Archive for July, 2021

New Report Sheds Realistic—and Promising—Light on Membership

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

Marketing General Incorporated’s annual report on membership has some predictably dire findings. But there are also lots of positive trends and revelations about how associations weathered a mighty storm and never lost sight of meeting member needs.

It’s probably no surprise that Marketing General Incorporated’s 13th annual Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report has some bad news, but there is also a lot of good—and intriguing—news. Let’s start with the bad news, and then move on quickly to the promising findings.

Here goes: 47 percent of associations reported a decline in membership and 45 percent saw a renewal rate drop, which is pretty dramatic after only a 24 percent drop last year. Eighty percent canceled in-person meetings, which had financially devastating effects. “Far and away, it’s one of the worst years we’ve seen,” said Tony Rossell, senior vice president of MGI and the report’s coauthor.

Ready for the good news?

Overall, the long-term membership trend for associations remains positive. Nearly half of associations—45 percent—still show an increase in membership and 71 percent of associations said the level of member engagement increased this year. “An important point this year was that associations really did step up and meet the needs of members,” Rossell said.

“Rethink, Innovate, and Change”

And that responsiveness paid off. Eighty-three percent of associations said they saw a significant increase in webinar participation, which is up from 53 percent last year. An impressive 78 percent of associations reported that they developed new products and services to assist members and member companies over the past year.

And don’t ever underestimate the importance of a strong value proposition because it is essential for successful membership recruitment. Associations that reported increases in their new member and overall membership in the past year were significantly more likely to say their association’s value proposition is very compelling.

“Associations really did rethink their value proposition,” Rossell said. “Whenever you have pain and challenging times, it’s a really great opportunity to rethink, innovate, and change.”

There is no doubt it has been an extremely challenging time. There were panic lapsers—members who left because they lost their job, or their company was cutting costs. But Rossell remains optimistic because the people most likely to join an association are lapsed members.

“You have a gold mine sitting in your database, because people have lapsed in the last few years,” he said. “If you go back to them, the likelihood of them joining is much higher than just going to a cold prospect.”

Community Matters

In a drastically changing world, associations are a constant and still provide all-important professional development through certification programs, webinars, or other training. People want to keep their skill set up, whether they’re looking for a new job or trying to maintain their current position. The report found that there was a 57 percent increase in members attending professional development programming. And 37 percent of associations said they saw an increase in members accessing career services.

“The best unemployment insurance you can buy is joining your professional association,” Rossell said, “because you have a career center, networks, and you can reach out to people.”

Having a community to turn to in troubled times also mattered a lot, specifically members-only areas. The report showed an uptick in visits to members-only sections of websites—56 percent, up from 44 percent last year. And there has been a 53 percent increase in participation with private social networks, which Rossell said is a “revolution for associations.”

That online accessibility, with people seeking information, community, and interaction, was a big step up in members connecting. “You’re buying into a community that can help you,” Rossell said. “That will be a powerful pull for associations.”

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How to Keep Your Virtual Event Sponsors Happy and Coming Back for More

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

Inside NJCPA’s digital strategy to attract sponsors and overdeliver on their goals.

When events were suddenly forced to change from in-person to virtual last year, planners were able to offer attendees interactive content, online breakout rooms, and informative speaker lineups to still ensure a positive, engaging experience. But what could associations offer event sponsors who saw their usual activation and signage opportunities disappear?

That is the question that Eileen Proven, Business Development Specialist at the New Jersey Society of Public Accountants (NJCPA), needed to answer following the COVID-19 lockdown. “Our premier sponsors agree to a yearly spend with us, and we were at a loss of what to offer them when we canceled a large convention last year,” she explains.

This problem was compounded by the fact that advertising on NJCPA’s website had taken a significant hit during the pandemic and sponsored placements in its biweekly newsletter were sold out for the year. So Proven had to act fast to find a way to replace lost revenue.

After an exhaustive search for solutions, she landed on the perfect tool to offer sponsors to help them meet their sales goals: Feathr, a digital marketing platform that allows organizations to quickly and effectively target a specific audience. In the case of NJCPA, that audience is more than 14,000 CPAs working in private and corporate practices.

