Google Growing AdWords Buyers Young, Through Local Marketing Contest

Looks like Google is having a contest to ask students across the world to help local business’ become more optimized in the Google SERPs:

Register your class for the Google Online Marketing Challenge

Or is this something more than a contest? Maybe it is Google planting the seed of online marketing, AdWords and general SEO into the minds of college marketing students. Right on the sidebar of the contest page you have a link explaining what Google AdWords is:

The Google Online Marketing Challenge > About Google AdWords

Digging deeper in the FAQ’s for the contest you find:

Is the competition about Google AdWords?

Partially; the competition is about online marketing. Google AdWords serves as a vehicle for gathering real world data and discussing online advertising’s role in online marketing. Teams, however, must discuss other aspects of online marketing such as website layout and offline promotion, in both written reports. The competition is about real-world applications of online marketing; Google AdWords is merely the platform.

What if I have never used AdWords?

As Google’s flagship advertising product, setting up and running an AdWords account is simple. You and your students will have ample AdWords material in the Competition Pack sent to all registered professors. All things equal, the more you know about AdWords, the more fun for your students and you, and the better their chances to win.

So you pretty much have to use AdWords in this contest:

How do students win?

Students compete on three criteria, two short written reports and the most effective Google AdWords campaign for their business.

The most effective campaign is judged by looking at over 30 different factors from account structure through to use of budget.

Details on the report format and a guide to creating a successful campaign will be available in the Competition Pack sent to all registered professors and students, and on this competition website in late 2007 / early 2008.

More about the Google Contest:

The challenge is a global online marketing competition developed by professors from across the globe in collaboration with Google. It starts in February 2008 and is open to any higher education institution from anywhere in the world.

Student groups will receive US$200 of free online advertising and then work with local businesses to devise effective online marketing campaigns. They will outline a strategy, run their campaign, assess their results and provide the business with recommendations to further develop their online marketing.

It’s a great chance for students to gain practical, real world online marketing experience whilst getting all the excitement of competing with other students from all over the world.

We’re looking for professors and institutions to register for the challenge now.

I think the funniest part of the contest is the “Tips On Selecting Businesses

Tips on Businesses to Avoid

When searching for likely candidates, remember that regardless of the business’ size, you may compete against many companies who have large advertising budgets to spend on the same keywords you want to use. With this in mind, there are a few businesses you should avoid:

* Web Hosting
* Web Design Agencies
* Insurance Companies
* Mortgage Agencies
* Debt Consolidation Companies
* Multi-level marketers
* Distributors
* Affiliate Companies

Also bear in mind that Travel and Finance businesses can be difficult to utilise for this competition – many of the big players in these industries have advertised and optimised their campaigns for years, and have significant online advertising budgets. It might be tough for you to compete against them.

I am wondering what’s the angle here? What is Google trying to get from this?

1. Better local SERP results for localized queries?
2. Better Google map results i.e. more inventory?
3. Teaching SEO from the ground up? Maybe G finally realizes the disconnect SEO intrinsically has with most of the public, namely college students. Realizing that no colleges really offer a satisfactory SEO course, that can be properly maintained, Google might feel that this type of contest will help the next generation of college students become more familiar with the practice of SEO.

I will say number 3. By plugging an SEO contest into many college curriculums that otherwise might not have it, could be good for Google AdWords bottom line long term. This will also cause a dependency from the local business on Google if they have success in the initial spending, Not bad thinking Google.

What do you think?