The value that members receive from exposure on - and traffic from - your chamber’s website often justifies their membership renewal each year. And, that value can be used to acquire new members, plus generate non-dues revenue through website advertising.
With chamber websites clearly being a critical communications and member promotion vehicle, any chamber executive who is serious about promoting their members and their community must ask themselves two questions.
Chamber of commerce websites have certainly evolved over the past few years, but the time has come for a major leap forward.
Consider this: 40% of all search engine queries are done with local intent, meaning some city name, place name or local term is included. If your site is not search engine optimized, you’re missing a huge opportunity to capitalize on your chamber’s and your members’ local presence. After all, your chamber and your members are already LOCAL, so if your website is not showing up for local searches, you’re missing out (and so are your members).
Perhaps the single largest asset your chamber has is your members and their collective marketing power via your website. Chambers must leverage this information to maximize their exposure to search engines. A search engine optimized website lets Google and other searches engines realize the relevance of your website (and your chamber) and helps you create additional exposure for your community.
Perform some simple test searches for your community. Search for your popular business categories, such as hotels, restaurants, attorneys, golf, etc., but include your city or area name in the search. (For example, “Indianapolis hotels”) Does your chamber’s site come up on the first page? Are you in the first 3 results? If not, your website is not doing all it can to drive traffic to your members.
Who is competing with our chamber and taking credit for promoting our members?
Online directory sites such as ShopLocal, Yelp, CitySearch, TripAdvisor, YellowPages.com and dozens more are all competing with your chamber for your members’ attention AND for their money.
If these sites come up higher in searches for local businesses in your community, they will get the credit for driving traffic to your members, not your chamber. Eventually, business owners may question what value they are receiving from your chamber if they aren’t receiving referrals or traffic from your site. When they don’t see enough value from your chamber, they will drop their membership.
Plus, all these sites sell advertising of some kind. If your members find those sites more valuable for promoting their businesses, they may purchase ads on those sites as well, thereby taking money out of your local community. That money should be going towards dues or advertising on YOUR website where you can use it to strengthen your community.
Your website is critical to your success
Chambers of commerce have long been concerned about how to gain new members, increase retention and generate non-dues revenue. A well-designed, search optimized website helps you accomplish all three!
Decide today that your website is critical to your success and dedicate the resources needed to make that happen. Do an evaluation of how well your site is indexed by Google. What changes can you make to improve your ranking? Do you need a new website? Do you need help? Determine what you need and go do it! Your online relevance is eroding – but you CAN reverse it and take control of your community’s local online presence.