Not many people can claim to hold the No. 1 place in the world in a Google-hosted challenge.

The Google Online Marketing Challenge is held every year for college students. The challenge is a worldwide competition that lets students create online marketing campaigns using Google AdWords and Google+.

More than 50,000 students and professors from 100 countries have participated in the challenge in the past five years, according to Google Online Marketing Challenge website.

A budget of $250 is provided by Google to help students run and develop online advertising for any profit or nonprofit business.

Groups design AdWords, or words that people use in a Google search, to get traffic to a webpage they create.

The undergraduate and graduate practicum courses are based around the challenge and are held every spring. Overall, six teams from JMU entered: four undergraduate and two graduate teams.

2013 alumnae Shay Meadows, Lauren Mason, Lindsay Hayes and Cortney Marchetto entered the Google+ Social Media Marketing Challenge, a section within the challenge, and were named the global winners.

Two graduate teams also entered the competition in the Social Impact section, which gives money to the teams that place in the top three. The team of Jeremy Vogan, Joshua Baugher, Scott Guengerich, Melissa Allen and Baris Bilek won first place and received a $15,000 prize that they will give to the Augusta Regional SPCA.

The other graduate team, Chris Foster, Carla Reese, Kelcey Troxell, Xavier Pickett, Craig Honeycutt and Dale Richards won third place in the Social Impact section. They received $5,000 to donate to the Virginia Quilt Museum.

“One reason we [JMU] do well is because they’re last semester seniors so they’ve developed a strong foundation of skills from all their other business classes,” said marketing professor and the groups’ adviser Theresa Clarke said. “The students who typically take this class are motivated and want to learn they have to apply and be accepted. I think JMU students, marketing in particular, are very creative, strategically and analytically at the same time.”

“Our team was committed to win from day one,” Mason said. “I’m so happy that all our efforts paid off. It really was an amazing learning experience and a huge résumé booster.”

The first place undergraduate team chose the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley as their business to advertise, which is a cycling track for professional cyclists and teaches young children to ride bikes. They chose VPCC because Marchetto worked there previously.

Despite being second semester seniors, the undergraduates worked hard until the end of the challenge, June 14, because they enjoyed it. Their team worked every day and an average of 15-to-20 hours a week, according to Hayes.

“I knew it would prepare me the most,” Hayes said. “I knew I wanted to pursue a career in it.”

The undergraduate team advertised VPCC’s services and events in an attempt to engage the cycling community and increase online traffic. Winners received computing devices.

“Every single day, every hour, we were monitoring their Google+ page for a six-week period of time,” Meadows said.

The group constantly modified their strategies and studied previous winners actions.

The Social Media Marketing option of the challenge deals with awareness of nonprofits.

Through the challenge, members of the teams found career paths.

“I’m really passionate about Google AdWords and Google in general, so I seeked out a company in the area where I live to find that line of work,” Meadows said. “Taking this class made me passionate about marketing, and I turned around and found my dream job.”

Meadows now works for a company that deals with online marketing after she discovered her love through the challenge.

Also finding a job in online marketing after the challenge, Mason is now working in a public relations agency targeting government and IT companies. She helps manage a Fortune 500 company’s blog and assists in the production of a daily e-newsletter.

The graduate team who took first place all met each other on their first day of their MBA classes. From then on, they worked in the same groups for projects until they graduated.

“Until you started the challenge, you didn’t know what to expect because it was a three-week process,” Guengerich said. “It was avery intense and fast paced because you’re constantly making changes.”

He’s now working as a financial and accounting controller in Charlottesville.

“We had a blast; it was intense,” Guengerich said. “And it was icing on the cake that we could give money to the SPCA.”

Contact Liz Dsurney at breezenews@gmail.com.