The Ultimate Guide to Websites for Associations

The 12 web elements you need to engage and convert users to members.

Association websites have a tall order to fill. Your organization’s website should offer your users exactly the information they seek, in an engaging, easy-to-use format that’s accessible to all users and easy on the eyes. It should carry the torch for your brand, while also offering the right data to your teams.

Today, you have more resources than ever at your disposal to make your association website a total success. You just need to make sure you’ve got the right tools and tech and, most importantly, that they’re set up correctly to make your site function optimally.

Whether you have multiple systems that don’t “play nicely” together or you’re looking to get more out of your site design, you’ve come to the right place. This ultimate guide outlines the essential web elements that every organization needs to acquire, engage, retain, and convert users into loyal members and returning website visitors.

Read the full guide below OR download a PDF to read later, at your convenience.

Don’t have time to read this guide now?
Fill out the form and get it in PDF format to read later.

Table of Contents

Click on any chapter to scroll directly to it.

Chapter 1

Clear Branding

BF-UltimateGuideToWebsitesAssociationsGraphics-Sized-Chap01

Your site shouldn’t just reflect your brand, it should also increase awareness and enthusiasm for your brand among your online community.

The key is delivering streamlined digital content that conveys how your organization answers your members’ distinct needs, goals, and pain points.

Your website is a vehicle for your brand.

Just consider the number of users who primarily interact with your brand through your website.

Take advantage of this brand “megaphone” to amplify where your organization is headed - not where it’s been.

Also, bear in mind that writing for print magazines and publications is incredibly different from digital content. Present your brand voice using best practices for web writing.

Our client, AAHA, is a great example of how to clearly communicate your brand using your site.

We helped AAHA reimagine the accreditation process by making it less intimidating, more personal, and clearly spelled out. We helped them build a “warmer and fuzzier” brand with adorable animal photos spread across their site and messaging that clearly communicates the value of AAHA.

aaha-before-after_mobile
Chapter 2

Design Supports Branding

BF-UltimateGuideToWebsitesAssociationsGraphics-Sized-Chap02

Use your website to visually communicate and execute your unique brand strategy.

Ensure that your logo, color palette, typography, image style, and the general look and feel of your site is designed and developed in conjunction with your brand voice.

For example, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) previously had different logos and web designs for various web properties that were diluting their brand.

We redesigned NACAC's three websites by crafting a clean, compelling, and consistent UX and UI doused in the unique “flavor” of the award-winning organization.

Using their existing color palette and brand personality, we created designs that would engage its diverse audience groups appropriately yet still represent the overall character and “human” attributes of their brand.

design-support

A top priority for web design is essentially to provide a tangible visualization of your brand identity. Beyond the visual appeal, the design of your website should portray the ideals, priorities, and characteristics of your brand.

Chapter 3

Clean UI and UX

BF-UltimateGuideToWebsitesAssociationsGraphics-Sized-Chap03

The power of modern user research practices and behavioral analysis allows us to create intuitive navigational pathways and “consumable” design elements that result in better engagement and rates of return, and ultimately better conversion.

A clean and attractive UI and UX ultimately boils down to using naming conventions and categorical structures that are user-focused, not business-focused.

In other words, they should be based on what your members need, not on your internal biases and preconceptions of what’s usable, accessible, and findable.

Everything from your aesthetics, branding, and pricing strategies to your input controls, navigations, informational components, and containers should be organized and designed based on insight gathered directly from real user experiences and interactions.

step-3

You simply cannot rely on guesswork or assumptions to clean up your UI and UX. You have to test and track real visitors on your site using user research, behavioral analysis, and machine learning tools we’ll discuss in the next chapter, and then optimize accordingly.

Chapter 4

Personalized UX Based on Data

BF-UltimateGuideToWebsitesAssociationsGraphics-Sized-Chap04

It’s helpful to leverage a mix of user research, behavioral analysis, and machine learning to best personalize your website’s user experience (UX).

User Research

You have to put the UX at the heart of your website design. To accomplish this, you must start with user research.

Member Interviews, Journey Maps, and User Surveys are three user research tools that you can use to understand what individual users say, think, and feel about your site.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Target Your Website Audience for Better Engagement

Member/User Interviews

Interviews are one of the best user research techniques you can use to uncover underlying thoughts, motivations, and frustrations. They rely on deep, active listening by the interviewer.

So listening with the intent to understand rather than reply, being willing to consider other viewpoints and let go of biases, and paying attention to non-verbal cues is critical.

The next step right after your interview is to create or update your user personas.

Personas

A persona is a fictional, yet realistic, description of a typical or target user that includes various demographic, psychographic, and behavioral information. Personas represent the archetype (vs. an actual living human) of your different types of users but describe them as if they were real people.

Here’s an example of what kind of details are useful for creating personas:

step-3(ii)

Personas allow you to connect to your users on a very personal and human level. They breed empathy, help you build relevant messaging and calls-to-action, connect user-centric design with technology-centric design, and allow for personalization and automated messaging.

Your website (and all user interfaces for that matter) should be designed and built to satisfy your personas' specific needs and goals.

Primary research methods to create personas include assumptive personas (aka based on what you "know"), member interviews, user surveys, focus groups, and journey mapping. Supporting research methods to create personas include web analytics and usability testing.

While assumptive personas are based on what you already know about your users, research-based personas are developed through interviews, surveys, and other user research methods.

Take-Away Tips and Tricks for Creating Personas

  • Craft no more than five to seven personas.
  • Start with assumptive personas, and then work your way up to research-based personas.
  • Conduct at least one live interview with someone from each persona group.
  • Include actual quotes within your personas.
  • Bring your personas to life with visual representations of each.
  • Revisit your personas (and your research) annually.
  • Communicate your personas clearly throughout your organization.

Journey Maps

Journey maps show you how users engage with your website at every touchpoint, allowing you to consider their mindset, behavior, and pain points.

At Brightfind, we use journey maps to highlight key website tasks and pathways, which we capture through interviews with our clients (i.e. what do you want your visitors to do on your site) and task-based usability testing (observation).

Here’s an overview of how you can create user journey maps for your website(s):

  • Make educated guesses about each of your user personas by considering any user research, market research, and behavioral analysis you’ve done so far.
  • Start building out initial journey maps for each persona to understand how that person interacts with your site and what they need to do to accomplish their goals.
  • Refine your hypothesis by doing more user research, behavioral analysis, or by simply talking directly to actual members who actively use your site.
  • Make a single map of the general user journey.
  • Map out the journey for each unique persona including the channels that bring them to your website, every touchpoint, and their mindset and emotional state at each step.

User Surveys

User surveys also help you dive deeper into the attitudes and mindsets of your user personas. You can easily develop a range of surveys using simple online tools like Survey Monkey.

You can target and re-target any user—whether it’s a returning user, new visitor, or certain types of users—by personalizing the messages or questions you ask them. Refine these questions even further based on their user activity, location, and more.

