Should non-profits have websites for their shows?

I was honored to have been asked to speak on a panel about marketing last night at The Women’s Project.  During the panel, search marketing and organic rankings came up as a Producer expressed her frustration with Google.  The problem?  When she googled her latest show, a bunch of ticket-hawking brokers came up first, and the official page for the show on her website failed to make it into the top 10 organic Google recommendations.

As we discussed strategies for getting her show ranked higher, I had to wonder: why do non-profits have all of their show pages inside their main site . . . why not have separate show sites?

I know the answer, of course.  A non-profit is like . . . well . . . like a fancy dress shop. They point all their traffic to the address of the dress shop. Then, once the customer is there, they can choose which of the many dresses inside the shop they’d like to see.  And hopefully they’ll buy more than one.

Makes sense, right?

But we also know that Google rewards the most relevant sites when users are searching for specific terms.  Could a non-profit be better served by having another site, with the title of the show in the domain, that is solely for the selling of that specific show?  Certainly a customer looking just for that show may be more likely to buy if the show marketing isn’t diluted by institutional call to actions.

More importantly, a site like that might be easier for the consumer to find via search.

I wouldn’t lose the show marketing on the main non-profit site . . . but I would use this other site as as a defensive play against the brokers and the discount farms that have been stealing our search traffic, and as a better way to sell the show to the one-off consumer who doesn’t want to subscribe to the non-profit . . . yet.

  • I can see some problems with this. First, if there are many productions of the same show, there could be a confusing amalgam of websites making it difficult to find the right website for the right show at the right theatre. This is complicated by the second problem: stale websites from previous local or national productions distracting from the local production website. Consider a local non-profit producting [title of show]. Do they set up their own website in addition to the theatre’s website? How do they address conflicts with the main [tos] website?
    There’s also the issue of cluttering the domain name space with lots of one-time domain names (a growing problem), and the cost of those domain names for the perienially money-strapped non-profits.

  • Kristi R-C says:

    Only if they want someone to see the show.
    I see this as an opportunity for the play’s rightsholder to include use of or space on the show’s web page as a marketing tool, just as they’ll sell you approved t-shirts, CDs, and other swag to market the show in your location. It’s in everybody’s best interest if he show is a hit.
    It would be simple to adapt an existing show’s tour or B’way web site to promote performances in other locations. There are already professional shows that have a central page for all their productions world wide – Mamma Mia and Les Miz are good examples. Would be simple to add regional, community and even educational theatre to those pages as those rights are granted.
    The real question is “How much should this cost the non-profit theatre producer?”

  • Ken as I understand it, your strategy would also be the best to improve search rankings. (As well as not losing potential customers who are just looking for one specific show).
    Though they’re very secretive about their search algorithms, my experience is that google (and presumably other search engines) treat sites with inbound links from more established sites more seriously (and award them higher rankings). It’s as if the established site is “vouching” for the new site.
    For example, an actor doing his or her own website may well struggle to find higher search rankings until he or she is able to list a link to it from an “official” site like (Case in point, there are many Todd Faulkners on the web, including a successful attorney, a baseball player, and a popular minister. I struggled to get my site high enough to be found – until I linked to it on imdb. It leapt to the top of the search results almost immediately.)

  • Dave Charest says:

    This is definitely a “depends on the size of the non-profit” question.
    If you don’t need to worry about brokers, or tours and such, having an SEO friendly show page is enough for the small not-for-profit.

  • You could also just buy a domain that’ll help get the ranking, but have it point to the internal page on the nonprofit’s site. Domain names are $10 and most hosting providers will allow a domain to “forward” to a sub-page of the main site.
    Another idea is to use the title of the show as a sub-domain that forwards or refers to the show page within the org’s existing site….. so the URL would look like: “” This will help google rankings too. But most important is to use the keywords that will attract attention to the show early, often and shamelessly in blog posts, etc.

  • CLJ says:

    California Highway Guy has hit the nail square on the head; you’re used to a slimmer market. There are dozens if not hundreds of productions of some plays; we would drown if each production of each play had its own website.
    And it wouldn’t really help all that much. What Google looks for is connections; websites linking to yours. The more hyperlinks to even an existing “dress shop” website, the more visible it will be to a Google search.
    I’m a “meta-blogger,” I don’t generate a lot of original content; what I do is link to the content about theater in my region, and link to the website for the theater. This raises the visibility of both the website with the story or review, and the website for the theater the story or review is about.
    That said, the more information about the show you have on your website, the more likely a blogger like myself is likely to link to you. Keep a blog; and remember, a pure blog is simply a list of hyperlinks. What you need to blog about is simple: here’s the link to our new YouTube Video. Here’s a link to a review. Here’s a link to an interview. And at the bottom of each story, a link to the ordering info for your show. Don’t write your phone number again and again – make them come to your website – another connection for Google to see.
    An added benefit of a blog? RSS – Really Simple Syndication. People can subscribe to your blog, and whenever you put up a new post, it comes to their desktop, or their smart phone. And it allows Meta Bloggers to see that there’s new information to share.
    More connections.

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