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Ranking SEO for the Top 50 Association Websites | 720 Strategies

Ranking SEO for the Top 50 Association Websites

The Washington region is home to nearly 3,000 associations, and roughly one in 10 private sector employees works for one of them. The Washington Business Journal released a list of the top 50 associations in the Washington, DC, area ranked by revenue on their most recent 990 tax filings. Using the list, we performed a deep-dive analysis of all 50 association websites and ranked them according to the results. We used a quantitative methodology with SEO auditing to grade organic digital reach. The data was normalized by website size and organizational revenue to fairly compare organizations with a wide range of budgets and operating scales.

The websites are graded from A to F, all relative to the highest scoring website. A low score isn’t a bad thing. The good news is that it’s often quite solvable with a mild level of effort. Taking a site from an F to an A within a few months is not an insurmountable task and doesn’t necessitate a full-scale redevelopment. If you’re in a less-than-desirable position on this list, it’s only a problem if you don’t take steps to address the issues.

Given that there were 50 sites, we didn’t provide analysis for those that ranked a C or below.

Please note that one organization’s website — the American Psychological Association — couldn’t be ranked because our SEO crawler was blocked. So, it’s a ranking of 49 association websites.





Scoring Criteria








Below is an explanation of the data points used to score the 50 websites.

Important Fixes: Number of important fixes recommended by website audit. These are critical fixes that must be addressed to fix website SEO.

Semi-Important Fixes: Number of semi-important fixes recommended by website audit. These are fixes that should be addressed to improve website SEO.

Indexed Pages: Total number of website pages indexed by Google.

Crawled Pages: Total number of website pages crawled and checked during audit.

Passed Checks: Total number of website audit checks passed.

Fixes/Page: Number of recommended website fixes per crawled page.

Fixes/Check: Number of recommended website fixes per passed check.

Domain Trust: The authority and trust score for the domain.

Referring Domains: Total number of websites linking back to the association’s website.

Backlinks: Total number of external links back to the association’s website.

Links/Domain: Number of backlinks per domain linking to association website (a relative measure to control for directory-type websites with an abundance of backlinks).

1st Page Keywords: Total number of keywords for the website ranking on the first page of Google search engine results.

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: Number of keywords ranking on the first page per 10 indexed pages in Google (a relative measure of keyword quality based on the size of the website).

Revenue: Total reported annual revenue for the association.

Your Website = Your Credibility

For associations inside the Beltway, your credibility begins with your website. This has increased exponentially with COVID-19 pushing everyone to exclusively interact virtually. This has accelerated digital transformation — uncomfortably for some organizations — and put immense pressure on digital teams.

Your website is your front door to Washington (and the world). For some, it’s a beautifully crafted mahogany door and for others, not so much.

F: The Bottom

Seven associations landed in this tranche. Two of the associations, API and NRECA, were among the larger ones in the region with nine-figure revenues. Despite this, they still ranked near the bottom of this list.

Now we arrive at the upper tier of association websites. These are the 12 good association websites that have a strong showing in SEO. With a little work, these sites can all jump up into the A-level website tranche.

NAHB is the first B-level website of the group. They had slightly above median scores with their strongest performance in two categories: domain trust and first-page keywords per 10 indexed pages.

The median domain trust was 84 and NAHB landed at 88, which is great for SEO. Over 20,000 different websites linked back to the site, with a total of 1.7 million links. The volume of links and breadth of diverse sites linking to it helps boost overall presence in search engine results.

The median website ranked 2.2 keywords on the first page per 10 indexed pages. NAHB had 3.4 — on the lower end of the B-grade websites, but still quite good.

Important Fixes: 2,437

Semi-Important Fixes: 32,220

Indexed Pages: 9.0K

Passed Checks: 118,701

Fixes/Page: 5.0

Domain Trust: 88

Referring Domains: 21.1K

Backlinks: 1.7M

1st Page Keywords: 3,102

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 3.4

SIPC was a major outlier in this group given that their website has less than 600 pages. So, though their important fixes and semi-important fixes were lower than the median, per page and per check, these numbers were quite high.

A small site like this isn’t going to have a major presence on Google search results pages. But, impressively, they rank on the first page for 7.4 keywords for every 10 pages indexed. It’s only a total of 422 keywords landing the website on the first page, but these are decent numbers for a small website.

Last, 27.3K websites linked back to sipc.org with a massive total of 7M links.