Behavioral Analysis

Behavioral analysis supplements your user research. The good news is, we have access to more robust data analytics models to personalize UX for multi-group audiences. You can use A/B testing to see what works in real time and then modify.

A/B tests are randomized experiments with two variants, A and B. Use these experiments to test and optimize headings, FAQs, videos, icon sizes, navigations, and more for each audience segment. You can run an A/B test by changing something as simple as a single button or completely redesigning the entire page layout to test theories and experiment with what resonates for your different audience segments.

Steps to Run an A/B & Multivariate Test

Here are the basic steps to run an A/B or split test:

  • Create two versions of a webpage with the changes you’d like to test.
  • Randomly split traffic between your two or more page variations.
  • Automatically send certain segments to the optimal variant once it’s recognized as the winner. No coding experience is necessary.

The content management systems (CMS) we work with including Optimizely (formerly Episerver), Sitecore, Progress Sitefinity, and Higher Logic have fantastic, ready-to-go A/B testing built in that’s intuitive and incredibly powerful.

You can also do multivariate testing in real time using testing tools. Here’s how it works:

  • Send some or all of your audience segments various combinations of page elements at different times.
  • Compare the results and assess how these variables interact with each other on a deeper level.
  • Determine which combo works best for the goal of your test and unique audience segments.

Page Elements You Can (and Should) Test

With all behavioral website experimentation and optimization tools available today, it’s easier to optimize just about anything on your webpage to cater to user preferences.

You can also seamlessly answer specific questions like:

  • Is this headline easy to understand?
  • Does this page version on mobile devices increase the desire to purchase this book?
  • Does it contain a lot of unnecessary words?
  • Does it adequately describe the benefits that webinar attendees will get?
  • Is it easy for people to see this specific Call-to-Action (CTA)?
  • Is the CTA too big that it prevents visitors from reading the marketing copy?
  • Is the size of this CTA suitable for mobile browsers?
  • Does the color of this CTA make it stand out from the rest of the page?
  • Is there enough white space around this CTA button?

Let’s say for a second that you want to know which CTA color gets the most clicks for different segments. This would be a great test since various colors have different meanings in different cultures.

White is the color of mourning and death in Chinese culture, but in Brazil, death is often associated with purple. In North America, green can symbolize greed and jealousy or life and renewal. You’ve got to test actual site visitors to determine the best solution for your different audience personas.

Of course, you cannot rely on color alone to guide a user because of accessibility concerns for individuals with visual impairements. You’ll have to test and incorporate accessibility solutions as well, which we’ll discuss in the next chapter.

Machine Learning AI

In this day and age, you should be feeding your member and website data into an Artificial Intelligence (AI) model. All that information can start doing predictive work for you and calling out patterns in member behavior that you can use to enhance your site to better serve them.

AI models can let you know if you need to get better content on your site and what type of content, or if you need to provide better access to existing benefits and how you can do so.

There are tons of excellent AI platforms today including Google AI, TensorFlow, and Microsoft Azure, but Tasio may be a good industry option for membership-based organizations, nonprofits, and professional associations.

So how can these AI models help you personalize your UX? They basically mix machine learning and predictive analytics to:

  • Categorize content sections and tie them to interested users.
  • Continuously provide a better UX based on engagements over time and what the user is likely to want, need, and do next.

With the right tech, you can even have your web UX and UI auto-adjusted based on what the AI model knows about that user’s interests and behaviors, as well as what it knows about what similar users do next.

Not only can you recommend relevant content and products at the right time, this automated tracking of engagement also allows you to send personalized communications about topics members care about instead of wasting resources sending “annoying” newsletters.

Download our User Persona Template to identify your website’s primary users and their needs. You can use this information to create better content, optimize your site’s organization, and more!

Download User Persona Template
Chapter 5

Advocates Accessibility

BF-UltimateGuideToWebsitesAssociationsGraphics-Sized-Chap05

People with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world. In the US alone, ~20% of internet users have some form of accessibility issue (sight, mobility, etc.), meaning you could lose a fifth of your users right off the bat if your site isn’t designed with accessibility in mind.

Beyond opening your website to the world, complying with ADA Website Accessibility best practices and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) also sends important signals about your organization’s priorities.

Providing equal access to your site content—the holy grail of web accessibility—entails removing any unnecessary barriers for individuals with disabilities.

Common Barriers and Solutions to Accessibility

Problem Solution
Images without alternative text Include alternative text-based formats like HTML or RTF when uploading PDFs and other image-based documents.
Inaccessible document formats Include alternative text-based formats like HTML or RTF when uploading PDFs and other image-based documents.
Dictating colors and font settings Allowing your site to be viewed with the color and font sizes set in users’ web browsers and operating systems.
Inaccessible videos and multimedia features Include audio descriptions for the visually impaired & captions for the hearing impaired.

 

There are also plenty of accessibility software solutions available today including WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool, NVDA screen reader, WebAIM contrast checker, and accessiBe. These solutions reduce the time and costs required to make your site accessible and protected from lawsuits.

Chapter 6

Awesome Search Functionality

BF-UltimateGuideToWebsitesAssociationsGraphics-Sized-Chap06

If visitors to your website can’t find exactly what they’re searching for, they can become frustrated before you have a chance to draw them in.

Even if your site has the information they want, if users can’t easily find it, they’ll leave dissatisfied. Yet nearly 84% of organizations don't actively optimize their on-site search.

This is a huge issue for associations, because their value to members is often wrapped up in the information they provide and about 30% of visitors will use your search tool. As you probably know, optimizing search is often easier said than done.

The problem is that most of your web visitors will never type perfect searches. Users rarely know exactly what they’re looking for so their search queries are more like educated guesses.

They may only know a few parameters or target words and execute that “query” to get a list of content, events, or resources to sift through.

It’s your job to make it incredibly easy for users to search across your content repositories and ecosystem of data using “imperfect” search queries to quickly find the right information or complete the intended action.

Here’s how to do it:

13 Characteristics of Modern On-Site Search Capability

There are 13 essential characteristics of modern search functionality.

  • Offers basic and advanced search parameters.

The ultimate goal of an on-site search tool is to quickly and easily get searchers the intended information. This means users should be able to specify:

  • Basic attributes - keywords, topic, author, date
  • Advanced parameters - content type and metadata (i.e. data about other data on your site such as the format, author, file size, origin date, and origin location)
  • Rapidly finds and displays results.

Your search and ranking algorithm should be fast.

In fact, speed is a cornerstone of website performance, findability, and user-friendliness. Use GTMetrix to see how long it takes your website to come up with search results and display them to the user.

Or, if you want to get more technical, you can install the free Query Monitor plugin on your content management system (CMS) to see your database query times in real-time.

You can also speed up your search massively by enabling Redis Cache and installing Relevanssi HYPERLINK "https://wordpress.org/plugins/relevanssi/" plugin.

