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How to create a free or low-cost website for your running event

Free and low-cost solutions

Is your event an inaugural running event or charity event with little or no budget to start out with, but you'd like to have an online website presence other than Facebook and Twitter? With so many free and low-cost methods available in this day and age, here are some free tips for you to get started to create a respectable presence for you event or group.

First, choose if you are looking for something free. This method could probably get by as acceptable for an extremely small town event, a charity, or some type of function that is not going to be an annual or recurring event. The two sites that can get this job done for you are Blogger or Wordpress. These sites have user-friendly easy-to-build functions.

Blogger (www.blogger.com) - Create an account, pick your Blogger site name, select create, and voilà! Blogger allows you to pick from multiple templates, choose multiple colors, font colors, size font, and also allows you to easily add widgets to you columns, such as Facebook widgets, Twitter widgets, or list other important links. You can also add follow and subscription widgets, where your users can follow your blog, which notifies them when you add a new update (post) to your blog. You can even create a Google AdSense account and create AdSense widgets to make a little extra money, though for an event I wouldn't go overboard with ads on your blog, if you decide to go that route. You can also easily use the widgets to insert pictures, such as your sponsor's logos and add a link back to that sponsor's site!

Wordpress (www.wordpress.com) - Create an account, pick your Wordpress site name, create, and almost as simple as Blogger. Wordpress also has similar features but it is not as flexible and may not be as user-friendly as Blogger. But I'd suggest maybe experimenting with both and see what suits your specific purpose best. Both can be created in 15 or 20 minutes and you can see what looks better for your specific presence. Wordpress has some nice templates and can really look nice, and Blogger has much nicer widget areas to work with in my opinion.

Both Wordpress and Blogger are hosted right on their site, for free, no domains to purchase, easy to update. No cost to you, and you have a link now that you can direct all your runners to with all your important race, charity or event information.

If you're looking to go the low-cost route but don't want to spend an arm an a leg for a website to be developed, how about create your own? With easy to use templates, you can go to an all-in-one business site which allows you to purchase a monthly plan. There are many out there and you likely can find quite a few options by using a search engine, but I would suggest Yahoo Business. Yahoo Business allows you to search for a website name domain, buy the domain, host the domain and pick the "Create your own website" option, where you can pick from many templates, and create a pretty professional looking website that is super-easy to build on your own with absolutely no website development skills. Also, you then have access to the content editor, to be able to change your event date, add information, add results, and much, much more. Yahoo Business would be perfect for the smaller running events out there, and I promise I have nothing to gain by promoting it, other than the satisfaction of knowing I helped your event create a great presence in our running community.

What do you include on your website?

As a leader in a national organization that interacts with runners on a daily basis and maintains the HalfMarathonSearch.com national half marathon calendar, I decided it would be beneficial to add this section on what to add to your website.

Many race directors and event organizers create their website with one audience in mind... their local audience. They often forget the large audience out there that loves to travel to events in various States, like those in the Fifty States Half Marathon Club or other similar running clubs that travel to multiple States. With this in mind, it is important to have clear and visible in the title or description or header toward the top of the event site the following items:

City and State - Yes, you'd be surprised how many event organizers think that everyone in the U.S. knows of their small town or city is in Utah, or that the name of their city doesn't exist in other States. Think again.

Date and specific date per event - Please don't put two dates on your homepage and then not specify which event is which day. If you list more than one date on your homepage or have multiple events on different days, make it easy to find or list the date next to the event on the homepage. There is nothing worse than having to dig to find out which day the half marathon is for example. If packet pickup is on a Friday and Race Day is on a Saturday, put the packet pickup under Packet Pickup details, not as an additional event day.

List all events on your homepage title - Do not just list the main event on the homepage. If there is a marathon and a half marathon, don't just list the marathon. Don't make viewers of a site dig for information. You can list the secondary events like 10k, 5k, etc. in smaller print, but don't leave them completely out of the title.

Race Day details or Event Day details and schedule - Make this an easy to find link or tab. Again, people don't want to dig for this.

Exact address of location to start - This is a big one! This goes back to the event organizers forgetting that they have more than a local audience. For non-locals and out-of-State travelers, it is almost a must these days to enter the physical address, so traveling athletes can enter the address in their GPS. Detailed directions along with the exact physical address of start or closest physical address you can find is extremely helpful.

The point here is to keep a national audience in mind when creating any website online. Put yourself in the traveler, outsider's shoes when you are creating your site, and brainstorm about what you'd be looking for on a website for an event if you never heard of the town, never been to the State, and were looking at participating in an event you found at this particular website.

Credits - WorldwideRunning.com would like to thank the blog RunningEventSites (http://runningeventsites.blogspot.com) for the authorization to reprint the article "Create a Free or Low Cost Site for Your Running or Charity Event" by Nicole Blomgren, MBA, USAT member, USATF member, founder and president of the Fifty States Half Marathon Club and Halfmarathonsearch.com.


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