This month, Google Maps just announced a new events feature appearing on Android phones which has already been appearing in desktop local search results — for some types of business, events information is now being displayed in addition to the other local profile elements.
The focus on events continues to indicate how much importance Google places on this data (and why local businesses should optimize for it).
Here’s an example of the events feature screenshot from my Android phone — the venue is Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco:
As you can see, Google shows a few listings under “Upcoming Events” for the restaurant. If you click on the one for “Tommy Odetto Group,” it displays event information and ordering options from EventBrite. The same info may be seen from desktop search for the business name, where the events are shown in the right hand Knowledge Graph box:
It’s not a stretch to assume that events will appear on Android smartwatches along with other local info – local info such as weather and local listings are some of the prime features that have been presented in the preview videos that Google has provided so far.
It seems clear that Google considers events to be an important element they wish to incorporate in local search products. Here’s the information from Google now showing that Events is one of the Cards:
So, what should one do to optimize for Events?
For one thing, it’s ideal to make it abundantly clear to Google that your business has events associated with it, and make that information understandable to machines. We do that with semantic markup — also referred to as “structured data.”
It’s been some years since I first recommended optimizing your local business events by using hCalendar Microformat, and later I again recommended newer options for semantic markup for local events. My guidance for incorporating the Event markup from Schema.org remains apropos.
There are now multiple event types, too, allowing you to select the one that most closely matches your activity: BusinessEvent, ChildrensEvent, ComedyEvent, DanceEvent, DeliveryEvent, EducationEvent, Festival, FoodEvent, LiteraryEvent, MusicEvent, PublicationEvent, SaleEvent, SocialEvent, SportsEvent, TheaterEvent, UserInteraction, and VisualArtsEvent.
You can imagine that “BusinessEvent” Schema might be best for most things like conferences and specialized store events, but the specific type that is most appropriate should be the one you use. Here’s an example markup for a Business Event:
<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Event"> <a itemprop="url" href="in-store-demonstration.html"> For Newbies: <span itemprop="name"> In-Store Demonstration </span></a> <meta itemprop="startDate" content="2014-07-15T08:30">July 7, 2014 : 8:30 a.m. at <span itemprop="location" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Place"> <a itemprop="url" href="store-17.html">Store 17</a>, <span itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress"> <span itemprop="streetAddress">10 Chestnut Street</span>, <span itemprop="addressLocality">Boston</span>, <span itemprop="addressRegion">MA</span> </span> </span> </div>
If you have difficulty in customizing the code on your site, or if the development project is going to take a significant amount of time, you could use Google’s Data Highlighter in order to “teach” Google how to read the events (and other data) on your site. However, it’s definitely preferable to implement the Schema.org code if you’re able.
Google is pulling event data from many sites that specialize in displaying event information and news sites that publish such stuff. It seems clear to me that there is also an advantage to be had in distributing your event information into sites like EventBrite, Eventful, and local community calendar sites if you want Google to identify it and feature it. But, you should be distributing information about your events already, as part of your overall marketing efforts.
Google is also pulling event information from more popular venue sites which have not installed semantic markup. For instance, they pull the concert information data from the Stubb’s BBQ website in Austin, along with the info from Eventful and Do512.com:
In general, doing nothing and hoping Google will identify and extract your data to highlight it is less likely to work than marking up your site to be more readily understandable by search engines. So, add the Schema code.
If you think that your business type doesn’t lend itself to events optimization, you might consider reassessing. It’s clear that Google places importance around local events, and involving your business with events has long conveyed some advantages in local SEO as well as in general marketing terms.
As I explained in 10 Unorthodox Ideas For Local Citations & Links, Google’s PlaceRank algorithm includes the premise that a location can have popularity that isn’t solely based upon the popularity of the business itself.
Hosting events at your location or involving your business with events will often result in stimulating a cloud of signals that Google may be using to determine relative popularity – Tweets, FourSquare check-ins, Facebook updates, shared and geocoded photos posted, videos posted – all of these things increase around events and the collective buzz may beef up your ranking power.
So, consider using events to further market your business to consumers, and when you do, publish it on events listing sites, and publish it on your own company site using Schema.org markup. The “Local Search Event Horizon” is now here – it’s reached critical mass now and it’s here to stay!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.