This is a big day for Lincolnshire’s heritage sites. Some of the sites that are not always open and accessible are opening up their doors to share their treasures with curious visitors. From the 11th to the 14th September you can access lots of churches, ruins, collections and archives that are usually shut behind closed doors. For a full list of open days on 2014s itinerary go to the official guide which has been created around the theme of the Great War.

Beverley Gormley, Cultural Events Project Officer for Heritage Lincolnshire told us:

‘these events are a huge deal to the heritage industry – they let people see areas that are not usually accessible and encourage a wider ranging audience to come and enjoy their local heritage because it is theirs as much as it is ours to enjoy. We hope people take advantage of the special access and come and see some of the themes and extra activities we are laying on for them over the next few days.’

In honour of this activity we have decided to do a blog on what Lincolnshire’s heritage sites get right in terms of their Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). I have looked at the majority of Lincolnshire’s hidden gems and shining stars and pulled out six top tips and best practices for generating interest in their site and subject matter.

  1. Gainsborough Old Hall

Gainsborough Old Hall

© 2014 Gainsborough Old Hall

The newly revamped site is without doubt a ‘wow’ example of how heritage sites can deliver a fantastic user experience via their website. Even before you enter the building you already have a sound knowledge of what activities you can do on the day, what you need to look out for when exploring the medieval manor house, and what events need putting in the calendar so you don’t miss out on anything. If I dared to be critical I would say from an SEO perspective that the blogs could do with being longer and more frequent as there is so much information still to be shared on the periods of history this old building has been a part of. In terms of best practice this site really raises the bar and by capturing the audience’s attention with powerful imagery and an easy to navigate and explore site layout. A great deal of thought has been put into what visitors need to know as well as what they want to know.

old1old2

When you visit the site you will want to come and see the manor house, built in the 1460’s, which is finally beginning to get the attention it has always deserved: http://www.gainsborougholdhall.com/.

  1. Wilderspin National School, Barton-upon-Humber

school

© 2014 Wilderspin National School

A very accessible and clean website. The navigation is really uncluttered and it is certainly an example of best practice within the heritage sector. I particularly like the quick links toolbar that is exactly what it says it is and styled as a miniature blackboard in keeping with the design of the site.

Wilderspin

Also, on this site the headings are clear and nice and short. You get a full picture of what the heritage experience will be and for people interested in restoration, events, or the school programme there are links in the main menu. The content is not buried and the layout is not bitty in any way making it a pleasure to look around. If you fancy a trip back in time a Victorian classroom and school environment (who doesn’t love a bit of Victorian submersion) then this is the heritage site to check out. They are also linked to the World War theme running through the county with a focus on wartime schooldays: http://www.wilderspinschool.org.uk/default.htm

  1. Temple Bruer

Temple Bruer

© 2014 B Gormley Heritage Lincolnshire

There are lots of heritage sites without the resources to create their own website or the financial backing/support to maintain one. The top ten could have eliminated these sites entirely from consideration but that would be far too short sighted. These sites work hard to promote themselves and generate interest in their site often so that conservation and restoration costs can be met and prevent the buildings from sinking into ruin. I am using Temple Bruer as a best practice example of how large online databases/encyclopaedias can be utilised to get your heritage site ranking up there alongside the ‘big boys’. A key listing Temple Bruer have is a solid piece on Wikipedia.

temple 1

They are also in the Lincolnshire heritage directory and Lincolnshire Life with an article dating from 2012: . These three entries ensure that a search for the Knights Templar in Lincolnshire puts Temple Bruer on top of page one for search results.  A website isn’t everything in SEO if you have resources you can pool to achieve similar results.

