In trying to answer the question of when participants will come back to races, we turned to Google Trends, which is a cool tool that shows the relative volume of Google Searches over time. It goes back to 2004, and looking past the seasonality, the trend line is pretty obvious:
The peak year was 2013 (marathons, triathlons and other events show similar trends). The race community has been in a general slow decline for the past 9 year with the catastrophe of Pandemic really cratering things. It was kind of news to us that the level of interest pre pandemic had fallen by roughly 45% from the peak in 2013.
(Note, this is not simply because of a drop off in Google searches and acceleration in other sources as Google calculates this relative to all of their searches in volume. In other words, there may be the same number of 5k searches happening, but relative to all searches on Google, it is now half of what it was.)
Pandemic Recovery 67%
Anyway, back to the original research project – here is the trend line over the past 4 years. In this graph, peak was April, 2019 at 100, while the comparable week in April this year was 67 – down about 30%. This aligns with the relative drop we have seen in races of about 20-25% from their 2019 equivalent.
Search Source for Traffic on RunSignup
We did a comparison of traffic sources to all the races that use RunSignup in 2018 and 2022:
Shift to RunSignup Websites – The first observation is the big shift from races hosting their own website to rely more on the free and integrated websites RunSignup provides. This proves out the investment we have made in providing customers to bring their own domain for free, and the beautify Cover Page technology we provide customers. We are making a significant investment in a Next Gen Website capability that should begin to emerge later this year for Races (it is available for Tickets today and also available as a stand alone Organization Website that will see Event Listings available this summer for larger event producers and timers).
Google – Google remains dominant as a referral source. We continue to make investments to make sure we provide races with excellent natural search capabilities to appear in Google. One of the features we added a while ago was to auto-list races in the Google “Near Me” capability where they are introducing searches for events with their ubiquitous mapping technology. As this Google Trend graph shows, people are increasingly searching for events on Google:
Facebook – Facebook is still a huge source of traffic. So many races have invested in creating a community in Facebook over the past decade, and that investment is still going strong. And we continue to invest in our Facebook integration, now supporting the Facebook Conversion API which helps address the lack of tracking on Apple devices.
Instagram and TikTok – These offer the potential promise of a way to gather your race community together and attract new participants. They are both still very small, but we are seeing more and more races investing time in developing a following and a few even investing in advertising. We provide excellent source tracking tools for both natural and ad related content you create to see whether your investments of time and potentially money are worthwhile.
RunSignup Affiliate Network – There are many partners we work with to help automatically promote your event. RunningintheUSA.com and HalfMarathons.net are the largest who use our API and automatically list your event. We will soon announce a partnership with EVVENT to list your race in hundreds to thousands of local guides. We are also working with a variety of marketing firms to help races market their events via email and advertising services, as well as just helping races with the basics like a race website and an email marketing plan. These affiliates provide around 2-4% of registrations to races using our platform.
Everyone wants to grow their event. Between the declining market and the slow recovery from the pandemic, it can be tough. We are providing a rock solid technology platform for you to host websites, use free email, automatically get the word out via major channels like Google and our affiliate network, and provide tools to help you optimize your online presence.
We recently have been putting out a lot of material to help you with practical suggestions – including this very good blog on Growing Your Event with lots of pointers.