Working with member-based organizations and trade associations is one of our specialties—and we love helping these groups spread their message. But we find many associations ignore one of the most powerful and cost-effective marketing tools out there: organic search.

Improving traffic from search engines might seem unnecessary when your members already know your name. The truth is, people use Google, Bing, and similar search tools all the time to find information, whether they’re already familiar with an association or not. Making sure your site is search-friendly can be exactly what you need to get your organization in front of both current and potential members alike.

Here are a few reasons why it’s worth integrating search engine optimization (SEO) into your marketing strategy:

1. SEO helps you own the landscape for your brand.

Imagine a potential new member for your organization has typed your name into Google—but instead of your official website showing up first in the search results, they see a third party’s blog post or article about your group. Maybe this third party really understands your organization, but maybe they don’t. Regardless, do you want someone else’s voice to be loudest when talking about your brand?

Implementing good “on-page SEO” practices for all of your content ensures YOUR website will show up when someone asks for information about you, your industry, or the work you’re doing.

2. SEO makes everything your organization has to offer available at your current and potential members’ fingertips.

Americans conducted over 17 billion online searches in February of 2016 alone. It’s second nature for people to use search engines to find information, whether someone goes to Google.com or simply uses the search bar in their web browser. Some people even prefer to use Google as an alternative to digging through a website’s navigation to find what they’re looking for.

Take advantage of Google’s extensive reach by ensuring your content shows up for related keywords. That could be your “About Us” page or a whitepaper you’ve created about a common issue—you have a lot to offer your members, from expertise to a driving mission. When you’re incorporating SEO practices with the content you create, you’re making it easier to find, whether someone already knows your organization or not.

3. SEO builds credibility.

When you show up at the top of search results for a keyword, it confers an immediate trust and credibility to your association. If searchers continually see your name and collateral as they research topics related to your group, you’ll stand out as an expert, inspiring pride in your existing members and interest in those who are not already familiar with your organization.

Specialized search features like Google’s brand “knowledge panels” have a similar effect, immediately signaling that your association is noteworthy and legitimate. (Learn more about knowledge panels in our post, “SEO Best Practices for Associations.”)

4. SEO is cost-effective

While at first SEO can be a significant undertaking, as you optimize your site and resolve any technical issues, establishing best practices leads to long-term benefits without the repeated monthly costs of paid advertising or similar strategies. Once you’ve integrated SEO into your content and existing marketing strategy, your organic search traffic will continue to grow over time with minor maintenance needed.

What’s more, SEO targets users who are actively searching for your association, resulting in more qualified traffic than many other marketing strategies. Targeted traffic means you’re accomplishing your goals faster and at less expense.

Search engine optimization is an effective addition to any digital strategy and can help associations expand the reach of their existing marketing efforts. If you want to explore more search engine optimization options for your site, let us know. We’re happy to help.

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Written by Haley Kuehl

“Your website is the face of your brand online—I help put it in the spotlight.”