The fusionSpan Blog

Dear Betty: Leverage pop culture to attract to our site?

Author Image
By Dear Betty |October 22, 2013

NGS LogoWe are a 109-year-old organization and, while our members are not quite THAT old, they are aging and, as a result, our membership growth has stagnated. With the renewed interest in genealogy due to some recent popular television shows, we think we have an opportunity to reach out to a younger, more tech-savvy crowd. How do we get them to visit our website and maybe even join?

Illyce MacDonald, Membership Director, National Genealogical Society

Gentle Reader,

As you point out, genealogy has burst back into the popular consciousness due to shows like Genealogy Roadshow (PBS), Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC/TLC), and my personal favorite, Family Tree (HBO – I just love Christopher Guest!). How can you use this pop culture moment to generate interest in your association?

Your website is your face to the world, and encouraging people to visit is a good place to start. I did a Google search, and, while NGS does appear on the first page for “genealogy” (which is good), you do not appear high in the listings for searches on “family tree” or “family trees” (which is less good). So the first thing I would recommend you look at is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is a constantly shifting landscape, as search engines and spammers engage in an ongoing war of attrition. There are many ways to approach SEO, from some simple steps you can take immediately to a larger-scale assessment of your complete content strategy to hiring a specialty firm. One good place to start is with Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, which, just like it sounds, is a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with key SEO concepts and how they might impact your site. Pay particular attention to the role of social media content in improving your SEO.


Once you come up in the listings, people have to click to your site. I want you to look at something:

This is the first page of listings from the Google search on “genealogy.” What do you notice? Many of those other site descriptions are far more exciting than yours. Make sure your public messages encourage action and invite people in.

Once people arrive at your website (, then what? It’s a pretty typical membership-focused site: buy our book, come to our conference, join. In other words, it’s inside-voicey (a very common problem for membership associations). If I saw an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, thought it was cool, searched Google for genealogy, clicked on your link, and came to your site, what would I find there that’s for me?

You need to capture that lead by offering something, likely for free, that person would be sufficiently interested in to be willing to provide some limited contact information (just name and email address at first) to get it. By doing so, They’ve taken the first step on the ladder of engagement. Now you have a lead you know is interested, and you own their contact information.

Your next job is to fill in more rungs on that ladder that encourage them to develop a deeper relationship with you. Just as you wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on the first date, the first thing you ask a new prospect to do shouldn’t be to join your association. She needs to get to know you before she decides to commit. How do you do that? That, my friends, is the subject of another post.

What about you, Gentle Readers? What other suggestions do you have for Illyce to help her capitalize on the current cultural spotlight on her association’s reason for being?

The “Dear Betty” column appears twice a month on the Small Staff – Big Impact blog.  Have an association membership or marketing question for Betty? E-mail  and your question could be featured!

Dear Betty
Dear Betty: Leverage pop culture to attract to our site?

“Dear Betty” is the association advice columnist alter-ego of Elizabeth Weaver Engel, M.A., CAE, CEO and Chief Strategist of Spark Consulting LLC. Elizabeth has over sixteen years of experience helping associations grow, in membership, marketing, communications, public presence, and especially revenue, which is what Spark is all about. She speaks and writes frequently on a variety of topics in association management. When she's not helping associations grow, Elizabeth loves to dance, listen to live music, cook, garden, and blog about the Philadelphia Eagles.

More posts