  • Provides a search button with the search box.

Search buttons or icons help users quickly find the search box, which should be in a highly visible spot on your site such as the top navigation bar.

Search icons (i.e. the magnifying glass) are often used to save space as well. It can be transformed into a single-line text box on click activity (aka when users click on the search icon).

Search Function Button
  • Provides faceted navigation and filtering of search results.

A search filter is a search strategy known as a “search hedge” that allows the user to define certain criteria for their search and more easily browse and digest the search results to find what they’re looking for.

Including a built-in set of search filters and a filtered navigation allows you to limit search results by content type, topic, audience, date range, format (e.g. PDF, blog post, event, course, etc.), and more. This way, visitors can sort through the search results with the least amount of effort and time.

navigation and filtering of search results
  • Includes sorting options to organize results.

Similar to search filters, sorting options help users more easily navigate the search results to find the right information.

Including a “Sort by” filter allows you to list search results according to user preference. Helpful “sort by” filters give users the option to organize the results based on items such as relevance, title, newest, and oldest.

result set metadata display
  • Allows for “Best Bets” and synonyms to improve relevancy.

Your search tool should be robust enough to display text “best bets” as recommendations at the top of the results page.

Best bets are the answers or pieces of content that the user is most likely looking for based on the word or phrase they type in. You should also ensure your internal site search is configured to handle synonym, alternate terms, and suggested queries.

The query patterns of people searching sites are often pretty similar to natural, everyday language. Visitors don’t always know the exact terms for their search queries so they’ll type in whatever seems appropriate.

This requires us to have better semantic processing capabilities. The goal of semantic search is to mimic the way people normally talk and then process search phrases accordingly.

Without semantic search, your on-site search tool will miss contextual cues and treat search queries as unconnected terms. Rather than using keywords, semantic search retrieves results based on user intent and context to deliver more relevant results.

4
  • Enables autocomplete for search terms.

Prepare your internal search for less tech-savvy users by making it easy.

Enabling autocomplete and predictive search shows visitors popular or suggested search queries based on the words they’ve inputted in the search box. This way, you can nudge users towards the information they want while saving them the effort of typing.

Google Autocomplete does this best. The autocomplete feature within Google Search makes it faster and easier to complete searches that you begin to type in the search bar.

Autocomplete
  • Displays the number of matching results.

Displaying the number of matching results gives users a big-picture view of all potential options.

If there are hundreds of potential options, for example, that indicates the query is too broad and the users should refine their search.

Number of search results
  • Provides “search within” the results of the previous search.

Allowing users to search within the results of their last search helps users hone in on the specific information they’re searching for.

search within results
  • Implements hit highlighting.

Highlighting snippets of search results that have matching keywords improves your search experience tremendously by making it easier for the user to find the answers they’re looking for on your website.

Here’s a brief summary from Manticore Search of how it can work:

hit highlighting
  • Introduces caching of search results for performance.

If a lot of visitors use your site’s search option, chances are good that you’ll see frequent queries in your search logs.

Caching search results significantly improves performance for repeat searches. It also frees up processing resources so other searches execute more quickly.

Here’s how result caching works:

  • When a query executes, your search functionality should check the cache to see if there is a cached result from a prior run.
  • If one is found and the data has not changed, the cached result should be returned instead of re-running the query.
  • If there is no cached result or the data has changed, the query should be re-executed and the new result should be cached for future runs.

Regularly check the results returned on popular queries to ensure that your search algorithm displays the most relevant items. If not, make some manual adjustments to bring the most relevant results to the top of the list and remove irrelevant ones.

You can even feature frequent searches on your main search page (if you have one) to make it easier to find important information.

Also, be sure to regularly check your on-site search history. Set this up in Google Analytics to monitor on-site search trends and resolve any issues.

  • Provides result set metadata display.

Similar to the search filters and search “within” feature, showing the metadata of the combined set of search results gives users insight into the scale of their search, tells them whether or not they should refine their query, and helps direct them to the right information.

Some metadata you should display include pagination, the number of results, and highlighted information to draw attention to matching keywords and Best Bet information.

result set metadata display-1
  • Provides clear indication of search results item types.

When searching your site, users should clearly see the types of items in the search results.

For example, they should be able to tell the content type, topic type, media type, event type, type of learning resource, or any other item type relevant to your unique association.

clear indication of search results item types

On-site search is one of the best ways to gather user intent on your site. Visitors who use your search tool also typically have a high level of motivation.

Site Search Features That Only the Best Websites Have

Best-of-breed internal site search tools also have these three additional features:

Search segmentation

Search segmentation is when you only show users a certain type of content, such as event-related content or learning-related content.

Segmenting search results based on topics or interest areas reduces friction and visual distraction for high-value users who already know what they’re looking for.

search segmentation

This allows you to target users better by showing visitors only the content, events, or products they care about and eliminating all the “extra noise” that doesn’t speak to them or start them down the relevant conversion funnel.

Personalized search

Excellent on-site search allows for personalization based on “non-login attributes” like browser history, current location, demographics, language, social media activity, and other preferences.

These search functions can tailor and target content and calls-to-action (CTAs) based on information outside of the individual’s immediate login data. The purpose of personalized search is to increase the relevance of results for each user at a given time.

Tracking browser history

Although it’s controversial, web browsers do keep a record of the sites we visit.

That’s why international regulations such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) now require you to get permission to track online activity using “cookies.”

If a user has cookies enabled, "cookie" files that sites place on computers to track online activity are picked up as they browse the web. Web browsers even keep copies of all the files they download such as website images, text, and code.

You can leverage this powerful tracking capability and integrate all the insights into your search algorithm to automatically personalize search results.

With all this data, you already know what your individual members like and need. You just need to program your search algorithm upfront to recommend relevant content and tailor your CTAs based on user history and preferences.

Once this is off the ground, it largely functions independently. Of course, you should check it every once in a while to improve personalization and ensure new content is picked up by the algorithm.

If done correctly, you could essentially turn your result pages into a high-level passive revenue stream for your association that requires minimal effort and manpower.

12

Tracking user location

If you have the user’s consent, you can also use Geolocation API to keep tabs on their location.

This allows you to tailor search results, recommend events or resources with relevant CTAs based on their physical location, and improve the search experience as a whole.

It doesn’t matter if the user is logged in or not, you’ll still know their IP address and thus their location—if you have the user’s permission.

To take advantage of personalization using non-login attributes, you must gently "nudge" users to grant permission to use cookies or access their location for GDPR and PIPEDA compliance.

accept cookies notification

Many organizations use simple on-site messages or push notifications (i.e. clickable pop-ups that you can put on users' mobile or desktop browser) to request permission.

Centralized and unified search

Users should be able to search all of your sites using your search tool to get the information they need or to complete their intended action.

