Kane Jamison joins us for another exciting episode 51 of Inbound Now TV!
Kane is the owner/founder of Hood Web Management and specializes in search engine optimization and high-quality link building.
In this episode we discuss how businesses can leverage offline events to gain inbound links (amongst other benefits) to help with SEO.
If you run local events and are not implementing the strategies that Kane lays out in this episode, please fix that!
If you aren’t running local events/meetups, Kane will tell you how you can and why you should.
David: So, who are you and what do you do?
Kane: Hey, David. My name is Kane Jamison. I’m the owner and founder of Hood Web Management. I do small and medium business online marketing, but, specifically, my specialty is search engine optimization and high- quality link building.
David: Okay. Cool. Cool. Welcome to the show, Kane. I’m glad to get you on here. I was watching a recent presentation by Will Reynolds at MozCon, and he mentioned you by name, pointed me to an article you wrote, which was called “The Complete Guide to Link Building with Local Events.” I thought it was a fantastic post, so I thought I would get you on here, and basically, pick your brain about exactly what the post is about and the key concepts from that. Sound good?
Kane: Yeah. Absolutely.
David: Awesome. Awesome. So, let’s see here. The post is all about why companies should host local events and how that ties in with an overarching SEO strategy. Why would a company want to be building links through local events? What are some of the main benefits there?
Kane: Sure. Let’s put aside the event for a second. When we think about link building, part of your goal is to match what your competitors are doing and part of your goal is to exceed what your competitors are doing. Most of your competitors probably aren’t doing events, and there’s a huge number of opportunities to get your event promoted on local websites, event websites, and enthusiast websites that aren’t even in your local area. There’s a good chance that none of your competitors have those links. So purely from a link building point of view, that’s what we’re focused on.
But from an event and just business point of view, this is a huge way to build your brand and get your name out there just by hosting these events. Whether you’re a solo-preneur or you’re a large brand like REI. They host lots of outdoor events teaching you to hike or climb or that sort of thing. There’s a huge range of things you can do with this strategy.
David: I got you. I got you. You also mentioned it’s an easy way to get links on otherwise difficult domains?
Kane: Yes. Just about every newspaper site, just about every television site, a lot of radio sites, all those types of websites are difficult places to get links. But, almost all of them have event calendars. So you can get a link from, in my case, the Seattle Times or Seattle PI or any other bigger, local places.
Another thing is, as an example, small local blogs for small businesses. They’ll publish upcoming events in the area. If you don’t have anything to announce or anything to send out there, it just sounds like a commercial. But when you’re announcing an event to these websites, that’s something they publish because it’s valuable for their readers.
David: Right. Right. It’s like a value ad there. You also mentioned doing this and hosting events will give you geo-relevant specific links. What exactly are geo-relevant links an why are they important to businesses that service a specific geographic area?
Kane: Just starting from a basic level, those local sites are where your local clientele are going to be. If you’re running a local business and most of your clients are close to you, there’s a better chance they’re going to see you on those websites. That’s just the basic level.
On a higher level, there’s a chance that Google looks at-search engines, excuse me-look at things like where the sites are located that link to you. I specifically reached out to Bill at SEO By the Sea to see if there were any specific patents that talked about the location of a website that is linking to your website and whether or not it affects it and he didn’t know of anything specifically that referred to it. But to me, the concept makes sense that if you’re getting links from websites that are near you, that’s going to make you look a lot more relevant or if somebody’s searching for a Seattle business as opposed to just a general one.
David: Right. Right. That would also help in terms of what is it? Google Places, right? Where you’re getting more and more local links? That’s kind of an indicator to Google that, “Hey, maybe we should serve this site above the competitors,” right?
Kane: Yeah, exactly. It’s a big focus for local, along with some of the other citations and things we talked about in the article. To me, getting links from local sites, and especially, you know, Google can tell that the Seattle Times is relevant to Seattle. All you have to do is sign into Google webmaster tools and there’s a big long list of words that Google thinks your [website] is talking about. If you’re getting links from those sites, I’d imagine there’s a broad correlation between the topics of the sites that are linking to you being more relevant to your site overall.
David: You mention a number of different types of events in the post that businesses can do. What are some that you’ve seen that have worked really well? What types of events can businesses actually put on and then submit to all these different sites and build links through?
