We all make mistakes.  Luckily, most of our daily work lives don’t involve life or death. Committing just one of these errors on your website won’t cause a catastrophic collapse of your online world, but you should still avoid making them at all costs. Here is a list of errors, issues, and missteps that we’ve seen on association websites as well as directions on how to address them.

1) Incorrect Robots.txt Setup

This is one mistake on this list that actually can be deadly.  To say that the robots.txt file has some weight when it comes to providing direction on what to do with your website would be an understatement.

Imagine if you will this situation:  You have the phone number for Chris Pratt and he actually would pick up or texts you back if you ask him to come hang out. How is that for access!?! 🙂

This is the same relationship the robots.txt file has with Google.  The robots text file directs Google, and the other search engines, as to what files they should or should not index. By making the mistake of incorrectly directing the search engines NOT to index your association website is putting you, and not to mention your members, in a very bad situation. Your ability to be found online is one of the most critical aspects of your business!

Here is an example of an association website that is blocking the search engines and getting poor Google search results:

Example of robots blocking in Google

You can check to see if your site is properly setup by checking with your web developer or you can read up here on robots.txt.  Additionally, you can sign up for Google Search Console that will help you better understand how the robots.txt file works.

2) Proper Display of Organization Name

Having spent years and years working for an Association Management Company, it would be common to get a phone call from a client starting off like this: “Hi Benji!  This is Bob from the Chamber.” Sure, I probably knew who Bob was given the projects I was working on, but that won’t mean that everyone knows exactly who you are. There are a few organizations that can get away from this error like the NBA, NFL or MLB, but probably not your association.

WCA stands for what?

A common mistake I see on websites is not properly displaying the name of your association or chamber. I’ve seen entire websites where the only reference to the entire name is on the about us page. You and your members might know your brand and acronym well, but what about the media reading your latest press release, or prospects considering joining, or the general public looking for educational information? There are other organizations out there with AACG or MVY or NAAAC and they might actually compete with you.

It’s important you make the proper design decisions to correctly convey your organization name. As a best practice for your website, include your full name on the homepage, about us section and at the very least, in the footer of your site.

3 & 4) Mobile or Responsive Website

Since everyone and their brother have surgically attached mobile devices and our website should be mobile-friendly, yes? You’re 100% accurate, but you need the correct type of mobile website.

Mobile vs. DesktopMobile Website

If your website was developed in the past few years you’re probably in the clear here.  That said, we are still seeing numerous association and chamber websites that haven’t converted to be mobile responsive.

The downside of this situation would be if your web developer claimed to build your website as mobile-friendly, but relied on CMS settings to ‘convert’ your site to mobile.  Or even worse, you’ll find some websites that have sub-domains that serve up mobile specific pages. These types of mistakes are costing you dearly.  Google has put a HUGE emphasis on correctly serving your mobile users. According to the reports of 94% of people with smartphones are doing local search and 77% of mobile searches occur at home or work, so they really want you to get this right!

Not sure how to tell if you have a mobile website?  Check your website on your smartphone or tablet and check for a ‘switch’ that will allow you toggle from Mobile | Desktop.

Responsive Website

Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design and development aimed at building websites to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience across a wide range of devices (mobile, tablet or desktop).

In the video below of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, you can see the desktop layout (1440px) with a large portion of the header content visible.  As you scale down to what might be a tablet view (768px), you’ll notice the top header area realigned, the menu pushed into a single button dropdown and the 3-colmn layout for the ‘Vineyard Buzz’, ‘In the Raw’ and ‘Fall for the Arts’ have all adjusted to accommodate the smaller space.  Note that all of the content is still there, but the layout of the information has changed. For the last example of a mobile phone (320px), the layout of the site has converted to just a single column display.  You’ll notice that some of the content has disappeared from view, but this information is still there – just hidden to improve the user experience.

Desktop, Tablet and Mobile views of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce website.

If you’re still unsure if  your website is mobile responsive and friendly, please check out the following tools:

5) Poor URL Structure

This error might not be your fault AND it might not be an issue you can resolve. Your website domain setup is most likely controlled by your website developer or by your AMS.  If you find yourself with these issues, you might be able to address them with these groups if you reach out to them and perhaps not.  If you’re in the process of vetting vendors for a new website or a new AMS, be sure to get this question addressed.

There are multiple issues that might come up when it comes to poorly structured URLs for your website.

Here is one example:


Which member are we promoting here?  Exactly!  You don’t know because the URL structure is using a number id.  How do you think your member would like you to greet them at the next golf tournament like this “Hello Mr. 34825976!  So nice to see you again!”.  Yeah, I don’t think so.

Your website, specifically your directory and events modules, should produce a clean and clear URL promoting the member and/or event with detailed information.  This will have a positive impact on their search friendliness, branding and it will help your domain build authority as well.

Here is another example:


This is another deadly mistake – again, probably not your fault – that your website might be suffering from.  You’ll notice the association name on this link is part of the sub-domain pointing to your AMS vendor.  To understand why this is such a big issue, consider if you’re a 3000 member organization and 3000 of your pages DO NOT live on your website but instead reside somewhere else.  And these 3000 pages are now NOT building your domain authority which is a key factor of SEO, but instead the pages are building for someone else (hint, hint – the AMS vendor).  Yes, Houston – we have a problem!

Another issue, besides the loss in domain strength, is that if you decide to leave that AMS provider, you won’t be able to redirect your module pages to your new website.  The setup and use of 301 redirects are other items that are vital to SEO and making sure you maintain any value or ranking success of your pages promoting your members, events, news, etc.

Most AMS vendors these days DO offer you an option to use your own domain. We highly recommend taking advantage of this option if you can.

6) Hacked Website

No kidding you might be saying to yourself?  You’d be surprised how many people are unaware their website might be seen as ‘hacked’ in the eyes of Google.

via Google Search Console
via Google Search Console

Why wouldn’t someone be in the know if their site was compromised?  Unless you’re actively using the Google Search Console where they will email you when you have site issues, you’re probably not searching for your own website and will miss the example message above.What we see is that the primary domain actually is clean, but those pesky members and their websites! The most common instance of an issue here is that you’ve got a directory with a dirty member URL and that transfers over to your domain because you’re linking to the site.

What we see is that the primary domain actually is clean, but those pesky members and their websites! The most common instance of an issue is that you’ve got a directory with a dirty member URL and that transfers over to your domain because you’re linking to the site.

If you have administrative rights on your Google Search Console, you can go through a very simple process to identify the offending website(s) and remove them from your directory.  Note that you’ll need to also make sure your AMS has real-time directory updates or the process might take some time.

7) Mishandling Website Analytics

Google Analytics is the website analytics tool of choice for the sheer fact that it’s crazy powerful and it’s free!  But just because something is free and you know it should be done, that doesn’t mean it’s happening (nod to our friends the vegetables).

Google Analytics with Zero Traffic

The grave mistake of not getting Google Analytics setup on your will quickly bite you when you’re expected to report website traffic to the board. The reason this is truly is a deadly mistake is that once you’ve gone 12 months or even 1 month with the tracking codes, all of the data is gone and lost forever. You’d be surprised at how many of websites we’ve audited and found that the task was never done. Your website development team should be in charge of making sure this task is completed as you go live with a new website.

Are you not even sure if you have Google Analytics setup on your site or any other questions from this list? Feel free to shoot us a note and we’ll help you out!


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