Event Marketing for Local SEO: Effective and Natural Link Building Tactics
It’s almost impossible to be a local business owner and not realize the power of digital marketing and SEO on your bottom line. While channels like word-of-mouth marketing are obviously powerful, it takes time, effort (and a bit of luck) to build up a loyal customer base through word of mouth alone. Getting visibility online is a great way to short-circuit this often slow process, and get new customers calling on a daily basis.
Of course, one of the largest parts of SEO is being able to acquire natural, powerful and authoritative backlinks to your website. Most business owners (and even some SEOs) balk at this step. It can be frustrating and difficult to get quality links for a small local business. However, today I’m going to talk about one strategy that I believe is a perfect fit for local link building – marketing your local event.
Event Marketing To Boost Your Local SEO
Hosting or sponsoring events in your local community is one of the best ways to gain exposure in the local press, and establish relationships with the community and other local business owners. And it provides an excuse to reach out to local and relevant niche publications online.
But enough of the generics, let’s dive into the details. Here is a step-by-step process for successfully leverage local events to benefit your SEO:
Step 1 – Pick an event type
Local events are usually about a few different topics. You should pick one that matches well with your business and interests. Some examples are:
- Charity fundraiser – The best way to raise money for a great cause, while also networking and gaining exposure for your web properties.
- Business Networking – Perfect for meeting new people in your industry… and great for getting niche blogs to mention you.
- Party/Celebration – Events like Block Parties are a bit more involved. But they are a great way to give back to your community, gain local press mentions, and also have a good time!
- Seminar/Educational – Giving information away for free is a well-known marketing tactic. So if you combine that with hosting an event/seminar, you get a perfect combination.
Step 2 – Set up Promotional Webpage/Website
The next step is to put together promotional materials on your company’s website. It should have all the relevant information for attendees and press. This is essentially a flyer, so take a peek at some event flyers via Google image search to get an idea.
You will also want to set up an email newsletter signup. These are free (up to 2,000 subscribers) from Mailchimp, and the sign-up forms are easily configured.
PRO TIP: Alternatively, you could create a separate microsite to host the content. However, if you do that, make sure to redirect it to your main site after the fact in order to gain the equity from its backlinks.
PRO TIP #2: You may choose to put internal links on the event page pointing back to your landing pages. This is a good idea, but you should hold off until after your event ends. Commercial anchor text links can draw the suspicion of press and other event attendees, who may sniff out your ulterior motives.
Step 3 – Compile a list of Prospects
This is where you “make your money”, or links, as it were. Getting the right prospects for your event promotion will make the difference between a well-attended, popular (in terms of sentiment AND backlinks) event, and a dud.
The key point to remember here is that you are going first after “publicity”. You want as many people to know about the event as possible, and that’s how you will frame your outreach emails and calls. This is very effective for getting exposure from 3rd parties – especially when the event is not commercial in nature.
Only after you get acceptance for mentions in these publications do you then see if they linked to you. And if not, ask nicely if they wouldn’t mind adding a link.
The types of event will matter greatly here, but the types of people you should reach out to are:
- Local newspapers – they love an angle for a story and are receptive to pitches.
- Local and niche blogs – Bloggers need content just like newspapers do (really, what’s the difference nowadays?)
- Event Calendars – This is a very underutilized method. Local blogs and sites have community calendars where they list local events, and often provide a link (and a map embed, too, which is great for Google Maps optimization). They will often add your event even if they don’t deem it worthy of a blog post.
- Industry Associations – If your event is within a specific niche, track down industry associations to see if they would be willing to post it to their sites or newsletters.
- Local businesses – Your contemporaries (and even your competitors) may be interested in attending or linking to your event – especially if it’s locally or niche relevant.
Step 4: Facebook Page + Ad Campaign
No matter how much prospecting you do, you won’t find everyone that’s relevant to your event. This is why running a little ad campaign, specifically with Facebook, is so powerful.
Facebook ads allow for incredible granularity in terms of geographical targeting, interest targeting, income levels (for fundraisers), etc.
Your specific targeting will obviously depend on your event, location, etc., but just remember that you want to be very selective. Your event has a specific audience that will be interested in it, so don’t blow your budget on irrelevant people.
This should be combined with a Facebook page that mimics your website in terms of look/feel/information. You can choose to send clicks to your website or your Facebook page. In either case, you should have a Facebook page set-up to accumulate likes and disseminate information about the event.
Step 5: Outreach
You’ve done a lot of work pulling together a big list of prospects that you will reach out to for “publicity” of your event, and now it’s time to reach out to them directly.
As mentioned above, your outreach emails should never focus on the links you want to get, as this should be secondary. Your main goal should be to reach as many people as possible and get your event well attended. After that, links will follow.
This idea should feed your outreach template. Here is a sample outreach e-mail that I used for a charity fundraising event:
My name is Michael Hayes and I’m working to promote a charity fundraising event we are hosting in [City], that’s meant to help the victims of [Recent Natural Disaster].
I saw that you are testing out a community calendar, I was curious whether you would consider adding the event.
All of the info can be found on our press release: http://www.example.com/event-press-release
Also, if it looks interesting to you, maybe it would make a nice subject for a blog post? That would of course be very much appreciated.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
It doesn’t have to be overly complicated. You get the idea.
PRO TIP: Use the phone! Most SEOs would rather not deal with humans if they don’t have to, so they rely on emailing alone. Take the time to pick up the phone and call people. It will usually pull much more weight than an email.
Step 6: Event Post-Mortem
I’m skipping over the actual event and assuming it was a successful, fun, and well-attended. After the fact, you should do a few things to make sure you’re squeezing the last bit of equity out of your efforts:
- Send out thank you e-mails to all your attendees. Thank them for their attendance, invite them to provide feedback, and tease any future events you might be planning.
- If you haven’t already done so, check all your press mentions to see if there are any un-linked mentions, craft a polite e-mail asking if they could kindly add a link.
- If you’ve used a microsite for the event, migrate it over to a landing page on your own site. This brings all the link equity over and benefits your SEO efforts.
- Finally, think critically about how the event went. How could it have been done better? What ROI did you achieve for your efforts? This will help plan any future events.
Events are really a perfect source for press-worthy, niche relevant and location relevant exposure. While there can be significant effort involved in them, they can have substantial benefits – not only on your popularity and recognition within an industry or locale, but also to your ongoing SEO efforts.
You should approach these with a primary focus on publicity, and a secondary supportive focus on backlinks, which will help your SEO. Furthermore, be critical of your efforts and ROI when analyzing the event in a post-mortem. You can learn much from the experience, and better prepare for any future initiatives.
You may also want to read: How to Master Local SEO Without Breaking A Sweat
How to Improve Your Link Profile for Local SEO
Michael Hayes is founder and CEO of Darby Hayes Consulting, a NYC based digital marketing agency. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can connect with him on Facebook here or tweet him @darbyhayesnyc
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