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Modern Day SEO: Running Routes from USA Track & Field Association

I think the US Track and Field Association have executed an excellent “modern day SEO” opportunity on their web site at USATF.org. As many of you engage is “SEO” for your web sites, and we touch upon the numerous aspects of Competitive Webmastering and some of the opportunities for your particular web sites, it is probably clear to you that SEO is an open-ended opportunity. You can’t do it all. You need to select something and execute, while supporting it with the basics of good structure, copy, and seo tactic. What is SEO? Well, we often marvel at the better question: What is NOT seo?

If you have heard me go on about “the conversation” and “two way communications with users” and “link magnets” and “link baiting” and the need for “semantically relevant back links” you may appreciate seeing a live example that seems to hit a high note, affordably.

running route mapWho is the USA Track and Field Association? The USATF might not be very high profile among local joggers unless something big happens in Track and Field. Yet they desire to reach all runners, not just members of their organization. How else can they grow their organization? Just as Nike wants to reach potential consumers in order to sell running shoes, USATF wants to reach the morning joggers as well as the weekend warrior marathoners and the semi-pro marathoners. How can they do that? How can they raise the profile of their web site? Yes – conversation, user engagement, link baiting…. the same modern day SEO factors we talk about in strategy meetings.

So what would make a good link magnet for track and field for the average American jogger? What might go viral among road runners? How about an interactive community of runners and joggers who share their local route maps via Google Maps on the USATF.org web site?

Check out http://www.usatf.org/routes/. Users submit routes of their favorite runs. Google maps provides a route map, complete with links to satellite maps and driving directions to the starting points. Comments and “ratings” are there for all to use and read. I created one in a few minutes at http://www.usatf.org/routes/view.asp?rID=56413 and while it ain’t perfect, it works very simply and I got that route in there with a minimal of fuss. No length sign up, no personal details, and it’s in. Of course I went to see it in the database, and by searching for Bellingham Washington, and found all of the routes my neighbors had entered. By reading the comments I feel community with my neighbors. This add-on to the USATF.org web site fosters a real sense of community, and a strong desire to back link and share, among people who otherwise may never have had any exposure to USA Track and Field Association.

Who did USATF attract with this? A very strong market demographic. The same one that Nike and RunningShoes.com want to attract. And that translates into commercial opportunities for USATF, which can generate operating funds for the “.org” portion of USATF. Got 20,000 road runners visiting your site and sharing route maps? I bet RunningShoes.com would take your call about direct advertising.

What did it take to implement the Google Maps feature? With a rating system and user feedback system? It may surprise you just how little this cost to develop. Again, it isn’t perfect, but it isn’t intended to be. USTAF is not in the mapping business. They are not in the interactive route publishing business. They are looking to engage a community of road-running consumers passionate about running, to get them to link to the domain, talk about it with their friends, and become aware of a non-profit organization that is supporting their passion as well as other missions (see http://www.usatf.org/about/). They currently have 176,000 back links to their web site and 55,524 routes entered by users. Very nice.

ENGAGE users from the target demographic. GIVE them something they can own. SPONSOR something valuable to them as a COMMUNITY. Think about it.