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Membership is the alpha and omega of your business. Steady growth depends on attracting new members and keeping current ones happy. Your association may do a good job of hosting events and providing the requisite tchotchkes, but are you overlooking the importance of your online content for member development and retention?

Your online content could make or break your member count goals. The key is to review your search engine rankings and then tweak your content so that it rises to the top of a search results page.


Why Are Rankings So Important?

As you’ve surely gleaned from personal search experience, the top position among the organic results of a search (i.e., not including paid ads) gets the bulk of search traffic. A 2019 study by SEO consulting firm Backlinko concluded that the #1 result in a Google organic search gets 31.7% of all clicks. That number gets exponentially smaller the farther down the list you go, and the chances that a link on a results page two will get a click-through are slim to none.

No matter your business, online content is a major aspect of your marketing efforts and requires careful attention. Web traffic can be the source of a big chunk of your membership, so ranking high in organic searches is critical to driving current and potential members to your website. A high ranking suggests that your association is trustworthy, respectable, and more likely than any other search result to have what a user needs. So how does a website rank high?


How Do Search Engines Generate Rankings?

Search engines use a complicated set of algorithms that analyze billions of pages of content to produce a set of search results. These algorithms change every day, and most of them are top secret.

While search engines may not be super forthcoming about their methods, the following are some known ranking factors and optimizing your website for them is a good way to move up in the rankings:

  • Technical factors measure your site’s performance, including site speed, page load times, and whether it’s mobile-friendly.
  • Off-page factors include backlinks from other sites back to your site, which show that other businesses trust you.
  • On-page factors include keywords, metadata, and the basic organization of your web pages. This is where the pillar page comes into play.


What Is Pillar Content?

Search engines like organized content. Not only does an organized web page make it easier for visitors to read and find the information they want, it makes it easier for search engines to rank.

A good way to keep content organized is by creating “clusters” of information that are grouped under a main theme called a “pillar” page. A pillar page contains loads of information on a broad topic. The goal is for visitors to find everything they might possibly want to know about a subject and to be less likely to leave and look elsewhere.


How to Build Great Pillar Pages

An abundance of information is good, but a pillar page needs to be well-organized and well-supported to be effective. Following are some best practices that will help your pillar page creation:

Give it a good title. Create a short headline that describes the overall broad topic and includes a key search term.

Make it organized. Group supporting information into organized clusters of core topics that are succinct yet descriptive.

Include supporting features. Blog posts, articles, infographics, and videos make your content more robust.

Make good use of linking. Include links back and forth between your pillar and cluster pages to keep visitors on your site longer, and link to helpful external resources.

Make sure you’re writing for your audience. Determine who your visitors are, get in their mindset, and write according to the questions they would ask.

Use good layout and design. Bullets, subheadings, easily readable font, and the like will keep visitors from getting frustrated. And because pillar pages are long, include internal navigation so users can jump easily from one section to another without scrolling.

Make it comprehensive. Users tend to search in questions so your pillar page should be thorough enough to completely answer the question that was typed in the search bar.

Include a call-to-action! Visitors need to know what you want them to do. If you want them to contact you for more information about becoming a member, make it easy for them to do so.


The Bottom Line

Optimizing your website to include pillar content doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, taking the good information you already have, bumping it up, and reorganizing it into clusters of information is a worthwhile endeavor.

Making the effort could improve your search engine rankings, increase traffic, and create satisfied visitors who are more likely to make themselves at home on your website and less likely to bounce.