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Why you need one web page for each event or product

Brochure-ware of old or Single Page Application?

With the popularity of mobile devices and the preference of mobile web users toward scrolling content, Single Page Applications have become more common. In a way, they are similar to some of the first web pages created. A single web page tended to have large amounts of content and navigation was rudimentary. Remember the “brochure” websites from 25 years ago?

Indexing web pages

Today, when arts organizations or festivals create web pages that list multiple shows, search engines and other data crawlers and scrapers are less likely to effectively index your page.

When building or updating a website there are a few things you have to know, including:

  1. Google doesn’t list your website as whole. Instead Google indexes each page on your site.
  2. Search engine optimization (SEO) requires pages that have the keywords users search for used well (see Traditional Search Engine Optimization matters), in order to be more likely to rank highly.
  3. Search engines require one authoritative (canonical) master content page with all the event information in order to properly index your information, and consider using it in its Google Events Answer Box.
  4. When you use tags, from meta tags to style tags that are used to identify levels of headings and body text, Google understands your content better. In short, words in a headline are more important than words in body text. This requires using your website’s style sheet, instead of manually adjusting fonts; this works just like the styles in Word processing software.

The problem with listings pages

For a search engine or web crawler a listings approach makes it difficult to index the page effectively for each artist. Simply put, most of the information on the page is not relevant to one artist, or one show. Similarly, the web address (url),  title and description tag – three of the most important pieces of data a search engine takes into account when ranking your web page – are likely generic, rather than keyword-rich.

How one web page for each event benefits you

Web searches lead to the most relevant page on the web based on the keywords searched.

When all the relevant content about a show is put on one web page, we are able to provide a richer, more compelling and specific experience to the human user. Headlines and body text are specific to the artist or show, boosting credibility with the search engine. We can also code the page in order to optimize it for search. For instance, the artist name or show title can be used in the web address, title tag and description tag.

Adding your town, event date, start time also helps search engines surface your specific events. (What’s on in Calgary tonight; versus Matt Anderson tour)

Automated scraping of web content is also facilitated when each event has its own web page.

Next step: Structured data

Structured data is the meta-data (the information about your event) that helps a search engine and other web crawlers and scrapers “read ” your content correctly. Google uses schema.org’s common standard for meta-data tags to this end. There are WordPress plug-ins like Yoast that deliver this today to any web user. Those with other types of websites can use Google’s detailed information about how to use structured data.

Today, structured data for events is becoming much more popular. In short, the answer boxes in Google are driven by properly structured data. In order for Google to recognize your infromation as authoritative, it requires one page with all the information – that way itmay be referenced in Google Events information under “More Information”. Moreover, with the use of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant, this approach enables the return of useful information in the virtual voice assistant’s single answer reality.

Not showing up in these rich results on Google is increasingly problematic for arts organizations, as they risk dropping of the web users radar.

Webpage screen capture of events atLe Moulin de la Baie Sainte Marie

This web page from a volunteer-run presenting organization has several significant problems from the perspective of search engines:

  1. Show information is difficult to index because the structure of the web page includes very little HTML content.
  2. “The next show” has two pages, one with only images, including the artists name, and the second with show information. One page would be more effective and using HTML text instead of images would allow Google to read this content.
  3. It does not use its web addresses to highlight artists or shows.
  4. Basic meta tags (title tag, description tag) are not used to make up for its shortcomings in how the content is rendered through images.
  5. It doesn’t use structured meta-data to make its event information machine-readable and therefore is not able to be displayed in Google answer boxes.
  6. Its events page is comprised of an image of its printed brochure or PDF file. None of this content is coded to be machine readable.

Single Page Application and SEO

A Single Page Application (SPA)  is a website that loads all of the resources required on the first page load, and then dynamically refreshes content as the web user interacts with the site without ever making full page request.

This makes SAP’s so difficult to index for search engines that they are typically not used when search visibility is required. Workarounds are both labour-intensive (such as creating an actual HTML version of the site), unreliable (if the content between the mirror HTML site and SAP appears too different for a search engine it might be penalized instead of listed),  and fraught with maintenance challenges (such as maintaining current content on multiple versions of a website.)

There are a number of other challenges by loading an entire website as a single page,  from tracking web history to analytics.

Canonical page

When a web site has several urls (uniform resource locator; akin to a web address for all the elements on a web apge) with the same content search engines can get confused. Google determines which page it considers authoritative. To help them recognize the authoritative source reliably, you can identify the master page using the canonical tag, thus identifying it without ambiguity.