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How to Improve Your Digital Presence to Better Serve Citizens

If you’ve been tasked to improve your local government agency’s digital presence, you’re not alone.

The private sector is driving citizens expectations for digital services even higher, which means your citizens are less tolerant of poor digital experiences. So where do you begin?

Here are six ways to make this overwhelming initiative a little more manageable:

Ensure your website is the voice of authority

In a recent survey of more than 350 local government leaders, we found that 91 percent 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).

Leverage Google Analytics to learn about your audience and better serve them

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 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 overtime to meet the unique needs of your community. You might consider reordering navigational buttons to feature popular pages or add or remove web pages from your site for example. Use what you learn to change, develop and improve your site. Continuously!

Take 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. One of my favorite new client websites is the city of Amarillo, TX. They launched their site with a “service finder” feature right on the homepage of their website, making it easy for users to find what they are looking for within about three clicks.

Amarillo's Digital Presence

The City of Amarillo took a service-driven approach with their new website. The homepage features a service finder tool to help users navigate to the services they are looking for within just a few clicks.

Drive your citizens to your website

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 of mix of channels including social media, email, SMS messages, search and even traditional channels like a press releases, newspaper ads and mailers. Every city is different and will continuously need to monitor and refine their marketing mix. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Email marketing can be a great way to promote your content, and for many of our clients it 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 let people know about information on topics they care about. Social media is great for short form content, but some topics require more depth or even clarity. Many of our clients 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 link backs 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 engaging content to capture your audience’s attention. 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 overdue it or use emojis that could be misconstrued.

Make search a major 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 strategies you can use but start with the basics.

  • Leverage Google Keyword Planner to gain a better understanding of the keywords most common to 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 both 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 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 some of the top keywords identified, make sure your webpages have a related keyword associated and make sure 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. Finally, make sure your content contributors are trained on 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 government CMS

govAccess 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’s that are leading the way with their digital presence 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 digitally. 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 Granicus can help you with your next website redesign, schedule a demo today!