Utilizing Data Through Search Engine Optimization

Is your arts organization maximizing it’s potential for earned income? You may be missing out on a huge opportunity for revenue generated by your website and social media if you are not closely monitoring your position in online search results. For arts organizations in the 21st century, maximizing the return on investment of digital campaigns is not a matter of creating the best website, but in mastering the art of search engine optimization (SEO).

Growth of the Cultural Sector Online

The cultural sector is developing more digital content than ever before. It is clear that organizations understand the need for a strong digital presence. This concept was proved by a report from the Pew Research Center on Arts Organizations and Digital Technologies. Data from their survey of organizations reported the following statistics:

  •  99% of arts organizations in this survey have their own website
  •  97% have a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr or other platform
  • 94% of these organizations post photos about the organization or its work
  •  86% accept donations online
  •  72% sell tickets online
  • 50% maintain a blog

Online mediums create new ways for the arts to extend the reach of their impact. As an added bonus, while organizations are sharing content and engaging with audience members online, they have the opportunity to collect huge amounts of data. However, a 2014 report by the Cultural Data Project New Data Directions for the Cultural Landscape suggests that although cultural organizations have significantly increased the amount of data they collect, most are not utilizing this data in the most effective ways. They explain that while organizations  have been recording significant amounts of data over the last fifty years, most are not yet integrating the information into their decision-making processes.

Search Engine Optimization

As defined my Moz in The Beginners Guide to SEO, search engine optimization is "a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results." This is accomplished by restructuring the content of a website to include targeted key words and links to other sites that will drive traffic in a search result. 

Search engine optimization is a necessary strategy for organizations looking to improve their data utilization because it provides quantifiable results. These figures can be shared with board members and senior leadership, to help them determine the effectiveness of digital programs. An organization can no longer understand their position in the market, without understanding their position online.

While nearly every organization is using a website, far less are focusing efforts on their position in organic search results. Considering the statistics listed above, search engine optimization is a clear solution to this problem. By focusing on improving the web platforms they have already established, arts organizations can make the most of the resources they have already invested in.

According to Hubspot's "The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics," 60% of all "organic" clicks go to the top three search results. When it comes to SEO, it is less of a question of whether or not to do it, but how?

Marketing Sherpa completed a benchmarking survey in 2014, and asked various companies how they manage and execute SEO campaigns:

  • 64% of organizations run them in-house
  • 8% Go to an outside agency or consultancy
  •  27% Do both

As the cultural sector expands to fully incorporate data analytics to their daily routine, how will your organization optimize their search results?


The staff members assigned to responsibilities such as data analysis and SEO vary across the industry. There is great variety among the staffing structure of departments as well as their practices for data. Only some are completing these responsibilities in-house, while the majority of organizations rely on experts or consultants such as Capacity Interactive and TRG Arts rather than executing their own data analysis. Many are not paying attention to their position in search results at all. In terms of staffing, at most organizations we have been talking to, the Marketing Managers are responsible for data analysis, but when new initiatives such as SEO are introduced, often a higher level Director takes the lead.

Other organizations, have added positions for “data analysts” which drastically increases the amount of data analysis an organization is able to accomplish. In many cases, organizations are not focusing on things like SEO because they do not feel they have the time or resources. Creating a new position eliminates this problem, and is always a preferred option. For organizations who are unable to hire a data specialist, there are various analytics programs available at no cost. For optimizing search results look to Google Adwords. Signing up for Adwords is completely free, and only charges when your website is being clicked on. For tracking analytics beyond search results, powerful tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook Insights are available at no cost. 

How are these responsibilities shared at your organization? As an arts manager, are you leading a department that is making the most of its resources? When looking for ways to expand your organization, be sure to consider enhancing your reach with the resources you have already invested in.

For more resources on data analytics see recent articles by AMT Lab contributors Julia Lewis and Katie Grennan.