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Google AdWords - Get Started Today!

Google is the largest search engine in the world and thousands of times each day, race directors and athletes are searching for products and services in our industry. You’ve likely seen those ads that appear at the top, side and bottom of a results page. Those are paid ads that attract buyers. At Innovative Timing Systems, we spend thousands of dollars every month to advertise, and it’s likely that you found us on Google as a result of our ads. We’re not alone when it comes to paid advertising, our direct competitors do the same. Races promote themselves in Google and even race timing companies run ads to generate more business in their area. It’s an amazingly effective tool because you have the opportunity to target every potential race in your geographic area.. It’s easy to see why you want to begin an ad campaign on Google, and this document will teach you how to do so successfully. 

Setting a Budget:

Let us begin by saying that Google AdWords is not the least expensive option for promoting your business. You could certainly email race organizers or drop off flyers. However, in just the month of March, over 156,000 searches related to timing services were made and around 2,680 of those individuals landed on our site. Fifty percent of them were looking for race timing services. When many of them realized we are in St. Louis, they chose not to ask if we could help them with their race. It's clear on our site that we could give them a referral to a Jaguar timer, but people don’t seem nearly as interested in reaching out to us if we’re not in their local area. This is where you actually have an advantage over us. 

You can run an ad that only appears for a specific geographic region, and several of our timers are doing this today. Despite our massive ad budget on Google, if someone in St. Louis searches for race timing, one of our timers will appear first in the ad listing…even though he’s spending 1/20th of what we spend. Instead of running an ad on Google, the timer could have run an ad in the newspaper, emailed races, or mailed a flyer, but it wouldn’t begin to compare. Let’s face it, we live in a world where instant results are expected and people use their mobile phones to quickly search for information they need. Google makes it easy to look like a Fortune 500 company on a Fortune $50,000 budget. So how much do you have to spend to get started? Not much.   

Typically, a good starting budget is based on the size of your market. If you are in New York City, you’ll need to spend a minimum of $25 a day, or around $750 a month if you want your ad to appear on the first page of Google search results. If you are in Oklahoma City, a budget of $15 a day may be a good starting point. If you are in a smaller city like Des Moines, IA, a budget of $10 a day may be more than enough. Even if you can only afford to spend $175 a month on advertising, which is just $6 a day, you should still be running an ad. Why? Because you may find out that your competitors are not advertising on Google and your small budget is very effective. One of the great things about AdWords is the ability to change your budget at any time. A lot of non-profits and charities tend to do their Google searches Monday through Thursday. On AdWords, you can set up a campaign to spend your budget only during those days. Let us also say that it is better to run a high-budget campaign for a short time during a key booking season, than to run a low cost one throughout the year. Our recommendation for a starting point is approximately $15 per day. Increase your budget if you are in a major market with others who are also using Google. Decrease your budget if you are in a smaller market where your competitors are not promoting themselves on Google. You’ll find that in about 60 days, you’ll have enough data to know how to adjust your budget for maximum efficiency. 



Even if you are willing to travel hundreds of miles, select a market where you are looking to aggressively grow. For example, if you are in Reno, NV, even though you may be willing to travel the 2.5 hours to Sacramento, the effectiveness of your campaign will be reduced by including that area in addition to your point of focus. In other words, focus your location in a metropolitan area where you really want to grow.  


Search Networks vs Display Network:  

In most cases, you will want to select search network only. Display networks are things like third party websites, YouTube ads, and the little pop-ups that you see on Amazon. These are intended to maximize brand exposure regardless of whether the person seeing the ad is looking for you at that moment. You will find that a large portion of the clicks these ads generate will be a waste of money. Search networks essentially refers to when someone is on looking specifically for a keyword such as “race timing”.  


Creating Ads:

Carefully select where to send traffic, not all ads should take someone to your home page.

  • For example, if someone is looking for races in your area, take them to your calendar. If someone is looking for race timing, take them to your services page. 



  • Create two ads for the same subject and compare the CTR (Click Through Rate) for each. Keep the better ad and pause the one that was less effective. Periodically challenge yourself to write more effective ads and create a new split test. You will typically want to let both ads run for about a week before drawing a conclusion about which might be better.


Use a Call to Action:

  • Examples: “Send us a note” “Start now” “Reach out".

  • Basically, tell the person looking at your ad what you want them to do. 

Mention things that are unique about you in the ad:

  • If you offer live results and you know your competitors don’t, say that in your ad

  • If you have a great looking finish line, say so. 


Avoid discussing price in an ad, unless you are specifically planning to be the cheapest option in town.

  • NOTE: While having competitive pricing is a good idea, using it as a marketing tool is extremely dangerous and can attract the wrong kind of customer. 


Tell a story:

  • Example: “Want to learn more about how you can raise more money for your cause?"