This means using a centralized and unified search functionality across your CMS, LMS, community site, event platform, AMS, and other technologies and vendor platforms.

Centralized and unified search

Your databases and systems need to be integrated in one way or another to create a federated on-site search function.

In other words, information needs to flow between your systems. This is best accomplished using integration platforms (e.g. microservices or its predecessor middleware) or by strengthening integrations with your CMS.

All in all, you want your search capability to be powerful and frictionless with your result pages structured in a way that maximizes usability and organizational impact.

Curious how your website’s search stacks up? Use our On-Site Search Checklist to see how well your site search works for your website users - and how you can improve.

Download Search Checklist
Chapter 7

Seamless Single Sign-On Process

BF-UltimateGuideToWebsitesAssociationsGraphics-Sized-Chap07

Associations today often rely on a hodgepodge of third-party applications and websites to run operations and service members—from AMS, web content, and community engagement platforms to learning, events, and e-commerce.

In some cases, 3+ systems are used to complete a single transaction. But your members, donors, and volunteers shouldn’t have to log in more than once to get the right access to the right information across all your systems.

Benefits of SSO

With a good single sign-on (SSO) process, users only have to enter their login credentials a single time. Then they’re automatically authenticated and given the designated level of permissions and authorization privileges to the resources they need.

Without SSO, users are forced to log in to one site with their designated username and password, and then get directed to the next site where they must use different login details.

These multiple sign-in and authentication processes present a real issue for an association and its members who prefer one user ID, one password, and a seamless experience between different portals.

15

For example, we had a client that required members to use four different websites with four different login details to complete a single transaction.

Not surprisingly, asking members to take the additional steps to remember and enter their credentials on each site increased the odds of them abandoning the process altogether.

To fix this, we “integrated” the login process of all four sites so that when a user finished whatever they were doing on one system and clicked the ‘next’ button, they’d be taken to the next website and instantly logged in with the correct credentials.

Enabling such login efficiency for every type of business made it more likely members would complete a transaction or engagement activity by minimizing the time and effort required.

The devil is in the details. SSO also helps with the “little things” that are widely important for users and support teams. For example, if members forget their username or password, they can simply click “Forgot My Login” on any system to access or change their login at any time.

SSO Challenges

Getting single sign-on to work comes with certain challenges because the platforms that associations use are so diverse.

You also have to figure out how to validate members from your website against your AMS. This connection is a critical piece for making the automatic login process work because:

  • Most AMS systems are the “identity providers” in which every other system uses to authenticate users.
  • Most associations today still select their other applications around these two core systems: the AMS and website. So, these two systems influence how SSO will work across your association technologies.

Plus, all of these other applications you build around these two core systems are fundamentally different—with different standards, different programmers, and different architectures.

There are a handful of software tools that do single sign-on for association systems well. Yet, they all have different ways of doing something as “simple” as SSO.

Not only because of the diversity of association technology, but also because the industry “standards” for SSO are approached differently when the cybersecurity and privacy aspects of these technologies are put in place.

So rolling out SSO throughout your association ecosystem is not a simple copy-paste. You have to consider your system stack, integration needs between these technologies, and security requirements, one by one.

Accomplishing this requires selecting the right SSO vendor.

Best SSO Tools

We often recommend Amazon Web Services (AWS) SSO or Microsoft Azure Active Directory SSO for our clients.

AWS is a cloud SSO service that centrally manages SSO access and user permissions to multiple website accounts and business applications. Similarly, Azure Active Directory SSO allows users to access all their apps with SSO from any location or device from a centralized and branded portal.

16-2

Below are some other good SSO software options for nonprofits and associations. Feature comparison tables are provided by GetApp.

Okta provides SSO access to cloud, on-premise, and mobile applications.

Okta features

FusionAuth integrates with any system and can be deployed in minutes.

FusionAuth features

Duo Security is a cloud-based SSO solution for user identity verification and device vulnerability assessment.

Duo Security features

OneLogin provides secure SSO for all web apps in the cloud and behind the firewall—via desktops, smartphones and tablets.

OneLogin features
Chapter 8

Consistent Integration Experience

BF-UltimateGuideToWebsitesAssociationsGraphics-Sized-Chap08

The consistent patterns you create across the user journey help educate your web visitors on how to use your site, thus providing a rewarding experience and allowing them to accomplish tasks on all of your websites and platforms without frustration.

Pattern Libraries

At Brightfind, we help our clients ensure consistency across all online assets as their site(s) grow over time by creating pattern libraries. A pattern library is essentially a browser-based collection of user interface (UI) components that are used repeatedly throughout the website.

Pattern libraries can be given to your third-party vendors so that they can skin their end-user facing pages to match your new website, offering your visitors a completely seamless experience.

Include visual representations and descriptions for each of the following UI components in your pattern library:

  • Styling
    • Primary, secondary, and neutral colors
    • Typography for different headers and body text
    • Spacing layouts and breakpoints
  • Components
    • Primary and secondary Call-to-Action (CTA) buttons
    • Family of icons
    • Default and wide cards to display teaser text and related content
  • Resources
    • Design tokens for colors, text styles, spacings, animation values, etc.
    • Stylescape (i.e. mood boards or style tiles) that defines the overall visual direction of images, textures, typography, and colors.
21

System Integration

A truly consistent user experience transcends just the look and feel of your websites and touch points. You must also integrate the user recognition capabilities, flow, and personalization across the digital journey.

User recognition largely goes back to that SSO integration that we discussed earlier. But SSO is the easy part. You also need to:

  • Get your data to flow between your systems. Association technologies often store data differently, but that information needs to be passed along. A user may order a book on your website or LMS through your e-commerce platform. That transaction then needs to be recorded in your AMS/CRM and relayed to your accounting system. It doesn’t help that transactional and analytics data are fundamentally different so getting the data to flow can be easier said than done.
  • Consider how your systems are “integrated.” The more systems you tack on to your transactions or engagements, the messier it gets—especially if you have a bunch of one-to-one, system-to-system connections that don’t speak the same language.

So what’s the solution?

For now, the best solution is to create tighter integrations with your CMS. This would allow you to:

Unify the e-commerce and web experience: These two systems should look and feel like one seamless experience. Your e-commerce system should also be able to recommend books, events, and other products based on website engagement signals.

Connect email, social, and web tracking: Opens, click-through rates (CTR), and visits should be viewed jointly with actual user behavior on your site to get a clearer picture of campaign performance, cross-channel KPIs, and retargeting opportunities.

Connect your website and LMS: Your website should be able to recommend books, certifications, and learning resources in your LMS based on previous transactions and engagements.

Pre-fill forms: Data-driven associations are also using AI learning engines and personalization models to auto-fill hidden form fields in order to build a more complete and consistent member profile.

For example, you can assign point systems via your marketing automation platform (MAP) to score user behavior such as how hard users work to get to a piece of content (e.g. completing a form to gain access).

