6 SEO Tips To Improve Your Event on Google and Boost Attendance – If your event website is underwhelming, there are a number of free! steps you can take to be found in search engines, to connect to social media, and to generally play to your event’s strengths.
Slice Your Event Into “Social Objects”
If you have a list of speakers and a downloadable schedule, that’s fine. It’s what everyone does. But Amazon.com’s homepage isn’t a long list of a million books, and Flickr’s homepage isn’t a long list of a five billion photos. Every book has its own page and every image has its own page. That means each one is a searchable, sharable “social object”. If the focus of your event is its speakers, does each speaker have a sharable, permalinked page?
When a speaker is considered to be a social object, it’s easier to tweet about and pass around, and you’re empowering that person to leverage his or her own own networks. The same goes for panels, venues, films, bands… and don’t forget your sponsors! Each should have its own permalink that can be easily tweeted or Facebooked or found on Google.
Takeaway: Identify what’s sharable about your event, and use a content management system that lets you make and share those social objects.
Optimize for Social Media (Social Media Optimization)
For years, webmasters have been told to optimize for search engines: Google, Yahoo!, MSN/Live/Bing. But with the rise of recommendations and realtime updates, say hello to the new SEO: SMO! (Social Media Optimization) It’s now critical to optimize for social actions, primarily Facebook likes and Twitter tweets. Each social network has its own quirks just like search engines, but you can cover yourself by thinking of your event in these two categories: technical and editorial.
On the technical side, you’ll want to make sure you have a set of html “meta tags” including titles and descriptions (see #6), links and sharable images (social networks prefer square images). Facebook provides a list of meta tags for the Facebook Like button so you can control how your event’s pieces are shared.
On the editorial side, it’s time to rethink your session names. How will they read as tweets? What’s the catchiest thing about them? If someone were to tweet or retweet it, what would they say? What would they quote? What comment would they add? Your titles should follow my SEO mantra (see #4) of “clear, concise and specific”, but for SMO, add “catchy.”
When that’s all done, include bookmarklets or buttons to make sharing easy. (See the bottom of this post. Hint, hint.) Your content management system might already include these tools, you might require a plugin, or you might have to copy and paste html code from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, or other social sites that are important to your event.
Takeaway: Rethink your event’s pieces as a set that includes a title, description and image, and ensure that your website’s pages have unique “meta” tags so you can encourage your eventgoers (and civilians) to share over Facebook and Twitter, not just Google.
Remove Your Event’s Biggest SEO Hurdle
Yes, there are many techniques for increasing your position on search results pages, but the best (and free-est) thing you can do for search engine optimization is this:
Run a great event that people care about.
Search engine ranking algorithms are based in large part on the number and quality of other sites linking to you. People link to you (for free) because you’ve made content sharable and they want to share it. Run a great event that people care about and you’ve solved your biggest SEO hurdle.
If people don’t care about your event, your event website is not your biggest problem.
Takeaway: I’m not sure how you missed it, but here it is again: Run a great event that people care about.
Simplify Your SEO Practices
Once you are running a great event, you don’t have to stress out over search engine optimization. You can, but you don’t have to.
First, you’ve got to believe that the text you’ve written for humans will work for bots. Write and edit text to be clear, concise and specific to the content on the page. Distilling everything down will help you understand what is about your events that will appeal to eventgoers (and search engines) and this notion will carry most of your SEO efforts. Because SEO is based on links, be sure to link appropriate things to appropriate places and verify that links include your keywords. For photos of your speakers, that means including “alt” text.
Now you can go read the other 42 million pages about SEO.
Takeaway: The 99% SEO Mantra: Clear, Concise, Specific.
Write Unique Copy
Google’s recent crackdown on “content farms” (where articles are written based on hot keywords) applies to you. You’re not a content farm, but the announcement is a reminder that the big recommendation sites are striving to favor unique content and will continue to do so.
Take an honest look at the language you use to describe your event. Is it unique? Would anyone notice if you switched it with text from a competing event? Does your text show off what is different about you? It should.
Look at your speaker bios. Are they copied and pasted from official sites? Could you talk to the speaker beforehand, learn something new, and rewrite the bio to have a new tidbit? When people seek out your speaker online, your site could be the one that sticks out because it has new information.
Takeaway: Google knows when you are copying. Be unique.
Control Your Titles and Descriptions
When people search for your event on Google, they’re most likely going to get a title and description for your homepage. The same is true for most search engine result pages and social news feeds (like Facebook). Lucky for you, that text is coming directly from your website and you control that first impression via tags in your html “head” section.
First, keep in these restrictions in mind: Title tags should have fewer than 65 characters and description tags should have fewer than 150 characters. You can assume that anything beyond that will not be seen by search engines or humans.
Tackle your homepage first. Write your homepage’s title tag to include your event name, its edition and what it’s about with a snappy tagline. Your description should convey in as few characters as possible what’s great about your event, what you do and why people should visit your website (not just your event). If you have video from your event, let people know in the description. If you’re selling event tickets from your site, let people know in the description.
Next, work on your pages for your speakers (or sessions or venues, etc). Every “social object” (see #1) should have a unique title that begins with the name of that object, not the name of the event. These pages are primarily about the object, not your event. Descriptions should be unique to each social object as well, but keep in mind that when people search for a specific person or session, it often won’t be the description tag that shows up, but a chunk of text from the middle of your page. So, be sure that you have some surrogate descriptive copy next to the name of the object on the page.
Takeaway: Write a unique title and description tag for your homepage, and work with a content management system that creates tags for other pages automatically or allows you to write them manually.