If showing up on Google is vital to your event’s success, then ranking well on the search results and understanding how your potential attendees are searching for events like yours is something you need to do. But how do you make sure your events are found easily online? And what are the latest criteria that Google is using to rank pages on search results?
What is SEO?
Google today acts as both the main gateway and gatekeeper to the Internet. It controls seven out of every ten searches on the Internet. It also organises and ranks the links of various websites according to certain criteria – and this is where SEO comes in.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) refers to how search engines determine which links are shown first to users. And if you want people to find your event when searching for events like yours, then investing time on your site’s SEO optimisation is definitely something you need to do. Some may argue that it’s an IT thing or a job for the SEO specialists. However, if Google search is an important source of registrations for your events, then it’s far from ideal to just hand over SEO to IT and expect things to simply work out.
Google SEO Top Tips for Event Planners
SEO with Google Search has changed so much the last few years, that many marketers aren’t sure what’s outdated, what’s important, what will make a difference and what is simply wasted effort. The reason for a lot of the changes to Google’s search algorithms is user experience. If Google sends you to a website, they want to make sure you have a good experience on that page. They are after all a business and want to make their customers happy. From their point of view, they didn’t create the webpage but they are endorsing it. They need to make sure that people have a good experience on that page to keep people coming back to Google. Which isn’t so different in the way we run events.
Let’s take a look at how Google is ranking pages in 2017 and what planners need to do to ensure their event websites rank well in search results:
1. Content is King – It wasn’t long ago when marketers could use SEO tactics like link building, keywords, and title tags to make their websites do better on search rankings, regardless of content quality. But that is no longer the case. Good, original and engaging content is key for SEO – and publishing content on a regular basis is even better. A good example of this is a blog. You can get your speakers to contribute with previews of their presentations. Get them to ask attendees what questions they want addressed during their session or include their Twitter handles and invite people to engage with speakers directly in the run up to the event. Putting together original content that people want to share, link to and write about is simply put the easiest path to organic SEO.
2. Keyword Magic – Having a good understanding of the keywords that your attendees, sponsors and exhibitors are using to search for events like yours will help you come up with the right type of content, headlines and anchor text (more on that later) that will convince people to click on a link and check out your website. So you’ve got to find the keywords that best describe your event. For example: if your next London event is about Europe’s new data protection legislation (GDPR), then your keywords will be: GDPR, seminar, EU data protection legislation, London. If you know that people are searching for ‘seminars on GDPR in London’ then these long-tail keywords should also be included in your content’s SEO strategy. To create solid keyword lists for your events, use free keyword tools like Ubersuggest and Google AdWords Keyword Planner.
A word of caution, however. Keywords are a great way of optimising your search rankings and having them appear regularly across your website and the content you publish online is definitely something you should do. But you’ve got to make sure that your use of keywords is always relevant – too much of it risks your content being seen as spam. In fact, keyword ‘stuffing’ is 100% against Google’s guidelines and is likely going to get your website penalised.
3. Be Clever with Headlines – Boring headlines are not going to do you any favours. Neither are misleading racy headlines that bring in short-term traffic volume (especially on social media) because after the initial clicks fade away, Google will no longer see the point in driving traffic to your content. The goal of your headlines should always be to inform your reader, not the search engine. There’s nothing worse than having a headline that’s awkwardly framed around one keyword or one that forcibly repeats a keyword phrase.
While creating strong headlines is a good ranking tactic, subheads you use on your web pages have a slightly different function. Rather than saying pretty much what you said in the headline which is more focused on engaging your readers and telling them quickly what the page is about, subheads should focus on the keywords you want people to use to find your website.
4. Easy Site Navigation – Clean simplicity and no unnecessary clutter is what you should aim for. You want your event website pages to get to the point – especially on your home page. You want your visitors to understand the purpose of your event in seconds – you want them to feel satisfied with the information, not overwhelmed or underwhelmed and definitely not confused.
