SEO for Races

If I told you “race marketing”, what kinds of things come to mind? Facebook ads maybe, maybe Google Ads. But what about your race website? Is that optimised for search engines? When people search Google for your race - or, even more importantly, for a race like your race to enter - is your race website the one they find at the top of Google search results?

Today we’re going to be talking about SEO - a huge missed opportunity to get more qualified people to discover your race on Google. Why is this so important? (A) Because it’s free, (B) because it can get you tons of traffic and potential participants, and (C) because very few people are doing it as well as it can be done. And that’s the opportunity for you.

My guest on today’s episode, Cory Jennermann, knows a bit about SEO, having spent countless hours ranking his awesome race listing site, RunGuides.com, to the top of Google search results pages. 

And, as you’ll see, Cory loves geeking out over keywords and structured data and the like - as do I, to be honest - so, stick with us for a fun-filled SEO chat.

In this episode:

  • What is SEO all about?
  • Getting found by people looking for your race vs getting found by people looking for races similar to your race
  • How you can't - and shouldn't try to - game Google
  • What user behavior tells Google's RankBrain algorithm about your website
  • Technical SEO vs On-page SEO vsOff-page SEO
  • Backlinks, site authority and link juice(!)
  • Technical SEO: URL architecture, content discoverability, sitemaps, internal linking, data markup
  • Structured data: marking up your website content for rich snippets and winning more Google real estate
  • Event schema markup: marking up your race date and start line location
  • Ranking for relevant "near me" search queries
  • Marking up for your site's FAQs
  • Understanding and targeting user search intent
  • How keyword research can help improve your race website content
  • Blogs: should your site have one?
  • Creating content to win backlinks and draw in qualified traffic
  • Building backlinks to your site: targeting local running clubs, race calendars, other local event sites.

Useful links:

Thanks to GiveSignup|RunSignup for supporting quality content for race directors by sponsoring this episode. More than 22,000 in-person, virtual, and hybrid events use GiveSignup|RunSignup's free and integrated solution to save time, grow their events, and raise more. If you'd like to learn more about GiveSignup|RunSignup's all-in-one technology solution for endurance and fundraising events visit runsignup.com.

Episode transcript

Panos  2:09  
Cory, welcome to the podcast!

Cory  2:12  
Panos, thanks for having me! Happy to be here!

Panos  2:14  
Well, thanks a lot for coming on. How are things in Vancouver? 

Cory  2:18  
Yeah, they're pretty good. Actually, I had a very exciting day yesterday. I found a $10 bill on the ground in the parking lot. So this is a big week so far.

Panos  2:30  
Big week - $10 up!

Cory  2:32  
$10 up! When do you ever find money on the ground? And when you do, when do you ever find a substantial amount like $10?

Panos  2:41  
I know. If my five-year-old ever found like a $10 on the ground, he will know what to do with it. 

Cory  2:46  
He'll be rich. 

Panos  2:47  
He came back the other day and I think his grandparents gave him something to buy a toy or something. 

Cory  2:53  
Yeah. 

Panos  2:53  
And he thought the bank note was just a picture. He couldn't recognize what it was. So thank God, we're a little bit more old school than that and we can pick up a $10 note when we see it.

Cory  3:06  
Exactly. We know what's going on.

Panos  3:09  
So you are the Managing Partner at RunGuides Media. 

Cory  3:14  
That's correct. 

Panos  3:15  
So tell us a little bit about RunGuides. I'm sure some of the listeners - particularly the US-based and Canada-based listeners - would know a little bit about RunGuides.com, at least. But tell us a little bit about the whole company. What do you guys do for races and race directors?

Cory  3:31
Yeah. So, I'm the Managing Partner and co-founder of RunGuides Media. And our main property is our website, RunGuides.com, which helps people find races across North America. And soon, actually, we'll open up another couple of international regions in the next quarter - so I'm pretty excited about that. But, yeah. I mean, that's the main part of the business. Nice and simple, right? We help people find races.

Panos  3:59  
So basically, you're like - I think what most people would call - a race calendar, like a race listing site?

Cory  4:06  
Exactly. Yep. Or the directory of all the races happening. We have millions of runners come into the site every year to look for events and try to find their next race. And we work with race directors to help them connect with those runners.

Panos  4:20  
Exactly. And actually, I would say that RunGuides - in my opinion, at least - is one of the better race calendar sites out there. I mean, it looks great. It has a ton of visitors. It's very easy to just put your race up there. So everyone who is listening in can note that down. Visit RunGuides.com, see if your race is up there, and claim it. Or if it's not, just post it there - that's just free traffic. And actually, we'll go into the race calendar a little bit further later in the podcast when we discuss backlinks and stuff like that. So today, we'll talk about SEO. We were having a call the other day just to catch up on things. And I was looking for someone to have an SEO chat with and it just occurred to me that - with all the work that you have been doing with RunGuides - you're an obvious person who knows quite a lot about SEO because, essentially, running RunGuides.com is like running hundreds and thousands of little mini race websites - right?

Cory  5:31  
Yeah, in some level it is. And I think we're on pace to achieve 4.5 to 6 million visits next year. And it's 90% organic Google search - like, we don't pay for any ads or anything. So yeah, I'm excited to talk about it. And the core of what we do is search engine optimization. It's also quite fun because I believe you and I met when I was doing some SEO work - I was doing some backlink building - and that's how you and I connected initially a few years ago. When I found that you were linking to some of the other similar sites and other directories, I went, "Oh, hey! Can we get RunGuides up on RaceDirectorsHQ?" And then, here we are now.

Panos  6:21  
Exactly. So you know your stuff and you're also, I think, quite passionate about SEO when we're talking about this. And I think it's one of those SEO areas-- I was talking to Tina Wilmott from Endurance Sportswire like a few weeks back, and other great sites with very, like, queued-on SEO.

Cory  6:48  
Great site. I've subscribed to their email list.

Panos  6:50  
Exactly. Like everyone in this industry subscribes to that. And SEO strikes me like it's the kind of thing that's a bit of a rabbit hole - once people get involved in it, it's something that they get really passionate about and optimize down to the very last fine kind of detail.

Cory  7:12  
For sure. And I think, too, it's something that, sometimes, can be a little bit vague or intimidating because there are some technical aspects to it. But at the end of the day, the core of SEO - in my opinion, at least - is, "Is your site useful to whatever query which that person happens to type in?" And there are some really easy things you can do to help your site to become really useful for those queries and give you a great chance of ranking really well for them.

Panos  7:47  
Yeah. I think that's an excellent point - and one that we should jump straight into actually in a minute - because that pretty much captures everything anyone needs to know about SEO at a high level, I think. But for people who are not familiar with even the term of SEO, can you give us like a quick explanation of what SEO is about, particularly, as it pertains to race directors and race websites?

Cory  8:12  
For sure. I mean, the definition of SEO is search engine optimization. And it's really about making your site rank really well in the search engines for very specific keyword terms. And again, I'll keep going back to this - it's about making your site a useful tool for people when they're searching for those specific keywords. For a race director and for events, in particular, I always kind of see two levels to it. Your first level is, "Is my site ranking for the actual branded keywords?" By that, I mean, if you're the Vancouver Marathon, does your site rank really well for Vancouver Marathon? And all the other major keywords that go along with what the people are looking for - results, photos, course, like all that stuff - your site should rank number one for all of those, right? And then, on the second level, I always see it as a tool for race directors to get their event in front of people who are actively looking for races. And then, of course, there are a number of different ways that we'll get into around that. So, how can you put your race in front of people who are in that discovery mode - who are either looking at other websites or Googling around? And yeah, that's how I see it as most applicable to events.

