SES and SMX both fail at it... Is SEO for conference sites really this hard?

Conference SEO - the practice of doing SEO for a site devoted to running a yearly conference. Applies to other regular events too I suppose, not just conferences. Turns out even the masters of SEO can't get this one right - see how a search for either SES london or SMX advanced returns the page about last years event? If I was slightly dumber I might have turned up on the wrong dates:

Google search for SES London

SES Google search

Google search for SMX Advanced

SMX Google Search

I think it's a pretty bad example to be showing off and gives the sites a bit of bad rep in my eyes. After all, you wouldn't attend a web-design conference where the website looked like this would you?! (warning - train sounds may start playing uncontrollably if you visit that site).

##How To Do SEO For Conference Sites

Now, designing a site architecture for a conference site (or site with a regular event) isn't straightforward but equally it's not rocket science. The best way of doing it is not to create new pages for each event but instead to have one standard page, the content of which changes each year. Like this:

SMX Advanced

SES London

Then to shift the old content onto a new URL once the conference has finished like this:

SMX Advanced 07

SES London 07

This means that your root page about the event gets all the links each year, the page becomes old and established and you simply refresh the content plenty of time before the event. This should ensure that the correct page ranks. This is the approach taken by both SMX and SES however and it's still not working. Why is that?

The reason it's not working in this case is that in fact the 07 pages have strong internal linking throughout both the SMX and SES sites. They also have a fair number of external links which makes me think that the 07 pages were created very shortly after the event (and hence everyone who blogged about it afterwards linked to the 07 page). I would recommend not creating the 07 page and moving the content until a few weeks after the event so that everyone who wants to talk about their experience still links to the root event page. This way the 07 pages should never gain enough weight to out-rank the main event page.

If all of this doesn't work then there's still plenty you can do such as hiding the pages behind robots.txt, editing the title tag of the 07 pages to make them less well optimised, using nofollow on internal links or even contacting people who link to the 07 page and asking them to link to the root page as well/instead! A last ditch effort would be to 301 the 07 pages onto the root page and move the 07 content onto a 'past events' page. All of these approaches though decrease the user experience so I would recommend looking at the internal linking as a priority and seeing how far that gets you.

I think the key takeaway from this post is to not forget about your brand searches. Even though you might own the top spots for a particular search always pay attention to which pages are taking those top spots and if they're not directly relevant then do something about it!

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