Then pre-fill your forms accordingly and pass that data to your directories, event listings, and other system interfaces.

Most MAP systems today also allow you to use dynamic “progressive profiling” form fields to collect additional information based on the organization-wide data you already have.

Chapter 9

SEO-Rich Content and Practices

BF-UltimateGuideToWebsitesAssociationsGraphics-Sized-Chap09

Great search engine optimization (SEO) allows your site to rank on search engines like Google for relevant questions people type into their web browser or verbally ask their smart devices.

This way, users who are unfamiliar with your organization can find your website. Unfortunately, many associations lack the SEO know-how and manpower required to:

  • Keep up with Google Search’s changing “PageRank” algorithm and ranking system.
  • Implement the necessary practices to make your site findable and measurable.

There are, however, core SEO ingredients that remain constant. These include having in-depth yet easily digestible content, a fast site with quick page loading speeds, and backlinks to your site from industry authorities.

In fact, the three most important SEO factors include:

  • Content quality

Google’s ranking system emphasizes UX signals such as time-on-site and dwell time (aka the time spent on your page after clicking your search result listing) to reward top-quality content.

There are a number of free tools to monitor content quality, including keeping tabs on your bounce rate in Google Analytics and using a free website crawler such as Screaming Frog SEO Spider to improve content quality and on-page SEO.

There’s also a correlation between depth of topic coverage and Google rankings. So, pages that cover every angle of a topic and includes Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords (LSI) keywords (aka related search queries) are likely to have an edge over posts that partially cover a topic.

You should also consider using short paragraphs so your content is easy to scroll through on mobile. Each “paragraph” should have 1-3 sentences max and use good transitions. Your subsections should also be short.

As a general rule of thumb, keep each section to a max of 300 words. If a section is longer than that, then split it up with appropriate headers.

Related Article: How to Write Web Content that Engages Members

  • Site speed

Fast websites that mobile users can efficiently use have an edge in Google’s relatively new “Mobile-Only Index” in which only mobile sites are used for indexing and ranking. Desktop versions are ignored.

You can test and monitor your web page's mobile speed and performance using Google PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix.

GTmetrix lets you test your website from a device and browser of your choosing. PageSpeed Insights, on the other hand, shows you two sets of results: one for mobile and one for desktop.

However, both tools give you actionable recommendations on how to increase the speed and “responsiveness” of your website across all devices and screen sizes.

Also, be sure to get a dedicated website server from a solid cloud-based hosting provider. Dedicated servers are significantly faster, more reliable, and more secure than shared hosting servers.

The benefits of going with a managed cloud hosting provider like DelCor, AWS, or Rackspace include increased server uptime, security, cost-efficiency, scalability, backup and recovery, location independence, and the ability to leverage the latest technology.

Site speed best practices

Here are some quick best practices to ensure lightning fast website loading speeds on smartphone and mobile devices:

  • Develop pages and templates manually to use the least amount of code.
  • Use a clean theme that loads minimal CSS and JavaScript files.
  • Avoid plugins (e.g. revolution sliders), stylesheets, and bulky scripts as much as possible.
  • Conditionally load any necessary scripts and styles only when they’re in use.
  • Enable HTML caching and Redis object cache to reduce server requests.
  • Upload images at about 1280px x 720px to reduce size and ensure high-res on mobile.
  • Use WebP images and Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) icons where possible.
  • Use the native system-stack font on operating systems instead of loading custom fonts to reduce server requests, boost speed, and improve accessibility and readability.

  • Backlinks

Building backlinks to your site is just as important as having value-packed content and a speedy quick site. In fact, the #1 result in Google has an average of 3.8x more backlinks than positions #2 through #10.

Strengthening your backlink profile takes time, but it’s a necessary “off-page” SEO strategy for indexing and ranking. It signals to Google and search engines that your site is trustworthy and authoritative.

The good news is that the number of sites that link to you is NOT as critical as the QUALITY of sites. But you should still focus on getting backlinks from aged domains and increasing the number and quality of unique referring domains linking to your site.

In fact, the number and quality of referring domains are two of the most important ranking factors in Google’s algorithm based on a recent SEO study of 1 million Google Search results. Ahrefs is one of the best free SEO tools to find and monitor backlinks to your website and your competitors.

Beyond backlinking campaigns, other off-page SEO strategies include:

  • Guest posting on industry authority sites.
  • Increasing your business listings in relevant places including on different social media channels, round-up pages and industry-related websites, Google My Business for organizations that have a physical location, and reputable online business directories.

On-Page SEO Elements Best Practices

In addition to monitoring topic trends and competitive SEO strategies, you should also implement on-page SEO best practices to drive new eyeballs to your site.

Here are essential on-page elements that are particularly important on your blog posts, resource pages, and landing pages because these are typically the pages that are most “rankable.”

Query Research & Usage

Focus each article you post on one topic and cover everything there is to know about it. No two posts should target the same topic.

So make use of “keyword” and related query research platforms like Google Trends, LSI Graph, Answer The Public, as well as Google’s Autocomplete predictions and related search terms to find good blog topics.

Google search predictions

When looking at Google Autocomplete (pictured above) and related searches (pictured below) for SEO, be sure to use:

  • An incognito window so your search history doesn’t influence the predictions you get.
  • A U.S.-based VPN connection if you’re outside the country or a VPN for the location where your target audience is.
Google related searches

Using these free keyword research tools, you can gain insight into what your audience is searching for and “long-tail” keywords you should target within a single piece of content.

Long tail keywords are longer and more specific search phrases. For example, “best association websites this year” is a long-tail version of the short-tail keyword “association websites.”

Once you’ve gathered potential topics and related phrases, use an SEO tool like Ahrefs or Moz Keyword Explorer to analyze the difficulty of ranking for those topics, see the content types and backlinks for top ranking pages, and start organizing the structure of your blog post.

Voice search

Go all in by optimizing for voice search. Siri, Alexa, and other voice-assisted search agents are also not going anywhere anytime soon. If anything, they’re becoming more critical for organic search performance. Take advantage of this by:

  • Using voice-optimized keyword research platforms like Answer The Public to find related queries that users are verbally asking their devices.
  • Include those voice-enabled queries as subheadings in an article exploring the broader associated topic. Voice-search keywords are often formatted as questions (e.g. “What is”, “When”, or “How to” queries) .
  • Answer those questions directly and succinctly with plain text. If you’re targeting the featured snippet on SERPs (which we’ll cover shortly), it’s best to keep your answer snippet to 43 or 44 words and put it in bold. Forget the fluff with your featured snippets and get to the point.

Best practices for using “focus topics”

Don’t go overboard with keywords in your blog posts. Search engines will ding you for keyword stuffing. Your UX will suffer as well.

Search engines don't publicize an ideal keyword density so you must use discretion and best practices as a guide. However, most SEO experts believe that an ideal keyword density is around 1% to 2% so you can use this as a general rule of thumb.

