Guide: Everything you need to know about SEO for Event Websites
How to gain organic exposure for your event
When you search your event name on search engines, like Google or Bing, what do you get as a result? Is your event website showing at the top position, or are other websites outranking you? Studies show that nearly 50% of online users will click the first three results, and less than 1% will bother to visit page two (positions 11+). With that in mind, it’s understandable how important it is to have your website ranking well in search engines. You don’t want to lose any traffic and have possible attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, or speakers end up at a competitor’s event.
While doing this test, also check how you rank for other keywords that are not necessarily your event name, but that might bring qualified traffic to your website. For example, if you run a marketing trade show in San Diego, you can search for keywords like “marketing + trade shows + San Diego + 2018”. Here is what I got for this example: a mix of events and site aggregators listing a number of events, held by different organizations.
Don’t see your website on the first few positions? Fear not, we are here to help! Search Engine Optimization, also known as SEO, is the art of optimizing your website to rank well on search engines. The basic premise is that search engines will show the results it considers to be the most relevant to users, based on specific factors that are checked by algorithms. In this article, you will learn some of the most important ranking factors to consider when building your event website, so it ranks well on search engines.
Essential Information for Your Event Website
Before we start, let’s consider some important details that you must include on your event page. While these provide basic information to people browsing your website, it also provides information to search engines, so it can showcase your website on the search engine results page (SERP).
- Event name: Choose a unique name for your event. This will help you stand out from other events out there. It should also be descriptive of the event.
- Event date and time: Make sure this is on a prominent placement on your event page. Not only can search engines embed this information on the search results page, it can also help users to know when your event will happen, and whether they are still current or not.
- Event location: As with date, the address provides extremely important information to users. But more than that, it can help search engines deliver relevant content to people near your event. If you search for “upcoming marketing trade shows”, you will likely find marketing events near you first, and then events in other parts of the globe. This is because search engines take your location into consideration when showing results, even if you didn’t specify the location on your search query.
- Event description: Include an easy-to-read, short description of your event, so users can quickly understand what the event is about, and if this is right for them. This blurb should be on a prominent position of your event landing page.
B2B Marketing Forum clearly shows the basic information about the event as soon as you enter the website. A hero image can help to communicate about the event.
- Event schedule: The schedule can help inform more about the event, what to expect, time commitments, and more. Search engines can also read this information and showcase on the search results page, which can help boosting your rankings, depending on the queries users are searching for.
- Speakers and keynotes: Speakers are an important factor for people considering to attend an event. Sharing speakers bios and topics they will speak about can draw more interest from attendees. It can also help you rank when users search for specific names on the web.
- Event photos and video: Imagery helps you resonate with users. By showcasing images and photos from previous events, you can give users a taste of what it is like to be there, and encourage attendance. Media, in general, is also a good indicator for search engines. It indicates rich content that will provide a good user experience. If you don’t have images or videos from previous events, there are other ways to outsource realistic imagery while keeping authenticity.
99U Conference did a fantastic job in regards to imagery. Throughout the site, you can see photos of the event and attendees, while having a clear picture of the conference's atmosphere.
- Ticket information: Include ticket pricing, early bird options, passes, deals, and any other ticketing information necessary. If you don’t have pricing information yet, post a message asking guests to return on a specific date for details on ticketing information. Better yet: collect their email addresses and send pricing information once available.
- Contact information: Attendees, speakers, exhibitors, or sponsors might have questions. Make sure to add clear contact information to your website.
Although this is a good starting point, successful event pages will typically contain much more information, including:
- Driving directions: Remember search engines give preference to pages with relevant content. Having driving directions with an embedded Google Map is a great way to go. You can also provide additional directions from airport, public transit, car, etc. from major intersections. This will help people visiting from out of town and will help attendees prepare their trip.
- Lodging and transportation information: If you are running a multi-day event, a list with local accommodation and airport transfer options can be handy. If you partner with hotels and transportation companies, you can ask to get a link from their website to your event page, which can also help boost your rankings (more about external links below).
- FAQ: Want to avoid answering the same questions over and over again? An FAQ page can help. If you've hosted an event before you probably already have a list of frequently asked questions, but even if you don’t, you might guess some questions that may arise and answer them before they get asked.
- Press pages: If you are hosting a large event, a press page can help share the details with the press. Add any information that might be relevant to them, including details about free tickets availability for approved media channels.
