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Using SEO to Make Your Association Website Searchable

This post was written by Jeff Chabot, Web & E-Marketing Programmer with Greenfield Services.
Using SEO to Make Your Association Website Searchable
The internet has become the primary source of information for members and non-members to find information prior to making decisions on membership, conference registration and certification - stakeholders expect to find what they are looking for with minimal effort.

Unfortunately too many organizations’ websites that are not meeting expectations.  Research has shown that badly designed websites cost business – a Forrester Research 2012 study reports that when a consumer cannot find what they are looking for online, they switch to other more expensive method to obtain information.  This can be calling into a toll-free number or switching to a competitors’ website that has the information readily available.  Some even simply give up and never make the purchase.  While this is a US-based study, based on consumer trends, we can reasonably assume that similar statistics and information would be reported in Canada – and be relevant to the association market.

In short – the easier it is to find information on your website, the better. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a crucial step in ensuring that you are found – and found first.

SEO increases the visibility of your association’s website through online search engines (such as Google).  While SEO is constantly changing, this blog’s intent is to focus on some top priorities for associations to consider:
  1. Content:  The content on your website should be unique, and provide value to your members.  Associations should refrain from making it too promotional in nature; instead, educate members and other stakeholders.  Creating and publishing content on your website will help your association build your brand presence, and position your organization as the go-to industry expert.  Search engines love content.  
  2. Be Social:  Social media networks are now included in search results.  Take a look for yourself – look up a contact’s name, and you will likely see their social media pages in the search results – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest…. If the person is on those networks, they will all appear.  Becoming a social association is a great way to enhance your visibility online.  
  3. Build Links:  If you are looking for other ways to get people to find you online, building links is another great option.  Like-minded organizations, blogs, publications are all in a position to help your website out.  This can be done by commenting on blogs and articles, referencing your association in an article that is published on someone else’s site, starting a discussion on a relevant group, etc.  While this takes time, it is is another key strategy to boosting your visibility.  
  4. YouTube: The question “How many people have smartphones?” will very soon become “How many don’t?”.  Viewing video has become so much easier.  Have you visited YouTube lately?  You can search almost anything and find a video describing how you can get any job done.  When considering this for the association market, you may want to create videos with members describing the great work your organization is doing, testimonials on your certification programs/conferences, messages from your president, and your “about us/history”.  This doesn’t have to be professionally produced either.  Just make sure you have good lighting and audio.  The point is, having video will give you more visibility.  
  5. Mobile:  It is anticipated that by 2014 online searches with mobile devices will surpass desktop searches, so it extremely important that your association is ready.  A website should be programmed to render properly for mobile users.  If your site doesn’t have a mobile version or doesn’t have “responsive design” then you need to put that in your budget NOW.
SEO can be a complex and daunting task.  As an association executive, you must prepare yourself by aligning with companies who can help you move the needle, or prepare to educate your internal IT/Web department to be on top of the new trends.