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Building a Trade Show or Expo Website: 8 Essential Steps

May 21, 2019
Robert O'Sullivan

In today’s competitive event industry, establishing a strong online presence is crucial to your trade show or expo’s success. Building an effective and informative event website is the first step towards connecting with your target market and increasing attendance at your event.

In this guide, we’ll discuss 8 essential steps to building a great trade show or expo website. These steps will be separated into three phases: Research & Planning, Development, and Promotion & Maintenance.

Research & Planning

Before you begin work on your website, it’s important to research current industry practices and competition. This will give you a clear road map for designing your website, which will help you save time and money in the development process.

1. Set Clear Goals and Objectives

The first thing you want to ask yourself before building your website is, “What do I hope to accomplish with this site?”

Most likely, your number one goal is to increase attendance at your event. To reach this goal, you’ll need to identify specific objectives that will help you get there. These objectives will be different for every event, but it’s essential that they are specific and attainable.

2. Identify Your Target Audience

It’s important to know who you’re marketing to. Researching the demographics related to your trade show will help you identify which groups of people are most likely to be interested in your event, allowing you to make stylistic choices on your website that will appeal to those groups. For example, if you’re managing a boating trade show or expo, you’ll probably want to aim for a laid-back design reminiscent of the ocean. On the other hand, if you’re managing a fitness expo, you’re probably better off with an intense, action-oriented design.

3. Evaluate Your Competition

An essential part of the research process is looking at some of your competitors’ websites to see how they’re marketing their events. What are their strengths and weaknesses? You want to make sure that your site stands out and doesn’t borrow too heavily from competitor’s sites, but it’s a good way to start generating ideas about what works and what doesn’t.

Development

Once you’ve done your research and you have clear goals in mind, you’ll be ready to get started on building your trade show or expo website. Whether you have an in-house web developer, or you’ve hired outside help, it’s crucial to make sure your site follows the guidelines listed below.

4. Design Your Site to be User-Friendly

In order for a website to be effective, it must be informative and easy to navigate. The overall experience that a person has while visiting a website is referred to as User Experience (or UX), and it encompasses many factors, including visual design, site structure, quality of written content, credibility, and more. One of the biggest things you can do to improve UX is to ensure that the most frequently sought-after information about your event, typically the who, what, when, where, and why, is easy to find on the site.

5. Design Your Site to be an Effective Marketing Tool

A website is, in essence, a lead-generating machine. Your website’s job is to get people to reach out to you as prospective sponsors, exhibitors, or attendees at your event. In order for it to do that, it needs to appear high up enough in relevant search results to be considered and capture enough interest from site visitors to warrant further action.

The process of improving your site’s chances of being included in relevant internet searches is called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. SEO is a highly complex process involving many different variables and requiring extensive research to master, but to get started you can:

• Use keywords on your site that are likely to be included in event-related internet searches

• Ensure a quality User Experience, as discussed in the previous section (search engines evaluate UX by keeping track of how visitors behave on websites and rank search results accordingly)

• Increase the amount of content on your site by making regular blog posts on subjects relevant to your trade show’s focus

Once a person is on your website, there should be a clear, logical path that leads him or her to a call to action. A call to action is a device that is designed to prompt an immediate response, such as a “Contact Us” button. The process that begins with a person visiting your site and ends with him or her responding to a call to action is called the Buyer’s Journey, and it consists of the Awareness Stage, the Consideration Stage, and the Decision Stage. The overall goal is to structure your site in a way that naturally builds interest as the user navigates through it.

Making your trade show or expo website an effective marketing tool is a complex process, and the information above is only the tip of the iceberg, but it will give you a useful starting point in conducting your own research.

6. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly

Today, over 70% of all web traffic takes place on a phone or tablet. To ensure that all of your site visitors are provided with an enjoyable browsing experience, it’s crucial to test it on various platforms and make sure it’s functional and properly formatted on all of them. A bad User Experience can lead to potential leads leaving your site prematurely, which can damage your search engine ranking and lead to further lost opportunities.

Promotion & Maintenance

The work doesn’t end after you get your site up and running. Once it’s there, you have to let people know about it, keep track of how it’s functioning, and make necessary improvements. An effective website is not a static entity, it should be continuously growing and evolving along with your event and target audience.

7. Generate Buzz by Regularly Adding New Content to Your Site and Social Media Accounts

Investing money into advertising to promote your site is always an option, but the most cost-effective and easiest way to expose new people to your brand is tocreate your own content and post it online. Regularly adding photos, videos, and written content to your website and social media pages is essential to engaging your audience and increasing your trade show attendance. Third party press coverage is also excellent content to share with your followers because it lends some extra credibility to your brand.

8. Monitor Website Analytics to See What’s Working and What’s Not

Building a website is partly a trial-and-error process. Initially, there may be certain sections of your website that function very well, whereas others may lag behind. Monitoring your website’s performance analytics will allow you to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses and make adjustments accordingly. It’s a good idea to take a look at some of the metrics search engines use to evaluate your site’s quality, such as:

• Average time on page: the average amount of time spent on a given page on your site

• Pages per session: the average number of pages on your site visited in a single browsing session

• Exit rate: the percentage of visitors who leave a given page on your site

• Bounce rate: the percentage of visitors who enter your site and leave without exploring a second page

Building an effective trade show or expo website is an in-depth process that takes hard work, time, and money, but it is an absolutely essential tool for reaching a wider audience and maximizing your event attendance. This guide is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a great starting point if you’re looking to take your event to the next level by building a great trade show or expo website. Good luck!

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