Pedal Harder, Dammit: In marketing, effort means more

Ian Lurie

I’d love to say I’m about to draw a spectacular parallel between cycling and internet marketing. But internet marketing isn’t anything like cycling. I’ve never barfed after a hard day of internet marketing. Nor have I gotten road rash because of a badly-behaved poodle. And I never won a bicycle race because of my brain or my writing skills.

But there are times in both when you just have to pedal harder, dammit.

The story

I had a cycling coach once. He was about 5’6″ of pure muscle. I’m pretty sure he could leg press a VW Bug. He also spoke with an Italian accent so thick I could barely make out what he was saying.

He was awesome.

So one day, I’m analyzing my lousy finish in the previous weekend’s race (not unusual). I ask the coach, “What could I have done differently? Did I make a bad tactical decision? Should I have eaten different food? Maybe drink more water next time?”

Now do this on the road!

Now do the same thing on the road!

He looked at me briefly and said “Pedal harder, dammit.”

I looked so wounded that he burst out laughing. But I got the point. Until your effort equals competitor efforts, you can’t win. By matching your effort to theirs, you get a chance to win.

Sometimes, you just gotta pedal harder

Here are a few signs that, in SEO, PPC, or whatever, you need to pedal harder:

  1. You’re obsessing about keyword-rich URLs. Unless you’re producing one amazing, truly mind-blowing piece of content every day and pushing that out to thousands of ravening fans, you need to pedal harder. Forget the URLs.
  2. You’re considering building dozens of ‘micro sites’. This is rarely a good tactic. Focus on one site and just pedal harder.
  3. Your site pages load in 25 seconds or more. I can actually shave while waiting. Drop every other marketing and development initiative until your pages load in 5 seconds or less. Pedal. Harder. Dammit.
  4. You are going to use a fancy ‘100% automated’ PPC tool. Unless you’re running 1,000 ads on 100,000 keywords, you’re making a huge mistake. In fact, even then, you’re making a huge mistake. Don’t expect computers to know how to market to people. PHD (Pedal Harder Dammit).
  5. You’re hiring someone to write content for your site. And paying them $5/page. Yeah whatever. Go for it. Someone else will PHD and kick your ass up and down the internet. Then you’ll learn.
  6. Every Tweet is a sales pitch. Social media is about curation (my short video for tomorrow). Learn to do it. It takes 10 minutes/day.

There you go. Pedal harder. Execute. Hmmm. Bet this post ranks for ‘pedal harder’ tomorrow. Maybe TheSufferfest guys will buy an ad.

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Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. One day my cycling coach took me out on a training session, because he was wondering why such a strong guy couldn’t win races. Needless to say how punishing that “sortie” was. At one point, on the verge of crying, I ask him how I could get rid of the pain. He replied “Push harder! That’ll be a different one”.
    That was 35 years ago, and it stayed with me. It has *never* become easier to push harder, be it on the bike or in my business, but my coach did prove then that it was in fact the only way to go faster…

  2. Amazing that success is so simple yet we make it so complicated. Actually, Google makes it so complicated 🙂

  3. You think so Kris? I think Google has leveled the playing field. It’s blackhats and their crappy spam sites that make it complicated 🙂 If you just PHD you can compete with anybody, and that’s a lovely thought. The irony is how much time and money people spend looking for a magic bullet. If they spent that time just working on their site they would be MUCH farther along!
    Anywho, love this post. I’ve never barfed after a day of internet marketing either… but I do stress about some silly things.
    Thanks Ian 🙂

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