The Site is Live, Now What

The Site is Live, Now What?
Posted on 07/25/2017
The Site is Live, Now What?

How to Boost Engagement for Your Slick, New Website

Does this sound familiar: You’ve got long DMV lines, City Hall information phones ringing off the hook, and people reporting potholes via Twitter, making everything hard to track? Last week, someone actually used Snapchat to report a rabid raccoon sighting. All of this is happening despite your city’s slick new website, which has easy-to-use solutions to all of these problems. Rest assured though, you’re not alone. Many municipalities face these problems, particularly those just starting to offer services online. After all, just a few years ago, citizens had no choice but to call or go to city buildings, and people tend to stick with what they know even if it’s inconvenient. So let’s look at a few simple ways to get people off-queue and online.

For the purposes of this article, we are assuming that your City decided not to run a marketing campaign for the site redesign. Many vendors offer this service and will coordinate email blasts, press releases, advertisements, and other promotional services. However, we have found that there are some highly-effective, low-cost methods of boosting engagement.

Start with Easy-to-Find Content

The first thing you should do is make sure your website has engaging, easy-to-find content. Also make sure that your site is Search Engine Optimized so that it consistently ranks among the top results for common queries. Modern content management systems are designed to make web content creation immediate and accessible, so make sure to update the site regularly. SEO and content optimization may seem like huge, complex tasks, but both are actually easy to maintain once you know the basic steps.

Keep Your Staff Informed

Once your content is in order, make sure that staff knows what content is on the new website and has at least some idea how it is arranged. Your web designer put a lot of thought into the site’s information architecture and it would be tragic to let all that work go unnoticed; having an informed staff means that when citizens call with simple questions, your staff can provide a quick answer and, if the citizen has a smartphone or a home internet connection, point them towards the website for more details. This will reduce the amount of time that most people spend on the phone or at the counter, allowing you to serve more citizens in a day. Best of all, people will start to learn that your website is a reliable source of information and will be more likely to seek it out first next time.

Make Your URLs User-Friendly

Oftentimes, especially for county and large city websites, it’s not necessarily feasible to make a mental map of the entire site. This is where user-friendly URLs come in handy. Have your staff make up a list of their most frequently-asked questions and frequently-used forms, then search the site for that info and print off a list of the URLs for that content. For instance, if one out of every five people you serve just wants a building permit, you can quickly direct those people to, allowing them to submit online. You can even place posters on bulletin boards around town, or if you have the budget, send flyers door-to-door. User-friendly URLs help make the web less daunting and more accessible; once people know what is available online, “digital natives” and other technologically-inclined residents will gravitate towards the website, and once they know all it has to offer, they will lend assistance to friends and family.

Leverage the Power of Social Media

Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Many of the people that say they don’t use the internet are actually quite comfortable on Facebook or Twitter, so you can use social media outreach to great effect. It can be as simple as posting a series of “did you know?” posts highlighting your website’s new capabilities, or providing seasonal updates with links to commonly-used forms. Social media allows you to point people towards your website right from their news feed, and once they’ve seen all the high-quality, well-structured content on your homepage, they will be more likely to check your website first next time.

Build Trust

By now, you’ve certainly noticed that the end goal of these exercises is to build trust. The modern web offers unprecedented convenience, but many people do not trust the internet in general, and still more do not expect to find what they’re looking for on municipal websites. But if you follow best practices, keep your content up to date, and make commonly-accessed information easy to find, you can start to build trust among your citizens and ultimately serve them far better than would have been possible in the pre-internet era.

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