Practical SEO tips for arts, cultural and heritage organisations

13 December 2022

Quick wins to help you improve your website's SEO. Plus, how to keep an eye on emerging SEO trends in arts, culture, and heritage.

This article is based on stand-out insights shared by Josh from digital marketing specialists Climbing Trees, in our Supercool Session, Strategic SEO for arts and culture.

We've also added-in some extra info and tips – including several handy to-do lists, which're dotted throughout. Hope it's helpful!

Jump to:

What is SEO and why is it important?
Tips for improving your website's SEO
Emerging SEO trends

What is SEO and why is it important?

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the process of making incremental improvements to the quality of your website's content and structure, along with external things like link building.

Why do this? Because it helps search engines to find and understand your content, helping it rank higher in organic searches. The higher the ranking, the easier it is for your audiences to find.

Search engines aren’t the only way people will land on your website – think social media, links sent by friends, press articles, advertising – but they're an important one.

I'll explain some of the things you can do to help improve your SEO in a bit, but first …

A brief note on search engines:

Yes, Google is (by far) the most commonly used search engine, but other top-ranking search engines include:

  • Bing! – Microsoft’s search engine
  • DuckDuckGo – which doesn’t track you as you search
  • Ecosia – which plants a tree for every 45 searches (and, like DuckDuckGo, doesn't track you)

This is useful to know as each one has a different algorithm, meaning you'll rank differently in the results.

Tips for improving your website's SEO

1. Consider your keywords

Confusingly ’keywords’ isn’t limited to individual words. It also covers phrases – technically known as long tail keywords. But that's a bit of a mouthful. And, as I'll be referring to them a lot in this article, I’m going to refer to them as search phrases.

In our Supercool Session about SEO, Josh talks about considering 'keyword intent', which is a really useful way to think about keywords.

Rather than solely focusing on the specific, individual words people use, it’s helpful to also think about what they’re trying to achieve.

Josh breaks 'intent' into three different levels:

1. Discovery

e.g. “Things to do near me” – Non-specific. They're open to ideas, so may be persuaded to visit you.

2. Research

e.g. “Theatres in Colchester” – A clearer intent about what sort of thing they want to do. And a more specific location. But the search still lacks some specificity – so they're somewhat open to ideas.

3. Decision

e.g. “Family shows at Mercury Theatre” – Very definite intent now – specifying type of show and a particular venue. This person will be expecting highly relevant, specific results related to their search.

📝 To do:

Dig-in to your website analytics

What keywords and phrases have people used to find your website recently?

Keep a list of the most frequently used words and phrases – and keep it updated over time. You may find the list useful to refer to when writing or updating copy on your website.

Are there any keywords or phrases you expected to find that aren’t appearing in your data?

Make a list of these too, and consider why they aren't appearing. Is it because this isn't something audiences are searching for? Or because your website doesn't mention those keywords/phrases? If the latter, consider updating your copy to include them.

Search for your top keywords and phrases

First, using Google as it's most ubiquitous.

When you Google your top keywords and phrases, where do you appear in the search results? While you're there, have a look at the results shown in ‘Related searches’ and 'People also ask' sections. Are there other keywords or phrases being used here, that you could be weaving-in to your copy?

You may also want to search again using different search engines e.g. Bing, DuckDuckGo, Ecosia. Where do you appear in these results?

💡 TIP: Use Incognito / Private windows in your browser for this task, so that search results are less personalised to you.

Create ‘Q&A’ content based on frequently-searched phrases

More and more people are using voice search and, when they do, they tend to ask a full question rather than saying a few keywords.

A 'Question & Answer' format – where your copy repeats a frequently asked question then offers a helpful answer – can be good for SEO. And your audience.

When writing content, consider the 'undecided' people who're searching with Discovery or Research intent

This is particularly useful for the more general, evergreen content on your top-level website pages such About and Your Visit. Try including some of those more generalised, less specific keywords and phrases that people search for within your written copy. (It's still important to make sure this reads naturally, and makes sense in context.)

Search phrase: “Theatres in Colchester”
SEO-friendly content:
“… as one of the most popular theatres in Colchester we have something for everyone …”

Consider using the same language as your audiences

As search engines refine their understanding of how we humans search the web, using the same words as your audience – e.g. ‘shows’ rather than ‘productions’ – is becoming less important. For SEO.

