In the virtual marketplace that is the Internet, how bright is the “signage” for your programs and events? Does your site pop up on the first page of Google searches, or is it buried in the equivalent of the Sunday newspaper classifieds?
For many with a very specific, established customer base, having a search-engine appreciated site isn’t mission critical. For those competing for customers with each and every event, search engine success can dictate the program’s success.
Be warned, however, that becoming a search engine darling is difficult, and it’s only possible with access to your web content coupled with expertise, time and effort.
If you can edit or populate your site through a content management system (CMS) – or can send content to someone else with the CMS keys (your webmaster or IT person, for instance) – then you are in business. Those without full access but customers of ABC Signup can impact search results with the content they post to their event pages. The basic challenge is to create fresh, quality content that draws interest and establishes you, your service or your organization as an authority on that subject matter.
This applies to your webpage content, your headings, your urls (the actual web page address, e.g., http://www.abcsignup.com) and even the (alt) tags you can tie to your site’s images. This “on-page SEO” (Search Engine Optimization) can get fairly technical (check out Search Engine Land’s periodic table of SEO ranking factors) – involving some factors you may have no control over (e.g., page loading speed, url architecture, site maps) – so this blog will focus on a few areas you can influence.
First and foremost, fill your site (or your program’s real estate on the site) with concise, compelling and relevant content. Explain what you do and how it will benefit the customer in terms they will understand and use to search for your services. Find a balance between clever headlines or copy and narrative that tells exactly what it is. Your wonderful prose that reads so well – but lacks key words that define your offering – might never reach your audience because it doesn’t appear in search results.
In ABC Signup's registration system, use the event page tools to describe your offering, again imagining how a prospect would search for you. If you seek new customers for your offering, don’t use insider lingo for a program heading, e.g., “Children’s Hospital: Parenting 101,” when a more direct title – such as “Parenting Tips for Your Newborn” – will likely generate better search results while providing more information to the prospect.
Identify and leverage your “keywords,” the terms you believe are most associated with your offering and therefore most likely to be used in search engines. For ABC Signup, those keywords begin with “registration software” and “online registration software,” but quickly expand to more specific, longer (sometimes called “long tail”) phrases such as “registration software for continuing education programs” or “event management registration software.”
In the example above, Children’s Hospital might work into their website copy keywords such as “parenting workshops in [locale],” “community health education programs,” or “free parenting classes.” As you build content that includes these keywords, search engines indexing your pages will begin to take note, and your search results for those words will gradually climb. Don’t get too greedy with keywords, however, as “keyword stuffing” (deliberately writing copy with an over-abundance of keywords) not only makes for lousy content, it also can post a red flag with search engines. They incorporate algorithms that look for a certain range of “keyword density” (how often keywords are used in each section of content), and if you exceed the limit, your site’s search results can plummet.
Continue to generate new material. Search engines “crawl” your site frequently – as in a matter of days, not weeks – so fresh content tells them you are engaged and actively producing information related to your subject. This is likely reason number one that so many sites now incorporate blogs (companies with blogs get 55% more web traffic). If blogs or white papers or case studies are out of your purview, consider posting an event wrap-up or an upcoming event preview as new content between events. Post images from a prior event. Add customer testimonials. And, when appropriate, update your existing copy.
Pursue relevant and influential links. One means of creating that new content suggested above is writing about – and linking to – content from respected, third party websites that provide information relevant to your program or events. Links to other sites expand your footprint and further establish you as subject matter authority. Better yet, try to attain “backlinks,” which are links from third party sites back to your site. Write a guest article or blog for another site – perhaps an association or trade group aligned with your product or service. Comment on a blog or article and include a link to your site. Links are “off-page SEO” tactics that are extremely valuable boosters to your page rankings in search results.
Work the social media. No matter what your opinion or involvement in social media, what matters right now is that many of your prospects and customers are engaged in it. If you want to use that medium to gain their attention, you need to play in that sandbox. Aside from blogging, use Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn to expand your web presence and share information about your offerings. Setting up accounts is simple, as is using the tools to post information. If you are an ABC Signup customer, you can place the various social media buttons or links on your event pages for instant sharing.
Those five tips cover basic steps a person with limited experience (and perhaps limited technical tools) can take to improve Internet marketing. If you want to get a more comprehensive overview about SEO, check out one of the Internet’s definitive sites on the topic. Another good resource is this white paper from Hubspot, The Essential Step-By-Step Guide to Internet Marketing.
If you would like to know more about SEO capabilities with ABC Signup, or just want to know more about our registration software, please e-mail or call us (866.791.8268x0). If you have your own tips for improving search results for programs and events, please post them below in the Comments section.