Monday, November 17, 2008

Questions for Small Towns to Ask About Their Online Presence

I work in a lot of small towns and have found most do not have a strong online presence. Here is a list of questions that I encourage town leaders/promoters to ask as they plan a Website.

Why do you have a Website?
Promote your town
Provide town services to residents
Reduce your own staff’s time in dealing with routine requests

What do you want your Website to do?
Increase number of people visiting your town
Increase number of people shopping in your town
Simplify record keeping of town services and requests
Stimulate economic development interest in your town

Who is your audience?
Chamber members or prospective members
City staff
Governmental officials
Potential new residents

What is your call to action?
Click on a special offer?
Pay bills?
Ask for a brochure?

What do your competitors’ sites look like?
Tourism and recreational competition
Residential competition
Economic development competition
Tax base competition

Do you track usage? How do you account for the investment of a Website?
Do you know who visits your site – when – why – for how long?
Do you know which pages are visited most, least?
Do you know if you get repeat visitors?
Do you know how your visitors find your site?
Do visitors come to your town after having logged onto your site? Are your cash registers ringing?

3 Ways that a Strong Web Presence Increases Your Tax Base
Tourists, travel writers, travel agents and group leaders utilize the Internet to plan their trips. They will choose places where they can get the most information. If you don’t have a lot of information posted on the Web, you’ll lose the sound of cash registers ringing.

Residents are typically tourists first. Real estate won’t move as quickly if your town is missing an online presence.

Companies wanting to relocate search the Internet to find new locations. They want to know about the cost of living, cost of doing business, transportation access, quality of life, educational resources and quality of workforce. If that isn’t on the Internet, prospective companies will search elsewhere.

10 Tricks to Increase Your Visibility
Website – One that works, is easy to navigate, is current and informative
Blog – a form of a Website that travels through search engines much faster than traditional Websites. They can be used to drive traffic to a Website, build a dialogue with customers and you can easily post information on them.
Photos – Flickr, Google Images – just two places where you can post images of your town, your local celebrities, your attractions, your events, your natural resources. They’ll show up when you do a search.
Videos – You Tube is owned by Google and is the most prominent way to post videos and get them seen. It is advisable to post your videos on You Tube so you don’t take up space on your own site. Create a link.
Email Signature – Put your Website and/or blog in your personal email signature. That will drive people to your Website.
Pay Per Click advertising – You determine how much money you want to spend a month. You can work with Google or Yahoo or any of the search engines and tell them what types of pages where you want your ads to be seen. You can spend as little as $200 a month, if you wish. You pay only when someone clicks on your ad.
Website Text – Keep it fresh. Hire a professional Website writer who can convert your words into those that search engines will like and use.
Website Photos/Videos – Search engines love photos and videos. Sites with those will rise to the top of the Website pool and will get a higher ranking.
Tags – Make sure each page of your site has keywords identified in the tags.
Links - Establish a link with a governmental or educational body.

Suggestions to Make Your Site More User-Friendly
1) Provide a great headline, a clear call to action and a great image.
2) Put contact info on Home Page
3) Keep information current
4) Assume that people don’t know about your town or event. Write a couple of sentences of explanation. Use key words so search engines can better find you.
5) Utilize a lot of photos and video. Search engines like them – and so do site visitors. Make sure photos that are somewhat small can easily be expanded.
6) Maintain the links so they aren’t broken
7) Provide an easy way to get back home from all pages and links
8) Anticipate that many people still use dial-up or have the lower level of DSL. Sites that open quickly get more visitors than those that are slow. There are options for using FLASH. Search engines don’t like it – and neither do I.
9) Get your Web designer to add necessary tags so search engines can more easily find your sites
10) Keep it simple – avoid clutter and confusion
11) Develop focus groups to review your site. Get their feedback before making the site live.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice tips. thanks for sharing.