I think we would all agree that a website is not an option for any organization, it’s a requirement. Your website can be one of the most effective communication tools that you have. Since we deal with technology, we get asked about websites a lot. Most of those questions revolve around what should be included on your site. While each community is unique, there are some things that we believe should be included on most sites.
You are likely going to be the go-to for the community when it comes to your downtown. If someone can’t remember the name of a business, they may find your site looking for them. Likewise, your site can be a way to introduce your businesses to people who would otherwise not know of them. Having a business directory is an essential part of any downtown website.
Another question we often get when it comes to business directories is “Do I put my members or all businesses on the site?” To answer this question, you have to ask yourself who your website is for. I can’t tell you there is an absolute right or wrong answer, but I can share with you what we choose to do as an organization and why.
For us, we realized that the website was for the community. If someone was on the corner and pulled up our website and that business they were standing in front of wasn’t on our website, that hurts our credibility as being the authority on downtown. That consumer doesn’t know that the business hasn’t paid membership dues or participated in any events, and they don’t care. They just want the business’ information and we should be able to help with that. That is why we chose to list every business on our website. However, we did have ways of providing something extra to our members. Those who joined the organization got things such as a logo and the opportunity to add more to their listing than just hours and contact information. For us, this was the right mix between functionality for customers and highlighting participating businesses.
You want people to come to your downtown, so you have to let them know about ways that they can get involved. Beyond your calendar, you also want to have a page for each of your major events throughout the year.
That page will help boost your search engine optimization (SEO) as well as give you the ability to expand on what makes that event so great. You can thank sponsors, and even recruit people to participate. If your site has e-commerce functionality (not many downtowns have this) you can sell tickets to things directly through that page as well. If you don’t have e-commerce you can link to sites like Eventbrite that allow you to sell tickets and collect payment.
Having these in addition to your basic calendar is a great way to show more of what makes your downtown unique.
In addition to being a place customers are coming, your website will attract both businesses needing assistance and entrepreneurs looking to start. You want to make sure your downtown provides them with the tools they need to not only be successful, but be successful in your district.
There are a number of resources that most main streets have, such as design assistance, business coaching, and more. These are great tools that should be explained. Having a page on your site that describes all the business assistance is wonderful. It will also help boost your SEO when people are searching where to go for help. Linking applications and other tools here will make you the go-to site for assistance.
One resource that I have found very helpful is a space available listing. Admittedly, this was the hardest to maintain as things change frequently. However, showcasing what is available in your district will inevitably peak someone’s interest. There are also properties that won’t show up on realtor sites because they aren’t available for sale. This helps make your organization even more valuable to property owners as well when you start to help fill vacancies.
If you have these three elements on your site, you have the makings of a very useful and productive website. Of course there are other things that need to be considered too, such as design, responsiveness (mobile-friendliness), and more. You will want to make sure that you have a plan for updating the website regularly to keep information current. While this may seem like a chore, I can assure you that is time well spent.
If you are curious about where to start with a new website, I would encourage you to check out this blog about a website RFP so that you can ensure all the proposals you are getting back will be comparable with features and functionality. If you have questions specifically about your organization, we encourage you to contact us and we would be happy to assist you.