Your website is set up, you’ve added your Google Analytics tracking code, and you’ve written a couple of blog posts. You’re set right? Sadly, it’s not that simple. In fact, it can be very complex. And that’s because there are a variety of factors that can play a role in how Google’s algorithm decides to rank your site (not to mention the fact that the algorithm is often altered to respond to changes in technology and the Internet as a whole). It can take some time and effort to improve, tweak, and adjust your site in order to improve your site’s visibility in Google’s search results. But if you want to attract more attendees, optimizing Google search results should play an important role in your digital marketing efforts.
At a high level, your event website needs to meet a couple of basic requirements:
Be mobile friendly
Everyone is using his or her smartphones more than ever and Google has taken note. In just the past few months, the search giant has switched its algorithms to favor sites that are mobile friendly (referred to as “mobile-first indexing”). This means Google is going to crawl the web version of your site instead of the desktop version first. So your site needs to load quickly and provide a good experience for users on both desktop and mobile.
- Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see how quickly your site loads on desktop and mobile. It’ll also provide a few recommendations if the analysis finds any issues.
- If you want to learn a little more about mobile-first indexing and find out how to make your site a little more mobile-friendly, Moz (a popular resource for most SEO professionals) has a good explainer article about it.
Security has become a big issue across just about every industry and for good reason, with ransomware attacks and data leaks, users and businesses alike are making moves to secure their websites and databases. As of July 2018, Google Chrome will begin marking unsecured sites (those not using HTTPS) as “not secure” (Firefox has also made similar announcements regarding “not secure” notifications on non-HTTPS sites). Google has also incentivized website owners to make the change by giving HTTPS sites a small rankings boost.
Making the switch to make your site more secure can be beneficial, here’s a step-by-step guide that breaks down the process. Do be cautious though, because there are some risks involved if the switch isn’t made properly.
Include basic on-page and on-site optimizations
Basically this comes down to changes like including meta tags, title tags, alt tags on images, and using proper heading hierarchy (h1, h2, etc.) throughout your site – these aren’t the most glamorous SEO tactics and they may not give your rankings a wildly significant boost but they do play an important role in the quality, accessibility, and crawlability of your site – especially if you aren’t already doing this. You also want to make sure that the site content is clear. Within 10 seconds of landing on your site, would a prospective attendee be able to immediately understand what the site is for or about?
If you’re fairly new to SEO, this is actually a good place to start learning about it. Moz has a fantastic resource for learning about the fundamentals of SEO including on-site optimization, on-page ranking factors, and much more.
Include high-quality content to attract more attendees
Google’s primary goal is to provide users with results that are relevant and high quality. This means you need to make sure you’re providing helpful, in-depth information about specific topics. You also need to keep user intent in mind. What words will they use in searching for your site? (Those are most likely the keywords you’ll want to target). And why are they searching for those words? To learn about the event? To register?
- If you’re familiar with SEO, you might be aware that the importance of keywords has evolved over the past few years. In the past, you just had to make sure your target keyword(s) were repeated a few times on the page, next came long-tail keywords for specificity, and now it’s all about user intent. Learn how to perform keyword research based on user intent to make sure you’re creating content that users are actually searching for.
- Note – this can be helpful for your event programming as well. It might help you learn a little more about what your target attendees are most interested in learning at your next event.
Be regularly maintained
It might be tempting to give your site one big SEO overhaul and then call it good but if you want to continue to improve your ranking, build your traffic, and attract more attendees, maintenance really needs to be an ongoing process – especially if your event takes place in different locations, multiple times per year, or even annually. Every new piece of content needs to include standard optimizations (meta tags, title tags, alt tags, etc.). Your team will likely want to include elements of link building (see below) in their overall content strategy, you’ll need to stay on top of redirects should you take down a page or a post, and surely you’ll want to make additional adjustments to your site’s SEO over time in response to the data you’re gathering through analytics.
If you’re looking for a handy checklist to remind you of what steps you need to take care of to ensure that your site’s SEO is in good shape, ClickMinded has one that is quite thorough.
Okay, so your site looks good on desktop and mobile, it’s secured with an SSL certificate, you’ve made sure that your site is easy to understand and well organized, you’ve added strong, high-quality content, and you’re performing regular SEO maintenance. Now, it’s time to dig in a little further into something a little more strategic.
Use Event Schema
Google recently released a new event search feature for mobile. If you do a Google search on your smartphone for “events in [city]”, Google will pull up a list of relevant events with locations and dates in and around that city. It’s worth noting that at the moment, many of these searches primarily surface music or sports events but with time (and increased use of event schema), you’ll likely see more variation.
Event schema uses structured data to provide easy to read data to Google’s web crawlers. If you’d like to implement it on your own site, be sure to check out Google’s Developers guide for Event Schema. Just be careful to use the event schema as intended because Google will penalize publishers who use misleading markup.
Build website authority
Now that you’ve nailed down your on-site SEO, a good next step is to turn your focus towards building up a strong network of backlinks from authoritative sites. Link building is a common part of SEO and for good reason, when sites with high domain authority point to yours, it’s an indicator to Google that your site is valuable and should, therefore, rank higher.
There are a variety of ways you can build up your domain authority through link building. Some of the most common include syndicated content (i.e. writing pieces for sites like Forbes or Inc.), guest blogging (finding other sites with high domain authority and offering to write an article for them to publish on their site), asking influencers to link to your site, and even reaching out to writers of existing list articles for inclusion (for example, you might find an article on Forbes about the “top leadership conferences in 2018” and ask the writer to be sure to include your upcoming leadership summit).
Link Building can often require a lot of effort and patience, but if done correctly, can have a big effect on your site’s overall traffic.
Social signals refer to social engagement with your site’s content (i.e. likes and shares). Leveraging social signals can be a helpful way to not only promote your site to help increase traffic but also help Google gauge the quality of your site (similar to backlinks).
This is another reason why it’s worthwhile to also include a strong social media strategy in your overall marketing planning. Remember that relevant, entertaining, informative content is more likely to elicit a positive response and get shared more so than spammy posts that blatantly promote your event.
Basically, your site needs to be high quality
Anytime you’re making an effort to improve your SEO and attract more attendees, you should remember that Google’s primary goal when it comes to search is to provide users with the most useful and relevant results. In order to get traffic to your site through Google, you need to be providing your visitors with a good user experience which includes everything from your site speed, to the relevance and value of your content, all the way out to your external linking activities.
Kaylynne Hatch is a digital marketing professional. She spent several years consulting in the event industry and occasionally helps bring event professionals up to date on SEO tactics.