As a local government leader, you are tasked with finding ways to more effectively serve and engage your citizens digitally. For local government agencies, this can be a very dauting task. Many cities and counties serve extremely diverse populations – millennials, gen-Xers, baby boomers, students, full-time residents, tourists, non-native English speakers and the list goes on. All these “customers” have varying needs, wants and expectations.
To complicate an already challenging endeavor, private sector companies like Amazon are driving citizens’ expectations for digital services even higher, which means your website visitors are less tolerant of a poor digital experience with your agency. So where do you begin?
Following are six ways to improve your digital presence and better serve your citizens.
- Make sure your agency website is the voice of authority.
In a recent survey of more than 350 local government leaders, Vision by Granicus found that 91% believe their website is extremely or very important to their overall communications strategy. While other digital channels like Facebook or Instagram are great for engaging your community, the true “digital voice of authority” for your city or county should always be your website. So, make sure you have a good website and have a way to keep your content fresh and relevant with an easy to use Content Management Solution (CMS).
- Use Google Analytics to learn about your audience so you can better meet their unique digital needs.
Data on your website visitors is an important starting point for any website project – this data will give you insights into who is visiting your site, what device(s) they are using to access your site, what pages they are visiting most frequently, and more. If you have search built into your website, you can also leverage data on the most popular search terms for additional cues into what your audience is interested in. All this insight can be used to optimize your website over time to meet the unique needs of your community. For example, you might consider reordering navigational buttons to feature popular pages or add or remove web pages from your site. Use what you learn to change, develop and improve your website. Continuously!
- Commit to a service-minded approach.
Armed with data, consider how you can truly take a service minded approach to meet the most diverse set of users possible. A good example of this is the City of Amarillo, TX. They launched their website with a “service finder” feature right on the homepage, making it easy for users to find what they are looking for within about three clicks.
- Make your website the central hub of your communications strategy.
A great website with great content is a start, but it’s only useful if your citizens can find all the great information and services available to them. As you think about the best ways to engage your community, it’s important to consider where your citizens go for information – for most communities this varies greatly. Often a city or county is made up of people of different ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. To meet the needs of such a diverse population it’s important to leverage a mix of channels including social media, email, SMS messages, search and even traditional channels like press releases, newspaper ads and mailers. Every agency is different and will continuously need to monitor and refine their marketing mix. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Use email marketing to promote your website content. For many agencies, email is the number one driver of traffic back to their website. Make sure you have a way to capture your customers’ email address on your website, and even look for tools that allow them to opt-in to receive information about specific areas of interest – events, updates on specific council agenda items, election related content, and more.
- Leverage social media to post information on topics your community cares about. Social media is ideal for short form content, but some topics require more depth or even clarity. Many agencies use social to post important updates, event photos and other happenings with a link back to their website for more information. They also use it to listen and engage on popular topics, offering linkbacks to their website for greater depth or clarity on a topic of discussion. For these local agencies, their website is the “voice of authority.”
- Create visually appealing content to engage your audience. Everything from video to images that pop can stand out in a social media feed or email inbox. Emojis can help you stand out too, just don’t overdo it or use emojis that could be misconstrued.
- Make search a key component of your digital marketing strategy.
If a citizen is looking for your website, they often start with a Google search. Search optimization helps you place your content high in search results. Following the rules that Google and other search bots use to figure out if your content is relevant to the search query will greatly increase your chances of being found. There are many search strategies you can use, but start with the basics:
- Leverage Google Keyword Planner to identify the most relevant keywords for your brand – just type in terms you know are popular and Google will share other related keywords that you might want to rank for. Look for keywords that have a high monthly search volume but that aren’t so competitive that it is unlikely you will rank. For example, you might not want to select keywords that are so general that the competition would take you out of the running like “Fourth of July Parade,” instead be more specific and select “Seattle Fourth of July Parade.” You can also do a Google keyword search and see if your webpages are ranking for the keywords you want them to rank for.
- Once you have identified top keywords, make sure your webpages have a related keyword associated and that the keyword shows up at least a couple of times on the page itself – if you can add the keyword into your page title, image alt tags, meta title, meta description and the page URL, even better. Make sure your content contributors are trained on these basic SEO best practices and that your CMS has SEO prompts so good keyword tagging is a part of every new piece of content you create.
- Power your website with a purpose-built, data-driven government CMS.
VisionLive™ is a CMS built specifically with the needs of government users in mind. The solution is both intuitive and easy for non-technical users like content contributors, but also offers the controls and flexibility for the website owner to ensure a consistent experience for your citizens.
Local government agencies that are leading the way digitally understand the power of a service-minded approach. These agencies view every website interaction as an opportunity to learn how to better serve their citizens and meet their ever-evolving digital expectations. They also build their website on a flexible CMS, so they can act on insights and continuously improve the citizen experience. The best government websites are also well organized, content-rich and highly searchable.
For more information on how Vision by Granicus can help you with your next website redesign, please sign-up for a free consultation.