Kane: The easy answer is “anything.” One of the examples I used in there was a knitting supply store. Just host a how to knit workshop. Even if the owner doesn’t know how to knit, host some local blogger that does know how to knit.
That’s the great thing about this is really, the only requirement is that an event page is listed on your website. You don’t have to be the speaker, necessarily. You don’t have to be the physical host or venue. You can interchange almost all of those and still have a successful event and still get the value of the strategy.
For me, for example, my personal speaking has been presentations to the local chamber of business, the Seattle SEO network, events like that. For me getting in front of business owners, those are great venues to do so.
Honestly, the one I mentioned before was REI hosting local events. They’ve got a passionate customer base membership that wants to learn more about hiking, biking, paddling, and all the other outdoorsy stuff they do. They’ve got probably one or two of these events going on per week at every one of their locations. That’s a couple of thousand events per year, at least, if my math is working correctly for me, across their entire website. All of these local store locations are now getting that local value in promotion as well.
David: You mentioned that when you do speaking gigs it’s at local chambers of commerce or other events. So you can use this strategy even if you’re not hosting the actual event, correct?
Kane: Exactly. So, the chamber of commerce example, most chambers of commerce charge an event fee and it’s $25 for members, $30 for non- members, something along those lines. What I’ve done for my events is I’ve got my events page on hoodwebmanagement.com/events. I’ve got a list of upcoming events, a list of past events, a little information and a blurb about where it will be, who it’s hosted by, what the topic is, and then I just link over to the Chamber of Commerce website as the event ticket seller, in a format like that.
I’m not the one hosting it. I’m not the venue; that’s a whole separate one. It’s being hosted at a local business center. But, all I am is the speaker, but I’m the one going out there and promoting it. So I choose to make my events page the primary page that’s getting linked to at all of these event sites.
David: Is this a one and done strategy? You put on one event and you submit it to all the local area sites? Or can you rinse and repeat?
Kane: It’s absolutely rinse and repeat. Let’s talk about it purely from a link value. The first time you get a link from a website is probably the most value. From there you continue to get value, but there’s a declining rate of return, so to say.
But, if there are still people finding your event every time it’s listed on that site, there’s still absolutely value to it. I mean, just going back to the strategy overall, it’s not just about SEO and link building. That’s just the angle I attacked it from. You still have to consider that if you’ve got links already from the Seattle Times, and now you’re getting new ones from your next event, there’s still people finding that on the business-to-business events calendar. It’s absolutely something you can continue doing. I believe you still get the ongoing value.
There are other things you can do to pull in more value each time, whether it’s changing venues or changing sponsors. With mine, for example, I’ve done the same presentation with one chamber of commerce, and then I’ve done it for another business organization. So I’ve gotten links from both of their sites now. For me, it’s a new audience. Same material in this case, but it’s something you can continue doing. I don’t think there’s any reason to stop doing it, especially if it’s good for building your brand, and you’re getting clients and customers from it.
David: Right. There’s definitely a ton of spillover benefits to hosting these events. It’s not just from a pure SEO place. If you’re trying to just put on an event and you don’t even show up just to build links, that’s not what we’re talking about here.
Kane: Exactly. From an inbound marketing approach, it’s huge for brand building. Just people seeing your brand. They don’t have to go to the event for them to recognize the name Kane Jamison as a speaker or even my company, Hood Web Management. It’s good for your sponsors and your venues, too. The fact that they see that there’s an event at this location and it’s hosted by the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce. That’s good branding for your partners as well. They’ll know that those organizations are putting on those events. There’s value going on everywhere in the whole strategy.
David: You list out some examples of just some places to get started submitting events to, like EventBrite and a couple others. But then you dive into something that I think is even more important. Those are using the advanced search queries to actually find stuff off the beaten path, let’s say.
Kane: Yes. Absolutely.
David: Can you explain some of those?
Kane: One of the things about this is I’m sure that your competitors, if they’re not hosting events, they’re not getting links from places like EventBrite, and these other domains that are just dedicated purely to events. But there’s a lot of people in your area that probably aren’t looking at these generic event sites to find something. They’re going to be looking at something that’s a lot more relevant to them. That might be a local newspaper event site.
