If you are a race director, why should you take the time to worry about your search engine rank for your race’s web site? What if your site doesn’t show up on the first result page on Google for a search term that identifies your race – does it really matter? Absolutely. Read on to find out why Google can be crucial to your online race registration.
During the first two years we put on the Pumpkin Run, I put up a web site as fast as I could. I have developed fancy, database driven web sites for a living and to make a static page for the race seemed boring. As a result of my nonchalante attitude about the site, the Pumpkin Run web site was on the sixth page of search results for the term “pumpkin run”.
Last year, I had recently read a book called Designing with Web Standards and had done some research on search engine optimization, or SEO. I decided to take a stab at getting the lowly Pumpkin Run web site as high as I could in the search results for “pumpkin run”. I created a XHTML 1.0 compliant page and used a CSS layout. I used the web master section of Google Hacks by O’Reilly to tweak the site for Google optimization. The results made me take a step back.
The first year we got 82 online registrants and we were sweating during the last week of registration. We weren’t sure whether the race was going to fill up – if it didn’t, we were going to end up losing some of the money we had fronted for the race. It did fill up through mailed in registrations. The second year we did only marginally better – 94 online registrants.
Last year after implementing our Google strategy, we rose to the first page of results and eventually to the second search result on the first page. After this concerted effort, we got 154 online entries. After analyzing the web site log files, a majority of the hits were coming from Google. We shut down online registration much earlier last year and we were confident the race would easily fill.
All this makes me wonder if we could make the jump next year to online registration only. Depending on how quickly we fill up this year, I think next year could be the year that we try it. The conveniences of total online registration would save a tremendous amount of time. No manual data entry from the mailed in registrations that have to be merged with the online entries. No keeping tabs of how many mailed registrations have come in and no keeping up with sheets of paper and dozens of checks.
Have any race directors out there taken the online-only plunge?