Important Fixes: 126

Semi-Important Fixes: 2,109

Domain Trust: 90

Referring Domains: 27.3K

1st Page Keywords: 422

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 7.4

The American College of Radiology lands in the B-level tier with a couple good categories and a couple not so good.

First, a low number of important fixes ensures a fairly technically sound website in the eyes of Google and other search engines.

On the other side, only 9.6K websites linked 362.7K times to the website for two important below median numbers.

Important Fixes: 432

Semi-Important Fixes: 30,274

Indexed Pages: 21.0K

Passed Checks: 246,837

Fixes/Page: 4.7

Domain Trust: 84

Referring Domains: 9.6K

1st Page Keywords: 7,750

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 3.7

The National Restaurant Association was the only one in the group that runs their website on Kentico CMS. All numbers come in roughly average for a B-level site.

The website performed low with 3,564 important fixes required and an average of 5.7 fixes per page.

It’s quite a small website with 3.1K pages indexed by Google. So, with 2,397 keywords ranking the website on the first page, that results in 7.7 first-page keywords per 10 indexed pages. They have a small, but mighty website with a good presence in Google’s index.

Important Fixes: 3,564

Semi-Important Fixes: 12,763

Indexed Pages: 3.1K

Passed Checks: 54,677

Fixes/Page: 5.7

Domain Trust: 88

1st Page Keywords: 2,397

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 7.7

The American Bankers Association has one of the prettier, aesthetically pleasing websites in the entire 50-association group. It’s also coded quite well with only 347 important fixes required for a 22K-page website.

They fall a bit short in the keyword category with only 7,648 first-page keywords and 3.5 keywords per 10 indexed pages.

Only 12.4K websites linked back to aba.com, which was just slightly above median.

Important Fixes: 347

Semi-Important Fixes: 16,587

Indexed Pages: 22.0K

Crawled Pages: 22,770

Passed Checks: 156,086

Fixes/Page: 0.7

Domain Trust: 86

1st Page Keywords: 7,648

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 3.5

The American Chemical Society lands in the middle of the B-level websites, performing fairly strong with content and links, but weaker on the technology side.

The weakness was in the number of fixes with 3,126 important and 42,378 semi-important.

It’s a massive website with over 620.0K pages indexed by Google and the highest domain trust out of the group at 90. They also have 167.2K websites linking in with a total of 18.4M backlinks.

With the scale of the website, it’s not surprising that it ranked on the first page for 157,369 keywords.

Important Fixes: 3,126

Semi-Important Fixes: 42,378

Indexed Pages: 620.0K

Crawled Pages: 25,000

Passed Checks: 433,482

Fixes/Page: 1.8

Domain Trust: 90

Backlinks: 18.4M

1st Page Keywords: 157,369

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 2.5

The Association of American Railroads has a sharp looking WordPress website with a solid performance across all categories.

Most impressive is that, despite being a small website at 1.8K indexed pages, it ranked on the first page for 2,170 keywords. That gives them 12.1 keywords per 10 indexed pages.

With one of the smaller revenue streams, they’re doing a good job at creating unique content that ranks highly in search engines.

Important Fixes: 803

Semi-Important Fixes: 2,602

Indexed Pages: 1.8K

Passed Checks: 14,360

Domain Trust: 77

Referring Domains: 3.9K

1st Page Keywords: 2,170

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 12.1

Kudos to the team at AGA responsible for building the website. Only 52 important fixes and 64 semi-important fixes were found. That’s an incredibly low number, and the best for all 50 reviewed.

It’s a relatively small site at 3.1K indexed pages, and it has a low domain trust of 75. There are also only 2.7K website linking in, but with 416.3K total links.

The American Gas Association website had 1,559 keywords landing it on the first page of Google search results, which gives them a good five per 10 indexed pages.

When normalizing these numbers for a lower-than-median revenue of $61.8M, they land in the B-level of websites.

Important Fixes: 52

Semi-Important Fixes: 64

Indexed Pages: 3.1K

Passed Checks: 14,438

Fixes/Page: 0.0

Domain Trust: 75

Referring Domains: 2.7K

1st Page Keywords: 1,559

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 5.0

The Nuclear Energy Institute’s numbers don’t look impressive at first glance. But, after normalizing for both revenue and website size, they’re solid.

A low domain trust score of 77; 3,023 important fixes and an average of 15.3 fixes per page were all overshadowed by the very high number of keywords for which the website ranks.

