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In the digital age, associations must harness the power of search engine optimization (SEO) to stand out, reach their target audiences, and fulfill their missions. That’s why we created this comprehensive guide — to help associations navigate the nuances of SEO. In it, we’ll delve into strategies and tactics you can use to elevate your association’s online presence.

We've used our SEO knowledge to help countless associations develop customized SEO strategies. We've led training for developers, content writers, and chief marketing officers (CMOs) to help them better understand how to implement effective SEO strategies. This post is a breakdown of the approach we’ve used in SEO for associations and the ways we’ve improved their search rankings.

Technical SEO: Check the Basics

Google Analytics results after technical SEO remediations.

Imagine getting these types of SEO results simply from a technically sound website. That’s exactly what we did! We helped this client achieve these results just from technical SEO and improving their website's indexability.

Technical SEO isn't discussed often because it isn't a fun or trendy topic but it’s an important strategy to get right! Even if your website has the best content in the world and the greatest design, if it isn't indexable or has huge underlying technical SEO issues, it won’t appear in search engine results.

Doing an SEO technical assessment is just like checking to make sure your boat doesn't have any holes in it before you take it out on the water. It’s just good sense because if you don’t check you’ll quickly regret it when your boat starts to sink. Here are just a few of the areas that we review in a technical SEO assessment.

Site Speed

Google officially announced that they consider site speed as a "ranking factor" —meaning if you’re faster you’ll be shown higher up on the search engine results page (SERPs). Search Console refers to this as core web vitals and now has a helpful tool that you can use to track poor-performing pages.

Screenshot of Google Search Console's core web vital tools tracking poorly performing pages.

There are other tools you can use to check this like Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights, which we compare in another blog post if you need help figuring out which one will work best for you.


Can Google find and show your web page? That's exactly what indexability focuses on. Ensuring your website is findable is the first step towards SEO success. If your website isn't indexable then it isn't showing up in search engine results. We use tools like Google Search Console and Screaming Frog to verify that your site is properly indexed.

Here are just a handful of the indexability issues we have commonly found while doing SEO for associations.

XML Sitemap

A sitemap is a roadmap of your website that guides search engines through your content, ensuring they index all your critical pages. It's a giant list of all your important web pages that you can hand over directly to Google.

If you’re an association with extensive resources and publications you must ensure that all your high-importance resources are indexed with an XML sitemap.

PRO TIP: Submit your XML sitemap in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster tools to ensure both search engines find it.

Robots.txt File

A robots.txt file is the bouncer for your website. It can tell specific crawlers that they aren't allowed, and which sections of the website are allowed to enter.

All websites have a "crawl budget" which means there is only a certain number of pages the search engines will review on your site. Having a good robots.txt file ensures you’re wisely using this crawl budget and preventing private areas of your website from being indexed.

PRO TIP: If you want to find your robots.txt file just type in your website’s URL/robots.txt. Make sure you have a link to your sitemap included in the file.

Index and No-index Pages

By default, most pages on websites are indexable meaning search engines can find them and put them into search engine rankings. However, there are times when you might have a private section of your website for members only or you have ads you should mark with a "no-index" tag so they aren’t indexed by search engines.

PRO TIP: Use "no-index" tags to make custom landing pages and other advertising like Facebook ads and Google ads without worrying about causing duplication issues.

Crawl Errors

Crawl errors are errors that come up when a search engine tries to crawl the pages on your website. They directly affect how your website’s user experience because if search engines can’t access these pages, chances are visitors can’t either. If you have a lot of crawl errors, then you’ll have lower search rankings than other websites that don't have any.


In our experience leading SEO for associations, there tend to be a lot of older resources and news pages on association websites. When these outdated pages are deleted or changed it can lead to broken links. When users try to access those links, they’re taken to pages that don't exist anymore, which is a bad user experience.

PRO TIP: Use a 301 redirect when deleting old pages to ensure that users are redirected to a helpful and relevant page.


You should only use temporary redirects (302s) when you’re implementing a redirect for a short time. If a redirect is meant to be permanent, use a 301 redirect instead to pass on the link equity of the old web page and improve your SEO.

PRO TIP: Use a crawler like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb to identify all your redirects.

Our full SEO Technical Assessment covers more than 20 specific areas, but these are the most common issues we’ve seen when assisting with associations SEO strategy.

Keyword Research

Keyword research for associations is slightly different than it is for service-based businesses. These types of businesses generally have specific cities they focus on and products they sell. The difference is associations generally focus on driving membership and awareness of the association and its benefits.

So, for associations, we throw out the standard SEO model for keyword research.

The normal keyword research approach is:

  • Focus on location-specific keywords
  • Focus on product-specific keywords
  • Identify "buyer intent" keywords like "plumbers in boston"

INSTEAD, we change the way we research. When we do it right you can see first page keyword increases like the one below.

A screenshot of a chart from an SEO tool showing a sizable increase in first-page keywords.

How to Find Good Keywords for an Association

Good keyword research for an association answers these four questions.

  • What are you already known for in search results?
  • What questions are trending questions in your industry?
  • What is being searched about in your industry?
  • What current opportunities exist on the website?

Once you have the answers to these questions it’s easy to create an effective SEO strategy for your content.

  1. Use the search queries you already rank for to find existing opportunities on your website. Further optimize those pages using on-page SEO best practices.
  2. Use the list of trending questions for blog posts about topics your audiences are actively searching for.
  3. Use the list of industry-specific search queries to build out landing pages that connect with your audiences.