If possible, aim to have your focus topic or keyword phrase appear:

  • In the first paragraph and the last sentence of each post. Having your keyword appear in the first 100 words of a page’s content is associated with first page Google rankings.
  • Only once every 300-500 words so you don't get flagged. Keyword density isn’t as important as it once was, but Google may use it to determine the topic of your page.
  • In the meta description that describes the content of your post and appears on search engine result pages (SERPs) that are generated when you're searching Google or another search engine.
  • At the beginning of your title tag, if it makes sense.
  • At the beginning of your short, date-free post URL.
  • Within your “image alt texts” and file names, as appropriate.

Including your primary and related keyword queries (i.e. LSI keywords) in your H2 and H3 subheaders (which we’ll discuss in a minute) may also provide relevancy signals to search engines, although they’re likely weaker than these other on-page SEO elements.

Click-Worthy & Keyword-Rich Title Tag

The webpage title, also known as the title tag, is an HTML element that specifies the title of the page. The title tag is not the header (or the H1, which we’ll discuss below) that appears at the top of your actual page. Instead, it appears at the top of your browser window and on SERPs.

The title tag of this guide you’re reading now, for example, looks like this in it’s raw HTML form:

<title>The Ultimate Guide to Websites for Associations | Brightfind</title>

An important component of SEO-rich content, your page’s title tag should:

usage of keywords in title tag
  • If possible, include the primary topic phrase toward the beginning of the title.
  • If it makes sense and you have space, include related terms and long-tailed variations as most pages don’t rank only for the main topic. Related phrases don’t have to be an exact match.
  • Be engaging and compelling enough to get potential visitors to click on it over other search result listings.
  • Be about 50–60 characters long, so make it count. If your title tag is too long, Google will cut it off. And if it’s too short, then you waste valuable space that you could use to describe what your page is about, grab the attention of searchers, and convert them to site visitors.

Engaging & Descriptive H1 Tag

The H1 tag is a HTML element that appears at the top of your webpage. Most people refer to this as the “title” of the page but it’s really the heading of the page.

Your H1 should be similar enough to the title tag displayed on the SERPs so that visitors know they’re in the right place. Your H1 should also be compelling enough to get visitors to read the contents and not immediately bounce from the page. Your bounce rate is critical to your overall “PageRank” and SEO health.

For example, the H1 for this guide looks like this in it’s raw HTML form:

<H1>The Ultimate Guide to Websites for Associations (with Examples)</H1>

Every page on your site should only have a single H1 at the top of the page. No more and no less.

Heading Structure

Your heading structure simply helps potential search engine “crawlers” or “bots” understand what's on the page. In fact, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, John Mueller, says:

Google on headers

Your heading structure should generally follow the format H1 > H2 > H3 > H4 depending on how many subheadings and “sub-subheadings” you have. So, for example, your page could have a heading structure similar to:

heading structure

Simply put, your page heading structure should follow a structure with the H1 being the most important (and the first header on the page) and the others following under it accordingly.

However, many site designers and developers incorrectly select headings based on appearance. Or, they may use headings for subtitles and one-liners below headings, taglines, and slogans instead of styled paragraph <p> or <body> tags.

Don’t repeat these same mistakes! The correct way to select headings is based on page hierarchy and categorization.

Also, don’t overuse headings. Usually, pages don't need more than an <h2>, <h3>, or sometimes <h4>’s. This current section you’re reading right now, “Heading Structure” is actually an H4. You (and Google bots) could find and categorize this section based on the following hierarchical structure:

H1: The Ultimate Guide to Websites for Associations
H2: SEO-Rich Content and Practices
H3: On-Page SEO Elements Best Practices
H4: Heading Structure

If possible, you should also format subheaders:

  • As questions to boost voice search indexing.
  • In chronological order (e.g. Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 or Rule 1, Rule 2) to facilitate scrolling and ease of use.

Actionable “meta description”

A meta description is an HTML element that describes the contents of your page for users and search engines. Every page can have one meta description.

This description is displayed under the page title on SERPs, so it should be action-oriented and descriptive enough to get people to click on it over the other search result options.

For example, the meta description for this guide looks like this in it’s raw HTML form within the <head> section at the beginning of this page:

<meta name="description" content="Explore the 12 web elements you need to engage and convert users to members including clear branding, awesome search, SEO, accessibility, clean UX and more.">

Your page meta description can be any length, but Google generally truncates it to about 155–160 characters. Use that space wisely by crafting a keyword-rich and engaging snippet to boost conversions to your page.

If you don’t specify a meta description or don’t write one that accurately reflects your page content, Google will choose one for you based on your page contents - so it’s better to make a solid one yourself!

Descriptive image alt text

The purpose of image “alt text” is to help individuals with disabilities better understand what an image is all about. That’s why it’s such a long-standing and important on-page SEO element.

So, don’t forget to enter a short phrase in the "alt tag" field when uploading images on your CMS/website. Don’t “keyword stuff” this image alt text field though. Simply describe the image in a few words.

If the primary query or a keyword variation makes sense, then use it. But don’t force it.

It’s also helpful (but relatively less important) to include little things like unique, article-specific image titles and meaningful file names.

Inline internal and external links

Include relevant inbound and outbound links in your blog posts to boost “link juice.” There’s no rule of thumb regarding the percentage or number of links you should have on a blog post. Instead, simply link to relevant and helpful information as necessary.

There’s some  research from databox that suggests aiming for 2-5 internal links (aka links to another page or post within your site) on every post.

number internal links

Regardless of the exact number though, you should simply put yourself in your readers’ shoes and consider whether that piece of content would be useful for them.

If it’s valuable, then go ahead and link to it—be it an internal link or an outbound link to an external site. I’d avoid linking to competitors though unless you’re working on some sort of partnership.

Internal linking strategy

A strong internal linking structure and routinely updating old content with new internal links:

  • Creates clear click paths and indexation throughout your website.
  • Helps search engines and users discover pages on your site and improve content understanding.
  • Keeps your content and internal links fresh and relevant.
  • Allows you to funnel traffic to a topic-specific landing page within a couple of clicks.

Within your internal linking strategy, you should also fix any broken links by monitoring HTTP response status codes, crawl issues, and server errors using Google Search Console and free website crawlers such as Screaming Frog SEO Spider.

External linking strategy

Linking outbound to authority sites and implementing robust external linking practices sends trust signals to Google about content quality and how well-researched and informational your page is. However, too many “do-follow” outbound links can hurt your page rankings.