Through a combination of instructional videos and one-on-one training with the pros at Feathr, Proven quickly got up to speed on learning how to use the platform and how best to explain its capabilities to prospective clients. “Advertisers needed some assistance to understand that if they are buying Facebook ads, yes, they are hitting the masses, but they are not hitting their target market.” In other words, you’re not going to get a huge ROI on an ad for discounted business insurance if you aren’t getting that ad in front of a lot of people who are, in fact, business owners.

At first, Proven says she was unsure how NJCPA’s audience would react to retargeting campaigns (i.e., ads that follow you anywhere you go on the internet). “We’re a CPA organization and our members tend to skew conservative,” Proven explains, noting that they are not hesitant to give negative feedback. But her worries were for naught. The initial retargeting campaigns Proven launched on behalf of sponsors were successes right out of the gate—resulting in more than $30,000 in total sales and 10 out of 11 clients immediately re-upping for more.

To Proven, results like this signify success on both sides of the campaigns. “My counterpart and I are focused on making sure that every sponsor we work with is satisfying a need for our particular members.” Sponsors gain customers, and association members get exposure to products and resources they actually need—the definition of a win-win. “We just renewed our partnership with Feathr,” says Proven, “so I’m just going to keep working and selling. No plans to stop!”


 

Feathr has thought of everything to help get associations up and running with digital advertising. Its dedicated flock of experts advises on unique revenue-generating campaigns and provides graphic design and implementation services to ensure successful marketing campaigns. Partnering with Feathr ensures your association’s success for years to come.

 

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How to Kondo Your Website for a Better User Experience

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

Like your home, your website needs a regular decluttering to “spark joy” in its visitors. Use these tips to clean up your website after a content audit.

We’ve all seen websites that are so cluttered that it’s difficult to find what you’re looking for. How could you navigate a spider web of decade-old reports, blogs with broken links, and pages with miscellaneous items thrown around? If this sounds like your association’s website, then it’s time for a cleanup so that you can offer a better user experience.

You’ve already performed your content audit, so you have a plan of action for your pages. Now, it’s a matter of knowing how to best remove, revise, and reorganize your content. Use these tips from Carrie Hane, coauthor of Designing Connected Content and Association Content Strategies for a Changing World, to declutter your website effectively.

Delete Content Without Stranding Users

It’s time to remove pages you deemed expendable in your content audit. But doing this effectively is not as simple as clicking “delete” in your CMS, because you don’t want users to get lost in a sea of “page not found” messages and error pages.

There are a few things you can do using HTTP status codes. One is to assign a “410 Gone” status to permanently deleted pages rather than a “404 Not Found.” The difference is that a 410 will tell search engines that the page was deliberately and permanently deleted, removing it from search results, making it less likely for users to stumble onto a deleted page.

When deleting pages, remember to remove links on your website that lead to those deleted pages. Tools such as Google Analytics can help you find broken links on your website so you can remove them efficiently. And while you’re taking pages offline, keep an archive of deleted pages so you can still reference them if needed. This could be as simple as unpublishing pages in your CMS so they are visible only to site administrators.

“I would say the number-one reason people are hesitant to get rid of things on their website is, ‘Where will it go?’” Hane says. “If you have a clear archiving policy, then you can say, ‘It’s not disappearing from the face of the earth; it’s just going away from our website and over here.’”

Consolidate Redundant Content

If you’re deleting duplicate content, use a 301 redirect to send users to a similar page with relevant information. A redirect will help users find what they need and stay on your site instead of hitting a dead end at a deleted page. This is useful when, for example, you want to consolidate overlapping information on three pages and put it all on one URL.

Reorganize Content for Easier Site Navigation

“The recommendations from the audit should be more holistic, and not just a list of pages to delete and rewrite. You’re probably going to have to do some reorganization as well,” Hane says.

With newly deleted pages, content gaps might develop on your website; this is where the content model you created during your audit will come in handy. Content modeling involves determining how your content should be structured and visualizing your website’s content ecosystem.

Revise Content for Better Performance

Sometimes, a page contains valuable information, but it’s just not presented in the right way. How you revise your content should depend on your organization and its goals, but there are general best practices to consider as you rewrite pages:

Follow SEO guidelines. Spruce up outdated or underperforming content by improving page SEO. Hane says good SEO has become much more complex than just adding a few keywords, and organizations need to consider fixing page structure, using HTML elements, adding multimedia, considering content freshness, and paying attention to link quality and quantity.