Panos  9:43  
Yeah, I think that's correct. And actually, I would say, between those two, the one that's the most important and also probably the most overlooked by race directors is the second category - right? Because you're in a pretty dire spot if you can't get your Vancouver Marathon website to rank for Vancouver Marathon - right? I mean, you should do things actively pretty badly to not get there - right? I mean, Google will figure out whether you have technical SEO or all the stuff that we'll get into - that is the easy bit. The most difficult bit and one probably that's not very central to people's awareness is ranking for terms like "fast marathons in BC" - that kind of thing. Your target audience is not looking for Vancouver Marathon but they're exactly the kind of audience who also, through their query, have expressed the intent to find a site like the Vancouver Marathon site - right?

Cory  10:45  
Exactly. And I mean, if you look again at search intent, someone who is searching for your branded keywords such as "Vancouver Marathon results" or "Vancouver Marathon 2022", that person already kind of knows what to look for, and they're gonna find you. When you look at these other searches, someone who's searching for a fast marathon in May - they've got their wallet out, they're looking to register - how can you help them find you? And I think that's what we'll get into today.

Panos  11:20  
Exactly. And that is what I think, technically, is called search intent - right? With that, you can understand from the query when someone types in, for instance, as you said, "Fast marathons in May," that someone who's looking is not fooling around or doing a poll for marathons in May - they're actually looking for a fast marathon to do specifically in May. And if you get your website in front of that kind of person, there's a good chance that they might register for your event. And that's exactly the kind of query you want to go after.

Cory  11:54  
Yep, absolutely. They might register, they may-- you also give them an opportunity to find your site and hopefully get them on your email list which is going to be one of your highest converting marketing tools as a race director as well.

Panos  12:06  
So I actually did some research for this episode. I looked at RunSignup's RaceTrends Report which is a very, very helpful report that sort of captures what's happening with RunSignup's events which, of course, are a large percentage of the market. And I saw there that actually organic search accounted-- back in 2019 which, I suppose, was the last normal year we found so far, it accounted for 30% of inbound traffic to RunSignup's registration pages, which are like the RunGuides.com pages or like mini websites, essentially - right? 30% is quite a lot, particularly, if you compare it to the only higher channel of traffic which is through referral, race calendars, etc, which has similar types of traffic. And what surprises me is, although 30% of traffic to race websites comes from Google, you very rarely hear people - even in our group on Facebook - discuss organic traffic and SEO as something that they would like to focus on as part of their marketing strategy. It's just not on people's radar. Do you get that?

Cory  13:22  
Yeah, I do agree to some degree. And I think, again, it can be a little bit of, "Where do I start? What are some easy things that I can do?" It can be vague for a race - right? "Hey, I'm ranking well for my race keywords. Alright, where do I go from here?" That and going out and building backlinks are fantastic things that people should do. It takes a long effort overtime - right? You just have to be consistent and chip away at it, and it will eventually pay dividends for you. So that could be why.

Panos  13:58  
No, I think that's definitely one. I mean, with everything that we discuss today about SEO all of this stuff - and you know it better than anyone - you're playing the long game, right? It's not like a Facebook ad or something which you can turn on today and get a click in the next minute. It's something that you work on. The soonest and earliest you'll see results will be a few months. And then, you'll need to be on top of things - like Google's own algorithms change a little bit - like you need to do little tweaks, you need to steer a little bit, and you need to put all that effort upfront. And I guess it's only human to not be very excited about having to do a lot of work that will not pay off immediately.

Cory  14:45  
Yeah, for sure. Again, there are so many avenues that you can go down. What are some really simple things that you can do? Personally, I know that whenever I face a vague project with a goal with no concrete steps on how to get there, that kind of freaks me out a little bit. Yeah, there are some good resources. Let's talk about some specifics here.

Panos  15:12  
Okay. So the first thing I want to do before we go into specifics, actually, is to go back to the point you made earlier which I think is really important - right? We need to, I think, start from what does Google try to do with search and search results - right? And what should be your approach to things - right? Because you said earlier that all you need to do is help Google do its job by presenting the best results to basically match the information to what the people are looking for. Is that all Google cares about? 

Cory  15:50  
Absolutely. It wants to present you, the searcher, with the most helpful resource possible to that query that you've typed in. And that is the mindset when you think about search engine optimization - right? What is the intent behind the search? And how can I best help answer that question and that intent? That's the basics of it.

Panos  16:20  
Yeah. Because back in the day - and I mean, like, maybe 10 years ago or something - people who go into SEO will sort of come across these terms. There used to be a lot of people trying to essentially game Google - right? There were lots of people who thought like, "Okay, let me figure out how Google runs stuff. And from there, let me sort of back-engineer what I need to basically game Google to put my results on top of search pages." But then people realize that Google is just a little bit too smart for that and it's getting a lot smarter - right?

Cory  16:57  
Absolutely. And this is why they put out all these updates, right? And here's a great example, like, way back in the day, we used to do what was called keyword stuffing where you'd say, "Oh, I want to rank for "Fast 5K" or something. So you just go in and you'd make sure that you wrote "Fast 5K" or different variations of that term 20 times on the page, and it creates a terrible page with an awful user experience and with poor grammar that is not written in a way that people would normally speak or read. And, yeah, it worked for a short period of time. It showed some awful websites out there. But yeah, Google makes adjustments, and their adjustments continue to be, "Is this useful?" So things that Google is looking at include, "Is the content on the page relevant to that query that could actually go--" it does go through the text but not in a way where it's like, "What are these words on the page that are repeated X amount of times?" - it doesn't do that. It would more look at when a person clicks onto your website, did they stay for a little bit of time and actually read what's going on? Or did they click on your website, instantly leave, and then click on the next result? That would tell it that the next result might be more relevant. So, on your site, they'd click through either to another page within the site or off to an external link. So, within our case, people are typically coming into our race calendar. They can say that they're searching for "Dallas Run" or something. Then, they find a run page on our site and, then, they click on that run. We give people an external or an executive summary of the race and, then, we said that we want them to go to the official race website where the best information will be. So when Google sees that chain, it goes, "Oh, okay. I think that was probably a useful experience," and it will reward peoples' sites for that.

Panos  19:04  
Exactly. That is why it's completely impossible and just a waste of time to try to basically game Google. I mean, what you referred to there is this thing that they introduced a couple of years ago, the RankBrain algorithm, which is artificial intelligence and - Google does artificial intelligence better than anyone else - it does exactly as you say. So, like, Google doesn't have to figure out from the words on your website whether it is helpful. It can see what people do - right? So basically, Google says, "Okay, someone's looking for a fast 10K. I think that result on Vancouver Marathon will be helpful. Let me put it up there." And if people don't click on it, or if they click on it and then they immediately go back, or if they click on it and they don't spend any time and they move on, then, Google can figure out just from that, "I don't need to know what the page says, actually. All I need to know is serving that result to that visitor for that query didn't get them the answer that they wanted."

Cory  20:11  
Yep. Absolutely. And, you can do things that kind of help Google make those initial decisions by setting up something like a title tag or a meta tag on the site. For people who don't know what that is, that would be basically a page title. And this is something called a meta title that you can manually apply into the page that just says, "What is this all about?" So a practical example would be for a race director to include the year of your event, the event title, perhaps one or two of the main distances, and the meta description - some very simple one or two sentences about what it's about - into the main page. Again, this will not be like a stuffed thing that says keyword or distance but an actual executive summary of what people hope to see. And then, for each section, the site kind of add that stuff in just to give Google a little bit of a head start. And then, it'll take a look at that and how people behave on your page. And then, it'll go, "Alright, is what you're saying what you're actually delivering? If yes, let's reward you. If not, mmm..."