- Sponsors and exhibitors: There are a couple different things to consider when thinking about speakers and exhibitors. First, you need a page to promote the opportunity to become a sponsor or exhibitor, with package details and how to contact you. It’s a good idea to request an email to deliver full pricing information, so you have their information for future sales opportunities. Secondly, it’s a good idea to feature current (and perhaps past) sponsors and exhibitors, so attendees can have a taste of what to expect (while also giving companies the visibility they deserve by partnering with your event).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Event Websites
Now that you got the website content covered, let’s go back to search engine optimization. There are many ways to optimize your website to improve organic rankings. Below is a list of important optimization techniques that will help boost your rankings in search engines.
On-page optimization refers to optimization done directly on your website (rather than on other websites, or offline). This includes keyword-rich content, optimized meta data, and more. These small tasks are easy to manage, and will take you a long way. Here are the essential SEO factors to improve your event website:
Meta title and Description
When you do a Google search, the results you get show a list with titles and descriptions with different options. This is usually pulled from the meta title and meta description that you set for each web page (each page should have a unique tile and description). When you don’t set this information, Google will get content from your page to display here. (In rare occasions, Google might display content from your website, even if you set the meta title and description that you would like to show. Google selects what copy to show based on what they consider to be more relevant to the user making the search).
These meta tags are extremely important when considering organic rankings for a few reasons:
- The keywords you use on your meta tags will be highlighted when they match the keywords being searched. This will grab the reader’s attention, giving you more chances to get clicks.
- Having enticing copy on the meta tags can also help to get clicks. Think about adding calls to action and unique features.
- Click-through-rate (CTR) is a ranking factor, meaning, the more people click on your listing, the more “juice” you get. Because users are clicking your listing when searching for specific terms, Google considers this to be a good result, and will start bumping your position up. Similarly, if users are not clicking your listing when shown, Google may bump your listing down.
- One more thing to consider is bounce rate. Bouncing means a user only visited one page of your website and then left. Search engines see this as a possible poor experience, as the user made a search, clicked your listing, didn’t find what they were looking for, then made another search to find different information. Avoid bounces by resisting the temptation to include information that is not correct just to get a click to your website. If users don’t find what they are looking for, this will have a negative impact for your website.
Now that you know why meta tags are important and how they work, here are some best practices to write amazing copy:
- Meta Title:
- Include event name, location and date
- Up to 55-60 characters
- Meta Description:
- Include a short description of the event and why people should attend
- Up to 260-300 characters (Google recently increased the character limit for meta descriptions from 255 to 300, however, Google will decide how much of your description to show. Usually, mobile searches will show way less than 300 characters. Considering mobile searches now surpass desktop searches, keep the most relevant information at the beginning of your meta description, and keep character limit at 260-280).
Lastly, remember that each page should have a unique title and description.
Not sure how to add meta tags to your website? For WordPress sites, you can use plugins, such as Yoast, which is free and very user-friendly. For event sites such as the Attendease platform, you can edit your meta tags under the tab “meta”, on site settings.
Headings are a good way to visually show copy hierarchy and help readers skim through your text. It is also an indicator to search engines, communicating what is your page about. You may want to use large, bold text for your page title, then a slightly smaller text for subtitles, and an even smaller text for other subheadings. The important thing to note is that there is the right way and the wrong way to do this, if you have search engines in mind.
Avoid manually bolding or increasing the font size. Although this will visually have the same impact, it won’t do the same for search engines. Search engines can read headings by using “h tags” (or heading tags). Heading options are usually available on text editors on your CMS, like WordPress, or you can manually add a simple code to apply a heading style. Although you can have multiple h tags on a page, you should have only one h1 tag per page, and every page should have an h1 tag (usually the title is automatically set as h1).
There are a couple of things you must consider when planning your URLs. First, you need to decide on your general event URL. You may be hosting your event under your company’s website (e.g.: www.mycompany.com/event), or you may create a new website exclusively for your event (e.g.: www.myevent.com).
If the event will happen every year, consider how to host the website. For example, you may have www.myevent.com/2018, instead of www.myevent2018.com, to avoid needing a new domain every year for the years to come.
Now that you have your main domain URL, think about the other pages. Here are some best practices to apply when writing URLs:
- Make it user-friendly and easy to read (e.g.: www.myevent.com/speakers)
- Usually URLs follow the page title (when it makes sense to do so)
- Use keywords on your URL when possible, but avoid keyword stuffing
- Stop words are not necessary (and, the, or, of, etc.)
