Event Horizon: Tips on Using SEO to Promote Your Events
Running an event is tough. Depending on the scale of the event itself, the logistics could vary from simply booking a conference room and the assorted meals or closing off parts of the city to make way for a circuit right in the middle of the city. As such, the discussion on optimizing your event website for the purpose of marketing isn’t usually at the top of promoters’ to-do list. This is not the right attitude to have, especially if this is the first edition of the event.
Events are time-based. Unlike say, an e-commerce website that operates 365 days a year, SEO for events operates under a very strict timeline. Taking this under consideration, SEO services recommend you begin your marketing campaign as far back as 6 months before the date for big events and 2 to 3 months for smaller events. Remember, SEO results don’t take effect immediately so you need to allocate some time to let it flourish.
Other than the time constraint, SEO for events aren’t drastically different compared to the standard SEO practices. The usual division between on-page and off-page SEO applies. If you’re thinking that events don’t really need SEO, think again. Unless you have a lot of cachet or have the resource to pull off a marketing campaign like the one the doomed Fyre Festival did, you’re going to have to rely on people discovering you manually.
On-page SEO for events
Unsurprisingly, on-page SEO are fairly technical since quite a number of them involves messing with the underlining code of your website to make it as presentable as it can be to search engines. That being said, there are general tips you could follow if messing with HTML isn’t your thing, as detailed below:
- Deciding the URL for your event
The first thing to deal with is the URL for your event’s website. If it’s a big event or something you’re considering of holding annually, you might want to think about having a specific website for the event. If it’s a smaller event or a one-off, you could simply dedicate a page within your corporate website specifically for the event.
Now, while it might sound tempting to include the year of the event in the URL, don’t. There’s this thing called domain authority that serves as one of Google’s ranking factors that is embedded into each domain, hence the name. Including the year on your URL means that for every following year, you’re going to have to start again with a new URL, resetting all of the domain authority you have accrued in the past year.
- Use event schema
The next step lies in what is called schema markup. Schema is basically a code letting search engine knows how to interpret the data that are on the page. While it’s true that search engines have grown considerably in the past few years that they’re now able to guess what your content actually means most of the time, they can still make mistakes. To keep this from happening, using Event schema helps structure your content to help search engines in deciphering what they actually mean instead of what they simply say.
Event schema is usually used to structure your event listing (name of the event, dates, address, ticket prices etc) so that search engines know how to display those information on a results page. As event schema deals with making changes to the HTML code of your page, this method is best left to developers. If you’re not into codes, Google provides an alternative solution from their search console using the data highlighter tool.
- Page optimization
The final thing to address is with page optimization, specifically how fast does your site load and how mobile-friendly it is. Now that mobile-first indexing on Google has begun in earnest, mobile optimization is a priority. That means making sure that your event page displays correctly on diminutive screens and won’t be a hassle under less-than-ideal mobile connections. If you haven’t done this already, consider using responsive web design and try to strike a balance between the amount of content on the page and its speed. You could use Google’s PageSpeed tool to evaluate and fine-tune your work.
Off-page SEO for events
Off-page techniques are your standard marketing campaigns. Given that running an event is rarely, if ever, a solo endeavor, you should already have a decent base to start with. Some of the usual tactics involved in off-page event SEO includes:
- Influencer marketing
Say you’re holding a tech seminar with some guest speakers from the Australian startup industry. Since it’s also in their best interest to spread widen their business’ reach as wide as possible, you could ask them to promote your event through their social media channels and circles to raise interest within the tech industry as a whole. On the other end, you could help guarantee maximum coverage by offering press passes to the local tech publications and crafting a press release for them to use.
- Partner marketing
Similar to influencer marketing but this one deals exclusively with your event sponsors. Running an event means providing food and/or accommodations. Unless you’re a full-service company that could provide all of those things yourself, chances are you’re going to partner with other vendors to provide those services for you and this partnership is something you could leverage for marketing purposes. Take a look at what music festival Splendour in the Grass is doing with their accommodation.
While it is possible for attendees to prepare their own campsite, the festival also partnered with other companies to provide prepared accommodations to save you the hassle of setting up your own tent. Those providers get a listing within the festival’s website and in return, those providers help promote the event through their social media channels for a quid-pro-quo arrangement.
- List your event on directory sites
An event directory site is a site whose main purpose is to list events happening in a certain location. For the uninitiated, check out Songkick. As you might’ve guessed, Songkick is a website that lets you track music concerts within a particular location or based on the performing artist. You could browse what’s coming to Melbourne in August for example to see if there’s anything interesting or you could jump straight to an artist page, say British soul singer Sampha, to see if he’s playing nearby anytime soon.
Songkick is just one specific example; there are other event directory sites available. Some, like Songkick, focuses on one particular industry. Others, like the official Melbourne’s event page, are restricted to a specific region. As an alternative, there’s also Facebook events, where you can list events to be displayed within the social network.
Now, these are merely tools and channels that are available to you in terms of implementing SEO for event marketing. All of this is useless if the actual event turns out to be a wash. Consider the Fyre Fest fiasco as a cautionary tale. Admittedly, Fyre Fest managed to generate some serious hype for their festival, getting at least one attendee to splurge US$4,000 but the festival turned out to be a fiasco. Marketing for your event is indeed important but it should not take priority above the running of the event itself.