Panos  21:24  
Yeah. And actually, it's not at all unheard of. In fact, it's quite common for Google to not even use the description that you prescribe even when you're paid, sometimes - right? If it's irrelevant, if it's misleading, if Google feels that there's other content on the page that is more relevant to that query, it would show that - the same way as with your Gmail or something whereby you see the subject of the email and, then, a little bit under it which tells you what the email might be about. When Google shows you the search results, it will try to pull the bit that was relevant out of that page. So if someone, for instance, searches for "Fast 10K", if it's not on your description but it's somewhere else on the page, it will take out that paragraph and show it as part of the search results to show you where were your queries in context.

Cory  22:16  
For sure. 100%. And this is where-- I'll jump a little bit ahead in this because this is very relevant. This is why having things like an FAQ section can be so beneficial to an event because people that are kind of long-tail searching - and by that, I mean, you have a small percentage of keywords that make a small percentage of high-value keywords - largely search for keywords that will make up a certain portion of traffic. So with marathon or some other very, very competitive keyword, if you're trying to rank for marathon, those will probably get a ton of search volume but those will be a small percentage of your overall traffic. What you'll see is all these smaller, lower volume keywords that actually make up a ton of traffic that you can capture - "Marathon in May", "Marathon in British Columbia that is fast", and weird things like that. As you said, Google scans your site and tries to pull some relevant information, and show that as a bit of a preview to people. It's having like an FAQ that would answer common questions about your race or something that's very close. One good example might be, "How far is the Vancouver Marathon?" or "What is the fastest Vancouver Marathon time?" or other sorts of questions. And you can kind of figure out what those are by doing a bit of keyword research and through some trial and error, and form these FAQ sections on your site that are like genuinely helpful to people. And what is the elevation of the Vancouver Marathon? Vancouver Marathon is getting a lot of love in our examples today. 

Panos  24:20  
That's okay.

Cory  24:21  
Let's move on to another race. It's just familiar to me because it's--

Panos  24:24  
Sure. It's a Canada-flavored episode today. 

Cory  24:27  
Yeah. So, building something like that allows you to present some other information in a helpful way and allows you to potentially rank for some of these long-tail queries from people.

Panos  24:41  
Yeah. And actually, FAQs are something that we'll talk a little bit more about later in the podcast. I agree that long-tail keywords are a total goldmine and just a natural type of content that would be helpful for people. And to be honest, you shouldn't even want to rank for a keyword like "Marathon" - right? What does it mean when someone types in "Marathon"? Are they looking for the oil company? Are they looking for like the history of the marathon? What are they looking for? They're not looking for your site. They're not looking for your race to enter. So you shouldn't worry about that. 

Cory  25:12  
Exactly. 

Panos  25:13  
So let's put a few kind of terms and stuff because, hopefully, when people move on from this episode - and try to further educate themselves on SEO and take this to the next level - they may want to be familiar with some ways that SEO is discussed out there so that they can look for the right stuff. So the first term that comes up quite a lot is so-called technical SEO. So do you mind telling us a little bit about what that is? 

Cory  25:43  
For sure. Technical SEO is things that you can do to the actual code of your website in order to tell the search engine spiders. When I say like a search engine spider, basically, Google-- and I'm going to keep referring to Google because it's really about 90% of the search out there. So you want to optimize for Google and then the rest kind of follow. But it's going out there and it's literally sending these robots called search spiders which just looks at every single site on the entire Internet, then they gather information from that, then they try to figure out what the site's about, then they present it in search results, and then decide whether it's relevant or not and they bump it up and down. But yeah, for me, technical SEO is anything that you do to the actual code of your site to help aid those search engine spiders in their journey. 

Panos  26:40  
Right. And that sort of technical SEO strictly kind of excludes the content itself. It's sort of like the wiring and the infrastructure that then helps the content to be more easily digestible by those Google bots.

Cory  26:58  
Absolutely. That's was a fantastic description.

Panos  27:02  
Thank you very much. This then takes us on to the next familiar term which is on-page SEO. So what is that? 

Cory  27:14  
Yeah. I mean, to me, on-page SEO, again, is manipulating the content on your site - the actual stuff people are seeing like, "What sort of text do you have up there? Do you have a map? And how do you arrange that so that it is the most useful experience for people? What does your navigation look like? Do you have a section for race results and photos? Or is that not even on your site?"

Panos  27:40  
And then, beyond that, of course, people might be surprised to hear that off-page SEO exists. So you can even do stuff for SEO that doesn't take place within your website - right? And that's things like--

Cory  27:55  
Yeah. I mean, the off-page SEO, I think, is one of the best things you can do for events. How can you use other sites that are ranking well for the keywords that you're after to drive traffic back to you? I mean, link-building is, in my opinion, one of the best things you can do there. So yeah, again, it's not your website but they're ranking well for things. How can you use that to get traffic back?

Panos  28:26  
I mean, we'll touch on that a little bit later when we discuss backlinks and backlinking strategies and all that. But do you mind giving us like a quick preview into the whole concept of link juice as it's referred to in the industry?

Cory  28:40  
I mean, this is like the internet's vetting system or referral system. But essentially, what Google does is it says, "Okay, how many other sites are linking back to your site? And what are those sites that are linking back to you about?" If you are a race and you have a whole bunch of running directories, or maybe a whole bunch of run bloggers, or sporting news sites linking back to you, then your race is probably pretty relevant and the search engines will reward that. If you have a whole bunch of spam sites linking back to you, it's gonna say, "I don't give a lot of credibility to these links." So yeah, we call that link juice. So that is more or less how that works.

Panos  29:45  
Yeah. It's like that value of authority between sites sort of like trickles down between one site to the next through links.

Cory  29:55  
Exactly. There's another metric that we look at called PageRank. And really, again, this is Google's way of attributing some significance to a site. So, the higher the PageRank, the more of an authority that site has.

Panos  30:12  
Exactly. Which means - not to sort of preempt the discussion that we'll have in a few minutes - that getting one link back to your website from the New York Times can be worth like a thousand links as compared to much, much lower-ranked and lower authority websites.

Cory  30:33
Absolutely.

Panos  30:33
Let's take a quick look at technical SEO which we said was basically everything that happens on your page that doesn't have to do with content - just the wiring and the way your website is set up. What kinds of things within technical SEO should people be aware and mindful of and try to improve about their website? 

Cory  30:55  
Yeah. I mean, when I look at technical SEO, the first things I tend to look at are the page structure of the website. So what pages do you have on your site? What is the hierarchy there? And by that, I mean, you probably have a main homepage. Then, under that, it links to a couple of other pages. What do those pages have on them? What are the meta titles and meta descriptions of those pages? And are your pages linking back to each other? Again, thinking of this, in the journey that the search engine spiders are taking through, can you easily get to all of those pages? And then, do all the pages on your site actually exist? Are you linking off to like a bunch of dead pages that have no content? These are kind of some of the things that I start to look at the very top level which, again, for most people who are producing events, is pretty easy - right? Like, you just want to have a few pages that have the most relevant content that people look for. And you want people to be able to easily navigate to those pages. The second area that I look at - and this is almost like a more advanced technique - is to start to tell the search engine spiders about what some of the actual data is by doing what's called "marking it up", and actually saying, "Hey, this is a date. This is a location."