The website only has 2.1K pages indexed by Google, and it ranks on the first page of search results for 4,212 keywords. That gives NEI 20.1 first-page keywords per 10 indexed pages. That’s an incredible 10 times the median for this list.

Important Fixes: 3,023

Semi-Important Fixes: 36,289

Indexed Pages: 2.1K

Passed Checks: 112,666

Domain Trust: 77

Referring Domains: 3.9K

1st Page Keywords: 2,170

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 12.1

The American Society for Microbiology has a nicely designed website with very clean HTML code. Only 139 important fixes and 1,605 semi-important fixes were found.

A high domain trust score of 89, good number of websites linking in with 78.2K and 1.4M total backlinks all help lift the site into the top tier of B-level websites. They also rank on the first page for 56,618 keywords.

The ASM team is doing a pretty solid job for an association with a lower-than-median $56.3M in revenue.

Important Fixes: 139

Semi-Important Fixes: 1,605

Indexed Pages: 1.9M

Passed Checks: 27,602

Fixes/Page: 0.5

Domain Trust: 89

Referring Domains: 78.2K

Backlinks: 1.4M

1st Page Keywords: 56,618

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 0.3

ASHA was the second highest B-level website with a score of 87.8 points.

Their numbers across important fixes and semi-important fixes were relatively average at 1,343 and 19,032 respectively.

Over 29.9K websites created 621.1K backlinks, both of which were better than the median. And, ranking on the first page for 44,215 keywords was impressive.

After accounting for their $65.4M in revenue, they ranked fairly high on this list, comparing them with associations having 10 times the revenue.

Important Fixes: 1,343

Semi-Important Fixes: 19,032

Indexed Pages: 176.0K

Crawled Pages: 14,177

Passed Checks: 162,043

Fixes/Page: 1.4

Domain Trust: 88

1st Page Keywords: 44,215

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 2.5

The National Rifle Association comes in at the top of the B-level websites. This was a  slight outlier because we were only able to scan 170 pages, but the representative sample performed quite well.

They had a low number of important fixes with 32 and just 62 semi-important fixes.

The most impressive number was the astounding number of backlinks, having 31.4M from 29.5K external websites linking to nra.org.

Important Fixes: 32

Semi-Important Fixes: 62

Crawled Pages: 170

Domain Trust: 85

1st Page Keywords: 44,215

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 2.5

Seven associations sit at the top of the list with a relative score above 90%. Unsurprisingly, the most influential is first-page keywords to indexed pages ratio. These sites rank on the first page of search results five times more often than the median. This is critical because 99.2% of all Google clicks happen on the first page of results. When was the last time you went to the second page of results? In order to be organically found, you need to rank on the first page, and this group of websites does a great job ranking for a broad range of keywords and key phrases.

Our first A-level website is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Good scores across the board for their website, but particularly strong in a couple areas. First, a relatively low number of important HTML fixes required for the site with only 425, compared to the median of 1,458. It’s a large site with over 41K pages indexed by Google.

They came in very strong with a domain trust score of 89 versus the median of 84. There are 31.2K websites linking back to uschamber.com with a total of 1.7M total backlinks. Finally, a very impressive showing of ranking on the first page of Google search results for 20,601 keywords.

Bravo to the Chamber’s digital team for a really strong showing with their Drupal-built website.

Important Fixes: 425

Semi-Important Fixes: 14,010

Indexed Pages: 41K

Passed Checks: 330,830

Fixes/Page: 0.6

Domain Trust: 89

Referring Domains: 31.2K

Backlinks: 1.7M

1st Page Keywords: 20,601

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 5.0

The American Psychiatric Association also lands in the top tier with their content-rich website. Within the A-level websites, they ranked lower across most of the categories. The website audit showed 3,931 important HTML fixes required and over 22K semi-important, giving them a high 3.7 fixes per page.

21.6K websites linked back to psychiatry.org with an impressive total of 1M backlinks.

The statistic that catapulted them into the top tier is their first-page keywords, where they had 24,631 keywords placing them on the first page of Google search results, which was six times greater than the median.

The most important metric is their 26.2 first-page keywords per 10 indexed pages, which was 13 times greater than the median and three times the next closest website. With only 9.4K pages, it’s the smallest A-level website, but with the density of quality and unique content, they rank incredibly high on Google search results pages.