Hane also recommends using a guide to break down the many different factors of SEO. The Periodic Table of SEO Factors from Search Engine Land examines six different SEO categories and assigns a level of importance to each component. (Our third entry in this series on website optimization will cover SEO in more depth.)

Improve readability. Old pages you haven’t touched in years may contain run-on sentences, overly complicated information, or poor page design. Hane recommends consulting a readability guide and following these guidelines:

  • Use plain language.
  • Write in short sentences.
  • Divide text into short paragraphs and break up copy with bullet points, accordions, feature boxes, and tools.
  • Structure your pages with headings and subheadings, and apply heading tags to the HTML.
  • Remove complex terminology where you can. Use simpler terms to make your point, or provide full context around the complex term to help readers understand.

This is part 2 of our series on website optimization. You can read part 1, about content audits, here; stay tuned for part 3, about SEO.

 

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How Will Large Event Spaces and Other Venues Likely Change in the Next Few Years?

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

Establishing consumer confidence is necessary to ensure a successful, full return for our industry. Here’s how event spaces are leading the way, in four key areas.

COVID-19 is waning, thankfully, but its influence remains. Meeting planners need to assure attendees that they will be safe at their events. In the wake of the pandemic, four things will likely change in large event spaces and venues in the next few years: environmental hygiene, food service, technology, and the customer journey.

Many venues have established permanent protocols to provide safe and secure meeting environments. However, the entire live-events industry should work together to establish confidence that meetings are safe. A few key areas of change to focus on include:

Environmental hygiene: Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) accreditation is important for all large-scale event spaces and venues. It establishes competencies, procedures and tools to provide a safety standard. To achieve trust, venues could promote the importance of GBAC accreditation for large meeting spaces.

Foodservice: When attending large events and/or conventions, an important part of the overall experience is the ability to network and socialize over meals. Post COVID, food-and-beverage safety procedures must adapt to include improvements in cleaning, additional space between food stations, and potentially eliminate self-serve food buffets.  

Technology: Technology to improve safety protocols and meeting experience is an area where we will see incredible change over the next few years. Commitment from venues and cities to stay nimble and make capital improvements where necessary will be vital. For example, we expect to see technology enhancements immediately in registration and screening. Recent positive numbers on incoming show registrations around the globe illustrate that the desire for—and the benefits associated with—face-to-face live events is still strong. Still, hybrid content will make up shows. Consider hybrid broadcast studios, once considered a luxury, are now viewed as essential. 

Customer journey: Cities, and the destination management organizations that serve them, will need to provide an accessible, thorough understanding of an event attendees’ journey at their destinations. For example, it should be common practice to provide meeting planners with toolkits that outline the safety protocols in place in key areas of a city.

Establishing consumer confidence is necessary to ensure a successful, full return for our industry. We can host large-scale events and meetings again. The key is to adapt, and maintain a commitment to keep our attendees safe!


About Choose Chicago

When you choose Chicago as your next meeting destination, you can feel confident that the health and safety of your attendees, exhibitors, and staff is our utmost priority.

While the city is now fully open and ready to welcome meetings, conventions, and events, safety is always our primary concern. We recommend checking with your venue for detailed information on everything meeting planners need to do to provide a safe and enjoyable event experience.

Our many venues, vendors, and airports have implemented state-of-the-art technology and robust sanitation guidelines, so you can plan your meeting with peace of mind. Additionally, our All In Chicago incentive program offers valuable rewards for meeting professionals. Learn more about the program and Chicago’s plans to responsibly welcome back meetings and event

 

 

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Hybrid Meeting to Provide “Recharge Room” for Onsite Attendees to Relax, Unmask

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

Attendees at their first face-to-face meeting post-COVID may feel a little overwhelmed. Recognizing this, the American Association of Feline Practitioners is creating a Recharge Room at its fall meeting. Attendees can get extra social distance and mentally recharge.

In-person events during the time of COVID-19 have the potential to be stressful for attendees who have been solo most of the past year. Staff at the American Association of Feline Practitioners recognizes this and plans to offer in-person attendees at its hybrid annual meeting in October a space to relax and recharge.

“With so many people having different comfort levels and integrating in-person back into the mix of our educational resources, we wanted to make sure that we accommodated everybody’s comfort level,” said Heather O’Steen, CAE, AAFP’s CEO. “Our Recharge Room will provide space for those that need a break.”