Make sure you also use strong call-to-actions at the end of each page to point readers to other relevant pages. For example, your agenda page can have a CTA button that says ‘Meet the Speakers’, leading them to the speakers’ bio page. By getting your site visitors spend more time on your website, you will help raise the authority of your site which will have a positive impact on your SEO ranking.
5. Use Text with Images and Videos – Google can’t see images on websites, so it’s important to give any images you use on your event website an alt text and relevant file name to ensure Google knows what the image is about. If you don’t do this, you risk losing the opportunity to be as visible as possible online. It helps Google if the text on the page where the image is located mentions the image too. Have it close to the image, using keywords similar to the alt text/file name. Google also recommends providing descriptive titles and captions for your images. Name your image file something that describes what it is, rather than something like IMG1234.jpg. And in terms of format, stick to BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP and SVG image types – otherwise, Google won’t be able to index them. The same applies to videos. Have a transcript or summary of the video content on the same page so that Google can read the text and have it come up in search results.
6. Be Wary of Pop-Ups – Many event planners use pop-ups on their websites to promote early bird discounts or other offers that will entice people to register for an event. The misuse of pop-ups however has led to a lot of controversy over whether marketers should use them or not. Google last year announced that they would begin to penalise websites that use ‘intrusive interstitials’ (bad pop-ups). And intrusive is the key word here. Google doesn’t penalise all pop-ups, just the ones that get in the way of someone’s ability to access the content on the page when they’re searching on a mobile device. So pop-ups that users have to dismiss before being able to access the main content of the page will get you in trouble with Google. On the other hand, a pop-up that uses a reasonable amount of screen space and doesn’t disrupt the mobile user’s experience has no implications on SEO.
7. Use Attractive Anchor Text – We mentioned earlier anchor-text – also referred to as meta description. This is the piece of text commonly used as a preview snippet that appears in Google’s search results, right under the title and URL of your event website. Google no longer uses anchor text for ranking, but they’re still important for SEO as they affect click-through rates.
Anchor text present a major opportunity to separate your event from others and convince searchers that your event is worth looking into. So make sure to include your keywords as part of the text and more importantly, make it appealing and use a strong call-to-action that will prompt people to click on the link and come to your site. Having a relevant and compelling description about your event can be the difference between someone clicking through to your page and one who clicks elsewhere.
8. Have Credible Backlinks – Backlinks are basically the sites that refer to your event website. Let’s say your event sponsor creates a link on their website to your event registration page. That’s a backlink. Backlinks that come from high-authority websites or websites that experience a lot of traffic show Google that your website has value and authority which has a positive impact on your SEO. Consider doing some guest blogs around your event on these high authority sites (ex. industry news sites/blogs) as this will increase your backlinks – just make sure you don’t do it at the expense of quality, because, again this will cancel out your SEO efforts.
Keep a close eye on your link profile, analytics and be on the lookout for misuse. If you think your event site is being harmed by low-quality links you do not control, you should put every effort in cleaning them up. You can also ask Google to not take them into account when assessing rankings for your site by disavowing them.
9. Think SEO with Social Media – A strong social media presence can also help your search rankings as it provides ‘social proof’ to your event website. Google sees social media as an increasingly powerful sign of influence and authority. So when people use their social channels to share, like, engage with and link to pages on your event website, it tells Google that those pages are ones people want to see. Some things you can do in the run-up to your event is include picking keyword-relevant handles (ex. @GDPRLondon17), adding keywords to tweets and thinking about SEO with regards to the names of the videos and images being shared.
Having a good understanding of Google’s SEO criteria can help a lot with your event’s Google ranking. Just remember that more than anything else, SEO is about the user experience. Your site visitor’s user experience. And that experience starts from the minute they type in their search query into Google. The better their experience, the better your SEO.
Do you want your event websites to make more of an impact? Eventsforce can help you create branded mobile-responsive event websites in minutes using its simple content editing interface. Find out more by getting in touch here.
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