Did you know that most visitors leave a website within 10 seconds of landing on the home page? And they may never return to the same site. What's worse is going though all the trouble of creating a professional association website that nobody comes to visit!
To keep your website visitors staying longer, you need to engage them. Here are eight free tools to drive traffic to your website:
Free Tool #1: Blog
Weblogs or "blogs" are websites that take the form of online journals, which can be easily updated for web users to read. A blog is the absolutely easiest way to provide regularly updated information to your members. The key to a successful association blog is to make it fun and interesting. Fresh blog posts covering upcoming association activities and industry-related happenings keep members coming back to your site to check for new content. Visit Blogger.com to get started.
Here are a few examples of nonprofit blogs:
Free Tool # 2: Podcasts/Vodcasts
Podcasts and vodcasts (video podcasts) are a great way to reach out to members and serve as a benefit to new members who may have missed that great speaker or event. All that is required are basic tools for clear audio, basic mixing and editing - and most of these tools can be obtained online for free. Check out Techsoup’s article on how to record, edit, and promote a podcast to get started. Turn to Britt Bravo's 7 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Podcasts for tips and ideas.
Here are a few examples of association podcasts/vodcasts:
Free Tool # 3: RSS
RSS stands for "Rich Site Summary" or "Really Simple Syndication". Simply put, it is a way to deliver frequently changing web content. By plugging links into something called an RSS feed reader or aggregator, your visitors can retrieve the newest content offerings from your website while saving the time it takes to visit each site. Many RSS feed readers are available, and they all allow you to display content for reading at your leisure. To find out more about RSS, read this article. Make sure that your website offers RSS feeds where relevant - typical examples are blog and news pages, event pages.
Free Tool #4: Polls
Incorporating polls into your website is a great way to engage and connect with your visitors. Polldaddy.com provides its users with near limitless features at no cost. The service is ad-free and you can create a poll and customize it to fit into your site design.
Free Tool # 5: Surveys
Similar to Polldaddy, SurveyMonkey.com gives you the ability to post free surveys on your web page to help you connect with and understand those visiting your site. The free service allows users to add logos and banners, change colors and customize in many different ways. Basic subscribers are limited to a total of 10 questions and 100 responses per survey. The basic subscription is free. If you want to go beyond 100 respondents, up to 1000, and gain access to many more features, there is a cost.
Free Tool #6: Tell-a-Friend link
Make sure that all your e-mail newsletters and articles contain a link that can be used by the visitor to send to a friend. In other words, make your site forward friendly. Including a Tell-a-Friend link is a very effective way to get new visitors to your website.
Free Tool #7: Flickr
Flickr is an easy-to-use online photo-sharing site that uses tags to facilitate finding people and photos. Encourage your members to share their event and meeting photos by posting them to Flickr and tagging them with key terms related to your event. In addition, you can add these photos to your site, along with interesting and updated content - plus, photos are a huge traffic draw, so you’ll be guaranteed some extra member visitors.
See also our earlier post: Five Ways Nonprofits Can Use Flickr to Reach New Audiences
Free Tool #8: Social Networking Sites
Facebook and MySpace provide a tremendous tool for driving traffic to your website. Besides using them to keep in touch with your friends, they are very effective networking tools for associations and other nonprofits to create awareness and connect with their community. You can also use them to publicize an event, raise awareness for a cause, or promote your blog. With MySpace you can enlist and create weblogs and photo galleries, make unique designs to the MySpace template for a more personal look to individual pages, and above all, connect with other people.
Take a look at the Humane Society's Facebook page and MySpace page, which integrate multimedia, event management and more. Get started today to promote your association's website. Assign a few people to join and set up profiles, find out what communities there are and start participating. Turn to the Beginner's Guide to Facebook and Promote your cause on Facebook for the details and how-tos.
There are many more ways to promote your website. If one of these tools doesn’t work for you find another, but do something. And remember - the secret to winning more web traffic is by making your site informative and user friendly.
Soha El-Borno is a writer specializing in stories about web technology and social media tools for nonprofits, charities, associations, clubs and other member-based organizations. She writes for the Wild Apricot Blog and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.