live event marketing strategies with aol’s simon heseltine

AOL/Huffington Post’s Simon Heseltine Guest Speaking at DragonSearch – Part 2

Crafting an effective event marketing strategy is an involved process; planning the event, working out cross promotional arrangements with sponsors, targeting and engaging with the attendees, widening the reach to other relevant audiences, etc. It all takes time. All of the ”busy work” that encompasses marketing an event can create time constraints making it difficult to find the bandwidth to think about original ways to promote and cover the event.

DragonSearch’s guest speaker, Simon Heseltine, Director of SEO at AOL, shared some of his experiences and tactics with his awesome presentation that covered event marketing strategies, mobile usage stats and trends based on their “7 Shades of Mobile” research study, and AOL’s efforts to understand “the perfect comment.”

Simon Heseltine presentation about digital marketing at DragonSearch.

We shared more about Simon’s presentation at DragonSearch in the following post:

HuffPost Case Study on the State of the Union

Get Content Ready Before the Event

Simon’s vast experience with event promotion has lead him to create highly effective methods. One of the methods is to prepare content ahead of time for events.

News organizations get access to content prior to major events, like President Obama’s State of the Union.  All news organization, including AOL, had the President’s speech before it aired. Everyone had the same content. However, AOL/Huffington Post decided to take a different approach and focused on their audience with the goal of getting more engagement. Simon stressed that taking the time, even if it is brief, to step back and brainstorm creative marketing ideas can have a big impact on a campaign.

So they took the speech and they parsed out the parts in which they thought their audience would be most interested. As soon as the president said the words, they posted it to their Facebook page.

As the speech was in progress, people were following it on TV and online; they had their tablets and phones with them and were interacting with others about what was being said. As more and more people were liking and sharing Huffington’s posts, they were showing up in their friends’ newsfeeds and as a result more and more people started seeing and sharing them.


Screenshot of HuffPost’s Facebook post during the State of the Union speech that got the most engagement.

This Huffington Post Facebook post during the State of the Union speech got the most engagement.

By the end of the evening, Huffington Post’s unique approach helped them increase their share of voice:


Post Event Marketing Begins Before the Event

With event driven marketing you always need to be thinking about what happens after the event.

When Simon worked at MMA Fighting, knowing that after a fight people will be searching for the winner, they also prepared and had content ready for each team prior to the event. The strategy was to prepare the results pages two weeks in advance of the event which made them able to optimize and build links to those pages. This would help build up value for these pages so when people would search for the results the day of the event, they were already showing up in the SERP’s.  For most events they often ranked number one. They usually received 200,000 to 500,000 clicks within two hours of the event, typically from when the fight started to about an hour after it ended.

Event Templates

When planning your event marketing strategies, Simon explained how powerful it is to look at events in terms of patterns. You can build event planning templates around these patterns by thinking about the type of content you are promoting and audience behavior for finding the information they are looking for.

There are different events that in essence are very similar types of events, like for example murders and affairs. People are always looking up the names of the people involved.

Simon and his team realized that whenever there was an affair, people would look for:

  • the person having an affair
  • the person with which they were having the affair
  • the spouse of the person having the affair
  • photos of the spouse and the person with which the offending celebrity was having an affair so they can compare the two!

The team knew that whenever an affair happened they had to get pictures ready so people could find them.

Don’t Forget to Optimize Your Content

When content is created around these types of events it is critically important to perform basic SEO. For example, if you are a news content site and there has been a high-profile murder, you will want to:

  • include the named entities in the title, in the first paragraph, and with the pictures
  • include the mode of death

Variations in a name or how someone is most commonly referred to makes a difference.  Simon brought up Jeremy Lin as an example and pointed out that if you search for Jeremy Lin you’ll see that the first two pages in the search results all include his full name in the title. If you are not including the name of the person in the content you are releasing, you are probably missing out on the opportunity for your content to be found. It’s good advice.  Monitoring variations is something we covered in depth in our Boolean query white paper.

Including the person’s name in the title can help show up in the search engine rankings.

The top ranking sites all include the person’s, Jeremy Lin’s name.


Schema Stealing Traffic?

Google has been moving towards displaying more and more content in the search results pages so that searchers get the answers to their questions immediately in the SERPs and don’t have to click through to any websites to find the answers.

With Schema, the visits to an events page can be impacted because Google may display the event details on the search results pages; for example displaying the game results.

Thanks to Schema Google search results pages show the sports game scores.

Google uses Schema to show the sports game scores right in the search results pages.

Another example is when you put your flight number into Google it will show you the takeoff time, landing time, gate information; you don’t have to go to the airline’s site.


Google displaying flight info details in the search results pages.

Example of Google showing flight details directly in the search results pages.

Google says that with these changes if someone clicks through to your content, your conversions will be higher. Simon pointed out that while that might be great if you have a conversion event on your site, but if you are a CPM (cost per mile) based business, you just potentially lost thousands of clicks; this can have a huge impact!

So what does that mean for your event marketing approach?

It certainly is a tangent and you need to get creative with content so Google can’t steal your traffic. For example, while finding some details of an event in the search results is good for the quick fix, if users want more in-depth commentary then they will click through to read your content.

What to Incorporate into Your Event Marketing Strategies

Come to my event!

How to get people to come to your event?

Simon’s visit and knowledge sharing was inspiring to all of #usDragons.  Here are some of the main takeaways from Simon’s presentation and a few tactics that we at DragonSearch like using:

  • Set your desired outcomes. What are the goals and objectives of the event and your efforts?
  • Take the time to brainstorm to find ideas for a different, innovative approach. It can make a big difference in the success of the event.
  • Have a clear understanding of who your target audience is and how you can best reach and engage with them.
  • Start building up the community and engagements as soon as possible and watch for luminaries you could build relationships with.
  • Check out how your competitors marketed their events. How can you do it better?
  • Prepare as much content as you possibly can before the event. This includes content you’ll use during the live event and also after the event, for both your website and the event’s social media coverage. What will people be searching for during and after the event? Have it readily available for them.
  • Optimize the content on your website, get some links for it and start spreading the word. As simple as some of the basics best practices may be, they can still be very powerful.
  • Which event template does your event fall under? What do people search for with different types of events? Build a template and keep improving it with every event you do. It will help you be more effective and will give you more time to focus on additional creative approaches.
  • Use Schema to mark up your content so it has the potential to show up in the Search Engine results pages.
  • Have in depth coverage for visitors who want to know more about the event then what the snippets in the Search Engine results pages can give them. The quality of your traffic will likely be higher.
  • Set up thoroughly thought out search queries to monitor relevant mentions before, during and after the event. They will save you from getting a lot of mentions that are irrelevant so you can focus on the mentions that need your attention the most.

What event marketing strategies have you found most effective?  Share them in the comments.

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