Leveraging organic search can be an effective way to promote an in-person event, but creating an optimized event page requires some extra SEO know-how. It takes a creative combination of keyword targeting, content optimization, technical SEO, and an understanding of Google’s location capabilities to maximize attendance through search.
Follow the steps in this article to make sure you’re crossing all your T’s when you’re building out an in-person event page.
Google Presents In-Person Events to Users in the Area
Google uses sophisticated location technology to present events to users who are relatively close by, for queries Google deems relevant to the event. Search engines can use a number of sources to determine a user’s location, such as a user’s device location, location history, home and/or work address, previous search activity, and IP address. When a searcher’s query includes a physical location, like for a local business or event, Google will tailor its results to those that it determines to be closest to the user’s current location (or to the city center, if the user is searching far outside of their current location). Even if a user does not specify a location in their search, Google may still present localized results to that user if the query is one that Google has determined likely has some local intent.
Search engines do some of the work for you by using their own data to help you reach local searchers. Now, it’s up to you to optimize your event page with the information Google needs to determine your location — and to decide whether your listing will appeal to those users.
Keyword Research for Event Pages
The first step to building an optimized event page is identifying a target keyword set. When it comes to keyword research for in-person event pages, it’s important to not only describe the event, but also to include location details wherever possible to help search engines match the listing with local searchers.
Using a keyword research tool, you’ll want to find one primary keyword and one or two supporting keywords, based on the data provided by the tool. There are dozens of keyword research tools to choose from. We recommend starting with Google Keyword Planner – a free keyword research feature included in Google Ads that all of us at UpBuild use regularly.
Once you’ve accessed Google Keyword Planner or other keyword research tool, you can start comparing terms that describe the event.
Here’s a scenario we’ll use as an example: Let’s say that the Connecticut Conservation Society is planning to hold a benefit golf tournament in Greenwich, CT to support their conservation efforts.
The most straightforward approach to finding ideal keywords to target is to start with a broad term, and add modifiers until the keyword is as specific as possible. For this example, “golf tournament” is a good base term. Most keyword research tools will provide suggestions to help with finding appropriate modifiers. So let’s look for our first modifier to zero in on our target audience.
As you start gathering keyword data, keep an eye on the most important metrics:
Average monthly searches – An estimation of how frequently the term is searched for by users each month. The higher, the better.
Competition – Provides an idea of how many websites and pages across the web are competing for the term. Many keyword research tools use a “competition score” metric ranging from 0-1. Lower competition means it will be easier to rank for the term.
Remember that relevance is the most important consideration above all else. It doesn’t matter how high-traffic or low-competition a term is if it doesn’t actually apply to the event or your target audience.
With that in mind, we find the term “charity golf tournament” to be a good keyword to build around. The term has a solid average for monthly searches, low competition, and accurately describes the event.
However, we still need to narrow it down to be more specific about its location. Ranking nationally for this term won’t do much good, since people from far away regions are not likely to attend (and it would be difficult for a small local event to rank nationally for this sort of term). Many SEOs hit a wall here because they’re likely to see zeroes across the board in their keyword research tool once they try to go beyond this level of specificity.
So, this is where we start combining keywords. Hyper-local keywords often do not have enough search volume to show up in keyword research tools, but we can look at modifiers to make some educated guesses as to the more specific terms that might make sense to target at a local level.
To do this, we can take the modifier, “charity”, and find a way to combine it with a location. For our example, “connecticut” is a good place to start. We can also try “new england” to see how they compare.
As you can see in the results below, “connecticut” proves to be a better location modifier with low competition and a solid rate of average monthly searches.
Now we have the keyword “connecticut charity golf tournament”.
We could stop here, but looking at the keyword we have, we can still modify it to be more specific. Our “connecticut charity” modifier is still somewhat ambiguous, as there are several different types of charities. We should add one more modifier to make this keyword air tight. Let’s jump back into Keyword Planner to see what we can dig up.
We can start with the full modifier that we have so far, “connecticut charity”, to see if the tool has any suggestions we can work with.
Not much there that is relevant to our event. So, we’ll once again break up the modifiers to see if we can add a term to specify the type of charity that is hosting the golf tournament. Let’s try “charity” again.
Our example organization hosting the event is a conservation organization, so we will look for a term around that. Sticking with our “charity” modifier, we can try “conservation charity” and see what we find.
The results below show that while “conservation charity” does have some search interest, “environmental charities,” although it’s a bit more competitive, is a much more commonly searched term. Note that plurality (i.e. “charity” vs. “charities”) is not typically a factor when it comes to keyword metrics. When we look up “environmental charity” in the keyword tool, we get identical results.
Now we have a winner: “connecticut environmental charity golf tournament”.
This phrase combines multiple keywords with healthy search interest and is highly relevant to our target audience. Making this phrase and its component modifiers our overall target will maximize the chances of searchers not only clicking through to the page from search engines, but continuing on to register for the event. Note that we don’t include the town or city of the event in this catch-all key phrase; you can do so, if you like, but since there are plenty of other opportunities to specify location information in the site copy and structured data, we’re less concerned about specifically targeting it in e.g. meta tags and page headings.
Our goal isn’t necessarily to only rank for “connecticut environmental charity golf tournament” — it’s to find a target search term that will also give us a “halo effect” of other long-tail terms to drive traffic to the page. Targeting “connecticut environmental charity golf tournament” will target related queries like “connecticut charity golf tournament,” “connecticut golf tournament,” etc. It will also allow the site to rank for terms like “environmental charity golf tournament” when the searcher doesn’t specify “connecticut” but Google determines that they’re still looking for locally-focused results.
