Back to posts

November 07, 2019 SEO for Associations: How to Boost Traffic Sergio Garcia - Marketing Manager

SEO for Associations: How to Boost Traffic

A few weeks ago, in my blog post 5 Ways to Attract & Engage Members With Your Association Website, I detailed how integral your website is to growth. Web traffic is a key metric for any association in today's market. However, you won't see much of it if your website and content aren't easily discoverable online. 

Without implementing SEO best practices, your website might as well be floating around in a dark, cold, empty abyss with All By Myself playing in the background (the Celine Dion version, because it's Celine Dion). 

SEO for associations isn't complicated. Once you understand all the technical jargon, the steps you can take are actually quite simple and make sense. What's important is understanding that Google prioritizes providing the best user experience for the consumer first.

THE CHALLENGES OF ORGANIC TRAFFIC

Google approaches all of their updates with the user experience in mind; the easier the tech giant can make it for the consumer to find information the better. We all know that every action has consequences and, in this case, research from Moz founder Rand Fishkin found that Click Through Rates (CTR) have steadily declined over the last few years - significantly so on mobile. 

If the reason why isn't apparent, some of these might seem familiar:

Paid ads

The carousel

And the dreaded Featured Snippet (cue Psycho violin screech)

Search Engine Results Page (SERP) are features that help Google mine data on user behavior and also help them earn revenue from advertising. 

SERP features like Answer Boxes, Ads, Carousels, the “People also ask” section, and more push organic search results much further down - causing organic click through rates (CTR) to decline.

In the featured snippet screenshot above, the American Medical Association's website is the sixth item that shows up for the search term “what is the medical association” which is a popular search term. 

For this association, organic click through is lost thanks to the Featured Snippet being owned by a different website. 

The Featured Snippet has had the most significant impact on organic CTR's over the years. 

  • In fact, a recent study found that when a featured snippet is present, CTR for the first organic result falls below 20%. 

It begs the question - how can you get your association's website featured by Google for specific keyword searches? Implementing one simple SEO for associations strategy can help get your website featured. 

FEATURED SNIPPET

Working towards getting your content featured doesn't require some long-winded strategy with a plethora of steps; in fact you'll just need to take two initial steps:

  • Find keywords that you already rank for
  • Find keywords that have a Featured Snippet

Focusing on keywords your association's website already ranks on page one search results for is crucial for achieving this goal. 

  • 99.58% of all Featured Snippets are from pages that rank on the first page for that term.

So if your page/content doesn’t already show up on page one search results for the chosen keywords, you literally have a 0.42% chance of showing up in the Featured Snippet spot. While we all can use a helping of faith, let's focus on how to get some of that 99.58% shall we?

When you've found keywords that your association already ranks on page one for, you'll need to create a 40-60 word paragraph on the relevant web page to “bait” Google's Featured Snippet. 

  • Analysis from SEMrush on over 7 million Featured Snippets found that the sweet spot for the vast majority was 40-60 words.

Inbound Marketing founder Hubspot takes Snippet Bait to the extreme by creating call out sections to their blog posts that quite literally look like a Featured Snippet

And this tactic works very well 

Paragraph snippets are by for the most popular type of Featured Snippet, but it's not the only one. There are also list snippets and table snippets. There's opportunity for associations to optimize sections of their website to get showcased as seen below.

  • To rank in list snippets use H2 or H3 subheaders for every item on your list. Google will pull those subheaders from your content and include them in the Featured Snippet. 
  • To rank with table snippets, simply add a well formatted table in your desired web page for the targeted keywords. Google will pull data from the table to feature in a table snippet. 

None of these steps require a lot of work. If you're on page one for specific keywords you've already done most of the hard work. Taking the extra step to further optimize your content will help give you an additional boost to drive more qualified traffic to your website. 

There's a perception that SEO for associations is time consuming and added work, but the reality is once you understand it, the execution isn't that complicated. That concept rings true for Google's most recent update.


GOOGLE'S BERT UPDATE AND YOUR ASSOCIATION'S CONTENT

The BERT update is the biggest change to Google's algorithm in the last five years, affecting one in every ten search queries. So what is it and how does it impact your association's content going forward?

Prior to Google's BERT update which went live at the end of October, Googling the keywords "association job board" largely provided results like this:

When I initially searched these keywords I was searching for career centers of various associations, yet most of the results I got at the time were job openings at various associations or similar entities. Thanks to the BERT update the results are much more on point.