From a more human point of view, however, using the same language as your audience has the massive bonus of quickly helping people to feel closer to you. It makes you more accessible. More relatable. It shows you understand each other, and builds rapport.

So, even with decreasing SEO-related benefits, what's the downside to using the same language as your audience?

⚠️ Don't stuff keywords into your copy! ⚠️

You know this already, but it’s worth a reminder. Your written content needs to make sense. It should be relevant, clear and easy to understand. Mostly because that’s most useful to your audiences. But also because search engines will know if you’re just randomly adding lots and lots of keywords into copy to try and rank higher in search results. And they may well penalise you for it.

2. Optimise your images

Images can often be neglected when considering SEO. Because – how can search engines use pictures to understand your website content more clearly?!

📝 To do:

✅ Give your image files sensible, human-readable names

If a human can read and understand a filename, so can a search engine. Make sure your images are given sensible filenames – either before you upload them, or it may be something you can edit within your content management system (CMS).

😕 Unhelpful: IMG_483920845.jpg

☺️ Helpful: External-stage-door-summer.jpg

BONUS: Naming image files in a human-readable way has the added benefit of making it way easier to find them / search for them in your CMS, which may come in handy one day. Make things easier for your future self!

✅ Check image file sizes

Large images can slow your website. And slow websites are not well-ranked in search results. So, make sure your image files aren't any larger than they need to be.

This may be something your CMS handles for you. If you're not sure if this is the case or not, check with your web agency.

✅ Include alt text

Alt text (short for 'alternative text') isn't just useful for people who're unable to view your image for some reason. It can also be used by search engines to provide more detailed information about your content. So, make sure you include alt text on all relevant images on your website.

💡 If you're unsure about what alt text is, or how to write it, or what images it should (and shouldn't) be added to, have a read of our helpful article – How to write good alt text.

✅ Add image captions

Much like alt text, image captions can be used by search engines to help them understand more about your website's content in order to return the most relevant search results.

3. Check your details on listing websites

It's not just your own website that can impact your search engine rankings. To build trust, search engines use references to you from elsewhere on the internet to corroborate information. These references are known as 'citations'.

Citations can include information such as your organisation's name, phone number, address, website address etc. It's a useful exercise to periodically check that this information is all correct and up-to-date, as it helps search engines to build consistent, accurate data about you.

📝 To do:

✅ Check your organisation's citations

  • Using search engines (plural!), search for your organisation
  • Make a list of all the listings URLs where you appear
  • Go through each listing and check that information shown is correct and complete
  • If not, update it yourself if you can, or send the correct information to the listings site*
  • Check back on this after a reasonable amount of time, as changes may not be made immediately
  • If your details appear on a website that seems dodgy or that you don't want to be listed on, you may want to request that your details are removed

*Ignore this if there's a charge for changing your data!

I've specified 'meaningful' because there're plenty of dodgy link farms out there! Links from these kinds of websites will have the opposite of the desired effect. If a search engine spots your website in a link farm, they may well down-rank you. So, be selective and mindful when building links.

🔗 Backlinks

Also known as 'inbound links' – these are useful as they help search engines to know that your content is authentic and useful. Although backlinks aren't as important to SEO as they used to be, a well-respected (i.e. highly-ranked) website linking to your website is good.

For example, backlinks from a respected industry press website will boost your SEO.

In the Supercool Session, Josh shared a couple of ways to build backlinks:

Link attraction – just make really, really good content, then wait for people to find it and share it

Manual link-building – actively work on making sure your website is linked-to from other, trusted, sources

Both link attraction and manual link-building can take time, but keeping your focus on quality over quantity will create those meaningful links that genuinely help users. And which search engines love too!

🔗 Internal links

These are links on your website, leading to other pages on your website.

They're helpful for both your audience and search engines, because they help group related content that people may be interested in.

(We've included several examples of both backlinks and internal linking in this article.)

📝 To do:

✅ Build backlinks to your website

Approach people directly, asking them to link to your website – in particular to 'evergreen' content that won't become out-of-date or disappear from your website.

This can be done ad-hoc rather than in one fell-swoop. You may want to consider approaching industry press, well-respected sector suppliers, peers, and partners.

