[Written for synagogues but applicable for all organizations.]
The purpose of your website is to communicate with your community. But, what happens if after checking out your website‘s analytic data, you discover that very few people are in fact visiting your website. This can be quite disheartening and frustrating. After all, you’ve invested so much time and energy into your website. It’s a big let down when you discover that your site isn’t being actively used by your community.
First, try not to panic and resist the urge to hire an expensive SEO specialist who is promising great results. Instead, take a hard look at how you may be driving your members away.
1. Members are too reliant upon your email newsletters
Carefully study the last two newsletters you sent to members. If your emails are packed with every last detail, then you are training your members to view your newsletters and not your website as the central source for information. Think about it. Why would they go to your website when they can get all the info they need from an email?
Emails are a form of notification. You are notifying your community that an upcoming event is happening. Then, use linked text and images to drive your members from their inbox to your website for more information. This is critical. By consciously making such a shift, you are letting your members know that your website is where they should always go to learn more. Over time, members will go to your website on their own with out being prompted. Learn more about best practices for email marketing.
2. You aren‘t actively updating your website
If your website contains the same information week after week and month after month, eventually your community will stop visiting. Without fresh content, your website loses its relevancy.
The same is true for images. If those cute, smiling preschoolers in your homepage slideshow are now getting ready for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah, it’s time to update those pics!
Keeping your site up–to–date with new info is important in actively encouraging your community to use and value your site.
3. Your Website Is not mobile friendly
When was the last time you looked at your website on a mobile device? If it’s been a while, grab your phone and have a look. If your website isn’t responsive or optimized for mobile, you are setting up members up for a sub par experience. If your members are struggling to navigate your website, they tend to lose interest quickly.
4. Your menu navigation is a mess
Your menu is the backbone of your website. A well organized menu allows your members to quickly and easily find the content they are looking for. When you have too many main menu items and too many secondary menu items, the end result is that your members become overwhelmed and can’t cut through the clutter to find what they are looking for.
It‘s counter intuitive, but fewer menu items means that those remaining gain greater prominence. Challenge yourself to limit your main menu navigation to 5-6 items. Use concise, yet descriptive terms to describe the items housed within that menu. And, when it comes to 2nd tier menu items (those nested beneath a main menu item), as tough as this is, try to keep it to 6-8 items. When it comes to your menu, less is more!
Resist the urge to attach every page to a menu. I cannot emphasize this enough. Not every page needs to be accessible via a menu. I was recently on a synagogue website that had 25 pages that were all connected to the same main menu item. Pages for the Sisterhood, Brotherhood, Birthdays, Adult Education, Donors for the Hanukkah pledge, and the Rabbi’s blog were all housed within the same menu, which, strangely enough, was named for the synagogue newsletter. Feeling confused? Me too.
5. Members Can‘t Find What They Are Looking For
There are many reasons why a member may become lost during a visit to your website. More often than not, it’s either because your menu is disorganized or because content is being housed within the wrong menu item (see item #4). Going back to our earlier example, why would a member look for info on Adult Education under a menu named for the synagogue newsletter?
Remember, certain items like Membership are so critical that they deserve their own menu. Otherwise, a prospective member is left wondering “do I look for info on Membership within the About menu, Community menu, or somewhere else?”
Your website is your online home. You want your members to actively use it. Begin to slowly make changes based on feedback from your members and website best practices. As you actively direct your community to your website on a consistent basis, they will use it more and more. Give them a little nudge – and you’ll begin to reap the rewards.
Jen Lieberman is the client relationship manager at Jvillage.
Cross-posted on Jvillage Network’s blog.