So these advanced search queries, the focus here is finding stuff that is specific to your topic, your location and your audience. We’ve got a couple “submit an event,” “add an event,” “submit your event,” those types of queries in combination with your city, which is a great way to pair them.
Then, there’s other, more technical ones. I could probably list out 100 and I only put about 20 in the post. Thinking about all the different variations on how that might be listed on a site and just going through, and each time you do one of those searches, you probably pick up a couple more good domains.
The first event you do this for, it’s going to take a while. In fact, it’s probably a good activity for an intern or an associate with your company because there’s a lot of just manual plowing through in all these different searches and looking, going, “That’s probably a good website for us. That’s probably not a good website. This is good. That’s good.” Once you’ve built up that huge list, the second time around it’s going to take half as long to go through and submit the event to all of those locations you’ve already found.
Just to go back to what you said, I think these specific ones to your topic and to your city are going to be way more valuable because, one, they’re more relevant from a link value perspective, but also, there’s probably going to be real people finding your event through those ones. You can’t just stop at the generic event sites. You really have to dive in and go for the specific websites.
David: Those are the link submission side of the equation. You also talk about outreach. Are you basically talking about blogger outreach, or what’s the story there?
Kane: Blogger outreach is probably the most common one. It could be journalist outreach to get a bit more traditional or advanced. But, really, it’s just thinking about who is your audience, what are they doing that they might find out about your event.
Let’s say you’re doing an introduction to hiking class. I like this outdoor example, so I’m going to keep using it. I’m not going to go around just to the Seattle Times and get listed in their outdoor events because there’s probably not going to be too many people finding me on that calendar. But what I am going to do is find the Seattle hiking meet-up. I’m going to go find maybe the Seattle climbing meet-up and try to find some people that have those similar interests that would probably be interested in learning more about hiking and how to pack their backpack correctly, that sort of thing.
You’ve got to think about what those people are already doing and what they’re reading, especially what people in your area are reading, if there’s going to be something specific to your area. Just reaching out to that event host, maybe seeing if they want to be a sponsor or seeing if they’d like to tell their audience about it. You don’t necessarily have to get them involved. It just depends on who it is that you’re reaching out to and how you want to operate your event.
Just like anything in link building, the harder it is to do, the more value it probably has. That’s just how it tends to work when you’re doing this manual-type stuff. Those submissions are okay, but when you’re reaching out to those bloggers and website owners, the harder stuff that doesn’t have a submit form that you just click a button, that’s where a lot of value is going to be. Your competitors probably aren’t willing to do that.
David: On the flip side of basically hosting an event and going out and building links to that event page, have you done anything with growing inbound links by sponsoring other local events? That’s, I would say, a legitimate way of “buying” links, but you’re not, really. You’re adding value to that. Have you seen any traction there?
Kane: I haven’t done so much with it. Before I went to write this article, I was looking around for other people that had written about link building specifically for events. There were a couple shorter articles that didn’t go too in depth. The one thing I saw a lot of was “sponsor local events”. The concept being that if you are a marketing company, maybe sponsor something with the local university marketing group, something along those lines.
That’s great. It’s a good strategy and you can probably get a link from the local university’s website, which is a great reason that tactic is popular. But the reason I like this other tactic is you get a lot more links. A lot of times, they’re just as high quality, but there’s way more of them. It’s okay to pay for the sponsorship and stuff, but going above and beyond.
Somebody that’s already doing one of these sponsor an event type of things, if they were looking to add more value than just the one link from the organization, what I would think about doing is try to maybe provide a venue. One thing I didn’t talk about in the article so much is that almost all of these websites that have “submit an event” or “add an event”, they’ve also got a button that says “submit venue” or “add a venue” if there’s not one listed. All of these venues can get their name, address, phone number and website linked from almost all the same sites that all of these events are listed on.
If you’re sponsoring an event and you’ve got some office space or something like that that would be a good venue, I’d definitely take a look at doing that as well. In that case, just providing the venue is a way of sponsoring an event. You don’t have the cash layout to the group, necessarily. It’s just opening up your space to those people.
David: Setting up this whole event, doing the submissions to the different sites, reaching out to different bloggers, what do you typically see as the time line for a campaign like this? Should you be doing this a month out from the event or as soon as possible?
