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Community Blog / The Long Run of Paid Search: Top 6 Things I Learned From Running My First Half-Marathon

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Over the past year or so, I’ve gotten into running more and more. As my passion for running – along with my ability to cover more and more ground in less and less time – grew, I decided to make it official.

I began training to run in half-marathons.

Running 13.1 miles without quitting or even stopping for more than moments at a time is no joke. Especially not when you do so in a competitive setting, surrounded by dozens, hundreds, or maybe even thousands of fellow competitive runners – many of whom have been running half-marathons for years.

Knowing that I would be taking my running routine to a whole new level, and being the type of man who has always prided myself on proper preparation, I entered my training period prior to my first half-marathon hungry to learn as much as I possibly could, and eager to apply my lessons to the long road that lay ahead of me. 

Of course, I also wanted to have some fun with the whole thing. So I decided to make my competitive running debut at the Disneyland Half-Marathon. 

In the end, everything worked out great. I learned a lot in my training phase. I applied those lessons to my first half-marathon. I finished the race. And I had a whole heck of a lot of fun doing it all. 

Along the way, I also realized that many of these lessons can also be applied to another passion of mine: 

Paid Search.



Here’s the top six lessons I learned. “Why six instead of five?” you ask? Well…why not? 

1.     Be Prepared.

Half-Marathon:Finishing the Disneyland Half Marathon was a goal in and of itself, but finishing it standing up, and without getting sick or suffering a variety of other ailments, was a close secondary goal. In addition to my months of training, my race prep applied to the day before the race. Those hours before the race are crucial, and my preparation there consisted of eating properly and not overloading on carbs (or anything, for that matter) in the name of “carbing up before the race.”  The night before, I laid out all my gear, so I could wake up and head to the race on time without waking up my wife. I wore the proper gear, I lined my pockets with my energy packs, slapped on my sunscreen, charged my iPod, and a half-dozen other things I needed that were actually important to running a half-marathon. This meticulous approach appeared to be in stark contrast to some of my fellow runners, who seemed to have ceased their prep after coming up with a goofy (or Goofy) costume idea for the run.

Paid Search:Take full advantage ofthe many helpful tools, research and more that are always available to you. Meticulous, smart and proper preparation up front can help ensure that you run a successful campaign from the get-go. Your results will always vary, and be subject to a wide array of factors, many of which are beyond your control. But this kind of detailed preparation can only help your cause. And certainly never hurts.

2.     Get Some Help.

Half-Marathon: Speaking of help, I received great insight and assistance in my half-marathon preparation from U.S. Olympian Jeff Galloway, who wrote a great guide for all levels of marathon participation. Galloway’s guide breaks your training down into week-by-week increments, allowing any level of runner to feel less overwhelmed by – and more prepared for – the tough task of running a marathon or half-marathon.

Paid Search:Utilize the professional services of a smart, successful digital advertising and marketing agency. The people who manage and work within these agencies are also talented and proven professionals in their chosen field, and can provide a wide array of expert insights and experience to your cause. It’s rarely a good idea to try to do everything all by yourself. Especially if it involves an endeavor outside of your “comfort zone.”

3.     Remember Your Training.

Half-Marathon: At one point, I almost broke from the valuable lessons of my training, and allowed my ego to run the race instead of my mind and body. But I refused to give in to those very powerful desires to catch up with someone who was ahead of me. Thankfully, I remembered my thorough training and its many valuable lessons, and I stuck to it while I ran my race. It wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it in the end.

Paid Search:Don’t make sudden changes to the account based on pure ego, or even according to your “gut” – especially when there are many, many metrics available to consult. When in doubt, always apply and implement logic over emotion. In short, more Spock. And less Spunk.

4.     Report Your Success.

During my run, built-in systems told the whole wide world (or at least the world wide web) all about my split times and final times via the magic of Twitter. But the most important reports were relayed to my loving wife, who was lovingly waiting at the end of the course for me. Those reports let her know that I was OK, and on course to complete the race.

Paid Search:Monthly reports are fine for many clients and employers. But sometimes a weekly report is in order for larger, more complex campaigns. Don’t be afraid to report your results on a regular, consistent basis. Especially if those results are favorable.

5.      Make Sure You Track the Right Metrics.

The Disney race was so large that it had 10 different start times, and I found myself right near the middle, in the fifth group. Occasionally, I’d pass someone and take note of their group to see if I was passing a fellow group member or someone who started long before I did.  After I finished, my wife told me that singer/actor Joey Fatone had finished about 10 minutes before me. This made me smile, because Fatone had actually started much earlier, which means I almost caught the former boy band member. It also made me wonder if that was would-be astronaut and Fatone friend Lance Bass dressed up like Buzz Lightyear.

Paid Search:All too often, our clients will start the conversation with “we need more visitors” or “we need more clicks” or “we need to improve CTR,” when in reality, what they REALLY need is more sales, leads, or whatever it is that actually drives their business.  Things like visits, clicks, and CTR are diagnostic metrics that we, as paid search professionals, need to worry about as part of the optimization process. They are not, however, the finish line. Focus on the finish line, people. And track the right metrics along the way.

6.      Have Fun.

One of the reasons I chose to run my first half-marathon – and broaden my depth of training and experience in order to later complete my first full-marathon, which I just finished – with Disney was because I knew it would be fun. Lots of fun. While I definitely found it a bit silly to see people doing something so strenuous in 85-degree heat while geared up like Buzz Lightyear, I was also deeply appreciative of all the bands, cheerleaders, car clubs, dancers, and just overall characters that Disneyland spread out all across the course. They definitely helped motivate, inspire and amuse us over the long haul. And 13.1 miles is a pretty long haul. Especially on foot.

Paid Search: Have fun with your campaign too! In fact, have fun with all of your work. Sure, our business can get pretty serious at times, and there’s always something at stake. But it’s not like we’re working in an ER over here. Livelihoods might be on the line, but lives certainly are not. So lighten up. Loosen up. Let go a little bit. And let ‘er rip! 


Written By Jeff Ferguson

CEO, Fang Digital Marketing


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