This most recent update aims to improve interpretation of search queries and display more accurate, relevant search results. Basically, Google's algorithm now better understands the context of content through natural language processing.

Google supplied the following example when announcing the update:

 Prior to the update, Google's algorithm matched the word "stand" to "stand-alone", but now it understands that the word "stand" in this context is tied to physical demand. With this new understanding, it can now provide more relevant search results. 

Right now it seems as though BERT mainly impacts keywords at the top of the funnel which revolves around informational content. Examples of this relevant to associations can be found in the screenshots I shared earlier - "what is the medical association?", "list of medical certifications", etc. 

For an association, these are keywords relevant to professionals navigating their career or trying to learn more about the relevance of an association. 

An easy way to go about maintaining your search engine rankings and even increasing your rank is getting very specific in your content - and by extension the keywords you target. When targeting specific, niche keywords share high quality information and thorough details in your content at the top of the funnel.

In recent years, long form content has been modern best practice for getting on page one search results quickly. 

For example, I released a blog post in September on Content Marketing for Associations, and within one month it started showing up on page one search results as the fourth organic search result. 

It quickly blew past content on page one that has been on page one for years. The blog post is 2013 words long, in comparison to other blog posts on page one which are less than 1000 words. 

I combined high quality research and information with length to make the blog post a one stop shop on almost everything associations need to know about content marketing. 

This approach has been a staple of content I create and has gotten my content on page one search results quickly every time. However, it's not just about quantity. Quality is crucial - more so now than ever due to Google's update.

Most long form content target broad industry terms and provide a broad array of answers. The opportunity created by this update is answering a search term like "what subjects are needed to become a surgeon?" better than other websites. 

Start focusing your content on very specific topics to your association's niche and provide highly relevant information that stays on topic. Many websites provide short, vague content when providing information on a given topic. 

Position your association as a premier resource for information by getting more in depth with your content.  

Improving SEO for associations does require committing to more high quality content across your website. In the past, blasting out content at a rapid cadence was best practice. Thankfully SEO has smartened up since those days. 

Everyone is blasted with tons of content on a daily basis. Google understands this, and now it values quality over quantity. 

ON-PAGE SEO FOR ASSOCIATIONS

I've covered SERP features like the Featured Snippet, and I've also explained the BERT update and a simple strategy to make the most of the update. But, traditional SEO strategies are still important for improving rankings and driving traffic to your association's website.

  • Internal linking is still very important for optimizing your website, but you have to do it effectively. The idea is to link from high authority pages on your website to pages that need authority. 

For example, let's say on your association's career center there's a new career advice blog post that you want to drive traffic to and grow authority for. Find a previous blog with high authority and link from that page to the new blog post. It's a very simple way to boost authority across your website and content which will improve your website's overall ranking.

  • Semantic SEO is another on-page SEO strategy that will help drive traffic. Simply put, take keywords related to your targeted keywords and insert them into your page/content. 

For example, take that long-tail keyword I mentioned earlier, "what subjects are needed to become a surgeon?" and insert related keywords into your content.

If you're a medical association and write a career advice blog post on your career center on what subjects are needed to become a surgeon, then cover different "types of surgeons" and "courses under surgery" for that specific field. 

Remember, with the BERT update the focus has shifted to being able to thoroughly answer a specific question for your niche. 

Providing high quality information for your professional niche means answering search questions thoroughly, which will vastly boost engagement and increase traffic.

FINAL THOUGHTS

As technical as SEO for associations may seem, if you look at the tips I've shared with you today none of it is complicated. 

  • To bait the Feature Snippet
    • Add a 40-60 word paragraph to copy for paragraph snippets
    • Use H2 or H3 subheaders for list snippets
    • Add a well formatted table for table snippets
  • To optimize your website for the BERT update
    • Spend more time on the quality of your content
    • Try long form content on for size
  • On-page seo
    • Link high traffic pages/content to pages/content that need a boost in traffic
    • Add complementary keywords to content/pages

None of these tips take a lot of time or effort, but being consistent in implementing them can go a long way in boosting your association's traffic. 

There are many other SEO for association strategies you can utilize to help increase your brand awareness online. I'll expand on those strategies in the near future. In the coming weeks I'll detail another channel your association could effectively leverage to boost traffic and engagement.

Stay tuned to the Madgex blog as up next I'll give a comprehensive walkthrough on Social Media Marketing for Associations.

Subscribe to the Madgex blog to get regular insights into the latest research, trends, and strategies to help your organization grow.