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Six Tips to Magnetize Your Association’s Website

This post was co-authored by Doreen Ashton Wagner, Chief Strategist and Jeff Chabot, Web & E-Marketing Programmer with Greenfield Services.

In a previous post we discussed the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to ensure prospective members, sponsors and other stakeholders easily can find your organization online.
With search engines now including social media into their algorithms, how your users feel about your website is increasingly important to how it’s found.  The more users like and recommend your website on social media, the more popular (and higher-ranked) your site will be. 

The user experience is becoming paramount to how your site will be found.  Here are six tips to guide your journey as you improve your website’s appeal;
  1. Be the client: The easiest way to improve a user’s experience is to become the user. Put yourself in the shoes of the particular clientele you are trying to attract.  If you serve different markets, you should divide your website according to those segments, using language and imagery that appeal to each stakeholder group.  This might mean addressing your different membership categories, buyers vs. sellers, or professionals vs. the general public.
  2. “Survey” the land: One of the biggest tools you have at your disposal when determining what makes your site tick is your existing clientele/membership. Why not ask them what they like and don’t like?  Send them a quick survey asking them questions about their experience on your site.  Better yet, interview them and find out which sites they love and why.
  3. Keeping your website copy direct and to the point: Too many words on a page will discourage visitors, many of whom are now using mobile devices to look up information.  What looks reasonable on a desktop computer often is too lengthy on an iPhone or tablet.  Keep copy to 250 words or less, with shorter sentences and at least one paragraph break.  Provide more information in downloadable resources, allowing users to pick and choose their desired level of detail. 
  4. Calls to action: Calls to action are attention-getting buttons and response boxes that allow users, at a glance, to download, sign up or shop without having to navigate the whole site.  Such mechanisms also enable you to “gate” content.  This is when you require a visitor to provide their name, company, email and any other information before they can download the resource.  Typically you do this only for those resources that are truly “higher value” pieces, such as white papers, case studies and educational checklists.  And remember to ask permission to continue sending information by email, if that is what you intend to do.
  5. Help, I need a compass!  Navigation is one of the easiest ways to improve your user’s experience.  Ensure visitors always know where they are on your site by: 
    • Providing clear top-level navigation, and keeping sub-levels to a maximum of two;
    • Having sub-level pages open in a new browser window or tab so the visitor can always see where they came from;
    • Adding a site map;
    • Having your contact information on every single page so visitors can easily reach out with any questions.
  6. Be a Fashionista: Improve your site’s user experience by applying what you liked on other websites.  We’re not suggesting outright copying of entire pages, but adapting some elements of design or navigation from popular sites can be a great way to upgrade yours.  It’s like reading a popular magazine and noticing what are the dominantfashions; it helps you stay current!
Magnetizing your website so that prospects find you and decide to do business with you is an ongoing business requirement.  Gone are the days when you could put up a website and forget about it for a few months or years.  If your site isn’t being continually updated and tweaked, it will quickly lose its luster.