Quick … describe your Website. If you said something such as, “It’s basically an electronic version of our old paper brochure,” you’re overlooking a valuable resource. The Internet will continue to grow as an information and marketing
vehicle, making it increasingly important to generate repeat visits
to your site.
To build traffic, you might start by determining what kinds of
additions will best attract your target audience. You might first
consider in-house extras. If your home page isn’t already
linked to your registration system, make sure it is — and
consider bonuses such as e-coupons and online contests.
Other simple attention-grabbers include blogs, videos and the
host of free Web applications, or “apps,” now available
Following is a closer look at these tools and how to use them,
but first a word of caution: Before making any changes, unless you
have complete control over your Website, be sure to understand all
your organization’s policies.
To access the multitude of free Web apps, simply start Googling. At
google.com/gadgets, you’ll find a variety of
interesting tools, from weather displays to cartoons.
Another place to start is TheFreeSite.com, a roundup of free applications
and Web services such a polls, trackers, counters and forms. Other
sites to consider are:
- StatCounter.com: Curious about your Web traffic? This
counter tracks how many page loads, unique visitors and returning
visitors come through your site in real time. Users can generate
reports for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly statistics.
The counter itself can either be visible on your Web page or hidden
- Polldaddy.com: Most site visitors are happy to answer
an online poll and sneak a peek at the results. With Polldaddy.com,
you can customize your own surveys and the reporting tool
gives real-time results.
- Localendar.com: Users of this customizable calendar
feature can merge multiple calendars, share an office calendar, or
use the calendar to plan or announce events.
- Bravenet.com: This site offers free Web tools,
including message forums, photo albums and guest books. It also
features free tutorials, trials and other downloads.
- WeatherSquare.com: This decorative box displays local
weather. Simply provide your ZIP code and choose background colors,
and the site will generate the HTML code you need to add
WeatherSquare to your site.
These free gadgets are all great, but remember, not all will be
appropriate. Choose professional looking, audience-focused add-ons
that match the tone of your site, and be sparing. You don’t
want to bury your main message in freebie fluff.
Some sites offset costs by placing non-negotiable banner ads on
Another way to build Web traffic is blogging. Blogs (short for Web
logs) are one of the most powerful Web-marketing tools available,
says Denise Wakeman, online marketing adviser and co-founder of
The Blog Squad, a Los Angeles-based resource
offering tips and tools to build businesses online.
Blogs can be a great tool for spreading information about a
facility and gauging customer perceptions, says Judith Leblein
Josephs, founder and president of Judith Leblein Josephs
Enterprises, LLC, in Wayne, N.J.
Another attractive feature of blogs is their ability to leverage
search engines, Wakeman says.
Before you get started, note that blogs aren’t an option
for all facilities. According to some experts, aquatics operators
who run municipal pools may not be permitted to start one, due to
the nature of public information laws.
If you’re ready to create a blog, here are some tips.
- Go professional. In choosing a blogging application,
Wakeman recommends platforms geared toward professionals, such as
WordPress.com or TypePad.com. She also recommends do-it-yourself
training programs on blog setup, and suggests that it’s
important to make the blog consistent with the look and feel of
your existing Website.
- Create an editorial calendar. Make time to update your
blog two or three times per week and develop a content publishing
plan. For example, you may want to choose a different theme for
each day, Wakeman suggests.
- Be brief — but not too brief. When it comes to
word count, there are no rules, Wakeman notes. “In general,
people look at 200 to 300 words,” she says. “But
occasionally, a long post is good if you really need to go into
some depth on a subject.”
- Build relationships with readers. Once it’s up and
running, develop a following by promoting your Blog via a link on
your Website and a link on all marketing materials. When you post,
choose informative topics that will help educate your readers.
“It’s about building relationships with your readers;
it’s an incremental growth strategy,” Wakeman says.
- Write what you know and focus on education. You may be
surprised by all the material you can get from everyday
interactions with patrons. Note frequently asked questions and rare
requests, and consider writing up the answers for a future
- Allow comments. Go with the most open comment setting,
even if this means that not all comments will be positive.
“Sometimes negative feedback is good feedback to get,”
Wakeman says. “It allows you to state your position, engage
with the person and build a relationship with that person. If you
have commenting turned off or moderated, that’s setting up
barriers from people participating with you.”
- Enable readers to subscribe to your blog. Consider
subscription services such as FeedBurner.com or FeedBlitz.com, which
send e-mail updates whenever you post. “If you give them a
way to subscribe, they’re going to come back,” Wakeman
says of readers. Additionally, these services also build an e-mail
database, which is a valuable marketing tool.
Like blogs, online videos and photo slide shows continue to grow in
popularity. They help draw viewer attention, says Jennifer
O’Meara, head of content and social networking at the
Video Marketing Council in Dover, Mass.
Today’s digital technology is more accessible and affordable
than ever, meaning anyone can inexpensively create their own
professional audio/visual content.
Before you start adding multimedia content, consider the following
- Aim to entertain. When adding video to your Web site,
experts say choose subject matter carefully and complement images
with appropriate text. Also, use a “viewer-agnostic”
platform so everyone can access your content, regardless of Web
browser or operating system.
- Keep it short and sweet. O’Meara says 30 to 45
seconds of video is ideal; for slide shows, images should change
every five to 10 seconds. “You want to keep your
audience’s attention span in mind,” she adds.
- Show off your media mentions. Don’t be shy about
showcasing media content that features your operation. Ric
Reineke’s Virginia Beach, Va.-based company, The Pool Guyz,
has been featured on several popular cable television programs.
“[Visitors] can get a behind-the-scenes look at what we do
on national TV,” Reineke says. “That helps our
For material already online, establish a simple link or embed it
directly on your site.
• Get permission. If you decide to use music (or photos taken
by someone other than you or a staff member), make sure you have
the rights. If your content includes human subjects, you may want
to have them sign a release before posting their images online. If
you’re unsure about what you need, speak with your
agency’s legal counsel.