Association websites range in size, from the big-city chamber of commerce websites to local neighborhood associations trying to market the local businesses in the neighborhood and drive growth.
But no matter the size, they all must contain the following 14 items to help drive membership and traffic and provide valuable information to community members and visitors.
It is no secret that trust and perceived value increase when a small business’s website design and usability improve. With association websites, it’s no different; some would argue that a great design helps build trust and value for the community.
Research from Stanford University shows that 46.1 percent of the over 2,500 people studied say a website’s design is the top criterion for deciding whether a company is credible. Make sure your website has the following:
- Clear and sharp images
- Consistent layout
- Easy to read and consistent typography
- Well-defined color schemes
The site must be built upon a responsive framework to ensure your website looks great and functions flawlessly on any device.
Ensuring your website’s design, structure, imagery, and content portray trust in your association is critical to building an excellent reputation for your association (generating new memberships) and the community it was built to be the face of.
Easy To Use CMS
The backbone of your design is your content management system (CMS). This framework must be easy to use, search engine friendly, and include the functionality required to provide everything your community will need to engage with your website and each other.
- Include all the foundation SEO elements – this helps search engines understand your website, thus contributing to ranking it within Google.
- Should include an easy-to-use publishing platform – this will be important for anyone publishing content on your website.
- Include key functionality – This includes the ability to categorize content, an easy-to-use directory, eCommerce, event listings, etc. We will get more into these below.
Organized Directory With Map
There are many ways we have seen a directory organized – alphabetically, by category, or by date of membership. Each organizational structure has its pros and cons for users and directory management.
Alphabetically, this may be the easiest to set up and manage, but it makes it difficult to find a specific type of business from a user standpoint.
By category – This may be difficult to manage due to categorization limitations, but from a user standpoint, it’s the best.
Date of membership – this may be the least effective for both users and management as it can be challenging to manage, and users don’t have any insight into its logic.
Member Profile Page
The member profile page gives your community a centralized location to market themselves and help website visitors learn more about their small businesses. Member profile pages should include, at minimum, the following six items:
- Company Logo
- Images of the Local Business
- Location Map
- Business Description
- Business Services
- Contact Information
These member profile pages can also be used to help earn links for your association by sending out a badge for the local business to put on their website that points back to their profile page.
A well-structured and in-depth membership page will help tell the association’s story and provide enough information to drive new membership. The membership page should, at minimum, include the following five items.
- History of the Association
- Why Someone Should Join
- List of Board Members
- Local Small Business Resources
A key to making the sign-up process as simple and seamless as possible for new members is an integrated eCommerce experience. This means the new member can sign up and pay simultaneously.
Having a centralized location that anyone visiting your neighborhood can use to learn about businesses and landmarks will help drive community engagement.
Your events page is essential for helping connect your community through local events. These can be events your association organizes or your community members are putting on.
Most websites include social integration, so this is a reminder to ensure you have the three critical social integration points.
- Social share buttons on blog posts, events, and essential pages.
- A way for users to follow or like your social media profile pages.
- Social media tags (Twitter Cards, Open Graph Tags, etc.) to help define how your association website is shown on social media websites when shared.
Growing and managing your email list is critical to keeping your community members up to date on the community. Marketers consistently ranked email as the most effective tactic for awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention. Remember, you have just 3-4 seconds to grab your readers’ attention and interest them enough to open and read your email. So good use of email marketing for the Chamber of Commerce would be to showcase the following:
- Events going on in the community.
- Priority announcements for your association
- New members
- New businesses are coming to the neighborhood
- Local real estate
If you’re going to send out an email blast, make sure you fulfill its maximum potential by including relevant images. According to Hubspot, 65 percent of users like emails that are mostly made up of images, while only 35 percent prefer their emails to be text heavy.
Advertising Strategy Integration
Having a way for local businesses to advertise on your website and within your other marketing channels is a great way to drive revenue growth for your association that can then be used to improve your website or put on additional events to help connect community members. In addition, advertising can be integrated into your:
Website – use banners, event sponsorships, map sponsorships, or sponsored content to help market your community members.
Email – spotlight members or sell banner placement within your email marketing.
Social Media – you can sell mentions and spotlights of local business members.
Let’s not forget one of the primary channels users will use to find your association and your member’s content – after all, 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine.
Making sure you have the foundational elements in place is a great starting point for any website trying to increase organic traffic.
Choosing a web design company that integrates SEO throughout the design and development process is key to getting the most out of your website. When searching for a company to design your website, ask them key questions to gauge their skill set when it comes to, what we call, SEO Web Design. This will ensure search engine optimization is built into the design for maximum baseline value.
Psychologist Jerome Bruner has uncovered some exciting studies that show. At the same time, people only remember 10 percent of things they hear and 20 percent of what they have read, and around 80 percent of people remember things they see or do.
Having photographs of your community that include the businesses, people, and critical landmarks will bring your neighborhood to life.
Encourage business owners and users to submit their photos of the neighborhood or photos taken during events – maybe even win a prize for the best photo.
One of the most significant benefits of blogging for your chamber of commerce website is attracting high-quality leads. If you’re putting out valuable content consistently, you’ll be surprised how much your membership leads will skyrocket.
The other significant benefit of blogging on your website is the increased ability to gain local links that will help earn rankings with the search engines. Companies who blog receive 97% more links to their website.
If you don’t have the resources to create in-depth content on a consistent basis, you might want to leverage your community members to help write content based on their skill set.