As Google Quality Guidelines Document explains:

28

Here are some best practices for outbound linking:

  • Only link to relevant, high-quality content sections on authoritative domains.
  • The context of links should match the context of the page or section.
  • Point to deep, informational pages in most cases - not home pages.
  • Avoid page-to-page reciprocal linking. A reciprocal link is a set of links between two websites that point in both directions. This sometimes happens when two webmasters agree to link to each other. Such links are not like the “natural” links you earn from using good “white hat” SEO tactics and creating quality content. So avoid reciprocal linking because it can potentially hurt your SEO.
  • Don’t keyword stuff inline anchor text for links. Instead, use natural keyword variations and language that flows with the content.
external links SEO share

Structured, succinct & keyword-rich URLs

Your web page permalinks should be clean, short, and structured URLs.

Google recommends using “simple URLs” and specifically advises against “extremely long” URLs. So it's helpful to keep URLs succinct and keyword-rich by:

  • Avoiding “stop” words if possible. Examples include “a”, “the”, “is”, “are”, and other words that don’t provide very useful or helpful information.
  • Using the primary keyword or search phrase in the first 3-5 words after the / that follows the main domain name (e.g. www.brightfind.com HYPERLINK "http://www.brightfind.com/"⦁ /) and is separated by dashes (e.g. /this-is-a-keyword-rich-permalink). You can also use / to provide some content categorization and page hierarchies, although this isn’t always necessary.

Simply, a recent examination of 11.8 million Google search results concluded that short URLs tend to have a slight ranking advantage over longer URLs. Plus, the average URL on Google’s first page is only 66 characters long.

Appropriate schema markups

Add schema markups and structured data to your webpages’ HTML to:

  • Let search engines immediately know what type of content is on your pages.
  • Optimize how your content is displayed on SERPs.
  • Double the chances of your pages getting clicked by leveraging “rich snippets” that have more data displayed than normal search results. It’s possible to target more than one featured snippet within a single article using schema markups and using content that answers the search query succinctly and directly.

There are schema markups for events, creative works, FAQs, articles, your “About” organization page, lists, videos, maps, products, reviews—just about any type of content that associations and nonprofit organizations offer on their websites.

There are also tons of schema plugins you can install on your site to make it easier to mark up your content. Schema Pro and All in One Schema Rich Snippets are popular but there are tons to choose from.

Incorporate Video

Online video is EXPLODING. By 2022, internet traffic is projected to be 82% video content. You’ve probably also noticed more Video Featured Snippets on SERPs. Actually, Google even highlighted Video Featured Snippets in their “Reintroduction to Featured Snippets” report.

Plus, more than half of Google Search results have at least one embedded video, and this number is on the rise. Google also owns YouTube so we should see even MORE YouTube videos in the years ahead.

google search results video-1

So, level up your YouTube channel before it’s too late and start embedding videos with keyword-rich descriptions in your text-based blog posts.

Embedding videos is also  known to significantly decrease your bounce rates, which strongly contributes to Google’s PageRank signals and can help you beat out your SEO competition.

reduce bounce with video

Here are some video content best practices:

  • Organize your video content into clear sections so search engines can figure out what your video is all about and use different clips in a featured snippet.
video content clear sections
  • Optimize video HTML for SEO: Search engines use your video title, description, and tags to understand your video content.
  • Upload a Transcript: Include the video transcript in the YouTube description and within your blog post to help search engines fully grasp your video and minimize any confusion.

Beyond video, incorporating other media-rich content with associated alt text is also helpful to improve content quality and reduce bounce rates.

Fresh and relevant content

Continuously improving and re-optimizing old content is an excellent low-hanging fruit SEO strategy.

Rejuvenating and relaunching content is widely underutilized but can get your content to the TOP of SERPs...without having to pay for it. Actually, upgrading existing content is:

  • Great for search engines because it shows that you consistently refresh your content.
  • Great for users because it maintains a certain level of content relevancy and “evergreen” information that doesn't get outdated.
  • Great for you because it takes much less time and effort than creating new content.

Here are the three steps to successfully relaunch your site content:

  • Identify under-performing content using Google Analytics and Search Console data.
  • Improve and update that content based on top competitors’ posts and your best performing posts.
  • Republish your post and redistribute/repromote it through your marketing channels.

This three-step strategy is so effective because:

  • New readers see your old content. When you relaunch your content, you create another opportunity for people to benefit from the information.
  • Better content = more traffic. Consider how many posts on your site are outdated or mediocre. Relaunching old posts gives you the opportunity to improve that content.
  • Updated content has built-in social proof. You’ll likely already have some social proofs such as social media comments and likes on the day you relaunch that content.

Of course, you should also regularly go back to all posts and ebooks to update or add relevant internal links to more recent content.

Author E-A-T

E-A-T is short for the Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness of authors and websites as a whole.

E-A-T is a crucial part of Google’s ranking algorithm because Google and other search engines don’t want to feature content written by freelancers or newbies; instead they want to serve up content from top subject matter experts in their fields.

Including an “author card” at the end of blog posts with a real author image, social media links, and a relevant description that demonstrates author E-A-T is a great starting point.

33

This author card should also link to the author’s full bio and a listing of the articles they’ve written. Terms of Service and Privacy Pages may also signal that your site is trustworthy and indirectly bolster E-A-T.

Other SEO Best Practices to Keep in Mind

  • Publish blog posts on a consistent schedule. The ideal way to do this is to publish blogs at the same time 2-3x a week on specified days. If possible, you should always have at least two articles in buffer to maintain consistency of content delivery.
  • Outline content well in advance with appropriate primary topics, related voice-search queries as subheadings, important links, and relevant calls-to-action.
  • Don’t forget to categorize your posts! Categories help users and Google discover and understand your content. In particular, they help Googlebot find, index, thematically organize your content, and associate your pages. You can select more than one category if applicable for your posts. Some posts may fall into two categories or three rarely. If there is more than one category, specify the primary category.
  • Add a couple of tags for the major concepts covered in each post. Tags are to blogs as hashtags are to social media - so too many aren't good. They're also becoming less important, but you should still include a couple with some solid logic behind them. No need to create overly unique tags though - it’s good to have tag themes across your site.
  • Creating and submitting an XML sitemap of your website to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
  • Submitting your URL to Google and Bing after you write or relaunch an article, as well as sharing it on your social media and email channels to increase the speed of indexing, potential backlinks to your website, and SEO “link juice.”

SEO Plugins

An SEO plugin is one of the only website plugins we recommend. If you want to optimize your organic SEO, you absolutely need a good SEO plugin. They help by:

  • Improving the way search engines and social media platforms understand your site content.
  • Managing redirects.
  • Helping you monitor and avoid dead links, broken links, duplicate content, and missed on-page opportunities.
  • Suggesting internal links right from the page/post editor.

The benefits of SEO plugins significantly outweigh the downsides of website plugins and save you a ton of time and trouble from having to manually add all on-site SEO elements.

What are the best options?

Selecting a SEO plugin is a matter of personal preference. For example, what features do you want? Which features will you actually use? And how much extra “clutter” can endure in your website editor?

