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I ran my first marathon a few weeks ago. Over the course of training, I’ve endured shin splints, cramps, dehydration, rain, snow, black toenails, tasteless energy gels, nasty protein bars, and endless chafing. But I’ve learned a few things. I’ve also figured out that several of the lessons learned while running can be imparted beyond the world of running. Some can even teach a thing or four to those who make the Web their business. So grab your compression socks, stretch out your muscles, and let’s review five lessons digital marketers can learn from running.


Cut back on the junk. Runners, like other athletes, do their best when their bodies are full of the good stuff. Your website is the same, as long as you think of quality content as a sort of nutritious food. You don’t want to pack your site full of low-quality material—the “junk food.” One of the first rules of digital marketing is to create the kind of content that draws people in and makes them want to keep coming to your site. Sub-par content just isn’t going to cut it.


Be consistent. Runners know that they have to maintain a healthy lifestyle and training regimen in order for their hard work to pay off. In a similar vein, you have to keep on posting good stuff. You can’t post a single blog and expect to keep your site ranking on Google. Like running, social media isn’t a short-term tactic; it’s a lifestyle. Be regular in your posting. Make sure everything is in harmony with the way you want to be perceived. Keep the messaging consistent as well. Assure that you post the same things across every social platform.


Define goals. You run your best when you have a goal in mind. Do you want to get your 5K time below 20 minutes? Maybe you’re training for a marathon, an ultra-marathon, or something even crazier. Whatever your goal, stick to it. It’s the same with marketing. What are your business goals for the coming year? Your strategy and goals should align with your business goals. As you set goals, be specific. Use numbers, dates, and monetary units to map out your desired growth.


Measure your progress. When I run, I use an app like Strava or Runkeeper to track my mileage, times and routes. It helps my goals seem more achievable when I can see how close I am. Know your way around Google Analytics and other analytics tools. These will show you how you’re doing relative to your goals. Keep a careful eye on the results and make adjustments accordingly.


Stay the course. As you train, you may be tempted to give up. But whether you’re sprinting for the finish or implementing a killer digital marketing plan, you’ve got to stick to your strategy. Unless, of course, you don’t—sometimes you deviate from your strategy if you have a good enough reason. Injuries happen to runners, and unforeseen events can derail your marketing strategy unless you modify your strategy and adapt.