Association website strategy calls for commitment, competition, accountability Your website is vital to your association’s overall success. Member recruitment, retention and engagement are all fueled by this essential communications medium.
Between your broad audience and the abundance of information you need to convey on your site, it takes a consistent strategy to channel those interactions. Even more so than for your for-profit counterparts.
“In some ways, associations have more of an obligation to be thought leaders on the Web than companies do,” says Association Hub Expert Peter Wright. “The professionalism, efficacy, and searchability of an association website are probably more important than a company website.”
To have an effective association website, you must have a disciplined website strategy to optimize your site for search engines. We’ll repeat: To be top of mind, you have to be at the top of Google.
Association managers often don’t understand that you have to earn that top spot. You not only have to earn it, but also maintain it. Otherwise, you run the risk of relinquishing the prized pinnacle to your competitors. What, you say you don’t have any competitors? Of course you do.
“You’re competing for the mind space of your members and prospective members,” says Wright. You’re competing for time and attention span. For the time it takes a busy individual to find your content and engage with it, versus another organization’s content. You’re competing against every other form of content that people consume on the Web. And there are mountains of it.
More importantly, you’re competing for those coveted spots on Google that reinforce your relevance to your audience. Whether you appear at the top, middle or end of the list, or worse on the second page of results, speaks volumes to your target market’s perception of your association as a thought leader.
No. 1 isn’t good enough You’re not just competing for the top spot. You’re battling for several spots at the top of the search engine results pages, or SERPs. “You don’t want to just bump number 1 back to the number 2 spot,” explains Wright. “You want to take the number 1, number 2 and number 3 spots. You want to take as much of that top page as you can. You can actually push your competitors right off the page.” “You can say you’re the voice of your industry, but if that’s not apparent on the Web (meaning you dominate the SERPs), then you’re not a credible leader.”
Plan, execute, measure Earning those coveted spots takes hard work. There are no shortcuts. You need to have a strategy with clear objectives and then measure the results. This is where many associations stumble. “All they know how to do is measure how many hits they get. That’s a starting point, but we need to go much deeper than that. Are we having the desired effect? Are we actually engaging members? Are visitors following the call to action? Are people signing up for our conferences? All those things,” says Wright.
It’s crucial that association executives designate an association staff member to be accountable for your website. This person will oversee the website development and ongoing improvement, including strategy, planning, content creation, and coding. “Make it a priority, commit to it, have a strategy for it, and then have clear accountabilities,” says Wright. “In the end, it will take more than one person to build and maintain a successful site. You need a marketer that knows about SEO (search engine optimization), a writer that can write for humans but get help from the SEO expert, and you need a developer,” explains Association Hub Expert Jim Beretta. “It takes a village.”
In upcoming posts, we’ll explore the 10 Steps to Retooling Your Website, including the site audit, primary and secondary keywords, and on-page and off-page optimization tables. Plus you’ll learn about power pages, gated content, and the perils of black hat SEO tactics.