The group’s meeting will be in Phoenix, and when AAFP originally secured the meeting space—pre-pandemic—more in-person attendees were expected. With pandemic restrictions, people’s personal comfort levels, and virtual options reducing in-person attendance, the hybrid meeting was left with extra space.

“We have the space in order to accommodate it, so we wanted to make sure that we were able to give attendees the opportunity to have mask breaks,” O’Steen said. “If they’re not comfortable eating in the exhibit hall with a couple of people at the table, they can go to the Recharge Room and eat by themselves in order to take off their masks and not be close to others.”

The Recharge Room will have several tables spaced more than six feet apart and only one chair at the table. Attendees do not have to worry that someone will join them or invade their space.

The current plan is to follow the federal guidelines that allow vaccinated people to go unmasked while unvaccinated people must be masked. But O’Steen knows the guidelines might change.

“We will evaluate and assess the current environment prior to the meeting, and there is a chance we could require all attendees to wear a mask,” she said. In that case, the recharge room may be more popular.

The event is being held in a convention center, so the hope is to avoid attendees feeling they need to leave and return to their hotel room to get a safe mask break. The recharge room also can provide an opportunity to mentally regroup.

“I think there are lot of people who haven’t been to large gatherings yet, and mental health issues are on the rise in every industry,” O’Steen said. “So, if somebody feels overwhelmed or anxious, they can go there and take a step back.”

AAFP has also mentioned the Recharge Room in its conference registration materials to let attendees know it will be available. O’Steen said the changing dynamics of regulations related to the pandemic makes the room ever more important to ensuring comfort of attendees. “We don’t know exactly what is going to happen in three months, but we wanted to make sure that we were able to satisfy as many people’s needs as possible,” she said.

 

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Why It’s Time for a Fresh Look at Your Value Proposition

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

New research suggests the pandemic changed the needs of association members. Leaders will have to spearhead creative responses.

What do your members and customers value?

That shouldn’t be a scary question: Associations are used to paying close attention to what services people find useful and which benefits people find attractive. But the pandemic has disrupted clarity about that, along with much else.

For example, see the latest edition of Marketing General Inc.’s Membership Marketing Benchmark report, which includes some sobering findings. In addition to the familiar news about meetings taking a hit, membership has suffered a blow as well: Nearly half (45 percent) of associations surveyed reported a decline in membership renewals, doubling the rate of the previous year. And a larger proportion of associations say they’ve seen a decline in new member acquisition (37 percent) than those who’ve seen an increase (29 percent).

According to the report, a key factor in getting those first-time members has been its value proposition: “Associations reporting increases in their new members and overall membership in the past year are significantly more likely to say their association’s value proposition is very compelling or compelling.”

Addressing weak membership numbers may demand a more holistic approach—and more ambitious thinking about what members want from you.

Associations say they haven’t been sitting idly by: 78 percent of the survey’s respondents said they’ve developed “new products and services to assist members and member companies.” That’s meaningful, though I do wonder how much of the innovation being trumpeted by respondents involves much beyond launching a virtual conference in 2020. Addressing weak membership numbers may demand a more holistic approach—and more ambitious thinking about what members (and potential members) want from you.

I was thinking about this while reading about a recent effort by the magazine Outside to move away from its familiar subscription model to one that more closely resembles an association membership. As The Washington Post reported last week, Outside is a legacy brand that’s been pummeled by weak ad sales and an internet audience that expects free content. Robin Thurston, who bought the magazine in February, thinks he’s found a fix: Rather than peddling magazine subscriptions, he’s selling memberships around the lifestyle that the Outside audience represents.

That involves a $99 annual fee that includes access to not just the magazine but other publications, books, apps, online courses, and reduced entry fees to athletic events. That doesn’t sound radically different from an association membership’s familiar mix of content-plus-education-plus-events-plus-discounts. But as professor Sharon Bloyd-Peskin told the Post, the heart of Outside’s effort is to put it at the center of member’s everyday lives: “Here’s this brand saying that a magazine or two is part of our value proposition, but what you are really buying is a whole package of things that you’re used to paying for.”

And that’s the challenge that association leaders have to address now: What puts your association front-and-center in members’ professional lives, when so many of them have had their professional lives upended? Thurston’s bet may not pan out—it depends on converting 10 percent of online readers to members, which is a big lift. But it recognizes that standing still will mean falling behind.

