I recently Googled a number of companies that create mobile guides for meetings and conferences while I was doing research for an upcoming feature for. There were several apps I was looking for that didn’t come up on the first page of my Google search. I kept digging until I found what I needed. But really, how many of you take the time to scroll down to the second, third, or fourth page of a Google search? If you have to dig deep, how does that make you feel as a potential customer? I was amazed that technology companies didn’t know better.
Go ahead, Google your organization, event, or a new vendor you’re considering. If its Web site isn’t coming up at the top of your Google search (and I don’t mean as a paid or sponsored listing), you’ve got your work cut out for you. Your Web site is your window to the world, and Google is the search engine that pulls back the curtains. Why is it so important in the meetings industry to use search engine optimization (SEO) for your organization, your event (if it needs to be marketed), or your services?
There’s no stronger testimonial to your business or event than your Web site. In an age when most businesses operate with any number of remote offices, it’s your virtual bricks and mortar. Make sure it’s credible, deeply layered, and updated regularly.
Undoubtedly, some of those mobile apps companies I was searching for are so new that their Web sites haven’t been built out properly. Their Web sites—and yours—need to have the name of the organization on key public pages. Experts say Google makes changes to its primary search algorithm an average of once a day. As our e-media guru at our parent company Penton Media, Dean Muscio, says, “Google changes its secret sauce regularly. But if your Web site is about dogs, the whole page has to be about dogs. You have to litter [no pun intended] your Web site with your company name.”
Nowadays, many organizations, particularly consumer-focused companies, rely more and more on their Facebook or Twitter accounts as their public face. Those are important tactics to extending your brand and to connecting with customers and attendees, but in the business-to-business world, it’s not enough. In the meetings and conventions industry, your Web site is still your most important communications and marketing vehicle. Social-media sites are critical distribution channels and traffic drivers, particularly with younger generations, but remember that you need to reach multiple age groups and audiences. I know people, even 20-somethings (oh my!) who don’t use Facebook because of privacy concerns.
At meetingsnet.com, the Web portal for our magazines and Web sites, 83 percent of our visitors come from typed or bookmarked referrers, which means that most visitors are either typing our address manually or linking to us from a newsletter or e-mail. But 8.5 percent come from Google and 1 percent from Facebook. I’d like to think MeetingsNet is becoming a household word, but in reality those Google and Facebook referrals will continue to grow.
By the way, I just typed in the key words “meeting planning” and “meeting planner” in my Google search. MeetingsNet came up in the top three in each case (ahead of our publishing competition.) I think our Web site goes deep, but it too can go deeper. SEO is a process, not an endpoint, a steady paddle against the flood of information being interpreted and arranged by Google’s search technology. Get noticed, stay relevant, and make SEO a priority.