  1. Tupholme Abbey

Tupholme Abbey

© 2014 B Gormley Heritage Lincolnshire

Following on with the theme of SEO on a budget the other way you can vamp up your following is by providing multimedia resources. These enhance the visitor experience and also put lots of content on your database excerpt to give you far more punching power when it comes to grabbing the attention of prospective audiences. Tupholme is a relatively small ruin but it has a big creative package to offer via reconstruction imagery and video. Download the video here and I really recommend giving it a watch: tupholmesmall The material takes you back in time so you can really re-create in your mind how the abbey would have looked in 1160 or there abouts. An additional resource is a digital education pack that is a simple design and clearly tasked with explaining the abbey then and now for children in an engaging way. Tupholme falls short with these resources simply because they are buried in a directory on Lincolnshire Heritage’s site. To maximise their SEO potential these should be placed on key directories like Wikipedia – along with a good picture. These databases are the first point of contact for many doing a search for Abbeys in Lincolnshire. For the smaller heritage sites in Lincolnshire a good catalogue of video and image resources built up over time can be a huge asset and really prompt footfall to the site. Tupholme is in a beautiful area and is well worth a visit because the ruins truly come to life if you take along your tablet or smartphone (are we ever apart from them these days?).

  1. Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral

© 2014 Andrew Birkitt, SEO Traffic Lab

I cannot do a blog piece looking at Lincolnshire’s best practice heritage sites without including one from the capital. Firstly, Lincoln Cathedral does an excellent job of toeing the line between being accessible as a place of worship and as a heritage site. This is an interesting and intricate balance that can easily turn a hold place into a tourists trap for religious practitioners or equally a tourist attraction into a religious establishment for non-Christian visitors. The site reflects the harmony in play. It is not an extravagant website and does immediately feel as though it has a respectful and professional tone to it. The events page seamlessly intertwines heritage centred open days around big days of worship. It has a nicely coloured layout with a good menu and site index so each audience is catered for. For an example of best practice I have honed in on their social media plugin. At the bottom of each page there is the opportunity to share that page over Facebook, Google+, Twitter and on Pinterest.

cathedral 1

There is also the strip of colourful social media icons at the top of the page. It is not something I came across enough when reviewing Lincolnshire’s heritage website pages. These are simple plugins that increase the amount of shares your blog pieces and web pages can get. These convert into greater clout with search engines and ultimately more traffic to the site. Lincoln Cathedral is always worth a visit and you can always pop over to Lincoln Castle in the afternoon so you get two fab heritage sites in on one day. Look out for guided tours around the Cathedral, particularly the roof and tower tours: http://lincolncathedral.com/visit-us/tours/.

  1. Lincolnshire Vintage Vehicle Society

vehicle

© 2014 Lincolnshire Vintage Vehicle Society

Worthy of a mention for one simple reason. They are the only site (outside of the National Trust and English Heritage) who had Instagram on their homepage.There were plenty of sites with Pinterest icons on them but many have yet to embrace the newest platform gathering steam in recent months. Why is this so important? Two reasons really:

  1. It is the perfect platform for heritage sites to really showcase the landscape/buildings/collections in their care. They combine an audiences favourite pieces of content; image and video. So it is like Pinterest only with bells on!
  2. The heritage industry is not synonymous with cutting edge digital marketing. There have been leaps and bounds by many leading heritage sites but the under resourced rely on basic sites and directories. Instagram is a great way of appealing to a younger audience and building a bigger reach.

Lincolnshire Vintage Vehicle Society are still in early days with their Instagram account but the fact they are on there is a big plus.

Lincs Vintage Vehicle Society instagram

Social Media is still the best free digital marketing approach available to the masses. They reach huge audiences and as an SEO firm we cannot shout about their benefit enough. Engage with audiences, give them short video clips of events, animals, close ups of architecture, panoramic views of landscape, re-enactments…there is so much subject matter and so much possibility here. You can also post images of areas where the public do not get access. There may be lots of items in the collection that have to be archived for conservation issues but can be photographed and shared with enthusiast. The more multimedia and external interaction audiences have with the site the more likely they will be converted into physical visitors to the site. Simples!

Have a great time exploring these sites and all the others in Lincolnshire taking part in the open days that begin today. For a full list just go to this page on Heritage Lincolnshire.