Kane: If you talk about the full event process, the first thing you’re doing is planning what you’re going to talk about or who’s going to be speaking, where it’s going to be hosted, and just in general, who the sponsor ,that sort of thing is. That sort of stuff, especially if you haven’t done it before, you’ll probably want to work on that a couple months out. You’re going to want at least a month or two from when you set the date to market the event, get it out there on calendars. I think most people tend to plan their meet-up calendars two to six weeks in advance. You want that much time to get in front of people.
Make sure you’ve got all your other event planning done before you start doing all this marketing stuff. The first time you go to your website and submit your event, you’ve got to know the time, you’ve got to know the place, you’ve got to know the location and you better have a compelling paragraph telling who’s speaking and what people are learning, and, if it’s a paid event, what people are going to get out of it. I’d give myself maybe six weeks, two months, the first time I did it. From there you can do it on your own.
The flip side is if you’re trying to do this for a conference or something, obviously, there’s probably more like a 12-month time line. It just depends on-trying to think of the word I want to use. Maybe not scale, but, you know, how much your audience needs to plan in advance is a big factor.
David: Right. Cool. After all that’s said and done, when the actual event is happening and you wrap up the post with this, making the most from the event. We’ve done all that stuff. We’ve gotten a lot of the SEO value from it. But can you talk about some of the things to actually pull in some marketing value from that, grow your list, etc.?
Kane: Yeah. I’m glad you’re bringing it up. A lot of the article was really focused on the promotion beforehand. Part of the reason is it’s hard to promote an event that’s already happened. A lot of the value is getting it out there before it happens, but there’s a ton of value that you can get during and after the event.
One thing I do during every one of my events is that usually they’re free events or at least I’m not getting paid for them. There might be a meal fee or something like that. One thing I’ll do is I’ll ask people, if you like this event, please reach out and connect with me on LinkedIn or Biznik and leave a testimonial for me, either a LinkedIn testimonial or one for my business on Google or Yelp.
People are happy to do it. You’re providing them really affordable value for their passion or their business. In this case, it’s the presentations I’m doing. They’re usually happy to leave that review or testimonial for me.
Another thing is I reached out to Jonathon Coleman, another SEO, at the time, anyways. I asked him what he normally does. He does a lot of conference speaking and those sort of events. I’m not as familiar with that. He mentioned marketing your slides or your presentations on SlideShare or things like that, and promoting it after the event.
To take this back to the beginning, you found out about my article through Will Reynolds’ presentation. If you go back and look at the slide on Will Reynolds’ presentation, there’s a Bit.ly link to the article that I wrote. It’s bit.ly/localMoz. With bit.ly links, you can add a plus sign to the end. You go to the bit.ly localMoz-plus link and you see when people clicked on it. There’s a peak right around July 20th or 25th, whenever MozCon was. Then it drops off during August.
Then, SEO Moz gave away the video for free on the blog. More people clicked on that bit.ly link when the video was released on the SEO Moz blog than they did in the month or two after the presentation actually happened. There’s a lot of value going on afterward, especially in something like SlideDeck or the information you’re putting on there existing after the event.
One thing I’ll always do is add the SlideDeck to my website and give people a link where they can find that because a lot of people ask to pass the information on to other people.
Then, there’s some other, smaller websites like lanyard.com, and MozCon used a specific one I can’t remember that do some event wrap- up. They’ll accumulate photos and videos and tweets from an event. You can kind of play with some of those and see if they’re effective for your event as well, for the wrap-up stuff afterward.
David: With any event, you can definitely repurpose that content into blog posts, into all kinds of stuff on your site. It’s kind of a win- win all around. That’s what I liked so much about the strategy. It’s really a holistic approach.
It’s not just like, “Oh, you’re going to get links.” You’re also going to build your domain authority. You’re going to get word out there about your business and then there’s the wrap-up stuff where you can use that as content for your site. It’s all around. Kudos on writing this post, Kane.
Kane: Thank you.
David: Kane, where can people find you online?
Kane: Hoodwebmanagement.com. That’s my primary website for my business. Finding me on Twitter and Google+, I spend a little more time there lately. I’m sure there will be links down below in the article or something for that sort of stuff. Reach out to me on Twitter, LinkedIn, or one of those. I’d love to talk more about events and link building.