Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an integral part of any successful, annual marketing communications (marcom) strategy. Not only does it help to ensure the association stays top of mind with key audiences when searching keywords and topics relevant to the association, it also helps to build the association’s authority within the industry.  

It also provides an excellent guideline for the marcom team to ensure they’re weaving key SEO words and topics into the material they develop for the association. Resulting in consistent and quality content. SEO keywords are those top words or phrases relevant to the association and most searched by key audiences when conducting online searches regarding a trend, issue, or other related industry topics and to ensure the association comes up as one of the top five results.  

If working with a third-party SEO firm, they will be able to help the association determine the key SEO words and terms. If doing it within the association then the marcom team needs to do a search using ‘seed keywords’ where an online keyword tool is used to search relevant terms within the industry that get the highest search ranking vs. those that are not typically used by online visitors. For example, if the association is a healthcare-focused one dealing with foot and footwear experts some of the key seed words or questions would be toes, heels, foot health, foot conditions, orthotics, etc.  

By checking in regularly using a measurement tool like Google Analytics Reports for the association’s site the marcom team can check SEO or lack of it to see how the association is ranking and where improvement may be required. In most cases there will be a high volume of traffic to the site due to visitors of Google typing in specific key words. But if there is a high bounce rate (i.e., they click and then click off quickly) then that is an indicator visitors may have arrived at the wrong site, or they did not see something they connected with or relevant to their specific search.  

Below are some key things to consider for the association when building and maintaining a successful SEO strategy.  

  1. Ensure an SEO strategy is in the association’s annual marketing communications planning. By ensuring it is part of the annual marcom plan and strategy the association keeps a keen eye on what is being posted publicly and will ensure it generates content that will help to build and maintain a high SEO ranking. Through Google Analytics Reports (measurement tool) it will also provide a glimpse into areas that require improvement and give real and organic measurable results that will help to build future marcom campaigns.
  2. Having an annual SEO strategy in place and identifying key seed words helps to elevate the quality of content being posted to the association’s website. Whether it’s the homepage, blogs, or a sub-page it will increase traffic and ensure the right visitors are connecting with the page.
  3. If content is elevated so will the quality of visitors to the association’s website. Basically, it’s a ‘if you build it, they will come’ thought process whereby the content will match what the visitors are looking for and is relevant to their search needs. This will also mean visitors stay longer on the association website and its pages.
  4. Remember there are two ways visitors access the association’s website – their laptop or their mobile device. So, the website has to be presented well in both these mediums meaning content needs to be easily accessible, readable, and fast (speed does matter!). Half the battle in increasing traffic is ease of use. If it is slow and hard to access key items on the site, or there are too many click layers, then the visitor will simply lose interest and move on to the next site.
  5. An SEO strategy also helps to build ‘authority’ for the association among key audiences. There are two types of authority to strive for including ranking high for important association and industry terms (i.e, key seed words) and if visitors continually see the association’s site pages popping up in their Google searches, which can be increased through a solid digital marketing spend and plan. And the spend can be cost-effective to get the desired results.  

Improving SEO doesn’t happen overnight for an association, but with proper planning (and a bit of patience!) and ensuring it is factored into all marcom planning and strategies it can help to ensure the association improves its ranking and drives key and meaningful traffic to its site. It is also a worthwhile and great investment as improved SEO rankings can lead to better industry authority, quality content, and member retainment and recruitment.