✅ Build internal links within your website

Look for opportunities to add useful links between pages on your website e.g. A news article about your new show can link to the event page. A youth theatre event page might link to the page about joining the youth theatre group.

Whenever you're adding new content to the website, ask yourself – "Is there anything else on our website that it'd be useful to link to? What else might be relevant for people coming to this page?"

5. Create landing pages

A 'landing page' is a collection of related information, linked-to from a single web page.

The reason these pages are so well-liked by search engines? They give a very clear context to your content. And they're really helpful for your audiences too.

A collection could be aimed at a specific audience, or based on a specific topic:

What types of content might you include on a landing page?
  • A clear title – Clarity is key. The title should explain what the page content is about.
  • Intro text – A well-written introduction will probably include several of the keywords or phrases that people might use in search engines – e.g. Family shows, things to do, live music etc.
  • Links – Make it easy for folks to access all information on your website that's related to this subject by linking to it!
  • Backlinks – Depending on what your landing page is all about, it may be helpful to link to information outside of your own website too (i.e. provide backlinks to other websites)
  • Call-to-action – Don't forget to include a call-to-action: what's the main thing you want someone to do when they visit this page?

💡 Practising what we preach – example landing pages on our website:

> Access Resources

> Sustainability

> Inclusivity

📝 To do:

✅ 'Cluster' your content

Think about any opportunities you have to group related content on your website.

For example, if someone has filtered by ‘Family’ in the What’s On section, could you also display information about kid-friendly courses? Or meal deals for under 10s in your café? Or your Youth Theatre open auditions?

Based on this, add internal links between the pages you already have on your website.

And then …

✅ Consider creating landing pages

Depending on how much flexibility you have with your website, creating a new landing page may be something you can do yourself, or you may need to discuss how to achieve this with your web agency.

Make sure to promote any new landing pages both through external links (on social media, email newsletters etc.) and from other relevant points on your website.

✅ Track progress

Using website analytics, monitor these newly-linked pages and landing pages. Do you see any differences over time from clustering your content?

6. Check your on-site SEO

Depending on how your website has been built, you may or may not have access to edit every element of on-site SEO. If you do have access – great! – this info's for you! If not, this might be something to discuss with your website agency.

What is on-site SEO and why is it important?

Broadly, on-site SEO powers the information that gets displayed within search results. It's important because it helps search engines judge how relevant that page's content is to the keywords being searched for.

Anatomy of on-site SEO:

Uniform Resource Locator – commonly called the web address.

Title Tag
The title of your page, as it appears in search results. This may be the same as the big heading (H1) at the top of a webpage when you land on it. Or the Title Tag may have been edited, in order to provide additional context or information within search results.

Meta Description
The short bit of text that sits under the Title Tag. This gives more context to help users decide whether or not to click the search result. The Meta Description will be taken from the first paragraph or so of text on your web page – unless it's been edited. Editing the Meta Description can help to give users a clearer idea of what the page is about than the first paragraph provides.

The anatomy of a search result shows URL at the top – small, black text reading http//:www. …, under that a large title that reads 'Digtial Marketing Agency // PPC and SEO // Climbing …", and under that smaller black text that says "Climbing Trees create positive digtial marketing, for good. We help brands to achieve more with their paid and organic search marketing."

Other on-site information that's used to help rank pages for relevance are on the webpage itself:

H1 (Heading 1)
The first, big title that appears on your page. This will also appear as the page's Title Tag in search results – unless the Title Tag has been edited.

Page content
Everything else on the page! The first line or so of text on your page will be used as your Meta Description, unless you edit that within your CMS. Content towards the top of the page is given more importance by search engines, so make sure you say what the page is about right at the top.

📝 To do:

✅ Check your top 10 pages

Using analytics data, make a list of your top 10 most visited pages.

For each of these, check that the URL, Title Tag, Meta Description, H1, and Page content are all accurate, up-to-date, and optimised for your top keywords. (Do this by searching for the pages and checking the results that come back – across various search engines.)

7. Great content is key to search engine optimisation

Forget shortcuts – relevant, well-written, original content that's genuinely interesting to your audiences is by far your best bet at ranking highly in search results. But this takes time and effort, and your team's already up against it!