Panos  32:19  
I mean, we'll get into markup which I think is probably one of the most important things you can do about your SEO. But just on what you were saying about site structure and linking and stuff. I think it's fair to say that the same concept that we discussed a minute ago about link juice and how, basically, that propagates and grants importance in Google's eyes to different pages including your own website, basically. So pages that are close to your homepage receive more visibility in terms of how Google views it - right? And if you have a page that has like five links removed from your webpage, Google will naturally categorize them like a lesser page to rank basically,

Cory  33:05  
Yeah, it will, to some degree, for sure. So at the most basic level, often, websites will look like an org chart - right? You've got one sort of the main thing and then it kind of branches out from there. And it will naturally assume that your global homepage is probably the most important page. But sometimes, you will find that some of the other pages end up being quite significant based on what people search for. But you are right. Initially, a page that is maybe three degrees removed from another page might not be seen as significant to the user. And again, for race directors, I personally wouldn't overthink this section. This stuff is certainly important for someone like me who has a directory site. I paid a lot of attention to the hierarchy, initially, thinking, "Okay, we've got the RunGuides homepage. Then, we've got the race calendar for a city. And then, we may actually want to have a race calendar of specific distances in a specific city or region. And then, we actually have an event page that shows an executive summary of the event. And there is a hierarchy there. I mean, your site's not going to be that large, usually - probably 10 pages or less. You can do it in like five pages even.

Panos  34:38  
And for a race website, do you think that sitemap, for instance, is something to worry about? 

Cory  34:47  
For a small site like that, I wouldn't worry about it too much, to be honest. So a sitemap is literally a list of all the pages on your site that you are-- often, if you're using WordPress or something like that, it's pretty much auto-generated and sent into the search engines. However, you can modify those or you can manually submit them to the search engines and say, "Hey, here's a list of all the pages on my site. I'm just making it really easy for you to find all of those." For sites with 10,000 pages, we definitely submit a sitemap and we kind of go through that and go, "Did we submit everything? Did we accidentally submit things that we shouldn't that are kind of dead pages?" So for someone like myself, it's definitely important. If you have a smaller website, I wouldn't stress about it too much. You already have that website indexed. 

Panos  35:46  
Yeah. And again, it's not super relevant for smaller websites like race websites. But in terms of sitemaps and pages you submit, Google will sometimes not index some pages - and that goes also for race websites - if they have very thin content or they're kind of like admin-type pages like your contact page which only has a forum or something like that. And you shouldn't hope to have those pages ranked because they're not really relevant in terms of what you're trying to do with SEO.

Cory  36:24  
Yeah, absolutely. It's good to identify some pages that you might actually not want to have ranked. You can check to see if they're ranked in Google by doing a search string where you type "site:" and then type in a URL of your root domain - by that I mean like "site:RunGuides.com." Or you could you can use "site:" for a specific page on your site. And if it is getting indexed, it will show up in those results. But yeah, there might be sections that you actually don't want to show because it's not useful content to people or maybe it's what's called "thin content", which means that it just doesn't really have much on the page. I'll give you a practical example. We have pages that run in a specific region for a specific month and for a specific distance. Now, if you look for an 8K Run in the month of November in Saskatchewan, you'll probably not find much, if anything. Even if someone searches for 8K in November in Saskatchewan - sure, there are like 10 people out there that are searching for that - I would just rather put them to the main race calendar. And so, we can either exclude that and tell Google, "Don't index this" or we can do what's called a "canonical URL" and add that to the page. And that basically says to Google, "Actually, the content on this page is pretty much the same as the content on this other page - it's more significant. So really, you want to treat the main/runs calendar page as the most relevant content for this weird November query - send the person there - and that ends up ranking while the other one gets buried.

Panos  38:33  
Right. Yeah, that's indeed what you'd do. This is not, I think, a problem most race directors would have with their website. And actually, we should say at this point - because you mentioned WordPress - a lot of the things that we will discuss will be around technical SEO. If you have like one of the websites, let's say, that are on RunSignup - where you can build your own website - or if you have a website through Wix, Wordpress, Squarespace, all of those website-building platforms, you probably don't have to worry about a lot of these things because those website builders are optimized for taking care of this so long as you provide some information like your page titles, descriptions, and stuff. So if you have a website like that, the discussion that we'll get into in a minute about content and unpaid stuff will be more relevant. But if you do actually have a website that is either built from scratch or even through WordPress - because there's a lot of things that you need to set up on WordPress yourself - those are the things that you need to keep on top of. 

Panos  39:46  
Sorry for interrupting myself here, but this is a really good point for me to tell you a little bit about GiveSignup|RunSignup's free websites. We were just talking, weren't we, about website builders like Wix and frameworks like WordPress you can use to build a race website from scratch fairly easily - perhaps, in the case of WordPress, with the help of a developer. Well, you know what's even better than that? Building your website on GiveSignup|RunSignup - for free. With WordPress and platforms like Wix it's going to cost you a few hundred dollars per year, maybe, to build and maintain your site. With GiveSignup|RunSignup, you can build an awesome customisable, purpose-built race website for absolutely nothing. All this stuff we're talking about here on technical SEO, your GiveSignup|RunSignup website can do out of the box. Your website will automatically pull in all key details about your event, like your race's name, date, and location, and that's to ensure potential participants - and Google - can always find your event details. You can also customise your website to match your event branding and colors, add or remove pages and build the whole site in minutes using the point-and-click tool. And, best of all, - obviously - the whole website is optimized for getting people to sign up for your race, which no WordPress or Wix theme can do for you. So, my advice is, when you have a sec, head over to runsignup.com and just check out some of the race websites there - just to get an idea of the different looks you can achieve and how awesome your website could look. And I'll leave it at that. Now, let's get back to the episode. Next up - very important part of SEO this - using structured data to earn more real estate for your website on Google search results pages. 

Panos  41:31  
So let's move on to structure data and markup which is one of my favorite and most valuable parts of technical SEO - right? You mentioned earlier about marking up your event. Do you want to elaborate on that?

Cory  41:45  
For sure. For us at RunGuides, this was actually one extremely significant thing that we did, and this is a great thing for race directors as well. You have a bunch of information on your page, a bunch of texts, some images, possibly a map, things like that. And what you can do by marking up this data is you can tell Google exactly what type of information that is. You can say, "This is a date. This is a distance." Now, the benefit to that is Google will often then display that data in a slightly more different - and by that I mean, you'll get a whole lot more real estate in search results. This is often referred to as a rich snippet. And you will often kind of see this when you do a Google search, and then above the search results - and I can't remember if it's above or below the ads - you'll see a gigantic box, maybe with a thumbnail image preview, maybe with some sort of date or location information that looks completely different and it really stands out. And if you can score those spots, I mean, there'll be a ton of clicks. So marking up your data is a way for you to explain to the search engines, "Hey, this is a date" and it gives you a chance to rank in those rich snippets. They aren't guaranteed at all. They just kind of randomly appear sometimes for some searches and they will randomly disappear as well. And there doesn't seem to be any kind of rhyme or reason behind it - at least that's what I know of. So if you do, please let me know. But the way that you can do that is you can use something called the Google Structured Data Markup Helper tool - and this is actually what it's called - and you plug in your website into this tool. And I hope we'll have some show notes or whatever so we can put links to all of these tools that we talk about after because these are all free tools that anyone can use. So you have Google Structured Data Markup Helper tool - you need to acronym that - you pull up your website, then you literally just highlight chunks of it, and then you say, "This is a date. This is a distance." It then gives you a piece of code that you can paste into the site. And if you're using WordPress, Wix Squarespace, any of that, that's usually pretty straightforward to do - plug that in there, there you go. Your structured data is now on your site and you help the search engines understand what's going on. So for myself as a directory site, this is very, very important. For a race, one really fantastic practical example of how this is important is where's your start line and where's your race actually located. And if you have the address of the start line, what this does is it gives one location-based indicator to the search engines on where you're located. And it's a small, small little thing but that gives you an opportunity to potentially rank for a location-based generic distance keyword in your region. And that person who's looking for a local 5K, local 10K, half marathon or whatever, you have a slightly better chance of finding that person.

