This week I want to let you in on a new feature I’ve added to my hyperlocal website which looks like its going to be pretty successful. I first mentioned it here along with the other types of premium content I’d be working on this year to boost my site.
Community Events Calendar
My market area is The Villages, a 55+ retirement community in Central Florida about an hour north of Orlando.
One of the main things that attracts retirees to The Villages is the nightly entertainment (much of it free) going on in the three town squares and a few other entertainment venues throughout the community.
Couple that with the worlds largest organized recreation department, and you’ve always got something going on.
The problem though is that there is no “master” calendar, or central place where people can see a schedule of everything going on.
There’s a recreation calendar that resides on one website. An entertainment calendar that lives somewhere else. A separate special events calendar printed in the newspaper.
My thought was to combine all of these calendars into one central calendar. I figured there’d be real value in this for my readers (look at every piece of content you create through this lens first), opportunities for outreach to other websites in the area for link building, and I knew there might be some potential long-tail SEO benefits.
How I Did It
I use WordPress for all of my own websites, and those of clients in my “Done for You” program, so finding a calendar plugin was a pretty easy task. All I had to do was search the WordPress plugin repository.
The one that caught my eye immediately was this calendar from Time.ly available in both free and paid versions. I’m using the free version for now but they just released a paid version that I plan to upgrade to soon.
I liked that it allowed people to essentially subscribe to the calendar and import all the events into their own Google or iCal calendar.
I also fell in love with the “Posterboard” display, which is the stunning default display for the calendar.
Setup was very easy, just a matter of downloading the plugin and then installing and activating it in the WP dashboard.
The plugin automatically creates a page where the calendar will live, and you can edit the page title, meta description, and url slug just like you would any other page.
Adding a new event is as simple as adding a new post, except you’re adding an “Event” instead. You give it a title, you can add a description, link to more information about the event, and one of my favorite things…you can embed a YouTube video, track from Spotify, or anything else that might be relevant and that readers would find useful to have.
This is especially great in the case of musical acts, many of which people have never heard of before. Now they can watch a video or listen to one of the artist’s tracks before going to see them and possibly wasting a night listening to a band they don’t enjoy.
There’s also a place to list the venue, specify an address and include a Google map, note the cost of the event (if any), and list a point of contact for more information (if available).
After that, you simply put it in the proper category such as Entertainment, Recreation, Etc. (you create these categories just like you would regular WordPress categories) and hit “Publish”.
What If You Don’t Use WordPress?
If your site does not run on WordPress, you’ve still got options for putting a calendar like this into action.
Probably the easiest way to do it is to create a calendar using Google Calendar, and then follow these instructions for embedding it into your site.
I don’t think you’ll get the same SEO benefits, but again, this is not an SEO play.
It’s a matter of providing something useful to your readers in the hopes they refer back to it often and tell others about this useful feature on your website.
Having only been up for a few weeks the calendar has already received almost 100 Facebook Likes/Shares, several local blogs and websites that I’ve been trying to get to link to me for years have linked to the calendar, and I can already see people coming in from long-tail search terms that I wouldn’t normally receive traffic from.
So I’m pretty jazzed up about keeping it going.
I’m sure you can come up with all sorts of ways to take advantage of this strategy.
But one idea that I want to give you is to list your open houses in the calendar.
Nobody said you had to keep it strictly to events that don’t include you.
This is your website and you run the show. Use every tool and tactic you’ve got to your advantage.
Unfortunately I identified some bugs in the calendar plugin I was using and I had to take down my calendar until those issues get ironed out. Hope to get the calendar back up soon.