What Is Google's New Event Search Feature And Why Does It Matter?
Google has never been a company to rest on its laurels. Over the past two decades, the search engine giant has continued surprising, delighting, and serving its users with new features, layouts, and inner workings. Not all of these features have been successful, but it’s never long before a disliked feature is improved, replaced, or modified.
Recently, much of Google’s focus has been on improving experiences for mobile users—and by that, I’m referring both to users relying on mobile devices like smartphones, and users who need fast, on-the-go information. Event search is the latest new mobile feature, rolled out by Google earlier this month, and it’s worth considering both as a new SEO strategy and as a signal for what’s coming next.
How Event Search Will Work
In the Google search app, event searches take over when Google detects that a user is looking for an event. For example, the basic “events near me” triggers the event search, but specific queries, like “jazz concerts” also bring up relevant results. Rather than seeing a conventional search engine results page (SERP) layout, users then see a list of events relevant to their query, with the option to filter or reorder results based on a specific date, or by qualifiers like “today,” “tomorrow,” and “next week.”
After clicking on an event in the list, Google will display information for how to attend, such as linking a user to a ticket purchasing app or showing an RSVP option.
Supported Sites (and How to Get Involved)
So where is Google getting the information for these events, and how can you be a part of it?
Before launch, Google worked with a number of event sites to coordinate correct markup and listings for each respective enterprise. At launch, event search was displaying results from Meetup, Yext, Vividseats, Eventbrite, Ticketmaster, SeatGeek, Jambase, LiveNation, Bookmyshow.com, StubHub, Bandsintown, Eventful, and a handful of others. It plans to add support for even more ticket and event apps in the next several weeks and months.
However, you don’t have to wait for Google to reach out to you to make sure your organization’s events are listed in event search results. In fact, all you have to do to see your event listed is mark it up using standard Schema markup protocols—with a few new rules. Google has a handy guide for developers looking to mark up their site’s events, and it’s simple to follow. You’ll need to properly categorize your event, include all the specific information Google requests, create a unique URL for your event, and be careful not to mislabel an event (especially if it takes place over multiple days).
Marking up your events feeds that information to Google, so it can consider those events for relevant searches made by its users. Depending on how your site is currently set up and what types of events you host, it shouldn’t take long to make the change.
The Increasing Shift to Here and Now
One of the most important takeaways from this change by Google is that it marks another step in the search world to favoring the here and now. Mobile devices sparked a new revolution in moment- and place-focused optimization, and Google keeps pushing for better features. For example, Google overhauled the design and functionality of its local search results to favor users with mobile devices searching for immediate needs while they’re on the go. It has also introduced accelerated mobile pages (AMPs), which are designed to load as quickly as possible for mobile users who need fast information.
The rise in popularity of live video and in-the-moment social media updates also demonstrates users’ interest in seeing more content that’s relevant to their immediate interests. By coordinating content based on proximity to users’ location and proximity to present time, Google is moving forward in new dimensions of “relevance,” and users are demanding more instantly gratifying results.
Is It Worth Optimizing For?
Ignoring the paradigm shift toward immediate gratification for a moment, let’s consider whether it’s “worth it” for businesses to optimize for Google event search. If your business or organization coordinates most of its events through EventBrite, Ticketmaster, or similar sites, your events are likely already optimized for search. You won’t have to change anything to get your events listed. However, if you list your events mostly through your own site, and you host events regularly, it’s imperative that you adopt the latest markup standards so that people can easily find your events when searching for them.
However, even if your organization doesn’t host many events, it’s still in your best interest to mark up your event data whenever it comes up. Employing Schema microformatting is a best practice for all sites, as it makes it possible for your content to be featured in a rich snippet, and properly “understood” by Google’s search crawlers.
Looking to the Future
As you consider how to update your SEO strategy from here, make sure you consider the rise in importance of “here and now” content. Showcasing local events, getting involved in the community, and catering to users’ immediate needs with content and resources is, in my mind, one of the best ways to future-proof your SEO strategy.
It’s likely that Google will continue releasing new features that cater to demanding mobile users over the next several years, so make sure your business stays ahead of the curve.