Panos  45:29  
Exactly. I think that is absolutely key - right? I think race directors, being in the business of putting on events, should at the very least - and we'll go through a few different types of markup you could do - mark up the race on your website as an event. So there's a special type of markup you would do to basically, as you say, tell Google that I am describing an event here - and that's the date of the event, that's the location of the event, that's the logo of the event and, also, that's where you can get tickets for the event - and then, Google takes all of that, and rather than showing just a generic page result which you said is very, very astute there with a real estate, it expands that and it says, "This is an event result, not a generic page result. This is an event. That's when the date is. That's where the location is and everything." And just to expand a little bit on what you said there about - which is also extremely true and helpful - the location side of thing or even the start date of your event, when someone goes in and says, "I'm looking for a marathon near Vancouver in November", if you haven't marked up your event which might be a marathon near Vancouver in November with the location and the date, Google will have a very hard time bringing your page as part of the results to the user who's looking for that - I mean, you have a date on your website, you have some location, but they can't figure out that all these things come together into an event - whereas if that's all there, whenever someone searches for marathons near Vancouver in November or whatever, your result matches the November or Vancouver, you have a good chance of actually appearing in those results. 

Cory  47:20  
Absolutely. 

Panos  47:21  
And the other thing, actually, which I just tried before we came on air is that lots of people I saw-- because again, like people who search on Google don't necessarily know how search and Google works and use all of those, as you were saying earlier, like "site:" and all of those fancy ways of searching more smartly - right? They just type whatever they think will get them back their query, and you see some queries, which are like, "Boston qualifying races near me."

Cory  48:02  
But yeah, this is really one of the biggest trends in search. And in the last couple of years, as people switched from searching "Boston qualifier marathons near me"-- you're on your phone and you're like, "5K near me"-- like, "5K near me" is one of the highest searches for keywords in general like running that there is right now. And how does Google figure out what is near you? It looks at geo locations and it looks at structured data. And so, that one's like a fairly, I think, quick and easy win for people. Again, if you have an actual embedded map or even just an address written on there, like you're good. That's 80% of the battle but then you can get that bonus round by marking up that data. So yeah.

Panos  48:59
I think if you have your site listed on RunGuides.com or other race calendars, as many people do and should do - you guys who run RunGuides and the other race calendars do a great job of marking up this stuff - when someone goes into Google to do that search query, they'll get back one of your results. But it would be great for race directors if their websites come up on top of all of these results.

Cory  49:28  
Absolutely. And hopefully, I don't want to outrank race directors from their own websites. We want people to come into the site and then click off to them because, at the end of the day, they have the most useful information. Like, we've got an executive summary but you're the one that'll be able to sell your event, get those people onto your email list where you can then convert them into runners.

Panos  49:55  
We mentioned the event markup - basically, going in and marking up any event - what other types of information do you think would be helpful for people to think about marking up on their website besides just the events?

Cory  50:13  
Honestly, I think that would be more or less what I would focus on. If I am a race director, I would just focus on something simple like date, distance, location, register, and mark that up. 

Panos  50:31  
If a website has an FAQ section, does marking that up as an FAQ adds anything to it or would Google just discover stuff sort of on its own?

Cory  50:41  
Thank you for that. That is one that I absolutely missed. Yes. Your FAQs - you can mark things up as questions and that is a fantastic way to rank for things. So yes, definitely mark up the FAQs as well.

Panos  51:01  
Because people may have noticed that questions are another kind of like, special thing you get in in search engine results pages - right? Even if you look for any kind of query, there are always questions that people ask which link to specific sites and those rank pretty high on the page.

Cory  51:22  
Absolutely. I mean, you've probably noticed that if you type in anything, you usually get that markup of a whole list of questions underneath your search query which can just expand. You can go through a ton of different questions there. So that is another gigantic trend. I can't believe I almost missed this. It's another major trend - people looking, searching, changing their searches through location to near me, people asking questions into Google. There's actually a fantastic book I read a number of years ago - and I can't quite recall what it was - about people being extremely honest in Google. They're not afraid to ask what they think might be a dumb question because no one can judge them. But yeah, you as a race, you as an event, marking that up and saying, "Hey, this is an FAQ section. These are questions and answers" is an excellent way to score some really cheap and easy rich snippets.

Panos  52:28  
And actually, as we wrap up the discussion on technical SEO, what you said earlier about real estate, I think it's important for people to understand why Google is a little bit like a winner-takes-all kind of thing. Although you can have like 10 pages of results, really, most of the action happens at the top of the first page - right? I think I read a statistic somewhere that, basically, the first top result on Google gets something like a third of the clicks of everything. And, then, maybe if you're like the first result on page two, you get maybe like 1% or something - right? 

Cory  53:09  
Oh, yeah. It's something crazy like that. And we'll change the keywords until all of a sudden, "Wow, something must have increased there. Go cross-reference with our rankings." And it's like, "Oh, yeah. We went from number nine to number two or number three." And these top few results really drive the vast majority of the traffic.

Panos  53:37  
Yeah, which also makes it really important when you're doing your SEO, when you're doing all this work, hopefully, to improve the rankings of your site, if you had to spend time, for instance, between moving a result for a keyword from position 25 to position 15, that will move as much as moving a result from like, seven or eight to top three. 

Cory  54:03  
Totally. Absolutely. 

Panos  54:05  
Okay. So moving on to contents. Content 101 for any of your pages is having a good title and a good description. What does that mean, exactly? What makes for a good title and a good description - both technically and in terms of content? 

Cory  54:20  
Yeah, It's really short, descriptive - like this is an executive summary. If I ask you, "What is this page about?" Can you tell me in 20 words or less? Actually, what's your page about? That makes typically a good title. That said, it is wise to think of user intent around some of the keywords that you might go after and make sure that it answers those things. If someone is looking for half marathons in Portland, is your page title, "Portland half marathon calendar" and is your description, "Find upcoming half marathons in and around Portland?" Like, that would be a good title and good description for races. Do you have a page of results? Do you have a page of photos? Does it have a very simple executive summary of what that's about? And is it relevant to the user query? That's more or less it.

Panos  55:25  
And for the main bit of a race website, which I guess, for most people, is describing the race and saying a few things about the race. Maybe you'll mention your prizes and your swag and all of that stuff, basically - right? What should you think about that to make that part of the content valuable to draw in the right crowd?

Cory  55:52  
Yeah, I mean, this is where it kind of gets a bit funny. I would focus more on answering the questions that the users might have in a natural way. And I wouldn't overthink or try to make it super-specific. Like, when people come to your race website, what do they look for - date, distance, register, course, swag, some cool photos, and a very simple executive summary about what this race is? Is it a Boston qualifier? Is it fast and flat? Does it have a whole bunch of vert? That is what I would focus to do. And I personally would tend to focus on short descriptions like videos, if possible - those will quickly answer those questions. And I would try to avoid what I call like fluff which would be, "Come check out this super awesome, amazing, exciting event. This will be the best day of your life." It's like, that doesn't tell me anything. I want to know what the race is about and that's what I would focus on because, again, you're thinking more about user experience. What does this person try to do when they come to your website?

