Here’s the truth about search engine optimization: Great websites won’t help fill your races if no one can find them. Search engine optimization (or, SEO, as the cool kids say) is all about making sure that search engines like Google know what your website is about so they can direct the right audiences there.
Your website is one of your best marketing tools, so you’ll want to ensure it’s optimized for SEO. We chatted with Robert Duncan, the whiz behind ACTIVE’s endurance websites, to learn the seven essential, digital hacks all race directors should know.
1. Know your keywords (or key phrases). What’s a keyword? It’s the word someone looking for your event would search to find your event website. So, it might be “5K,” or “fun run,” or even, “5K in Dallas,” if you want to get more specific.
Before deciding on a keyword, do a bit of research to find the right one. Use the Keyword Planner in Google Adwords for a free way to easily see the popularity of different search terms. (Log into Adwords using your Google information, then under “keywords,” search keywords. Don’t worry about going further into the paid portion Adwords.)
2. Go small or go home. Conventional wisdom would dictate that you want keywords which are very popular, and, for some events, that’s a very good strategy. For smaller events, sometimes it’s better to go with a more specific and less popular keyword combination so there’s less competition with other events using the same keyword. So, “5K” might turn into “charity 5K in Dallas.”
3. Keep that keyword on your homepage. The first page of your website should feature your keyword at least twice. Mention your keyword as high as you can on the page and weave it organically through the rest of the copy. To make the sentences sound natural, write with the keywords in mind, rather than inserting them later.
Plus, if your event takes place in a small town, you can still add a location to your keyword, just pick the closest large city.
4. Spread the keyword wealth. Now that you have your keyword on your homepage, be sure that it’s in the page title and sprinkled throughout the page content. If you’ve got multiple pages to your website, throw it on those pages as well.
5. Stay up to date on your keywords. Once your keywords are distributed throughout your site, don’t forget about them. Research your keywords on a regular basis to monitor changes in how people are searching for them. For example, your keyword “5K in Dallas” might change to “Dallas 5K” at some point. Check in with Adwords about once a month to stay in the know.
6. Be smart about image file names. Great images on your site are a must, but it’s not enough to just upload them. You’ll want to include your keywords in the file name and in the alt tags. This will tell Google what the image is about and help it show up in Google Images searches.
7. Optimize your page description (a.k.a. meta description). This is the little bit of text that will appear in Google under the title of your website. Keep it to about 150 characters and be sure your keyword is in it. Basically, you want a snappy description of what registrants can expect from your website.
There’s more to SEO, so we wrote a free guide you can download now for even more hacks.