Important Fixes: 3,931

Semi-Important Fixes: 22,413

Indexed Pages: 9.4K

Passed Checks: 110,235

Fixes/Page: 3.7

Domain Trust: 88

Referring Domains: 21.6K

Backlinks: 1.0M

1st Page Keywords: 24,631

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 26.2

It’s not surprising that AARP landed in the upper echelon of association websites. For years, they’ve had a strong digital team elevating their game online. Despite a high number of important and semi-important fixes, they were A-level because of the other categories.

A total of 117.3K websites link to AARP with a mind-boggling 7.3M backlinks.

Not surprisingly, they had a domain trust score of 90, six more than the median. Where the website really shined was with 212,872 first-page keywords, well beyond the median of 4,212. Though this wasn’t surprising, given that Google has indexed 703K aarp.org pages.

Important Fixes: 3,654

Semi-Important Fixes: 13,874

Indexed Pages: 703K

Crawled Pages: 16,576

Passed Checks: 707,278

Fixes/Page: 1.1

Domain Trust: 90

Backlinks: 7.3M

1st Page Keywords: 212,872

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 3.0

The American Physical Therapy Association had the least number of important fixes required for the site with just 165 for 17K total pages. Clean HTML code and page structure is great for improving SEO, so this lifted them into the top tier.

Relative to other A-level websites, APTA didn’t have that many first-page keywords, but with over 11K for a site with only 17K pages, the keywords per 10 indexed pages ratio was extremely high at 6.7.

A website with a high degree of unique quality content is going to rank very well on Google search results pages, so well done to the content team at APTA.

Important Fixes: 165

Semi-Important Fixes: 13,553

Indexed Pages: 17.0K

Crawled Pages: 15,000

Passed Checks: 236,756

Fixes/Page: 0.9

Domain Trust: 86

1st Page Keywords: 11,463

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 6.7

The American Chemistry Council has an average sized website with around 10K pages. They performed very well with a low number of fixes required to improve SEO performance.

The website was weak in the important area of referring websites, with just 12.9K and a total of 142.4K total incoming backlinks.

The strongest area of performance was in first-page keywords with 7,158, and more importantly 7.5 per 10 indexed pages. This isn’t a massive site compared to other associations, so ranking on the first page for this relatively high number is impressive.

Important Fixes: 318

Semi-Important Fixes: 4,320

Indexed Pages: 9.6K

Crawled Pages: 10,441

Passed Checks: 128,393

Fixes/Page: 0.4

Domain Trust: 86

Referring Domains: 12.9K

1st Page Keywords: 7,158

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 7.5

AAMC lands at number two with strong scores across the board. The website was about twice as large as the median, coming in at just over 22K pages.

29.7K websites link back to aamc.org for a total of 876.3K incoming backlinks, an average of 30 per domain.

Their shining statistics were 21,312 first-page keywords and an even better 9.7 per 10 indexed pages.

Important Fixes: 1,024

Semi-Important Fixes: 12,171

Indexed Pages: 22.0K

Crawled Pages: 25,000

Passed Checks: 383,630

Fixes/Page: 0.5

Domain Trust: 87

1st Page Keywords: 21,312

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 9.7

The top ranked SEO website on this list is the Society for Human Resource Management. The digital and content teams at SHRM have done a terrific job focusing on a high-performing website with only 686 important fixes and 534 semi-important fixes.

For the non-technically inclined, a website may look pretty, but if the code behind it is sloppy, it’s going to be penalized by Google and drop in search results. SHRM has a clean-looking site that also meets a lot of the requirements of search engines to be discovered.

It’s a relatively large website with over 162K pages indexed by Google. It’s also linked to by 56.2K websites with a total of 1.6M backlinks.

For the most impressive number in a list of many, the website ranks on the first page of Google for 134,590 keywords, which gives them 8.3 keywords per 10 indexed pages. A website as large as this also ranking for an incredible number of keywords is terrific for SEO.

Congratulations to the team over at SHRM for doing the right thing by publishing unique content on a platform that is technically optimized for search engines.

Important Fixes: 686

Semi-Important Fixes: 534

Indexed Pages: 162.0K

Crawled Pages: 18,071

Passed Checks: 40,806

Fixes/Page: 0.1

Domain Trust: 90

Referring Domains: 56.2K

Backlinks: 1.6M

1st Page Keywords: 134,590

1st Page Keywords/10 Indexed Pages: 8.3

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