Panos  57:13  
And moving on to keyword research, how can I inform the text and the content I write with the kinds of things that people look for? Because before we had this discussion, for someone listening in, maybe they didn't realize that highlighting flat or Boston Marathon qualifier or something would help them draw in more people. So how should they do the research to be able to write an effective bit of content on the site?

Cory  57:45
So you can do some basic keyword research which is finding out what people are actually searching for when they're out there on Google. You can do that in a few ways. So you can use tools like Google Keyword Tool which is a free tool that is part of Google AdWords - the platform that they use to run ads. You do need to have an AdWords account but you do not need to spend any money on AdWords. And what you'd do there is you  plug in a couple sort of broad keywords like maybe the 5K races or whatever marathons in Vancouver and it will give you a whole bunch of ideas on, "Oh, these are the kinds of stuff that people are searching for." And from there, you can kind of narrow it down and just see if there are any trends or any kind of groups of similar keywords. So you can use a tool like that. You can use a tool called Google Trends which shows the volume of keyword searches and scores it out of 100. So if you are to type in like, "5K runs" at one period of time during the year, that'll have a score of 100 and that's like the period of time where it has the highest frequency of search. And again, it gives you a few ideas and suggestions there as well. And it will even do it regionally which is kind of cool. Additionally, you can use something called Google Search Console and this one's pretty cool. Search Console is kind of this platform that helps you measure like the health of your site, what's actually going on, and a lot of other technical elements of it. But it does show you what searches your website shows up for and how many clicks you get for your website. And it's a fantastic tool because you will see your site ranking - I don't know how deep they go but it's pretty deep. Maybe you rank on the fifth page. As long as you deliver some sort of impression, enough people will have to scroll through to bring it up. But you'll now see, "Oh, hey. I didn't know that people are searching for this. That's kind of interesting. Maybe that can be relevant." So those are a few of the free tools that you can use. I also use a tool - this one's paid but they may offer a free plan if you're kind of a lower-traffic website, I can't quite recall - called Moz, and they have some built-in keyword research stuff in there as well.

Panos  1:00:30  
So Google Search Console, I think, is something that everyone who has a website should sign up for. It's basically kind of like your command center for all your organic SEO - like anything that has to do with Google and how it understands your site. So it will tell you when a page throws an error, when it doesn't render correctly on mobile or whatever, or when it's very slow. It will give you all the traffic numbers for your website by page. It will not always tell you all of the queries because it's sort of like the golden goose. So it won't exactly tell you every single query that gets people to your site but it will show you the largest queries. And from that, as you said, you can sort of think, "Okay, if people who search for these terms come to my website, what other terms can I optimize for? Or how can I improve on a given term to move from position 12 - which seems to be a very, very high volume query - to position 2?"

Cory  1:01:42  
Yep. And you may find opportunities where you generate or appear in a number of-- you throw a lot of impressions, you show up a lot for a specific query, but your click through rate, the percentage of people that clicked-through to your website is low. And so, that tells you that their initial impression is you're not a very useful resource especially if you have high impressions. That's like, one of the things I do is I go in there, and I go, "Okay, let's look at high impressions with a low click-through rate. These are potential opportunities." They're not always an opportunity. Sometimes, it'll just simply be something that you rank for some weird reason - then, you might make a tweak. This is where you may decide to change the meta description or title on that page, if it's applicable. And you can see your click-through rate triple on there. So yeah. Search Console is so good. One other final way that you can do keyword research - which is pretty cool - is if you run any Google ads, you can go back and see what keywords people use to trigger those ads. And you'll often find that there'll be some sort of questions and things like that. You can then go, "Okay, cool. Maybe we're able to create some content for these search terms." Again, that's if you run Google ads. It's also actually a great way to identify stuff that you don't want to rank for. We do a little bit of paid ads and I found out that the term like 'Mayor' is searched for a lot with the term race - right? And I'm like, "Oh, yeah. Of course. Like, there's all these cities that have election mayoral races. Oh, okay. Let's make sure we don't exclude that from our ads."

Panos  1:03:40  
Yeah. And actually, the interesting thing about all this is that everything that we mentioned here about keyword research is also very crucial to run Google ads, which is something we won't get into right now but it's essentially sort of like the same gate-- you need to understand what keywords you want to go after, which is sort of part of this.

Cory  1:04:02  
And again,  you'll see a list of keywords that have various search volumes. You'll see your site throwing impressions for a bunch of different keywords. What you should take from all of this and when you talk about your on-page stuff is, "Okay, what is this person's intent? What are they trying to do? And how can I make sure that my content serves the best answer to that?" And again, for a lot of events, simply having your most basic information on the page with very simple, well-written executive summary content and having certain sub-pages for some of the most highly searched for things-- the next phase in that would be to create - Google calls it like 10X content or you can call it evergreen content. But that's where you want to start to think of, "Okay, well, what are specific pieces of content that I can create that would be high value - beyond the basics of date, distance, location, register button - that people might find really, really interesting over a long period of time that can also have the potential to be shareable?" So, for example, everyone searches for races and results - right? Like, that's what people do. So okay, what useful content can I create on my event website that is useful beyond just last year's results and an archive of the results? Well, what about like all-time results or interesting results across different categories? And that now forms the basis of an article that you can have on there that has the potential to be a really interesting content. That doesn't take you much time to ever update again in the future. But, yeah. I mean, what is the fastest time ever run in the Vancouver Marathon and who did it - that's some interesting content. Again, skipping ahead to the off-page stuff, that can get shared around and can help you rank for keywords through other websites that are ranking for those sorts of keywords.

Panos  1:06:26  
That's interesting. I wanted to talk about that a little bit later but I think it's probably the right time to get into this. So writing content - lots of people do it, particularly WordPress owners or people with like an off-the-shelf already built website where there are no additional efforts to have a blog or something. They'd think, "Yeah, I'll add a blog to my race." And obviously, some people write posts that are quite ephemeral about "This week, we did this" or "Price increases" and then they share that through their mailing list, which is fine. But what do you think about this sort of content marketing strategy for races - basically, building a blog, building content - just to get people through to your website? Do you think that works and that it's a good investment of resources?

Cory  1:07:17  
I think if done certain ways, it can be extremely, extremely valuable. And I think you should focus on, again, creating evergreen content stuff that's going to be timeless, in a sense, and that may not really involve much effort to update. Here's a great example. You can do an article about the archives that shows images of every single race medal from the start of your race up until today. It's interesting to people. It's neat. They want to go back and see, "What did the 1970 race look like? What did that race medal look like? And how long does that take you to update after you've kind of done it?"

Panos  1:08:05  
Can that work as content that draws in qualified users to your website? So, for the piece that you mentioned there, what kind of like journey or query would take someone back to that post? 

Cory  1:08:19  
Yeah, I mean, in this particular example, the way that I would use that content would be to connect with the-- so in Vancouver here, for example, we have the Daily Hive, which is kind of 'What's going on in the city' type of blog - like, really, really popular with tons of traffic. And that is amazing content to feed over to them to then push out in there, "Hey, these are some upcoming events. But here's a cool look back at some of the city's history in regards to running" and you cast a little bit of a broader net there. However, you do now get people engaged who are likely doing maybe one or two races a year. And of course, you have people that run again and again and again, but a huge chunk of your participants are almost like one-offs - right? Like, they're gonna do a 10K - that was their life goal - and they're and they're good for a while. They might do another one. So something like that, interesting, engaging content to the average kind of person who may want to do one race, they're now going to go, "Neat!" Now, that's what I might think about as far as like doing an upcoming race. And you've gotten some exposure from that article that's on your site, but something like the Daily Hive is gonna rank a lot better for just like, "Run medals" or "Runs with medals", something like that query which is definitely a query that people search for quite a bit - you now have a ranking opportunity for that. So a user who searches for "Runs with medals" might find this article either on your site or through Daily Hive and goes, "Oh, neat, that's kind of cool" and then checks you out. At least, you now have some exposure. And that'll sit there forever and it'll take 10 minutes a year to update.

