Five Tips to Keep Your Association’s Website on Target

If the wrong visitors dominate traffic on your association’s website or if pages targeted at members aren’t carrying their weight, look at ways to change that conversation. Here are a few ideas.

How do you ensure that the people showing up at your digital front door are the ones you want to welcome—and that you’re not scaring them off?

It’s a multipronged question, and one that requires some sophisticated thinking. Last week, National Fluid Power Association President and CEO Eric Lanke gave voice to the first issue when writing about what I’m sure is a common problem for a lot of associations: the concern that the traffic hitting your website is the right traffic.

Lanke (who, by the way, is a great example of a CEO blogger in the association space) noted that his organization’s site features a basic explanation of what fluid power actually is—which makes sense, because it’s a topic that the layperson might want to know about.

But Lanke says it creates a challenge for the association:

Here’s the problem, though. Every time we go to look at our web analytics, guess what comes up as the page with the most page views? That’s right. It’s our What Is Fluid Power? page. There are some in the organization who track and trumpet this. Look at how many page views our website got last month! We must be doing a really great job.

Of course, someone looking at a page that explains fluid power isn’t likely to be a member of the National Fluid Power Association. Which means those page views have no real impact on the organization’s bottom line—and that’s where Lanke lays into his point.

“I simply do not want more page views for the sake of having more page views,” Lanke noted. “I want more of a certain kind of page views—the ones that reflect our members reading and accessing our programs.”

How can you ensure that the page views you’re getting on your website actually move the needle toward what your association wants to achieve? Here’s my list:

Make more general pages hint at broader industry goals. Just because a page isn’t targeted at members doesn’t mean it can’t carry some water for your broader goals. It’s one thing to say what your industry is or does; it’s another to angle that information as an entry point into industry interest. What if a teenager writing a book report sees that informational page on your website and uses it as a jumping-off point for a potential career in your field? Or what if a journalist reads that page and decides to write a feature on your organization? Even your more basic pages can be built with added messaging depth in mind.

Don’t bury the good stuff behind a paywall. If many of your member benefits come in the form of content, you might think paywalls are the way to go, or you might be reluctant to shake up that existing model. But a paywall with no wiggle room can often mean that potential members landing on your website from search engines or social networks can’t see your organization’s value—which ends up driving them away. There are different strategies here, but some options include adding a metered paywall for industry-specific content or creating content that serves as an introduction, with the more nitty-gritty stuff placed behind the paywall. Your content strategy will benefit from pages that draw the right folks in—and get them on the hook for more down the line.

The easier it is to log in, the better. As I wrote last year, a clunky paywall or login mechanism can discourage people from sticking around and getting the information they came for. If you are leaning on a paywall strategy, it becomes all the more important to make that process painless—make sure that the login is well integrated into the website, remembers what the person was viewing previously, and comes up as infrequently as possible.

Consider performance issues. A recent study [registration] from the digital intelligence platform Decibel found that web pages that load quickly, followed by images and content that load quickly, were among the biggest influences on a positive experience with a web page. (Slow-loading content and images, on the other hand, were cited as major downsides for users.) The report noted that users “want fast, easy-to-navigate pages over complex, interactive experiences.” If you’re bogging down your pages with ads or overly complex images, you may be getting in the way of user engagement needs.

Use Google AMP. If your site isn’t using Google AMP  (Accelerated Mobile Pages), you’re missing out on free traffic that could help your site stand out in search engines, including for terms that your association wants to trend for. The protocol has its critics,  and those issues should be considered, but it’s a great way to increase exposure and performance—for terms both general and more targeted.

The fact is, your organization’s website serves a lot of masters, and the tactics you use have to be equally diverse. No one solution will be right for every page—and every user.

Any tactics that you’ve found useful for attracting and targeting the right users on your site? Share them below.

(vladwel/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!