Increasingly, people are using search engines as their first source of information. Nearly half (49%) of all US Internet users use search engines on a typical day, according to a Pew Internet study.
But for promoting events, search engine optimization (SEO) may not be the first marketing channel that comes to mind—and rightly so. SEO campaigns can take months to prove effective, and most events, unless they are annual or seasonal, do not have the time to build a successful SEO strategy.
On the other hand, emailing event information to a mailing list is a good method of online promotion—but with increased marketing clutter in the inbox and more consumers using social media for communication than ever before, you stand a good chance of getting lost in the noise.
Moreover, regional event coordinators may not even turn to online promotions at all, assuming their online audience is too scattered, and so they opt to instead promote their event via local or grassroots efforts only.
But paid-search marketing, with its ability to target geographically, is a great means of increasing exposure for local events, whether fundraisers, conferences, concerts, or anything else.
When running a paid-search campaign as part of your event promotion, consider the following tips:
1. Create an informative and engaging landing page
Be sure to answer the "who, what, where, when, and why" questions instantly when someone arrives on your site. And if there's registration for your event, make it as easy as possible for people to complete the form.
If you have taken the time to develop a few good blogger relationships, consider leveraging them for your event promotions. Bloggers are typically on the lookout for interesting and relevant topics to talk about (read: link to). If you have a page dedicated to your event on your site, you'll give friendly bloggers an opportunity to inform their readers by linking to the event.
2. Emphasize verbs and dates in the ad copy
Use phrases to stress the immediate call to action, "Register to Vote Today," or to invite searchers to participate in the cause, "Help Fight Cancer." Include the dates of the event to create a sense of urgency.
For example, for one of our B2C clients, ads with action-oriented copy had a 150% higher clickthrough rate than ads promoting the event without a verb emphasis.
3. Speak to those who may realistically attend by geo-targeting your message
Use attendee data from previous years to make informed decisions on how broadly (or narrowly) to target. If attendees come almost exclusively from Austin, target the Austin metro only. If attendees are likely to travel from neighboring cities, you may want to target the entire state to increase registrations.
Also, put the city name in the ad copy if you're using a broad geographic area. Some people will come to Austin from Houston for an event, but some might not. Being clear in the ad copy will save you money and save some of your supporters frustration. Don't forget to include the city name in your search terms, as well.
In any case, if you target the entire United States, you will probably exhaust your budget on people who may be interested in your event but aren't going to fly across the country to participate.
4. Don't expand your keyword list too much
Since you are already geo-targeting your paid-search campaign, there is no need to also create long-tailed keywords, or you will end up with almost no traffic to your campaign.
Bid on words that make sense for your event, and try bidding on some general keywords. For example, for a 10K event, try the keywords "run," "walk," or "10K." Just make sure to constantly watch your budget.
5. Decide how long to run your campaign
Data from previous years is extremely beneficial. Do the bulk of your attendees begin registering six months or one month in advance? Coordinate your paid search efforts to coincide with such patterns.
6. Google Quality Score is critical
As you probably don't have time to establish a history with the campaign, having a Google AdWords account with an establish history and high Quality Score is important if you want to generate material traffic.
7. Coordinate with other marketing channels
Marketing an event with paid search can be particularly powerful when combined with other marketing channels, such as PR or DRTV. The combined benefit is often much greater than the sum of the parts.
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Marketing events with paid search campaigns can be a great source for additional traffic and, with these tips, can also be an efficient promotion channel.
After your event, do turn off your search campaign—but don't abandon your landing page. Keep it fresh to attract future attendees. Consider updating your landing page to showcase attendee testimonials and pictures, and promote any future events. You can also post links to help visitors find related events.