It all ‘ads’ up

Saunders business students delve into world of search-engine marketing and advertising




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RIT professor Raj Murthy, left, works with CURE Childhood Cancer executive director Brian Wirth and students Andrew Fleckenstein, Courtney Tennant and Kyle Ackerman.

You don’t have to Google it! 


Raj Murthy, assistant professor of marketing in the E. Philip Saunders College of Business, has already done the online market research. He says RIT is the only institution in upstate New York offering a class on search-engine marketing and analytics as part of the paradigm in shifting to an applied new media-centered curriculum.


Students in his class have worked on projects such as developing “keywords”—those search engine Google AdWords that “pop up” and target specific businesses and resources through pay-per-click online advertising.


Three students in the new media marketing program—Andrew Fleckenstein, Kyle Ackerman and Courtney Tennant—applied for, and won, a $10,000 grant from the Google for Nonprofits program. They spent last quarter developing Google AdWords to help raise awareness for the CURE Childhood Cancer Association on Westfall Road.


“Ten thousand dollars is a lot of money to play with, and Google sifts through thousands of applications, so a three-month grant is a big deal for a nonprofit organization that wants to increase its visibility,” says Murthy. 


When you search for a product or service in the Google search engine, out pop several keyword-driven ads that show up on the right-hand side of a search page under the headline “sponsored links” that target and direct users to a particular website. The more relevant the ad, the higher it appears on the list, and with one simple click, advertisers can receive variable dollar amounts for each visit.


For Ackerman, who hails from Binghamton, N.Y., selecting to help CURE—which offers emotional, educational and financial assistance for families coping with childhood cancers and/or blood disorders—was a personal connection.


“My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was in high school and we lived in Binghamton and she ended up going to New York City for treatment,” Ackerman explains. “You will do anything it takes, fly across the country to get the help you need. So our Google AdWord grant will help those people who need resources from CURE.”


Brian Wirth, executive director at CURE Childhood Cancer Association, says he was thrilled to learn the students had decided to help establish a Google AdWords grant. It adds up to $120,000 of advertising a year for the organization.


The students targeted families within a 60-mile radius. “We constantly added new keywords and fixed those that didn’t work,” says Fleckenstein, from Farmington, N.Y. “You have to put yourself in the customer’s seat. If your kid had cancer, what would you type in?”


Tennant, from Cortland, N.Y., graduates this May and intends to pursue her MBA degree at RIT. She says they received the most hits with keywords such as “cancer cure,” “donate to kids,” “childhood cancer” and “what is cancer.”


“AdWords is the ideal tool—the ability to track the results online is phenomenal and eventually we’ll know what type of return we see from each dollar we spend,” Murthy adds.

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RIT professor Raj Murthy, left, works with CURE Childhood Cancer executive director Brian Wirth and students Andrew Fleckenstein, Courtney Tennant and Kyle Ackerman.