  • Use statements to let someone know what ideas you have on the subject. Provide an example that might be better or unique as compared to other options. 


Selecting Keywords:

Your ad is displayed by Google when someone types in a word or two, or perhaps an entire phrase. Google examines what someone typed in, compares that to keywords you have designated in your ad campaign, and then decides if your ad should appear. You will need to create a list of keywords for your campaign. It is intentional that we are not providing a list of keywords for timers to use. It is critical that you spend some time thinking about the phrases and terms that people in your market might use when looking for the services you provide. You will have to experiment to find the best keywords for your area. For example, someone might type in Race Timing Company when searching on Google. They may also type in Bib Chip or Shoe Chip as their search phrase. Sometimes a race organizer will type in Event Services or Hire a timer. A great example of this concept in action is that depending on where you are in the world, a race timer might be called a race organizer, race director, race manager, chip timer, etc. Use the words that others in your area use. A few key points:

  • Keywords is not a place where you choose what you should be identified as. You want web traffic from people who might be customers, so let them call you whatever they want to. 

  • Google will encourage you to use very generic terms because they generate a lot of traffic and google makes more money. Focus on specific terms that really get to the point regarding what you do. When defining keywords, you can select the type of matching you wish them to use, from broad to exact. 

  • Consider adding the names of your competitors to your keywords. If someone types in a search such as Hire a MYLAPS timer, your ad will appear if your budget is appropriate.  It’s a great way to take away business from competitors. 

Negative Keywords:

Just as important as the words you want, are the words you don’t want. Below is a list of negative keywords that are generally guaranteed to be wasteful. By adding these keywords, you reduce the likelihood that someone carelessly clicks your ad when they really had no interest in your services. Many people also choose to add the name of their company to the negative keywords. Since your company should show organically (if it does not, you have a problem with your website's Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and need to quickly address this) it may save money without any negative impact by insuring that people who already know your site don’t click a paid ad. HOWEVER, if your competitors begin to bid on your company’s name, you may need to bid on your own name.  

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Setting Bids:

Google provides advice in this regard. If you receive an alert that you are below first page ad status, it is probably a good idea to increase your bid. For example, start at 10 cents per word as a default, let your ads run for a day and check back in to see if anyone has responded by increasing their bid. Increase your bid until you conclude that a click on that word is not worth anymore.  


Measuring Success:

Click Through Rate

  • This is the percentage of people who see your ad who actually click on it. If this number is low, there are two likely causes. Either (1) your key words are not representative of what you do and people are getting your ad when searching for other things or (2) they are seeing your competitor’s ads and choosing them instead because their ad is more appealing. 

  • In a specialized industry such as race timing, a good target for your Click Through Rate (CTR) would be around 20%. If you find a great keyword or keywords, you may see your CTR jump to 30 or even 40%. This means that more people will come to your website and you’ll likely win more opportunities.


Average Cost Per Click

  • Cost Per Click (CPC) is an indicator of how much you are paying for a given return. In this case, how much are you paying each time someone clicks on your ad and views your website?

  • If your ads are targeting potential customers in your geographic area, you’ll find that the amount you need to spend for a click drops significantly. For a national campaign like we run at ITS, our CPC will often range from $3 to $4. You may find that you can spend $1 or less to achieve a click, especially if your competitors are not advertising on AdWords.

Closing Thoughts:

For those of you who wish to grow your business, either through more races or just timing larger races, Google AdWords is an amazing choice for reaching new customers. When you consider what $200 or even $300 a month can do for you, there is simply no other option. A few of our most successful timers are already using AdWords and they’ve seen solid growth in their business. In our own case, we’ll spend nearly $100,000 this year on Google. Is it worth it? Absolutely. We will have reached 1.8 million people around the world in 160 countries and shared our story. The cost to do the same with magazine ads, newspaper ads, printed flyers, and a dedicated sales staff just making onsite visits would have cost us well over $1 million a year. 

About Innovative Timing Systems, LLC: Innovative Timing Systems, LLC is a privately-owned company, providing leading-edge sports timing solutions and race timing services through a network of over 500 locations around the world. ITS provides advanced chip technologies, race kiosks, large athlete displays, live web updates, automated race photos, social media integration and mobile apps. Founded in 2008, ITS is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri and has sales, support, and engineering facilities in numerous locations around the world.

About ITS YOUR RACE: ITS YOUR RACE is the leader in online event management. An all-inclusive endurance event platform, ITS YOUR RACE offers easy registration and results with custom features including sponsorships, advertising opportunities, GPS tracking, athlete photos, finisher certificates, fundraising, and more. Over 10,000 events have chosen ITS YOUR RACE.

Innovative Timing Systems is a registered trademark of Innovative Timing Systems, LLC. RaceTimes is a trademark of Innovative Timing Systems, LLC.

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