Panos  1:10:26  
Okay, interesting. Very interesting. So I didn't think of the runs with medals type of thing. I always keep underestimating how important medals are. They just come up everywhere - right? I mean, if you have a good medal or you do something around medals, people will look for it. 

Cory  1:10:46  
I have an issue which is I have some old race medals that are kind of just sitting around and I don't know what to do with them. I always thought that it would be fun to just melt them down into one big super medal. 

Panos  1:10:59  
That'd be interesting. 

Cory  1:11:00  
Find a smelter. We still might want to do this - because I have too much time on my hands - sometimes and solicit extra medals from runners across North America, melt it down into the world's largest medal and then just like throw a race. And if you're in the race, you'll get one ballot that someone will draw from. And if you win, you get the world's largest medal shipped to you. 

Panos  1:11:29  
The super medal?

Cory  1:11:30  
The super medal created out of all the unwanted old race medals. 

Panos  1:11:35  
Wow.

Cory  1:11:38  
Another practical use of, say, evergreen content would be like training guides - but specifically to regions - like "How to train to run a race in the city?" or "How to train to run a 10K in Pittsburgh?" Like there will be some idiosyncrasies about the specific regions, maybe their specific areas of town that are really great to run in or something like that. I mean, again, this will potentially get you that person who goes, "Oh, yeah, I want to just look for some good run training routes in and around the city. Oh well, here's this guy that's branded and put out by the specific race. Very cool." And again, this is fantastic content to share with other sites who are authorities in your region that are already ranking well for generic event-based content - like things to do in May or things to do in June - so it's not quite specific to only running events but for people that are looking for stuff to do. And now, you offer them some valuable content there.

Panos  1:12:50  
Yeah, that's super helpful. For me, the biggest waste of time is going on race websites and seeing every different race website have a blog post on a 5K training plan which is not going to rank in a million years. But as you say, if you put the local routes, the local angle to it, you'll definitely get the right kind of crowd.

Cory  1:13:17  
Absolutely. And again, this content will definitely take some effort to put together but once you've created it, it exists, and it doesn't really take too much to tweak it every year.

Panos  1:13:29  
Super. Yeah, that's all really helpful on content. And I think we've started sort of segueing into off-page stuff like getting backlinks and getting like authoritative sites to link back to your website and, thus, increasing your authority in Google's eyes. What do you think should be a backlink-building strategy that makes sense for someone who runs a race?

Cory  1:13:59
Yeah. For someone who runs a race-- and I'll preface this by saying the backlinking strategy is getting links on other websites that are ranking really well for keyword terms or user intent that you may be after. And in your case, as an event producer, these are often websites that are focused on upcoming events in and around the city. This is a bit of a long game. It's something that is kind of ongoing. But the way that I approach this when we do our own backlink research is by doing some Google searching around for some keywords. I've either have done some keyword research or - again, I don't overthink this stuff - I'll just go, "Hmm, okay, if I'm an event producer and someone's looking for upcoming events, what would they type in? Okay, let's just start searching around. And here are some suggestions that Google gives me for searches. Let's click on all of those. Now I'll make a list of the sites that are ranking in the top 20 positions and think of any potential for me to get some content on them." And actually, one of the really good ways to do this is using a tool like the one I use - Moz.com. You identify sites that link to either competitors or similar events - like try searching for some of the other similar runs to you. And maybe you find an article on a high-value news site that happens to talk about upcoming runs in a certain month. And you notice that they have someone else listed but you're not. I mean, it's like so easy to message those people and say, "Hey, I notice that you had this article about upcoming runs. Oh, yeah. This guy's included and we're hoping that we can get included too." So, I do some Google searches as to who is ranking for those keywords. Then, you really have to one-by-one figure out, "Is there a way for me to add value to this other page and link back to my site as well?" So think of yourself as the other website owner. If I message you and just go, "Link to me!" you'd be like "Why?" But if I can help you provide more value to people, then it's a win-win, right? 

Panos  1:16:39  
Yeah. And sometimes, you'll find articles like list articles where it would make sense and it would add value to have your event listed alongside other events - maybe it's a local website or a running club website. I often go to running club websites which maybe two or three years stale - they don't have all the races - and my race might make sense to be part of those lists. I mean, it's not like I'm spamming anyone. I'm just asking you to improve the content on your site by including a relevant result.

Cory  1:17:16  
Absolutely. I mean, that is a fantastic example right there. Think of running clubs as the most hyper-local directories that you can have - right? And that can be such an easy win to just message them and say, "Oh, hey! I noticed that some of the page contents are outdated. Throw us on there." Again, going back to how you and I met, I noticed that you have a resource page on your website that has some race directories, and I reached out and said, "Oh, hey! Look, I noticed you have some directories. We also have a directory! Can you throw us up on the page?" The easiest links that any event producer gets and some of the best links-- and I'm not just saying this because I am a directory-- our mission in life is to help people find things that are free. I'm not sure about everyone. I'm pretty sure it's always free to get listed on directories. So, hit up the directories and get on there. It's the easiest highest-value link you'll ever get.

Panos  1:18:25  
Yeah. Speaking of race directories, the article that got us to sort of email each other is still up on our website, RaceDirectorsHQ.com. We have a list of the top three US race calendars, UK race calendars, and international race calendars which you can list your race on. Honestly, it is where you should start from because race calendars are purpose-built for that thing - right? So they have all the structured markup and everything because they're there for people to look for events. And they also have the most qualified audience because they're almost like a mini Google for runners - that's where runners go to find events. So if your race is not there, it's just an outright crime.

Cory  1:19:16  
And then, the next level is just your local event sites as well - right? So yeah, here in Vancouver, Daily Hive is a great example. I think it's blogTO in Toronto. Every city has one - right? And you have to make sure that you message them to get included on there, "Hey, this is what's going on." I mean, additionally, they put them up often as a static page on their site that also goes out to their social channels, their email lists, things like that. So I think those are really quick and easy wins. And then, the next level is looking at some more kind of robust content. When I say that, I mean when you look at a site and you go, "Okay, this site ranks really well for ways to get fit in the summer. And what sort of value can I add to this post? Can I give them a little extra paragraph to add in there or some insight? Can I ask them if they'll do a feature post? And if so, I'd love to be quoted or love to provide them a link to this run training in Vancouver article. And that's really where you have to get a bit creative - right? And you just have to think, "What content that I can provide to these people or these other websites that they would be interested in and give value to their users?"

Panos  1:20:46  
Yeah. And then, back to the really interesting example that you mentioned earlier about doing like local training plans or local running routes or something, you can hit up any number of generic health and wellness lifestyle-type publications which always try to do content like, "You can do this in your area to keep fit or that or whatever," and tell them to include a link back to your race. And if it is a 5K or 10K race, particularly, it's the perfect kind of like entry-distance event that most of these people may choose to enter after a point.