- Avoid using parameters and symbols that make it difficult to read (e.g.: www.myevent.com/?7868=id2)
- Keep it shorter, ideally under 50-60 characters
- Fewer folders are generally better. Folders are identified by slashes (/) and it communicates the depth of the site to both users and search engines (e.g. www.myevent.com/speakers/johndoe vs. www.myevent.com/speakers/category/keywnote/johndoe)
- Hyphens are prefered in order to separate words
The primary use for alt tags is to inform what the image is about to those who are visually impaired and cannot see the image. However, search engines can’t “see” images either, and it uses the alt tag information in order to identify the image. Adding alt tags to your images will not only comply with accessibility best practices, but it will also aid in optimization your website for search engines. This can also help to show your image as a image search result. Try to include keywords that makes sense in the context of the image.
Anchor text is the text that is highlighted in a link. Instead of linking to text like “click here”, use descriptive words instead. For example, “a downloadable checklist is available with everything you learned on this article”. Users will understand that, by clicking the link, they will gain access to it. No need to say “Click here to download the checklist”.
Rich snippets allow you to mark up your event information so that users can discover that information directly from the search results page. There are many advantages to this, including increased real estate on the SERP and more chances to get people clicking on your listing, which can then help bump your rankings due to higher click-through-rate (it all connects!). Information that you can mark up includes event name, location, date, price, performers, and more.
You can easily mark up data using the Google Data Highlighter tool, which lets you select pieces of information and communicate what they refer to.
Most of the off-page optimization tips are related to building links. When you have links from third-party sites linking to yours, you gain a bit more authority, which can help bring your website to the top of the rankings. The more authority the site linking to you has, the more “juice” you will gain from it. For example, if you have a link from a national paper, you will gain more authority compared to a link on a neighborhood business directory. Nonetheless, having a variety of links is important, as long as they are not spammy. Avoid fishy sites and buying links, and focus on organic and relevant links instead.
Make sure to have your event name, location, date, and information consistent across the web. For example, choose whether you would like to promote your event as “ABC Expo” or “ABC Expo Atlanta”, and stick to the option you chose across all platforms.
There are three easy strategies you can use to gain more links and increase online exposure.
- Submit a press release to media outlets that might be interested in sharing your event
- Have speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors promote the event (here is a good article to learn ways to get sponsors talking about your event)
- Submit your event to online directories
You are probably familiar with press releases, but online directories are not as popular, unless you are familiar with SEO. Online directories are the modern version of Yellow Pages, and can be segregated into a number of ways: directories for general businesses, businesses in specific industries, events, geographic location, and more.
Here are ten examples that you can use if you are based in North America:
- Craigslist Events
- Facebook Events (make sure to post the event under the company’s company page, and not using a personal profile)
- Meetup.com (Although Meetup charges an annual fee, you can partner with existing groups that could benefit from your event in order to get in front of their audiences)
There are also a number if local directories that you can use to promote your event, depending on your event location. Try searching in Google using search strings like: keyword + city + "submit event" / "submit an event"/ "add event"/ "add an event"/ "submit your workshop"/ "submit your course"/ "submit your class"/ "submit your conference"
There are a few technical improvements that can also help boost your website rankings. You might need to work with your developer to implement these:
Search engines are moving towards providing better user experience, and site speed is a huge factor when it comes to usability. A Kissmetrics study points out that 40% of users will drop a site that takes over three seconds to load. But users are not the only thing that will drop, your rankings will too. You can use the free Google PageSpeed Insights tool to check your site speed and gain recommendations to improve it.
With over 50% of overall online traffic coming from mobile devices, it’s no surprise that providing a mobile experience will help with your rankings. Having a mobile ready site is a must!
In 2017 Google released a report indicating that websites that were not secure would display a “non secure” message when opened in Chrome. On the other hand, sites that were secure would see a slight ranking boost. As of this date, having a security certificate is also expected, especially if you are collecting personal information, including name, email, or payment - which most event websites are. This means you would see https instead of http, on the browser. If you are currently not on https, contact your developer to get your certificate ready!
You are likely familiar with an HTML sitemap, which is a web page with the entire structure of a website. This page is meant for site visitors to read. For search engines, you should provide an XML sitemap, which will tell search engines how to navigate the site. You can usually find it if you currently have an xml sitemap setup by checking your website and adding the string: /sitemap.xml. If you see an error message (e.g. page not found), you might not have the xml sitemap setup. Sometimes the sitemap is located at a different location, such as /sitemap_index.xml, so check with your developer if you are having trouble finding it. For WordPress sites, you can use the Yoast SEO plugin to generate the sitemap for you (this is the same plugin recommended for meta tag, at the beginning of this article).
Download the SEO for Event Websites Checklist
Congratulations! You made it to the end! In this article we covered the essential content you should have on your event website and SEO techniques to improve your organic rankings, including on-page and off-page techniques, as well as technical optimization. Now you can download the SEO checklist for event websites, so you can stay on track for your next event!