In Fast Company, Tadiran Group CEO Elad Peleg points out that legacy companies have a hard time accessing their “inner startup” because they’re used to their tried-and-true processes. To resist that, he proposes a kind of “genetic therapy”: Looking beyond revenue growth and closely studying what products and services people actually use, and whether they sustain their engagement over time. Associations can get caught in similar ruts. Now is a good time to start breaking out of them.

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Improving Members’ Professional Lives Is a Key to Long-Term Growth

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The American Medical Association didn’t wait for members to tell them what they needed to avoid burnout and improve their careers. Instead, AMA conducted proactive research that revealed a path to effective solutions that will significantly improve each member’s professional journey.

The American Medical Association recently announced it had achieved 10 consecutive years of membership growth, with a 35 percent cumulative increase in dues-paying members during that time. It is the largest year-over-year membership increase in 70 years, which would be impressive under any circumstances.

It is even more so given that AMA’s success endured during an extraordinarily challenging period in the medical profession caused by a global pandemic. AMA was an ally to its members before COVID-19, and significantly more so during the pandemic when members needed the group more than ever.

There were many reasons for AMA’s success, but one aspect was revealing research that gave the group meaningful data on what members found satisfying and motivating about the medical profession—and what was hindering their professional success. Those insights helped AMA to be more agile, focused, and responsive to member needs.

One of AMA’s three strategic arcs that contributed to its membership success, according to James L. Madara, M.D., AMA’s CEO and executive vice president, was improving physician satisfaction by removing obstacles that interfere with patient care. The others include reimagining medical education and preventing chronic disease.

In tackling the first objective, waiting for members to tell them what was wrong was not going to cut it. “Sometimes organizations with internal subject matter experts make the mistake of thinking that subject matter experts, because they are so expert, know what the market must need in their area, but it’s not always the case,” Madara said. “You have to go out and see what the market needs.”

AMA’s multipronged research delved deeper into finding out exactly what the barriers to improving patient care were for physicians. One study found that a primary professional satisfier and intrinsic motivator was how much time physicians spend face-to-face with patients. The dissatisfiers were things that impeded those interactions. Additional research revealed that for every hour a physician spent with a patient, they spent two hours on administrative tasks like data entry.

“Not surprisingly, there was some burnout,” Madara said.

Understanding what was driving member satisfaction—and dissatisfaction—allowed the group to laser in on ways to effectively begin to remove those obstacles, such as simplifying complicated administrative documentation, decreasing prior authorizations, and giving physicians tools they needed to incorporate telehealth into their practices.

While there was not one factor that drove AMA’s growth in membership, Madara said the value of membership that spurred AMA’s most recent success was “making the mission statement seem like a reality for the organization.” Each of the strategic arcs—removing barriers, reimagining medical education, and preventing chronic disease—all directly support AMA’s mission: to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health, Madara said.

Madara is optimistic AMA’s membership growth will continue. He credits member engagement with AMA’s journals, websites, and other resources as another key to membership success.

“The tools we’ve developed that have attracted people are getting better and richer each year,” he said.

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The Newsletter Trend Is Hot Right Now. Does Your Association Need a Strategy Refresh?

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

Competition is mounting in people’s inboxes—an area associations have long dominated. A mix of good data and a great newsletter strategy can help your organization’s emails rise to the top.

By Melissa Bouma

The average person’s inbox is a battle for attention. Each day, a new message emerges, asking for a moment of your time, your attention, and potentially your clicks.

And that demand for your eyeballs and brainpower is growing—with newsletters seeing a significant rise in popularity as individual journalists and niche publications embrace the tool to reach passionate, frequent readers. Tools like Substack are just as trendy as social networks like TikTok and Clubhouse. Even Facebook started its own newsletter platform recently.

And while associations have been mining this territory for decades, a recent Litmus study found that more than three-quarters of marketers said email was essential to their companies’ success, and a third described it as their most effective platform.

With this added bit of competition, it’s a smart time to look at your newsletter strategy and figure out what’s working and what might need a refresh.

Here are a few things to think about as you analyze your efforts:

Understand Circadian Rhythms

Newsletters such as Morning Brew and theSkimm win over readers by being a small, consistent force in their lives. We’re all creatures of habit, and building a message that ties into that habit, with a consistent send time, is a sure way to build stronger member engagement. Your association might consider grabbing the morning slot as everyone is swinging into work mode for the day.

