out in parenting language) until they find
patterns that say they can trust you again.
“Keyword density is kinda five years
ago,” assures Kathleen Dorsey, founder of
Global Results in Baltimore. “If you have
good writing, the keyword density will
So content is still king on the web,
which is good news because this is where
magazines hold a distinct advantage over
other sites like Wikipedia that compete
for your audience’s attention. “They have
real authors,” Bordner points out.
“Even if you have the highest page
ranking, if people aren’t interested in your
content they won’t come back,” Ma
agrees. “The only concession journalists
need to make to their style is to use full
product names, the full association name,
and a couple of keywords more than once
—but not in every paragraph—
throughout the article.”
THROW UP THE
AND WE’RE COOKING!
A print article is not automatically SEO-qualified. Remember, the bots are blind,
so they can’t detect color, photos, and
other visual cues that guide a traditional
While a title that reads in print “Let’s
Hear It for the Girls” clearly indicates the
topic is about women leadership, the bots
will send fans looking for the CD box set
of British musical artists to your website.
According to Hissrich, ASAE & The
Center is in the process of changing its
online titles to better announce the purpose of the story—the best toppers are
rarely flashy or clever, but they are more
functional. Photo captions are another
area where editorial departments forget
that they can use keywords without disrupting the article’s flow, she adds.
WE’RE SO SPECIALIZED,
OUR RANKING DOESN’T
A funny thing has happened to the public
since Google exploded onto the scene:
Internet users turn to it for everything,
including the URLs they should know,
For example, when someone wants to
use the early check-in at United Airlines,
she rarely types www.united.com in the
bar. Instead, she automatically requests
“United Airlines” at the Google home
page and enters from that door. Even your
own mother probably finds your article
via a search engine.
“More than 30,000 new pages a day are
being added to the Internet, so if you
aren’t doing anything to make yourself
different, you’re going to get lost,”
LINKS ARE GOOD –
LET’S HOOK UP!
While it’s true that on-page
optimization plans (fancy terminology for
spiffing up your website’s search engine
strength) are “old-school SEO,” as
Dorsey terms it, and you do need to
branch out to things happening off your
pages, not all links are created equal.
For starters, “you link to me and I’ll link
to you” reciprocal ties, which are so easy
to do with vendors, don’t impress the bots
as much as stand-alone links coming into
your site. Think of links as a vote showing
Google that you’re a real company and
people value you as a resource. Fortunately,
associations are in a sweet spot, as they
have a built-in membership that can provide these incoming votes.
But don’t ask your friends to link their
scrapbooking blog to AAHPERD or
funny parenting essays to NAA.
Relevance matters to the bots, and common sense counts so avoid buying links,
too. When the bots detect that your site
suddenly sprouted incoming links from
5,000 new URLs in a week, they know
this isn’t the natural progression, and it’s
back in the sandbox for you.
Finally, you also want to link your articles back to other pages on your own site.
It’s not prideful as much as protective, says
Selby, because unfortunately, scraping has
become a way of life on the Wild, Wild
Web. Unethical folks looking for quick
content on their site will steal your articles word for word and post them at their
URLs for the bots to rank. If you embed
links back to your site, you can at least
recapture some of those lost visitors to
their proper place.
SEO IS A SCIENCE.
There’s a lot of good information on search engine optimization available, and Google even has shared
its search algorithms. Nevertheless, overall, consultants deem SEO more of an art
than a science. “These search engines have
left just enough to chance that there are a
lot of conspiracy theories, and people come
up with different recommendations,”
Bordner believes most associations don’t
have enough content to manage to justify
hiring a full-time SEO guru, but he says
using a consultant for start-up advice can
prove helpful. After the base is set, appoint
someone to be the SEO eyeballs on each
piece of content. It shouldn’t be the writer,
and an editor should still get final read—
but it’s not so complicated that a staffer
can’t learn it. Just choose that person wisely.
“Look for a person who enjoys it,”
Bordner urges. “You can tell because they
treat the process as if every day is
Christmas. They wake up to check the
rankings. They can’t go to bed without
checking the rankings.”
And if you do decide that hiring a consultant is the right move for you, that’s an
easy one to cut through the hype: Google
the firm and see where they rank. If they
can’t get themselves in the grid, as that first
page is known, how will they propel you?
“People look at SEO as a magic wand
—you wave it, something happens, and
you go back to the way things always
were,” Tyler says. That is the biggest
myth of all. “SEO is a steady program
that’s part of publishing every piece of
content. It’s the publishing team’s new
way of working.”
Julie Sturgeon is an independent journalist with more
than 20 years of experience
writing for business and trade
and is a frequent contributor to