Repeat this process as many times as is necessary, finding a keyword set consisting of relevant terms and modifier combinations to rank for relevant local traffic, based on what you can see from larger keyword trends. Typically, a keyword set should include one primary keyword and one or two supporting keywords. When finding supporting keywords, look for terms that differ from the primary keyword to create a wider “net” that captures more variations of keywords that users may be searching. See what synonyms you can find for each word we used in the target keyword phrase above. If, by chance, you find a better combination in terms of search interest and accuracy in describing the event, feel free to make that the primary keyword and move the original phrase to a supporting role.
Optimized Page Content for Event Pages
Now that we have our target keyword set, we need to strategically place those keywords on the page itself. That does not mean we want to load the page with our keywords to the point that the text doesn’t make sense.
With multi-term keyword phrases like we’re recommending, it’s important to note that you don’t have to use the whole phrase every time: in addition to “Connecticut environmental charity golf tournament,” using phrases like “golf tournament,” “environmental charity,” and “charity golf tournament” in page copy will contribute to our targeting of that phrase and be easier and more natural to work into the content. Try to use your highest-volume, most important keyword phrases in important HTML elements like the <title> tag and heading tags, while keeping an eye on marketing content and readability.
In addition to keyword use in the title tag and heading tags, the event page should include the following:
- A meta description with an enticing call to action
- An optimized URL that includes at least part of the primary keyword
- The official name of the event
- Date and time
- The physical address of the venue including city, state, and zip code
- Directions to the event (a Google Maps widget works well here)
- A detailed description or schedule of the event
- Ticket information
- A prominent call to action for ticket sales or registration
- Relevant images
- Links to social media pages about the event
- Relevant contact information
Add Structured Data for Rich Results
Google’s rich results for events are a featured section of the search results page that highlight the most relevant events to a searcher’s query. Rich results for events offer a concise snapshot of the most important information, giving those listings a big advantage over the standard results you would see on the search results page.
To make your event page eligible for rich results, you must add Event markup from the Schema.org structured data library to the page. Google and other search engines use structure data to pull key information such as the event location, time, and date. Event markup also gives you additional opportunities to include target keywords using the “name” and “description” properties.
It’s important to provide search engines with as much information as possible through structured data to help them match your event page with relevant search queries in that area. Read through Google’s guidelines on best practices for Event markup for rich results to ensure you’ve included all required properties in your code. You can test your code using Google’s Rich Results Test to see if your page is eligible for rich results.
Give the Event Page Time to Gain Momentum
Using organic SEO to drive qualified organic traffic to your event page takes time. Getting an early start on publishing the page will give it more time to naturally accumulate search traffic and user engagement. We recommend publishing your event page at least 90-180 days prior to the event date.
If your event page proves to be well-optimized and intriguing to searchers, search engines will likely promote the event in rich results and higher rankings in the SERPs. Publishing your event page well before the event date will give you the opportunity to monitor its performance and make adjustments if necessary.
Publishing your event page early also gives potential attendees the advanced notice they need to make plans around the event date.
Promote the Event on Other Channels
Though organic search can be an excellent generator for attendance at your event, don’t neglect other powerful channels such as email, social media, paid advertisements, and even word of mouth. These additional channels will work to your advantage, raising awareness about the event, and sending more qualified traffic to your event page.
Manage Expired Event Pages
Having a plan for handling expired event pages is an important part of maintaining good overall health for your website. Expired content creates a poor user experience, which can impact the site’s bounce rates. Additionally, indexable event pages that have already passed use up crawl budget that would be better spent on more valuable pages.
While you don’t want to leave expired event page content lingering on your site, with the right strategy you can still retain some of the SEO progress you made while the page was relevant.
Here are the most common scenarios for expired event page content and best practices for handling them:
Recurring Event Pages
For recurring event pages, refresh the content at the same URL. Prioritize updating the page after the event has passed with dates and details for the next event. Be sure to update the page’s structured data markup as well. Keeping the same URL will allow you to keep building on the page’s organic search performance, as long as you continue to update the page with optimized, valuable content.
Expired Event Pages With High Traffic or Ranking Signals
If your event page reported a significant number of sessions from organic search, social media, or referrals from other websites, or if the page has picked up some external links, 301 redirecting the expired event page to a similar page may allow you to retain some of those gains even after the event has passed.
It’s important to understand that in order to benefit from this strategy, the expired content must be redirected to an equally relevant page. Google’s John Mueller explains that if a page is 301 redirected to a page that does not serve as a “clear replacement”, then that page will be treated as a soft 404 error by Google. If there is no viably equivalent page to redirect the expired event page to, setting up a 410 response code is a better option (see the next section).
Another word of caution if you’re 301 redirecting an expired event page to another page is to avoid redirecting the page to another page that could also be redirected at some point. If you’re not careful about this, you’ll create redirect chains that will negatively affect your site’s SEO health.
A filtered subcategory page that lists similar events in the same geographic vicinity as the expired event is a great 301 redirect location for expired event pages.
Expired Low-Value Event Pages
If the expired event page didn’t manage to pick up any ranking signals such as external links and didn’t bring in much organic traffic, or if there simply is no suitable page to redirect it to, then it’s safe to use a 410 response code.
A 410 response code tells search engines and users that the page has been permanently removed. Assigning a 410 code to an expired event page is recommended over the similar 404 response code because, as John Mueller explains, pages assigned with 404s tend to take a bit longer to be removed from Google’s index.
Once the 410 code is implemented on the expired page, users will land on a 410 page that tells them that the original event page no longer exists. The 410 landing page should be customized to provide links to alternative events that may interest them.
Fine Tune Your Strategy
Event page optimization is a challenge! You might not nail it on the first try, but measurement tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console allow you to take a retrospective look at the strengths and weaknesses of your organic SEO strategy after the event has passed. Apply these lessons over time to keep your event program growing.