Understand the Audience

Habit is only one part of the equation. Your newsletter needs to deliver real and consistent value, which requires understanding what your audience wants.

That’s where data comes into play, and why it’s important to ask questions about your readers’ interests and professional knowledge. This sort of data-gathering is essential to building a stronger newsletter, and it has long driven email strategies. For example, A/B testing—a compare-and-contrast method used to figure out the most effective subject lines and send times—is an approach you may be using already (and if you’re not, you should be).

Of course, associations, with their deep knowledge of their members, are in a position to go further than that, personalizing messages based on members’ specific needs, perhaps through the use of artificial intelligence. If a user likes technology, for example, the message should lead with technology; if they’re into marketing, the message should feature marketing content.

An even more personal touch to your newsletter can work, too—as more intimate appeals also do well in email. That doesn’t mean simply whipping up a single-person Substack newsletter (though you could). A good example: Robinhood Snacks, a newsletter from anew popular investment app, puts its own witty spin on investing—something that sets its newsletters apart from those of other financial organizations.

Understand the Technology

Another factor to be aware of in the newsletter space involves the ongoing technical shifts with email.

In the past, the big concerns around email involved sending messages that didn’t hit your members’ inboxes or unfixable errors that got through the editing process—or that Outlook or Gmail unwittingly mangled your message before it hit the inbox. (Technical knowledge matters!)

Broader shifts in the email market now may force your organization to embrace new tactics or find new metrics. An important one: Last month, Apple announced plans to release a feature in iOS called Mail Privacy Protection to limit the tracking of individual users in their inboxes, a boon for those who prefer their privacy but problematic for those who send newsletters, as it damages the accuracy of a key number for many email marketers: open rate.

Understand What Makes Sense for You

External competition, Apple’s changes, and people’s ongoing thirst for the most up-to-date knowledge should be fueling you to reexamine your newsletter tactics. There will be new strategy considerations as a result, and you may need a strong partner to help you figure out the best way forward. One last thought to consider: Maybe email isn’t the best platform for what you’re trying to say at all. Maybe the message you’re trying to send works better on social media, or even in print (yes, people still read things on paper!).

Whatever steps you take to boost your newsletter strategy, know that the message itself only gets you so far. It’s your content strategy and genuine, consistent value that will ultimately win the battle for the inbox.


Melissa Bouma, president of Manifest, has more than 15 years of experience building insight-driven branding and content strategy, with a client base representing large companies, major universities, and prominent associations.

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How to Conduct an Effective Content Audit

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Without a clear plan, a content audit can become a complicated, arduous task. Use these tips to lead an audit that works.

Before you can give your website a redesign, cleanup, or total overhaul, you need to know what content you have. Enter the content audit: a systematic, strategic analysis of what your website already holds, so that you can determine what you’re missing, where you’re being duplicative, and what your baseline is before you make your website as strong as it can be.

While useful, a content audit is hardly glamorous, and it can get complicated, depending on how deeply you analyze your pages. So where do you start? And how do you stay on track?

Consider these tips from Carrie Hane, coauthor of Designing Connected Content and Association Content Strategies for a Changing World, to get started on your own audit.

Define Your Goals

What do you want to accomplish with a content audit? Are you trying to analyze your content’s SEO effectiveness, evaluate its messaging, or figure out if it’s redundant or outdated? Determine your goals so you know what data to look for when auditing your content.

“I like to figure out where we’re going first and then map that to an audit,” Hane says. “I’m a big proponent of content modeling, which helps you figure out what content you need, regardless of what you have now.”

Content modeling is the process of determining what content you need and how your content should be structured, which helps you further solidify your goals. With a content model, you’ll be able to identify gaps in your existing content more easily during your audit.

Create a set of criteria to help you assess the quality of each page; how you evaluate your content depends on your goals. There are a variety of ways to evaluate content, both quantitatively and qualitatively:

Quantitative

  • Content category
  • Page views
  • Number of shares, likes, and comments
  • Bounce rate
  • Average time on page
  • SEO score

Qualitative

  • Is this content we need?
  • Does it overlap with other content?
  • Is it outdated?
  • Does it still have an audience?
  • Does it map to an organizational goal?
  • Does it match our brand voice?

As an organization, set parameters for each metric. For example, what does “outdated’” mean in your content strategy? How many pages need to repeat information before those pages become redundant? How little traffic does a page need to have to be considered trivial?

You can define those criteria before the audit. “Does outdated mean it hasn’t been updated for over two years?” Hane says. “Is it trivial because fewer than 50 people have accessed it in the last six months?”

Take Inventory of Your Content

Now that you’ve selected criteria, it’s time to gather data on your pages. Depending on how many pieces of content live on your site, you could audit each page manually. But if you’re categorizing hundreds or even thousands of links, you can take advantage of software tools that automate the inventory process.

Website crawlers such as Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider and Semrush automatically pull all URLs from your website and put them in a spreadsheet with data that includes a page’s title; meta description; content category; length, traffic; keywords; and inbound, outbound, or canonical links.

Once you have your data, you are ready to audit your inventory of content.

Assess Your Content’s Value

Measure your content against your selected criteria to determine whether you’ll keep, revise, or remove a page. Then make note of that decision in your spreadsheet. Do you feel you’re labeling too much content as removable? Hane says not to worry.

“I would say that most websites would benefit by cutting their inventory by at least 75 percent,” she says. “While there’s no real benchmark, if you’re doing an audit and you’re keeping most of your pages, you’ve probably missed an opportunity to cut back.”

 

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Four Ways to Better Measure Your Professional Development Offerings

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Asking the right survey questions—and adapting your strategies as needed—can help associations learn a thing or two about their professional development tools.

Professional development may be a key reason that many people join associations—so when it’s not working, membership itself can be threatened.

That’s why measurement is important. But what’s the best way to track success?

Jack Coursen, director of professional development at the American Speech-​Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), says his organization has focused on survey questions to guide its strategy. The results have helped the organization improve its offerings—and how it surveys learners—over time.

“Our being intentional about how we’re using surveys has been really, really important,” he says.

Here are just some of the strategies Coursen and his team have learned from analyzing feedback from ASHA’s professional development offerings:

Use an open-ended format to ask attendees what they learned. As a part of understanding what people have learned, ASHA uses a single open-ended reflection question at the end of the course, as opposed to a quiz-style multiple-choice approach. It’s not a survey question meant to determine the success of the course, but it helps put users in the mindset of critical thinking—and it effectively offers a way to help learners reinforce their own development, Coursen says. “The open-ended reflection requires people to actually think about what they experienced and identify the most salient takeaways that they had, thinking about how they could actually apply it in work,” he says. “Maybe they can’t read it again, but they’re thinking about it. And then the act of them writing the material down, too, will reinforce whatever they thought.”

Tie your optional survey questions to a required response. Another benefit of asking a required, open-ended question at the end of the course is that it tees up attendees to answer optional survey questions placed next to required questions—which significantly improves the response rate to the optional questions. “It was actually kind of a revolutionary experiment,” Coursen says. “Many years ago, we actually started doing this, because the response rate for those questions is astronomically high.”

Don’t be afraid to change up the questions. Coursen says that ASHA learned its tactics around open-ended questions through a willingness to experiment. “Sometimes we won’t change them at all; sometimes we only change them once a year,” Coursen says. “But we try to reassess periodically whether or not we feel like we’re getting the data that is really useful to us—and also challenging ourselves to say, ‘Are we acting upon the data?’” Periodically testing new strategies creates opportunities to build stronger approaches over time.

Dig into the data. While ASHA doesn’t pull from more granular activity data, the organization does rely on purchase and completion data, which tie back into its association management system (AMS) and analytics tools. “It is not in service of learning, but because we’re a learning business, it’s very much in service of business—which for us is like an overall satisfaction score,” Coursen says. For data points that don’t tie into automated systems such as an AMS, the results are pulled often and analyzed to try to gather broader lessons. He also notes that large online courses—such as one the association recently held on gender diversity—often provide opportunities to get more granular with feedback. “Looking at the specific feedback for that particular course among the live attendees was really powerful in terms of getting a sense of its effectiveness at exposing people to new ways of thinking,” he says.

While this approach may not work for everyone, Coursen notes that the spirit of gathering data and responding to it for both your educational and business needs could benefit associations far and wide.

“I think it is going to depend on your overarching business strategy,” he says. “You may have measures that are really in service of—and whether or not it’s supporting achievement of—those larger business strategies.”

 

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