Associations are driven by growing their membership base, engaging members in their communities, and spreading awareness of their mission. A common problem among member-driven organizations is that they have limited resources and staff to accomplish their institutional mission. Employees wear multiple hats and often work on cross-departmental projects, a few of which usually involve updating the website and then managing nascent online marketing efforts. New Target understands that an association's website is its main information resource and that driving visitors there requires a full and focused effort. That's where we come in. We've been chosen by dozens of associations to plan, optimize, measure, and deliver online marketing campaigns and to set up websites for success. Read on to see how some unexpected discoveries and simple solutions helped a large D.C. metro area association realize big gains online.
An Association Case Study
As the focus of this case study, one of the organizations we had particularly great success with is an association based in Washington, D.C. Through discovery and interviews, we found that the association's goals were to increase visibility of their industry resources and news content, educate visitors about their industry, and position themselves as the industry authority.
An Unexpected Discovery in Google Analytics
One of the benefits associations get while working with New Target is expert eyes to verify that they have baseline website metrics in place in order to set realistic growth goals. Prior to working with New Target, the client’s Google Analytics showed they were getting over 1 million website visits per year. The client was using this 1 million traffic metric on their marketing collateral and in promoting their website traffic numbers externally.
Once we dove into their Google Analytics and analyzed their website traffic, we saw that the website wasn’t actually getting over 1 million visits per year. Google Analytics tracking was incorrectly set up and it was actually multiplying their actual traffic numbers. In reality, they were getting about 100K visitors per year. Without us stepping in and resolving this issue, the association would be using completely off-target baseline metrics and would be making decisions with incorrect data. In order to set baseline metrics, accurate data is necessary to quantify the effectiveness of combined marketing and internal association efforts. This is a common issue that many people experience in analytics, so double checking your tracking settings is always recommended.
After we corrected the Google Analytics tracking and established new baseline metrics, we set website goals to grow visibility to their news content and resources by reaching new visitors to their website. As a way to reach new visitors, our team put together a marketing strategy to drive new traffic through paid promotion and on-site enhancements. During the process we ran into a few challenges that drove additional recommendations that would support traffic growth.
Challenge #1: Slow News Article Page Load Times on Mobile Devices
Often overlooked by associations, fast website load times are critical for visitors to be able to access content, especially when similar associations are publishing content in that space. If your site content loads too slowly, visitors will "bounce," which means they leave after visiting only one page on the website.
Most mobile users in America are on the slower 3G network, so it’s vital to consider these users and the time it takes for them to access your website. For our association client, we analyzed the website and looked at areas to improve their news content accessibility on 3G networks in order to grow new visits to the website.
One of the challenges we came across when evaluating the association’s news section was high page load times on mobile devices. We reviewed their page times and found they were taking 5 to 8 seconds to load on average. According to Google on why mobile speed matters, about 50% of mobile users bounce from a website if the page takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Because 25% of their total traffic was coming from mobile devices, we wanted to make sure we retained those visitors with a better user experience.
Our Solution - Implement Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
In order to support mobile visitors reading news article pages on slower networks, we identified an opportunity to set up Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to reduce page size and increase mobile page load times. AMP is used to cache site pages with Google servers so they can access content almost immediately when they visit a website link.
AMP isn’t always the best solution for everyone, but if you are an association that publishes a lot of news content, AMP should be considered as a helpful solution. The type of sites that benefit the most from AMP pages are publication sites because when people are searching for answers, they want to be able to access information quickly. If our client's news content was too slow to load, there were plenty of other competitor sites where people could get similar industry content, and we naturally didn’t want that to happen. So, at that point, we brought in our team of developers to set up the AMP page template and work their web development magic.
The Results: Reduced Mobile Article Load Times by 25% & Drove 1.94% New Visitors to Site News Content
Once the template was tested and verified on the staging website, we implemented it on the live website. We then re-tested those article page load times and successfully reduced the average load time on mobile to 1.59 seconds, resulting in a 25% reduction in mobile article load times. For comparison, non-AMP article pages were loading at an average of 6.4 seconds.
As an additional benefit of implementing AMP, we grew the association’s news readership by 1.94% by reaching new visitors with the AMP pages. This was a win for everyone because we were able to drive new visitors to the website and improve mobile page load times.
Challenge #2: Increasing News Content Visibility and Traffic
The association’s key goal was to increase visibility through their content and to grow unique visitors to their website. They release a major yearly industry report featuring expert insight into the upcoming year. Their report page visits were primarily direct and organic traffic sources; the client hadn’t run paid campaigns for this resource before.
Industry insiders and current members read the yearly report because they are familiar with their association. However, we knew the association wanted to reach new people who would be interested in the content but may not be familiar with the association yet. The yearly report was an excellent introduction for new readers and prospective members, so we recommended a paid campaign strategy to reach this new audience.
Our Solution: Develop Targeted Paid Campaigns & Leverage Promotional Channels
We ran a 3-month Search and a Display campaign to drive more traffic to the report. We knew we wanted to keep our similar cost-per-visitor acquisition (CPA) in AdWords without increasing the client’s yearly AdWords budget. We allocated a portion of their current budget to the two new campaigns.
For the Display campaign, we targeted relevant industry terms and managed website placements where we wanted the banners ads to appear. For the Search campaign we implemented a targeted list of keywords that people commonly use when researching topics related to the resource.
The Results: Drove 22.7% New Visitors to the Report from our Paid Campaigns & Surpassed Prior Year Report Traffic in 2 Months
We drove 22.7% new visitors to the report from our paid campaigns. We also reduced our average cost-per-visitor acquisition cost significantly to $1.65 compared with our $12 average cost-per-visitor acquisition benchmark for search campaigns. Because we optimized the campaigns, we were able to lower the cost-per-click, which allowed us to reach more people. We didn’t need to increase the client’s paid budget to accomplish these results, and it was a big success for them as they were able to reach more people online.
In the first 2 months of running the paid campaigns, we had already surpassed their report traffic for the entirety of the previous year. For the entire 3-month duration that we ran the campaigns, we were able to surpass prior year traffic by 30%.
We are always looking at technical and marketing solutions that help our clients reach their goals. By implementing AMP pages for our client’s mobile news pages, we were able to drive 1.94% additional new visitors to website news content and reduce mobile page load times to a blazing 1.59 seconds. Mobile page speed is incredibly important and will become even more important as Google soon factors in mobile page speed to their organic rankings in July.
We are masters at developing low-cost paid promotions for our clients. With our association client, they benefited from us implementing a 3-month paid campaign that beat their prior year report traffic numbers by 30% without increasing their paid monthly spend. Paid campaigns drove 22.7% of all new visitors to the industry report, showing the powerful impact our paid campaigns have for association clients to drive awareness and visibility.
New Target has 20 years of experience working with associations. When your association needs a trusted partner to support your mission and outreach, we are here to help you. Speak with a member of our team through our website chat or inquire about a project via our online form and we’ll get you started on the path to achieving results online.
Headquartered near Washington, D.C., with offices in Los Angeles, CA, New Target provides digital strategy, web design, web development, data integration, application hosting, and online marketing for prominent national associations, corporations, and government.
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