10 Best Practices for Economic Development Websites

August 31, 2015

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It’s no secret the Internet has become an instrumental part of economic development marketing. In fact, results from the 7th iteration of DCI’S Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing indicate that an economic development organization’s website is its most effective marketing tool, followed by “planned visits to corporate executives” and “media relations/publicity.”

With nearly two thirds (66%) of executives and locations advisors indicating they were likely to visit an EDO’s website during their next site search—an increase of 18% since 2011—it’s more important than ever to make sure your EDO’s website is effective in marketing and providing information on your community. Whether you’re in the midst of making touchups or are considering a total site overhaul, here are some best practices to make sure your EDO website is at the top of its game.

1. Keep Demographic Data Up-to-Date

Site selectors, executives and other decision makers want to know if your community has the workforce needed to support their business. That’s why it’s important to include the most recent data sourced from a third party. For best results, make it easily accessible (1-2 clicks) from the homepage.

2. Highlight Key Industries

Location advisors want to know what your region does best. Tout your top industry sectors with a dedicated page for each. Clearly identify the sector’s strategic advantages and list or provide success stories for the top employers in the region to demonstrate a robust industry network. This brings us to our next item…

3. Showcase Leading Employers

Showcasing your community’s leading employers is a great way to show decision makers, not only that other major companies are already thriving there, but that strong business and industry networks exist in the area. Include a dedicated page for leading employers and provide additional information (i.e. description of company operations and current employment) on at least five of the top employers. For bonus points, include links to company success stories. (Read our top tips for ED case studies here).

4. Provide Comprehensive Contact Information

If a contact form or general email is the only way to contact your organization, your community could be missing out on big opportunities. According to DCI’s most recent Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing, location advisors and corporate executives are most likely to contact EDOs for the first time following the development of a shortlist in order to request specific information or to arrange a visit. When they’re ready to make that call, a decision maker wants to be able to get on the phone with the right contact—ideally with the phone number easily found within one click from the homepage. Make sure to provide comprehensive contact details (direct phone, e-mail, title) for key members along with a photo so site visitors know exactly who they’re talking to.

5. Put Incentives Front and Center

Information on incentives, according to Winning Strategies, is the single most important feature of an EDO’s website. Be sure to provide a comprehensive overview of state and local incentives—again, ideally within 1-2 clicks from the homepage.

6. GIS For Available Sites

Information on available sites is something every comprehensive EDO site should have—whether it’s a dedicated page or a link to a separate provider. Ideally, this should include a GIS component so site selectors can visualize exactly where available property falls in the area.

7. Share the Latest News

Keep visitors up-to-date on what’s going on in your region by posting all the latest announcements, events and accolades. Try to post at least one update per month (if not several) and make sure external news (i.e. company relocations and expansions) outweighs internal news. Need some inspiration? Read our blog on EDOs that create compelling content through blogging.

8. Consider User Experience

You may have noticed the “1-2 clicks” rule is becoming a pattern. As an exercise, have a colleague or peer who is unfamiliar with the site do a test to see if he or she can find everything a site selector might need within 1-2 clicks of the homepage. If not, your site could be causing visitors unnecessary frustration and a navigation makeover may be something to consider. Another absolute must for a successful EDO website: responsiveness across mobile devices. Now try the “1-2 clicks” exercise from a smartphone.

9. Keep Design Modern and Fresh

While this best practice may be considered somewhat subjective, there are a few good rules of thumb for making sure your site is looking its best. For one, using large, crisp images is a great way to dress up any site. Increasingly, “retina-quality” images—roughly 300 or more pixels per inch—are becoming the web industry standard. High-quality images, balanced with an appropriate amount of “white space,” bold colors and text is a great recipe for modern, fresh web design.

10. Don’t Let Your Content Get Lost

It’s widely accepted that if you’re not in the top two or three Google search results (in this case, when a user enters your community followed by “economic development”), you’re losing out on site viewers. That’s why SEO is arguably one of the most important aspects of web design. Not sure where you stand? Enter your website URL into HubSpot’s Marketing Grader for an SEO checkup and read our blog on SEO tricks to give your site a boost.

With these 10 tips, you’re ready to let your EDO website shine. Want to know where your website stands? Contact us for a complimentary web audit and chance to discuss areas for improvement. Email me at patience.fairbrother@aboutdci.com to express your interest.

Patience Fairbrother

Written by Patience Fairbrother

Patience is a Senior Account Executive in DCI’s Economic Development Division. Since joining in 2014, she’s worked with clients including the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, Choose New Jersey, Orlando Economic Development Commission and the Charleston Regional Development Alliance.

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