James Moffat, head of event websites at LiveBuzz, shines a light on the smoke and mirrors surrounding SEO for websites.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) considerations have now reached the point where they risk distracting event organisers from what really matters regarding their show websites.
Most of the essential SEO work is now done as a matter of course when designing event sites. Everything else, in my opinion, is little more than fiddling at the fringe. The gains it can deliver are miniscule at best.
My advice to any organiser is to focus on – and put faith in – their content, rather than fretting about optimising their metadata.
Compelling content, delivered in a way which is tailored to the different devices on which a visitor may view it, is the name of the game now.
Despite this, a disproportionate amount of noise is still made about how organisers could do better with their SEO.
Reports on their show site’s ’failures’ are cleverly designed to spook organisers into fixing things that really don’t merit the time and effort.
Alt-tags on an image, anyone? Title tags on an href (hyperlink reference)? In terms of SEO, these are incremental improvements which are hardly going to move the dial in terms of website search popularity.
An organiser wanting their site to be 100 percent perfect in SEO terms is laudable. The theory behind SEO remains as valid as ever. However, SEO is now a very mature industry. Web designers know what they’re doing and the search algorithms are so advanced now as to render some of the smaller points of detail almost irrelevant.
Unfortunately, for many organisers, this remains a complex and confusing area and that’s why so many can become unhealthily obsessed with it.
Most search engine technology is actually now fairly forgiving about the fringe points which some SEO providers will tell you are a big deal. What they are far less forgiving about are the more real world considerations – such as the way that pop-up windows can frustrate and discourage an online visitor.
This is something I see time and time again as organisers enter the final few weeks before their event. The ’register now’ pop-up can wreak far more damage on your search engine ranking than a few missing link descriptions.
All of which brings us round to the user experience. I believe that the best events – in terms of their online promotion – are those that try to have a virtual conversation with their visitors. They’ll tailor their content so that it appears in the most appropriate way for each device type. They’ll make extensive use of social media. And they’ll write their content with a person in mind, not a Google algorithm.
The social media point is doubly important. Everyone knows that social media has a role to play in the marketing mix yet many organisers can forget how often it is used to help find an event in the first place. All that painstaking SEO work suddenly becomes less important if, say, half the first-time visitors to your site come through social media rather than a traditional search engine.
In summary, my advice to any event organiser looking to create a stand-out promotional site for their event is: