What could running the Brooklyn Half Marathon teach you about advertising in Google AdWords?

I know it sounds ridiculous, but there are actually a lot of similarities. In case you don’t plan on ever running this race, I’ll highlight each one for you in this article. Below are my key takeaways from last Saturday’s journey from Prospect Park down to Coney Island…



The Race Is Won & Lost Weeks Before The Start

If you’ve ever trained for a full or half marathon, then you know how much preparation is involved. Typical training programs are about 10-16 weeks long to ensure your body is fully prepared.

Sure, I’ve heard stories of people skipping the training, but every single one of those stories ends in a painful crash and burn. In some cases, they don’t even finish the race.

Similar story lines play out in Google AdWords every day…

Businesses that try to “skip the training” and do not invest enough time planning, researching, and designing their ad campaigns always end up crashing and burning. In other words, AdWords success is determined well before you turn your ads on.

One of the reasons for this is because of the next key takeaway…


It’s the Most Popular Race

Before the race started last Saturday, there was an announcement that the Brooklyn Half Marathon is the biggest, most popular half marathon in the US. That’s an impressive stat.

What does that mean? It means you have a LOT of competition and it’s going to be tough to get one of the coveted top finisher placements.

Similarly, Google AdWords is the most popular search ad network. That means lots of competition vying for the top ad spots on Google’s first page. The days of just winging it are over. To compete in the most popular race, your ad campaign better be in the best shape!

Now with that said, here’s what I find most interesting about marathon running and Google AdWords…


Nearly Everyone Can Do It (If You Prepare)

A lot of people claim they could never run a half or a full marathon, but the stats beg to differ. In fact, in Christopher McDougall’s best selling book Born to Run, he explains that all human’s evolved to run marathons via persistence hunting. In other words, all of us have the genes to run long distances.

Similarly, with Google AdWords, nearly every business can use it effectively. As mentioned above, the big caveat for success is whether or not the business prepares properly before launching the ads.

If you haven’t been running consistently, then you likely would never attempt to run a half or a full marathon. That would be crazy right? Well, every day businesses attempt to launch AdWords campaigns with no experience and without the required planning, researching, and designing. That’s just as crazy!

OK, now I need to address what makes the Brooklyn Half unique – the course…


Starts Out Hilly And Then Levels Out

The race starts downhill, which is extremely dangerous. Nearly every running is sprinting right out the gate down the hill despite the fact that they know they need to pace themselves for the long race.

Then come the hills… The first 7 miles of the race you’re running up and down hills until you leave Prospect Park. Once you’re out of the park, then it’s a flat, straight, and at times boring, path to the finish line.

After the race, I realized just how similar that course is to running a Google AdWords campaign…

It’s so easy to start sprinting right out the gate when you launch your ad campaign. Many businesses make this mistake and use up their budget within the first few days or weeks. That’s a huge problem because AdWords is not a sprint, it’s more like a marathon!

You need to pace your budget accordingly so that you have enough budget to keep collecting data.

Next, come the hills…

The hills in AdWords are the inevitable performance ups and downs that you’ll experience. It takes time to optimize your keyword targeting, your ad copy, your geo targeting, your day-parting, your landing page copy and layout, and all the other factors that determine your success.

But once you dial in your campaign, then it’s like leaving Prospect Park and running on a smooth, flat path. The key again is to pace yourself while you’re in the hilly part of the race and trust that it will get easier later.

Lastly, here’s one more important similarity…


Taking Short Breaks Is OK (Even Recommended At Times)

During the race, I stopped at several water stations to hydrate and even stretch my legs quickly. You might think it’s crazy to stop during a race, but it’s actually recommended for most runners.

A lot can happen during a half marathon and if you don’t take care of something small early on, then that could become a bigger and bigger problem for you later in the race.

The same is true with Google AdWords. Ad campaigns perform best with continual monitoring and tweaking along the way to ensure small issues don’t grow into costly problems.


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