools like Offermatica.com that start at $125,000; but I’m not sure our student teams can’t afford that one.

So do you know of any freeware or open source landing page building tools that we might want to look at?

7 Times More Clicks from your Google AdWords Campaign

Janet Meiners posted today about Google’s Dynamic Keyword Insertion. Using it she increased her company’s Google paid clicks by seven times in one month, without increasing her keyword bid prices. She and I both learned this fantastic technique from Jim Ericson (now a VP at Move Networks, another innovative Utah company). If you are doing paid search marketing, you can’t live without this technique. Thanks, Jim.