Siteimprove SEO is a solid SEO solution for content management systems (CMS) like Optimizely (formerly Episerver) and Sitefinity. For Wordpress sites, Rank Math and Yoast SEO are two great options. Be sure to just pick one though. You’ll run into duplicate sitemap problems and other issues if you install multiple SEO plugins on your website.

Rank Math SEO Plugin

Rank Math is much newer, while Yoast SEO is a well-established option. Rank Math

offers a lot more features than Yoast though, especially when comparing the free versions.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for your site though – it depends on whether you’ll use those features. If you’re not going to use all those features, Rank Math allows you to disable them to avoid extra bloat (the same is true of Yoast SEO).

Many of the features of the free version of Rank Math are also things that Yoast SEO either charges for or doesn’t offer.

Rank Math User Interface

Rank Math also has a pretty neat analytics interface. The free version allows you to track search impressions and keyword positions from Google Search Console.

The paid version also tracks keyword rankings and traffic statistics from Google Analytics, and matches this info to your content’s SEO score.

Rank Math Analytics interface

Yoast SEO Plugin

Now if you go with the popular Yoast SEO plugin, you should know that Yoast is infamous for encouraging over-optimization of your primary keyword. Their checklists and colorful guides can be helpful though for less SEO-versed folks.

But the SEO world is quickly moving towards topic optimization rather than keyword optimization, so what's significant are the related queries and subtopics covered within a post.

Don’t pay too close attention to Yoast’s “exact-match keywords” or worry about getting the ‘green light’ on every single post. Sometimes it happens naturally, sometimes it doesn't. Just make sure your posts cover the primary query topic and related queries in-depth and accurately. That’s the most important.

Here is an example of Yoast SEO’s content scores and recommendations:

Yoast SEO keyword analysis

Yoast’s readability analysis, on the other hand, tells you whether your paragraphs and sections are too long, whether you’re using transition words or consecutive sentences starting with the same word, and grades you on how “well” you’re writing.

Sometimes, it’s great to be reminded to break up large chunks of content with subheaders.

Here is an example of Yoast SEO’s readability check:

Yoast SEO readability analysis

But let’s be honest, a tool cannot properly grade your writing, especially if you’re a writer by trade or enjoy the art.

You still need to know basic web content best practices and should take Yoast’s readability scorecard with a grain of salt if you decide to go this route.

Chapter 10

Strong Analytics Capabilities

BF-UltimateGuideToWebsitesAssociationsGraphics-Sized-Chap10

Strong web analytics is not just about measuring page views. With the right framework, you should be able to outline and measure the behavioral patterns of real visitors to your website.

You should use behavioral analysis tools such as Google Analytics and Episerver/Optimizely's content intelligence tool to see what’s working and what’s not. These insights are based on where large swaths of users go, what they click on, what features they use, what sites or marketing channels they enter your site from, how long they’re engaged and on what content, and from which areas they’re leaving or instantly bouncing from your site.

In other words, your analytics capabilities should give you actionable insight into what people are doing on your site and whether you’re giving them something to learn or care about.

Your analytics reporting tools are another factor. Are they robust, customizable, flexible, and visually appealing? And can they be exported into different, popular file types for review?

Related Article: 5 Ways to Target Your Website Audience for Better Engagement

Best Behavioral Analytics Tools

  • Google Analytics - tracks and reports website traffic and gives you the tools you need to better understand your website visitors and advertising ROI.

Important note on GA: you should enable the next generation of GA now, GA4, on all your sites. Most organizations use GA3 currently, but it’s important to turn on GA4. Enabling both GA4 and GA3 properties across your sites will allow you to start collecting the right data so your organization is better prepared as we move to a cookie-less future.

  • Episerver/Optimizely Intelligence Cloud is the only tool available with extensive topical engagement analysis. It offers user-friendly behavioral audience targeting, predictive analytics, and campaign management. It also lets you analyze a range of segmentation parameters including geolocation, traffic source, campaign, device, and browser.
  • Hotjar - shows you how visitors are using your website and allows you to collect user feedback and convert more visitors into members.
  • Kissmetrics goes further than Google Analytics to help you make decisions based on actual user behavior. You can tie data to a real person instead of just page views, bounce rates, and time-on-site. You can also track users’ digital journey across devices and drop-off points for every digital pathway.
  • Crazy Egg also offers eye-tracking Heat Maps and Overlay as well as other tools that help you visualize engagement and on-site thinking processes so you can optimize.
  • OptinMonster offers geo-location targeting for campaign personalization, exit-intent technology, “MonsterLinks” that convert links or images into optin forms, targeted onsite campaigns, and segmented conversion analytics.
  • Tasio uses associations current data or helps you improve your data strategy and then develops predictive models based on your goals to help you make predictions about member needs and behaviors. Then you can optimize your website accordingly.
Chapter 11

Strong Admin Experience

BF-UltimateGuideToWebsitesAssociationsGraphics-Sized-Chap11

A robust “data governance” model is a must-have to get the most out of your website.

Data governance is basically knowing who controls what information on your site and streamlining all administrative processes.

  • It entails rolling out standards and structured processes about the quality and usage of your website content to:
  • Save time on making updates and adding content.
  • Keep your web practices on the straight and narrow for security and compliance.
  • Increase transparency, accountability, and integrity of information.
  • Feed your analytics and reporting platform.
  • Allow you to access the information you need when you need it.
Chapter 12

Select the Right CMS

BF-UltimateGuideToWebsitesAssociationsGraphics-Sized-Chap12

There’s no one-size-fits-all content management system (CMS, aka your website platform).

Common CMS software in the association industry that Brightfind partners with includes Optimizely (formerly Episerver), Sitecore, Progress Sitefinity, and Higher Logic, but there are hundreds of others including open source, proprietary, and Software-as-a-Service CMS systems.

Related Article: How to Plan for CMS Integrations

The right CMS for your association depends on your current needs and skill sets. Consider the topics we’ve covered so far in this guide, the ways in which your organization uses your CMS, and how you want your members to interact with your CMS.

Then, select a CMS that is “feature friendly” for these purposes. There are, however, three CMS qualities that are essential for all associations:

Related Article: How to Strengthen CMS Integrations

  • Cloud-based: CMS software that’s on-premise means you have to “keep the lights blinking.” Instead, you should consider  moving to the cloud by making use of cloud services to maximize efficiency and security.
  • Scalability: Your CMS should be flexible enough to scale with your organization in the future.
Chapter 13

Key Takeaways for Association Websites

contact_1a

At the end of the day, the ultimate association website simply gives web visitors what they want.

Take a step back from all the tech talk and ask yourself: what does my audience want? What is best and easiest for them?

What’ll make my site seamless? What’ll make it fun? You want your site to feel like an effortless browsing experience.

Seamlessness and browsability boils down to creating a site that’s fast, findable, integrated, intuitive, and informative.

If you need help improving the seamlessness and scannability of your website and accomplishing these key elements cost-effectively and efficiently, get in touch with us.