Associations are known for providing high-caliber educational programs to their members. But do your prospective members know this? Increasingly, no. Google has created more competition for your association’s conferences, training courses, and other educational content. Luckily, Google can also be the solution.
Google’s Rise in Importance for Associations
Once upon a time, associations were the singular source of industry information and knowledge. But today, they face stiff competition from other industry resources. Vendors and other organizations who are trying to sell their services to your members are producing their own educational content to get their attention.
Perform a Google search on almost any topic, and you’ll find a lengthy list of educational programs like conferences, mini-courses, workbooks, webinars, and podcasts, being offered by industry corporations and other organizations. These organizations make sure their content appears when someone is actively searching for information, answers, and guidance.
They are designed to build awareness and trust among the very same people you’re targeting for membership—young professionals.
Your association may have an entire library of content on the topic (and a network of professionals to consult with), but that’s only going to matter if that content appears in search engine results alongside your competitors.
Young Professionals are the Key to Educational Program Growth
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Millennials in the U.S. —the youngest of whom are in their late 20’s to early 30’s—has eclipsed Baby Boomers. And, according to the Pew Research Center, they are now the largest generation in the workforce.
Generation Z, currently aged 10-25, only makes up 5% of the workforce today. But they are the #2 demographic group by size, just behind Millennials.
Unfortunately, according to our 2022 Training Trends Report, only 20% of associations saw more young professionals participating in their training programs in 2021. 35% did not see any increase, and 35% weren’t sure. The reason? Only 28% have a well-developed strategy in place to address the training and education preferences of young professionals.
The good news is that early observations note that these young professionals actively seek out professional development opportunities. This, coupled with their size, make them a prime target for educational programs.
How to Make Restricted Educational Content More Accessible to Google
Many associations restrict access to their educational content to protect its value. But this is often done in a way that also prevents search engines like Google from crawling this content.
There are steps organizations can take to maintain access control while allowing this content to appear on search engine results pages (SERPS).
Here are a few ideas of how to do this.
1. Find out what people are searching for online
Make a list of your most popular conference sessions, training courses, or other resources and the specific topics they cover. Use free online tools to uncover the specific questions or keywords searchers use when looking for resources on one of these related topics.
These free online tools include:
- The Google auto-complete function in the search bar
- Google’s “People also ask” and “Related searches” tool found on search results pages
- Google Trends and Wordtracker, which provide search volume history on specific keywords and phrases
2. Turn these search topics into “feeder” content
The goal of step #1 is to uncover common pain points and questions people in your industry are asking. Turn these pain points and questions into content that can be accessed by anyone, like articles and short videos.
Make sure this content is keyword optimized for search engines. And within the content, include an offer to register for or purchase the related class or content.
3. Create entry points to your events, courses, and resources that are search engine optimized
Some organizations are too protective of their resources. They put everything behind a gate, to the point where someone on your website can only see that you have resources, but not what they are. Which does nothing to attract new participants.
Instead, create a webpage anyone can access that provides a summary or even a short preview of an upcoming event, course, or resource. Perform keyword and content optimization on this page so that it’s included in search engine results.
If a user doesn’t have the appropriate credentials to access the full source material, that is the perfect place to entice them to register or join!
Associations don’t need to open their educational content to non-members if it doesn’t align with their organizational strategy. But there are ways that organizations can, and should, openly publish samples of for prospective members to discover. Like it or not, Google is key to organizational growth.