Cory  1:21:24  
Also, understand how they distribute their content can help you a lot. We're talking about search engine optimization. Do these people or these other websites have email lists? Are they sending things out? Again, I'll use the local running routes and the local training as an example, if they're sending out emails, often - websites do that a lot, especially local 'what's-going-on' directory sites that are desperate for content - you can say, "Hey, I noticed you're sending out emails - or it looks like it because you have an opt-in - here's a great piece of content that you can include in one of your upcoming emails." And then, that like direct links back to you. So, now they'll send that out to their email list and, hopefully, generate some traffic back to that page. Hopefully, you provide a good user experience for the people that come on to there. That'll help you potentially rank up for some of these longer-tail keywords. And again - I keep saying this for anything you do or create - think about how does that help to improve someone's experience or help them to address what they're actually searching for that's relevant to my race.

Panos  1:22:34  
So one other, actually, important thing before we move off race calendars and listing sites is the benefit that you'd get when you actually have things like reviews on those websites - right? And I think there are dual benefits. The words of the reviews give you some long-tail keywords of people talking about some medal or whatever which may come into SEO. But also, if you have a listing on something like RunGuides - or I had the guys from RaceCheck and RaceRaves a couple of episodes back - which are dedicated on building reviews, then you'd also get your event to show up on Google. When those results come up with a little five stars of their review - which is another type of markup that you don't have to have on your website because you don't have reviews of your website on your website - you can get people to review your site on listing sites and get the benefits of the review markup from those sites.

Cory  1:23:40  
Absolutely. Yeah, you can definitely do that especially through like dedicated review sites. And I mean, I will say that I am a huge advocate for putting some reviews and testimonials on your own site too. When you look at conversion optimization, like that creates social proof - right? And suddenly, having a couple of reviews that are specific to the type of runner experience that you want to offer is incredibly important and can really help a lot. If your course is known for having a ton of vert and being super tough, and people see a couple of reviews about your course having a ton of vert and being super tough, that'll create that social proof in their mind and that'll help with your conversion rate.

Panos  1:24:24  
Exactly. Last thing before we wrap up - and I think we touched on quite a few of these things now - is tools or things that people can use for their SEO, research and work. What would you recommend? 

Cory  1:24:38  
The tools that I would recommend would be your Google Search Console. That will allow you to easily examine the kind of healthier site and help you with some of the keyword research. You can additionally use the Google Keyword Tool. This is in AdWords. And again, this is a free tool. You'll just need an AdWords account to go out and do a bit of basic keyword research in order to understand generally what people might look for. The other tool that I would look at for keyword research and trends would be Google Trends. And that will give you some suggestions that will also allow you to kind of see when searches for specific baskets of keywords will peak. Then, to do all your markup, I would look at the Google Structured Data Markup Helper tool that will allow you to tell the spiders about what information is on your site like, "Is this a date? Is this an answer to a question?" And things like that. The other tool that I really like is called Moz.com. And this is like probably the number one free resource - for people who are looking to learn more about SEO and I send this to people all the time - it's called the Moz Beginner's Guide to SEO. And it walks people through everything from what is search engine optimization and really touches on all these points that we talked about much more eloquently than I'm able to do it on a podcast today. And the Moz Beginner's Guide to SEO is like the best resource that I have found out there online and it's just a series of articles. So that is something I would highly recommend to people as well. Then if you're starting to get a little bit more advanced into stuff, you want to start, maybe, tracking your keyword rankings outside-- like you can track them in Google Search Console, but if you want to do some more advanced tracking, or if you want to start doing things like looking at what pages are linking to your competitors, you can start to use some of these paid tools like Moz.com - as a paid tool. Another very popular one is Ahrefs.com. A lot of my friends use that. I've looked into using it. 

Panos  1:27:04  
Myself included. I'm a big fan. 

Cory  1:27:07  
Yeah, that's a great tool. Essentially, Moz and Ahrefs are pretty much the same things. They just offer you slightly different things for slightly different price points depending on what you want to do. Yeah, those are some great tools as well. I think for most race directors out there, I don't really necessarily think that you have to go too crazy on that stuff. I think just doing some basic keyword research and using something like Google Search Console gives you a huge heads up - and definitely go over the Moz Beginner's Guide to SEO because it is "something that is easy to understand and is applicable to all levels." I referenced that thing all the time. And they keep it quite updated as well - finding new SEO best practices.

Panos  1:28:07  
Yeah, that's definitely stuff that people want to check out and it really won't take all that much time. I think race directors need to be a little bit smarter with SEO, I guess - right? I mean, it's not rocket science, particularly, for a race website. But I think there's so much that they can gain by just tweaking things a little bit in line with what we discussed. I would add two things here in terms of tools. Again, if you have a website, you should have a Google Search Console account. Then beyond that, one interesting way that I do keyword research sometimes is just google.com - right? So first of all, you see what comes up in the queries that you're targeting - which is super helpful. Then at the bottom, Google has sort of like similar queries or people that may have phrased things a little bit differently to how you phrase them, which is important for when you're tweaking your content. And then, also, I'm sure the Moz guide would have it - most people have it - is that when you actually start to type in a query, let's say you type in, "Vancouver 10K" and you stop there, you'll see all the autocomplete results that Google throws into that search query box. So basically, Google tells you what are the most popular queries that begin with London 10K - right? And that alone can inform you a lot about what you want to search for.

Cory  1:29:43  
Absolutely. You've just described my entire link-building research process right there. That is an absolutely fantastic way to start looking for things - 100%.

Panos  1:29:57  
And if I may add something to the Moz resources - that I that I've also been through and they're quite helpful - I'm also a huge fan of Backlinko resources. Are you familiar with that? 

Cory  1:30:07  
I'm not, actually. No, I'm not familiar with that.

Panos  1:30:09  
So backlinko.com was started by a guy called Dean something. Anyway, I think he's considered like the authority on backlinking and SEO and stuff. So he has tons of really, really, really in-depth articles - I mean, exhaustively in-depth - like 40-minute reads or something. But he's poured a lot of work, and hard-earned experience into that stuff. So I think alongside Moz which has an excellent Beginner's Guide, I would definitely recommend people checking out backlinko.com. So, yeah. And I think with a bit of time and perseverance, I think there'll be some good results from all of that if you want to decide to go down the SEO route.

Cory  1:30:59  
Yeah, absolutely. At the end of the day, it'll just create contents that will be really helpful for people and make sure that your site is easy to navigate. And then, I think, again, for event directors, go over some quick wins on your backlink directory sites or other local what's-going-on events' websites - do a little bit of that. Do a little bit of quick googling to see kind of what other people are searching for and see if there are some lifestyle articles that you can quickly get your race on. Get an FAQ up on your website and then mark up some of your data, especially the distance register. Make sure Google knows that your website's about an event and then markup those FAQs. If you do that, you've done 75% - 80%. You've covered the basics. There you go - an hour and a half podcast.

Panos  1:32:10  
Absolutely. That was a fantastic summary. And we actually needed that after an hour and a half. I think that's exactly the kinds of things that people want to focus on. Cory, it's been a pleasure. It's been a great hour and a half to be going over a topic that I also feel quite passionate about. Thanks a lot for coming on.

Cory  1:32:30  
Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I'm really glad we got to chat about this. That was great.

Panos  1:32:36
I'm sure we'll have more chances to chat probably even back on the podcast. Thanks very much to everyone listening in. And we will see you all on the next episode.

Panos  1:32:53
I hope you enjoyed this episode on SEO with my guest, RunGuides Media Managing Partner, Cory Jennermann.

You can find more resources on anything and everything related to race directing on our website, RaceDirectorsHQ.com. You can also share your questions about building your own website, SEO or anything else in our Facebook group, Race Directors Hub.

If you enjoyed this episode, please don't forget to subscribe or leave a review on your favorite player and, also, check out the podcast back-catalogue for more great content like this.

Until our next episode, take care and keep putting on amazing races

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