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. Domaintools.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?