Website with Added Value
Some websites are designed to project a corporate image, others to advertise products. The AQR's has a much broader remit as this article shows, providing an update on its success story.
The AQR website is designed to be an online resource, packed full of information relating to qualitative research. It aims to be useful to qualitative researchers, to those who purchase and use the results of qual research, and to the suppliers of services to this industry. And, with around 10,000 visitors each month, it is certainly fulfilling that objective.
The heart of the website is the online Directory which this year contains details of almost 400 businesses, including around 50 from overseas, from Europe and from further afield. These range from Australia, China, Costa Rica and India to Japan, Malaysia, and the USA.
Given the number of entries it is important to make it easy to navigate. This is why the website offers not only an open-ended text search and an A-Z of all business names, but is also indexed by areas of specialization. These indexes cover everything from advertising to travel where qualitative research practitioners are concerned, and from field work to viewing facilities for the Suppliers of Services section. In addition, we have a new category this year for Independent Researchers which lists an additional 30 independently working practitioners.
The Directory also includes the full list of current AQR members, and this has been refined this year to include cross links to directory entries where applicable. So if someone looks up your name in the Members Index and you work for a business with a directory entry, your name will be linked to your directory entry, and your directory entry will list yourself and all the other AQR members working with you. It will also highlight anyone who has been a winner of the Prosper Riley-Smith Effectiveness Award.
Global Contact Information
The Directory is home to contact information on more than 30 other organisations operating in the areas of market research, advertising or direct marketing. In addition, the country guide has been much improved and now contains basic information about conducting qualitative research in over 30 countries around the globe, with more to follow in 2009.
A repository of knowledge
An equally large and useful online resource is the Library which, at the last count, houses 400 short articles by 240 authors, as well as nine In Depth papers and is a fantastic repository of informative and thought-provoking pieces.
The Glossary, meanwhile, gives excellent definitions of over 150 terms used in qualitative research, as well as numerous synonyms, acronyms and abbreviations. We have a "Quick Answers" section giving short explanations for 15 common questions, and if all that doesn't satisfy your thirst for qualitative research reading matter then we have a book list of around 70 books which have been recommended by members.
Search engine visibility
How do people find all this information? Around half of all site visitors each month first find a link to it in Google. We do a lot of work to make sure that the site is well-indexed by all the major search engines, and not just for the obvious terms like "qualitative research". We find we get significant traffic from people (probably potential qual research customers) who Google for terminology used by researchers, such as "concept board" and "observer effect".
Members with directory entries often report that, when searching for their own names, their AQR Directory page often comes as high in Google as their own company website. This gives them twice the opportunity to make contact with potential customers.
The AQR plays an important role in education and training. Now that courses can be booked and paid for online they fill up very quickly and the AQR often needs to operate a standby list. Looking at potential future researchers, we are starting to see a significant number of visitors coming from academic institutes and from graduate careers websites, and since putting the Graduate Pack online, it is downloaded or requested by about 100 students a month, which can only benefit the industry as a whole.
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, March 2009
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2009