You need a Content Strategy. Covering planning, research, creation (possibly commissioning), monitoring, and evaluation of content, a Content Strategy will help you to make the most of your time in the medium-to-longer term. But it will require a decent chunk of time up-front. Once you have the framework set-up though, you can use it year after year.

📝 To do:

✅ Develop a Content Strategy (and follow it!)

You'll find some great advice on making a start on or improving your Content Strategy in another of our Supercool Sessions – Content Strategy with Georgina Brooke.

(Georgina's from digital analytics, usability research and content strategy consultancy, One Further.)

But we understand that developing a Content Strategy may be a stretch. Particularly for smaller teams. So …

✅ Talk to your web agency

Consider asking your web agency for guidance. They may be able to share tips and tools for creating content more efficiently, if developing a full Content Strategy's too much right now.

Perhaps they could also help and support you to make the case to your SMT or Board of Trustees for investing resources in developing your Content Strategy?

✅ Commission a consultant

For more in-depth help, you might want to get in touch with a content strategy consultant or agency. They'll be able to talk you through options based on the time and budget you have available. (Or, again may be able to point you in the right direction of things you can do yourself.)

💡 More helpful (free) resources:

How to write great web copy – Supercool

How to make your written content more accessible – Supercool

"We need 3 people to make cultural content that isn't crap" – Adam Koszary

Content Checklist (free but requires sign-up) – Lauren Pope


Not massively helpful if you're looking for a nice, easy-to-follow checklist this, but – as Josh reinforces in the Supercool Session – there's no one thing, or set of things, that you 'should' be tracking.

What you decide to track comes down to what's relevant to you. And that might be anything from organisational business goals to specific marketing campaigns. But whatever you decide, don't try and measure everything!

It's not an easy thing to get right, so allow you and your team some time to make considered decisions about what to track – meaningful metrics that give you data insights that are useful and relevant.

💡 Some helpful, general advice about tracking from Josh:
  • In Google Analytics, add annotations about what you did on specific dates e.g. sending newsletter, launching a new show, promoting a news item etc. Have engagement goals for these and review them periodically, looking at where the traffic is coming from.
  • Google Search Console shows you the keywords/phrases people are using to find your website.
  • If you've not done anything different but see significant changes to your data, an algorithm may’ve changed. Do some digging to find out if a search engine has made changes to how its algorithm works. If so, you can then act on that information if it’s negatively impacted your SEO – or relax and celebrate if it’s given you a boost!

We've talked about it being useful to consider the way people are searching when writing your copy.

Looking at your own analytics will only give you data about the people who've already found your website. But what about those who haven't yet? How can you know what's going on more widely?

There are several (free) tools available that share insights into this very thing.

💡 Free SEO trend tools:

📝 To do:

✅ Trend research

Take the time every few months or so to dip-into these trend tools, to review how people are searching in the sector. What are the trends around your top keywords? How could you use these insights? Keep a note of what you find, as you might want to act on these changes when it comes to writing or updating your website content.


From Josh:

🕰️ Make time for SEO

Schedule time to focus on the SEO big picture – once or twice a year. This will give you the space to review where you're at, prioritise what to track and what content might need to change.

✍️ Think 'keywords' …

Use some of the keywords and phrases that audiences use in searches within your own copy.

🤔 And also think 'intent'

Consider those different levels of audience intent (in the Keywords section) when writing web copy.

And a few extras from me:

🤗 Avoid overwhelm!

SEO is a lot. But you don’t need to understand everything, or work on everything all at once. Remember, the essence of SEO is about making incremental improvements. So, concentrate on doing the small chunks you feel most confident tackling first. Then build-up from there. Hopefully the to-do lists in this article are a helpful starting point!

Focusing on one thing at a time will help increase your understanding of SEO – and your audiences.

🧡 Talk to your web agency

We tend to be pretty good eggs and will, to varying degrees, be able to help out with the more technical side of SEO. And when we're not able to help …

🤓 Talk to an expert

For work that’s out of your web agency's scope of knowledge, SEO experts – folks like Climbing Trees and One Further – can provide more in-depth help and guidance.

For more insights like this, regular arts/culture/tech news, invitations to our free events and more – join the Supercool Mailing List

At Supercool we create flexible, effective, easy-to-use websites for cultural organisations 🧡

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