Beautiful land, functional utilities, talented workforce… your community has it all. So why are site selectors and businesses not flocking in? Before blowing all your budget on a one-time advertising campaign, consider that the element your economic development group is missing just might be a high-quality, interactive website.
Your website is the starting point for site selectors looking into your community. A recent study by the Development Counsellors International uncovered that “65 percent of respondents reported a strong likelihood that they would visit an economic development organizations’ website during the next site search.” Therefore, it is imperative that the information they value most is readily available when they come looking. This information can live on a specific landing page built into your county or regional website, or it can be on a stand-alone site that is specific to your economic development efforts.
Having worked with a number of economic development groups and county chambers through the years, Q Strategies knows a thing or two about creating strategic plans and attracting attention to your site. Based on our experiences, these are the four elements your website needs to attract site selectors:
1. Optimize the user experience.
User experience describes the overall experience visitors go through when using a website. Your website’s design should be clear and easy to navigate. While it is important to take creative liberties with your design to stand out, visitors do expect websites to follow standard industry formatting and practices, e.g.the navigation should be on the top of the page, alongside the logo.
Optimize your site’s user experience by improving the accessibility of information and efficiency of user interactions on your website, so it’s easy for visitors to find what they want or follow a thread of information. Some things to put on your checklist include ensuring that the different topics have clear dividers, that all links work and that there are clear calls-to-action/share buttons in the right places.
2. Prioritize your messaging points.
According to a Time article, over half (55%) of internet users spent fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page. With a constant stream of information coming to your audience, it is more important than ever to present your story quickly before losing your visitor’s interest.
Tying in with the point above about user experience, use white spaces and do not clutter your page. Include the details they want to see, like an information sheet, GIS data and site renderings first and foremost, before adding in extra information on the other pages.
3. Provide high-quality photography, renderings and videos.
Use professionally photographed and created images and graphics to enhance the visual aesthetic of your website. Very rarely will site developers survey the area in person at this stage of their research. So, to ensure they are “seeing” your area, you can add a photo slideshow of the community on the homepage to showcase different points, and you can also create an interactive map of the community where the user can click on each area for a demographic and site breakdown to help orient visitors of the geography of your community.
You want to captivate them with both the beauty and practical functions your site offers, even from thousands of miles away.
4. The site needs to be mobile-friendly.
We recommend your new website be responsive, meaning it can be viewed on desktops, tablets and smartphones. Since users spend over half of their digital media time on their mobile devices, having an easy-to-use, functioning website on all devices is critical. Additionally, Google penalizes sites that aren’t mobile-friendly, which negatively impacts your ranking in online searches.
In summary, online users make critical first impressions based on the design of a website. It must be clean, organized and easy to use. Consistency with colors, text, images and brand is imperative, and each page should have a unifying look and feel as well. But does it really work?
Yes, it does. Just ask the local government of Marion County, Tennessee. Situated in the beautiful Sequatchie Valley, Marion County is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with options to fish, ski, cave, bird watch, four-wheel, camp, rock climb and hike. Upon realizing that they could do more to promote their spacious land to tourists and economic developers, the Marion County mayor and team decided to take action.
With Q Strategies’ help, www.marioncountytn.net was overhauled and SEO-primed. Detailed descriptions and images of county attractions and business opportunities were added, and a whole page was dedicated to bringing the latest county news. This user-friendly website helped disperse important information to audiences far and near and reduced the number of emails and phone calls that were previously fielded by internal staff. The pageviews increased 126%, and the number of unique visitors to the site grew to more than 27,000 the following year.
Need more marketing solutions for your county, small-size city or rural region? Q Strategies created an in-depth economic development game-plan for you. And it is free. Let us help you get the attention your community deserves! Visit www.qstrategies.com/economic-development for your copy of the game-plan.