There is a long list of SEO tools you can use to accomplish your keyword research, but here at Velir, we use both SEMRush and Ahrefs.

PRO TIP: Write about topics where you have unique data and reporting since Google loves those who add unique value.

Struggling to come up with SEO strategies for your association?

Our SEO experts can work with your team to understand your association’s unique content and goals for SEO. Then we can help you form and implement the right SEO strategies to deliver results.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO is pivotal for getting your pages into the top search results on Google and all other search engines. When you leverage these tactics correctly your users and Google will both love your content because it will be easy to understand and clearly structured.


Metadata from an SEO perspective is generally two factors — page titles and meta descriptions — since these are the fields displayed in search results. Getting these fields right means you’re on your way to nailing your on-page SEO optimization.

The page title and meta description displayed for in Google Search results.

Page Title

Your page title needs to include the main keyword you want the page to rank for in search results and it should clearly communicate the main topic of the page.

This is the exact formula we use for crafting the perfect page title every time:

[target keyword][modifier][unique selling point]|[brand name]

For example, this blog post:
SEO For Associations in 2024: Our Proven Approach | Velir

Best Practice: Ensure that your page title is between 40-60 characters with spaces.

Meta Description

Your meta descriptions should summarize the page content and encourage clicks from search results. Make sure that you also use your target keywords in the description since they will increase your clickthrough rate (CTR).

When writing meta descriptions, we like to use action words like "check out" since it gives the user a clear action that they should do.

Best Practice: Ensure that your meta descriptions are between 120-160 characters with spaces.

Content Structure and Headers

Using headers like (H1, H2, H3, etc.) makes your content much more organized both for users and search engines. To ensure your page has a clear structure make sure your main title of the page is an H1 header then sub-topics are H2s, and if there are sub-sub topics then make those H3s.

Good content structure and use of headers will keep users on your pages. Subheaders are especially important since a study found that users tend to read in an F shape. Using subheaders allows readers to stay interested and find the content that’s relevant to them.

A graphic showing a good user experience with headers that help readers skim vs one that’s a poor user experience.

We use the exact same formula for crafting H1 headers that we do for page titles. We just don’t include the brand.

[target keyword][modifier][unique selling point]

For example, with this blog:
SEO For Associations in 2024: Our Proven Approach

For an example of content structure just look at this blog:

  • H1: SEO For Associations in 2024: Our Proven Approach
  • H2: Technical SEO
  • H3: Site Speed

PRO TIP: I always have my H1 header and page title as the same because why do the same job twice?

Body Copy

Your page title and headers have made promises about what a user will learn in each section, so it's time to deliver in your body copy.

Naturally using keywords in your body copy is a great way to reinforce to Google exactly what your page is about.

Here are a few ways to make your body copy better:

  • Use lists (like this one)
  • Use metaphors that show you’re a real person and not just an AI writer
  • Reference data that is unique to your organization
  • Use bold to draw attention to important thoughts
  • Provide little summaries, best practices, and pro tips so people can get helpful information quickly if they need it.
  • Use tools like Surfer SEO or Frase to help you naturally optimize pages

PRO TIP: Using your target keyword in your first few paragraphs can be helpful to reinforce the main idea of the page and increase your visibility in organic search.

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO is an SEO strategy that focuses on the factors outside of your website and content to improve rankings. The reason this helps is that external factors are much harder to manipulate — meaning if a website has good off-site SEO, they’re more likely to be considered trustworthy in their industry.

Building Backlinks

An image showing how other websites linking to your domain increases authority and trustworthiness.

Backlinks are when another website hyperlinks to your content. Backlinks from reputable sites can significantly boost your SEO. Focus on creating valuable content that others want to link to and consider reaching out to journalists or other websites about valuable research you are doing to increase the likelihood of them linking to you.

Content that naturally builds backlinks:

  • Reports
  • Data
  • Analysis of trends
  • Deep dives into emerging topics

PRO TIP: Think about what the types of sources a journalist would want when writing an article and that will provide you with a clearer picture of the type of content that earns backlinks.

Social Profiles

Having an active social media presence has been shown to boost SEO rankings, which is why it's important to set up these profiles even if they aren't the main factors for your revenue expansion.

PRO TIP: If you don't want to post manually just set up an automatic system like ifttt to post to your social media pages every time a new blog post is published.

How to Stand Out from Other Associations

Write Audience-Focused Content

Understand your audiences’ needs and interests to create content that resonates with them and engages them. Tailoring your message to your specific audiences will increase relevance and connections to your brand.

Use Unique Data — That’s What Makes You an Authority

Leverage unique data and insights specific to your industry to establish your association as a thought leader and authoritative source.

Don’t Be Afraid to Go Back and Update Existing Pages

Refreshing and updating existing content can improve its relevance and performance. Regular reviews ensure your content remains accurate and SEO-friendly.

If You Want to Educate Your Audience, Use “Action Words”

Incorporate action words like "learn," and "how to" in your content to engage and motivate your audience. This approach encourages active participation and learning.

Don’t Be Afraid to Post About Emerging Topics

Being an early voice on emerging topics can establish your association as a leader in your field. It shows you're at the forefront of industry trends and developments, which can attract a broader audience.

SEO for associations is a comprehensive process that requires attention to detail, strategic planning, and continuous optimization. By following these guidelines, your association can improve its online visibility, engage its target audience more effectively, and achieve its digital marketing goals.

Looking for help with forming or implementing any of these SEO strategies for your association? Reach out. Our SEO experts are happy to help!


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