For larger enterprises, businesses, and educational institutions, there are a variety of options for promoting conferences, workshops, and other events. This page describes some of those options.
Using Existing Infrastructure
Most larger organizations have departmental categories or sub-pages within their larger website. Within these it’s possible to create informational pages to promote and facilitate events. Here’s an example: APSA 2012 Conference.
As you’ll see, this approach gets the job done, and by using a common header template it’s possible to have some consistent navigation within the various conference pages.
The conference information is encapsulated within the various layers of the University of Iowa website — with branding and navigation links to the Division, College, and University pages.
Benefits. There are some benefits found with nesting conference information within the University of Iowa website (in in this example):
- Brand. The more ad impressions the University of Iowa brand and name, the more aware people are of its presence. So, even if an event is somewhat unrelated to the academic mission or administrative function of the University, driving more traffic to the site helps.
- Consistency. Most institutions are seeking to create overall consistency of function and design with anything related to the institution. The University of Iowa has been undergoing a standardization transformation of their web presence and this helps create a consistent and professional public presentation of all content.
- Depth/Breadth. Adding more content to the University of Iowa website helps build the site’s overall repository of information, making it a bigger target for search results.
- Discoverability. The University of Iowa has high visibility and SEO ranking that took years to develop. So those performing a search for your conference may be more likely to find it. It should be noted that the SEO benefits of being on the University of Iowa website are overrated as is explained below.
- Simplicity. For those not proficient with web design, adding a few pages to an existing site is more simple than setting something up from scratch.
Drawbacks. There are some disadvantages to using an enterprise website as the location for conference information pages.
- Irrelevant Information. There’s also the drawback of having so much extra extraneous information that is really irrelevant to people traveling to town for the sole purpose of attending a conference. It would be more effective to have a simple focused advertisement for the institution, rather than so many cluttered and overwhelming links. Conference participants simply want to see the few links and resources relevant to them such as lodging, conference program, etc.
- Limited Design. Being limited to the narrow editable regions within more enterprise website templates can be very restrictive. Some content simply can’t be presented properly (such as tables or wide images).
A more focused, simple, and effective approach to providing event information online would be to create a dedicated website for the event. We need from a mindset that seeks to find the greatest service for those who are attending an event, and disregard what other personal benefits might be gained by hosting the event information pages on an institutional website.
Other than the possible search result benefit listed above, the other “benefits” listed are not benefits that are felt by conference participants. In fact, they are a disservice to the conference participants. They make the site more confusing and cluttered.
If we start with a clean slate, and come from a mindset that seeks to develop the best solution for the service of the event participants, we will arrive at something different.
A dedicated event website provides a clean, focused, and effective online portal and interface for those who will be attending an event as well as those presenting at an event.
Here are some examples:
- 2014.DrupalCorn.org – This is the event website for the Drupal web designers camp in Iowa. The event is hosted by multiple Universities, yet the site is not embedded in any university website. Instead, it’s a free-standing website.
- DesigningTheDigitalFuture.WordPress.com – This website is hosted free at WordPress.com.
- IowaHouseHotel.com – Although this isn’t an event, it’s a good example of how a dedicated website can be more effective than a site nested inside of another. Previously this website for the University affiliated lodging was contained within the University of Iowa website. It’s recently been launched as a free-standing website entirely focused on information and resources of interested to guests of the hotel.
- TheEventInformation.com – A perpetual pop-up website dedicated to upcoming events, one event at a time. This site costs $18 a year for the domain name (hosting is free). Obviously the drawback here is that as new events come along, the old event information will be archived. Links won’t be relevant in the future.
Discoverability: Addressing the SEO Misconception
One might assume that it’s better to have your content on the University of Iowa website given the high ratings and SEO credibility of the site. However, this just isn’t true.
A perfect example is TheEventInformation.com website. Only a few weeks after its creation, this site is now the #1 search result for a Google search on “construing brazil in the us” (without quotes).
Usually to get highest rankings you want your domain name to include keywords that might be searched. In this case, there are no keywords in the domain name.
Not only is TheEventInformation.com the #1 search result. It’s also in the #2, #3, #4, and #5 position. That’s out of 298,000 results.
From a Google perspective, a site that’s dedicated to a specific topic will have greater SEO value than the many generalist website that cover thousands of topics (a jack of all trades a master of none).