Banking on reputations

I was referred to a web­site the oth­er day that bare­ly exists, at least
in the way that I see sites. It’s home­page was built entire­ly in Flash, was com­plete­ly invis­i­ble to search engines and bare­ly func­tioned in Fire­fox. Domain​tools​.com gave it an SEO score of zero (out of a scale of one hun­dred). It’s Google PageR­ank was three out of ten, mak­ing it less vis­i­ble that my kid pages.
But this was a web­site for a high-flying web devel­op­ment house, a
com­pa­ny that works with some of Philadelphia’s most promi­nent and
well-endowed cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions. Their client work isn’t quite as
invis­i­ble, but their web­site for Philadelphia’s relative-new $265
mil­lion per­for­mance arts cen­ter has a PageR­ank equiv­a­lent to my
per­son­al blog – youch!

I think there’s a les­son here. Promi­nent cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions don’t look at Google (and SEO-friend­ly
devel­op­ers) because they’re big enough and well-known enough that they
assume peo­ple will find them any­way. They’re right, of course, but how
many more peo­ple would find them if they had well-built web­sites? And
what’s the long-term vision if they’re rely­ing on their established
rep­u­ta­tion to do their web marketing? 

It’s per­haps impossible
for a net-centric start-up to repli­cate a hugely-endowed cul­tur­al icon
like an orches­tra or bal­let, giv­ing some degree of insu­la­tion to these
insti­tu­tions from direct inter­net com­pe­ti­tion. But if these nonprofits
saw them­selves in the enter­tain­ment busi­ness, com­pet­ing for the limited
atten­tion and mon­ey of an audi­ence that has many evening-time
pos­si­bil­i­ties, then you’d think they’d want to lever­age the inter­net as
much as they could: to use the web to reach out not only to their
exist­ing audi­ence but to nur­ture and devel­op future audiences. 

Are the audi­ences of high brow insti­tu­tions so full of hip young audi­ences that they can steer clear of web-centric marketing?

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