Since WebLink International works exclusively with chambers of commerce, business associations and membership organizations, I get to see and use chamber websites every day. And, since I managed the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce website for eight years, I remember all the challenges of keeping a chamber website up to date and relevant.
Recently, I was asked what things most chambers of commerce could do to improve their sites. I thought this topic would make a great "top 10" list for the WebLink blog. Here are the first 5 ways I came up with.
10. Leverage your analytics – Stop worrying about page views and visitor sessions without understanding how the design of your site influences your visitors’ behavior. Rather, focus on the outcomes you want from your site. Do you want 10 new members to join online each month? Would you like to get 500 new people to sign up for your e-newsletter? Do you want visitors to order something or register for an event? Once you set such goals and review your analytics, you can determine how you can change your site to help create your desired outcomes.
9. Streamline navigation & overall design – Streamline your navigation into as few main items as possible. Try to view your site through your typical visitors’ eyes. What are the main reasons people visit your site? What information are they viewing most often? Create main navigation buttons or links that reflect the major areas of your site and use sub-navigation for everything else. Don’t design navigation or critical information so it looks like advertising. Keep the site as open and easy to view as possible. Look to some of your favorite web 2.0 or social media sites for inspiration.
8. Make it shareable – Sharing information via social media is hot right now, so why not make it easy for site visitors to share your content? Services such as AddThis and ShareThis (see example at the bottom of this post) give you code to embed on your website that make it easy to share your site’s content via multiple popular social media services such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs. Including such tools on your site shows that your chamber is progressive and understands the current media trends.
7. (Don’t ) click here – The words “click here” don’t add anything to the usability of your site and they certainly don’t help you with any search engine optimization (SEO). Instead, use strong anchor text (the text that’s actually linked), such as “Download the Chamber’s annual report” or “Watch our latest State of the City video.” Where you can, use both a graphic (such as the cover of your annual report) AND a text link to help guide readers to your content.
6. Use internal links – Linking from within your text to other relevant areas of your site does two things. First, it improves the usability for visitors since they can now easily move on to additional content on your site. Second, it helps improve your rankings in search engines and can get more of your content indexed. Usually 3-5 internal links per page is good. More than that can become distracting to your readers.
Part 2 of this list will be coming soon. What other items do you think should be on the list?