Applying structured data to virtual event listings has been one of the keys to unlocking SEO success for some time now. Marking up your venues, places and events with the information that helps search engines to better crawl, organise, and display your content.
For example, when you see a rich information panel for a venue in a Google search result, this is because of correctly applied structured data. Alongside links to the organisation’s website, contact and social information you might find their virtual event listings, this is because their website is marking up their event data so that search engines can recognise what the event is called, where it is taking place and when it is happening.
Working with developers to apply structured data to your website will allow your events to appear in more places automatically. The standards for data mark up, or schemas, are available on Schema.org. The more data mark up you can apply, the more chances you are giving yourselves to appear in search results. For example, if you mark a stage performance as ‘TheaterEvent’ (schemas are written in American English, but it isn’t visible to the front end) then search engines can differentiate this event from a concert or exhibition, thus improving search results and helping you achieve better organic results.
Very early on in the UK coronavirus lockdown, Google issued a new schema for online or virtual events which distinguished these events from those taking place in physical venues. This is an important update as it allows you to maintain the integrity of your data mark up instead of leaving a blank or misleading venue field which might hinder your organic results.
We have applied this new event type to Culture Hosts, our integrated online listings platform which powers a range of Destination Management Organisation websites and what’s on websites including our own consumer-facing website creativetourist.com. The main source of traffic on creativetourist.com is organic, as well as helping audiences discover things to do in Manchester and the North of England, the website is really our shop window for using structured data along with all the other SEO tricks to draw in this traffic.
Organic traffic is one of the most important channels for a venue, organisation or destination management website. Getting yourself in search results for what people are actually looking for is far more effective than more invasive channels like social media or display advertising. It is because of organic traffic that creativetourist.com is one of the most effective marketing channels for arts and culture in the North.
How can online events from relatively small cultural organisations compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney+? It’s too early to tell, and we certainly would not expect a considerable upturn in organic traffic during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, but now that there is a proper structure available for online events, it is important to use it.
Recent events have given everyone a taste of life without culture in physical venues and it has certainly brought to our attention that this, for some, isn’t just a temporary reality. Perhaps one outcome of this will be more consideration for the elderly, disabled and long-term sick who cannot attend events in person. This could be the moment where more culture goes online for the widest possible audience to enjoy.
If it is, make sure the search engines can find you.