Part of being a good webmaster is to know what is relevant to your audience. I spend a fair bit of time looking at various data tools to see what kind of things are being clicked on, searched on and forwarded on. Now, I’ll admit, even hard data can be interpreted to say just about anything you want it to. And I’ve also heard that “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” With that in mind, I think as Scouts, we are suffering from an image problem ~ we no longer have one.

Google has a neat tool called Trends. It tracks the total number of searches for a given term over time. The flags represent news spikes that correspond with the increase in searching. For example, in this graph, A represents news about the 2005 Jamboree and C is the Centennial in 2010.

The scale is relative, so just 8 years ago there were nearly 4 times the searches on “Boy Scouts of America” than there are today. The bottom line shows that overall there is more mainstream news now, yet the public is still not trying to find us. I would like to try to figure out how to turn that around.

It also seems that when things are going poorly we like to look to our neighbor and at least say “hey, at least we don’t have it as bad as that guy.” So I decided to run a comparison of “boy scout” and “girl scout”:

Notice how searches climb early each year, even when the “news reference volume” stays relatively flat? I’m pretty sure that is Girl Scout Cookie time. In fact, the second big spike (E) was a recall of cookies in 2010.

I’m not sure we will reverse the larger trend here, but I do hope that we can keep the positive image of the Boy Scouts of America alive in each of the communities that we live and serve in. What do you think? How do we get that blue line to climb back up the other direction? And don’t forget to check out and run a few tests of your own!