Colorful Umbrellas - Umbrella Organizations

Does Your Festival or Event Need Its Own Website?

There are two different thoughts on this subject and they vary depending on the brand name recognition or reputation of a festival or event AND on the traffic going to the event organizer’s parent or umbrella – website.
The ultimate options are:
  1. A stand alone website for a festival or event that is put on by a group with no other purpose but that festival or event and all ancillary events related to the main event;
  2. An organization whose mission is to do X but uses a number of events to fundraise or support the mission and none of those events have a reputation bigger than the organization or overshadow the organization; and
  3. An organization, like #2, but the event’s reputation exceeds the identity of the host organization.
So let’s look at the best way to do this.
STAND ALONE FESTIVAL or EVENTS
A stand alone festival or event should have its own website. Hopefully the name is descriptive enough, including the destination, and the purpose is obvious either in the name or tagline. Search engine optimization (SEO) of the website should be easy enough to achieve. The greatest marketing efforts should be to obtain quality backlinks.
PARENT ORGANIZATION with CHILD EVENTS
In cases where the organization is well known and its festival and events are branded to support the group’s mission, keep the events under the parent or umbrella organization’s website. It’s important that the festival or events can be easily located in the website’s navigation. Keeping the event relevant to the mission in either the type of event or cleverness in the event title and brand colors, helps to tie everything together.
Each major event should have its own web page* under the parent or umbrella organization’s site, if sizable in the audience it draws. Again, if the SEO is done properly, this festival or event page should rank well in search results. Because it is appearing within the family’s website, it will be obvious that the event is organized or presented by XYZ agency.
Many who have heard me speak know I’m not a fan of square block monthly calendars used to promote festivals, events or activities. The challenge is that not enough space exists in this small space to truly sell a festival or event experience properly. Plus, oftentimes the calendar is targeted to more than one audience – internal vs. external, visitors vs. members, staff vs. residents. A single calendar cannot serve multiple masters well.
*Perhaps this detailed event page is clickable from a summary list of all events.
PARENT ORGANIZATION with MAJOR A FESTIVAL or EVENTS
It’s possible for a webmaster or web developer to develop a stand-alone website for a festival or event using an existing website. This is done by creating a sub-domain; it can save the cost of a new domain name, hosting, design, etc.
A sub-domain address looks like this:  festivalname.parentorganizationdomain.com. Google will see the sub-domain as a separate website. Don’t confuse this with a sub-directory: www.parentorganizationdomain.com/festivalname.
It’s important to note that it may take some time to get the SEO perfected so that the festival or event displays well for a Google search. If you’re going to go this direction, allow yourself and your event ample time to get seated in order to display organically. This should include backlinks.
Backlinks can be achieved in a number of ways.
  1. Continue to maintain an events or activities page on your parent or umbrella organization’s website. For a larger festival or event, provide summary details on that website and then link over to the festival or event’s sub-domain. If you do a number of events, perhaps only one will achieve that stand alone status with a sub-domain site. Remember to cross sell the smaller events housed on the parent or umbrella organization website from the sub-domain since it will be garnering lots of eyes. As a result, links will be flowing in both directions.
  2. Backlinks can be achieved by posting your event on these websites:
    • Local chamber of commerce – assuming you are a member
    • Tourism websites – providing the festival or event is relevant to visitors
    • Convention and visitors bureau (CVB) and state tourism websites – again providing relevant content
    • Community calendars – because the media is inundated with requests for coverage, a community calendar is often the mechanism they use to show support. Determine if you can sign up to add your own content or if administered by the media outlet.
  3. Remember to maintain a list of your backlinks and track them on a spreadsheet. You will need them later. These likely are also the same outlets you’ll send news releases.
  4. Ask your festival or event sponsors to also provide backlinks to your festival or event sub-domain or to your parent or umbrella organization’s events and activities page or dedicated (directory) webpage for a special festival or event. This should be an easy request to meet providing this page doesn’t showcase competing sponsors, such as two other local banks.
  5. If you send out news release using a paid distribution service to promote your festival or event, those can also provide backlinks. Don’t consider the cost of this service strictly for news coverage. The backlinks are value added.
  6. Seek out directory listings but realize they may not carry significant SEO juice. General directories will provide little value but those tied to a specific theme are more likely to reach a loyal fan base. For instance, directory listings for wine, beer, arts and crafts festivals fall into this category. When adding listings of this type, the content should be generic and timeless so it will remain accurate should someone forget to update the information. Not all directory listings will give your festival or event a backlink as some are set with “no follow” tags … no backlink ability. Some festival listings require you to be one of their members, as is the case with state association of festival and events, while others like EverFest.com have added the content for various festivals and events, some of which is outdated. One of Everfest.com’s website’s investment backers was Live Nation which was created by a merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster. Perhaps this site was built as a lead generator.

Because sub-domains are considered a stand-alone website, it can be designed with a new look relevant to the festival or event or it can retain the style of your existing parent or umbrella organization website. The navigation menu can be relevant only to the festival or event and/or the parent or umbrella organization. Again, take the opportunity to flow backlinks in both directions.

A FEW WORDS ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA
Above everything else, don’t believe that your event website answer lies strictly in having a festival or event Facebook page.
If the festival or event is well know, a Facebook page won’t hurt. Advertising rates on Facebook are fairly reasonable. Remember, though, that your ultimate goal is to drive traffic from your various marketing channels – social media, PR, marketing, ads, etc. – to your website or sub-domain.
I’ve never been one to fully trust Facebook. You never know until it’s too late that they’ve adjusted their algorithm or made some other change to your detriment. Then you’re left to figure out how to make it work. By having your own website or sub-domain, you can control your own destiny.
I offer this closing comment tied to the Calendars of Events that we incorporate into websites we design and develop for travel destinations, resorts and hotels, tourism attractions and leisure activities. We believe it’s important that all aspects of travel and tourism, especially festivals and events, showcase their experience – be it in photos, videos and key information – and that visitors have the ability to drill down for full event details with a map.
To learn more about event and festival management, check out “Secrets to Successful Events:  How to Organize, Promote and Manage Exceptional Events and Festivals.” For those with event planning experience, consider, “Secrets to Successful Events Resource Guide: 42+ Easy-to-Use Tools and Resources.” Both are written by internationally known author and speaker Lynn Fuhler and are available on Amazon and at major booksellers.