Is Your Website Doing Its Job?
Is Your Website Doing Its Job?
If not, it might be time for your annual website audit!
The role of a website in a club's overall marketing strategy is so important, now more so than ever--and yet it is often one piece of the marketing puzzle that is not utilized to its fullest potential.
In the past, building a website for a company was something you accomplished as a project, and when it was done, the task was over. The site was then often left out in cyberspace to stand on its own day after day, usually unattended, while the membership marketing team waited for it to bring in those new inquiries via a simple form on the contact page. Most often, the results were less than stellar.
Today in the latter half of 2017, the role of your website is entirely different, and all successful golf, country, city, or yacht clubs get it – they know that having a professional website built to specifically attract new members and engage & retain existing ones is key to their on-going growth and a robust membership base with a strong dues line.
If your online presence is not bringing you new member inquiries fairly frequently, chances are your web marketing efforts may be failing you and it’s time for an audit of your digital marketing strategy.
Here are some considerations to take into account to ensure that your website measures up to today's standards:
Have a Stunning Home Page
When someone lands on your home page, they should be impressed by striking imagery that loads quickly and accentuates the most breathtaking views of your club, its facilities, and surroundings. Your website should exude professionalism through a streamlined design, and concise copy writing. Partnership or membership symbols, such as the Platinum Club logo, your management company logo or other reciprocal club logos should be prominently displayed if you participate in any of those programs. If the website doesn't exude professionalism and offer a quick, impressive view of your club, determine what's missing and call in your web guru to get it fixed.
Photo by Dave Sansom Photography
Be Mobile Friendly
In 2017, it’s all about being mobile friendly. According to Statcounter.com, in November 2016 worldwide mobile internet usage surpassed desktop usage for the first time in history, and in the USA mobile access has reached 42% of total web access, and climbing.
Courtesy of StatCounter
In addition, Google tells us that nine out of ten people will leave a mobile website if they can’t find what they’re looking for right away. Those numbers should all be a huge wakeup call for any club, to make sure that their website is mobile friendly.
Ask your website manager to show you the access percentage of mobile versus desktop devices for your website, and test the speed your website for mobile format via this Google test page.
Ease of Updating Selected Pages
Gone are the days of needing to call your web developer every time you need to make a content update. Current web Content Management Systems (CMS) and most membership management systems that contain a website component make it easy for in-house staff to make frequent changes to Blog, Events, and News pages, thereby keeping that content current and relevant. Consider assigning responsibility of these pages to key staff members, and to allow them to moderate and post to your social media pages.
If your website doesn’t have this easy updating capability, call your web designer or management system support team and get it set up.
Claim or Create your Local Search Profile in Google, Bing and Yahoo Search
This is another often overlooked aspect of online marketing, but one that is important for organizations like private clubs who often rely primarily on local residents for the bulk of their membership base. Google states that 88% of people looking for local information have taken action related to their initial search within one day, so optimizing your Google listing and other search engines with great content helps potential members find you--and become interested in you--more efficiently.
Go to www.google.com/local, search for your club by name, and then claim & update the profile with complete and accurate information including location, hours, directions, contact information, photos, etc. Do the same for Bing and Yahoo Search, though Google is by far the most used search engine.
Describe Your Facilities & Services in Detail
Does your website describe in clear yet concise details all the amenities and services that your club offers to its members? Perhaps you added or renovated services or facilities, but those changes (and appropriate updated photography) are not yet reflected on the website.
Your website content should include complete details of what you have to offer members, by allowing them to “drill down” to specific detail pages. For example you could create individual pages to cover the pro shop and golf course, another for tennis facilities, another for dining and entertainment, another for events, etc. Provided that your copy is clear and to the point, your content will serve to not only answer most of the frequently asked questions by members, but also encourage potential new members to envision themselves at your club and want to learn more.
Simple Website Navigation Structure
This should go without saying, but be sure that your site has a clear navigational structure and that visitors can get around the site easily without getting lost or misdirected. Most modern website Content Management Systems (CMS) will make this easy to accomplish, but if your site is of an older style with many levels resembling a maze, you may want to consider a new website structure that is easier and more intuitive to navigate.
One word of caution though - if you are considering rebuilding your site at any time, avoid taking down the old site right away, even after you have launched the new website. Instead, run them in parallel for at least six months and perhaps as long as twelve, but place a banner or some other notice at the top of every single one of the old pages, asking the visitor to “Click here to go to our new website”.
Why is this so important? If you delete your old website, and replace it with a new site that has a different file structure, you will lose all your search engine links and links from other websites to your site that have taken years to build up. This is a common misstep when launching rebuilt websites, and can be a devastating mistake that erases years of work.
Keywords and “SEO”
Do you know what your primary website keywords are, and how to use proper SEO to attract visitors who use them?
“SEO”, short for Search Engine Optimization, is simply a fancy term for making sure that your website text includes the right keywords that potential members are using to search for you; for example, "yacht club Annapolis" or "private club Dallas". Scores of books have been written on this subject, but the basic technique is relatively simple – provide well written website content that incorporates those keywords in a logical manner across many pages. Applying good SEO techniques to your website is huge when it comes to attracting website traffic, and that also applies to content such as your Blog, News and Events sections that may be maintained by in-house staff. Ask your website guru to explain the SEO strategy for your website, and together you can come up with a list of key words to use going forward.
Maintain a Current "Current Events" Page
Members want to know what events or special offers are coming up this weekend, next week, next month or even for the entire year. This should be simple for your in-house staff to do with no website manager required. Assign a staff member to handle your events page, and be sure to post events well in advance (and take them down approximately 48 hours after the event has ended). Keeping your events page current with all the relevant details, including RSVP or registration links, is another good sign to members that you are "switched on" and committed to engaging them and providing an exciting member experience.
However, depending on your club's marketing strategy and brand identity, an "Events" page that is located behind a member login security wall may hamper your members' use of the page for RSVP or simply visiting to confirm the event details. Forcing members to log in to their online portal every time they want to find out what's going on at the club could become cumbersome and frustrating.
Provide Clear & Complete Contact Details
Your website Contact Page should provide complete contact details of all major departments, including front desk, pro shop, dining reservations, catering department, tennis shop, etc. If you prefer to list only the main club phone number, the best practice for member service is to have a live person answering that phone. Callers can become irritated or even hang up when forced to sit through a recorded message listing the extensions of all departments before they can move on to the person with whom they wish to speak. However, if you must have a recorded answering service, consider using it to your advantage to promote upcoming events in the recording while someone is on hold.
Include your operating hours and clear directions to your club from different directions, ideally with an embedded Google map.
Use a Call To Action for Every Department Make it easy for your members to get what they want--and entice potential members to enjoy the same benefits--by providing a "Call to Action" for each department. For example, on the golf course/pro shop page--ask them to book a tee time. On the tennis facilities page, ask players to reserve a court. Website visitors usually welcome suggestions on what they can do and when, and asking them to take action helps them make the decision.
If all this sounds complicated--I get it! Many clubs are feeling the pangs of modernizing and adapting to a new technologically savvy world. But truthfully, a solid website strategy isn’t as complex as it may seem at first blush. These activities simply need to be scheduled into the mix and the responsibilities spread across multiple people so as not to overwhelm any one person.
In the end it’s all about driving traffic (i.e. potential members, guests, outside events, and members themselves seeking quick information) to a professional and inviting website, and then using your site and its related digital resources to continue to develop your vibrant community of loyal members.
With a thorough checkup of your current website and a clear plan of action to tackle each step required, it’s all attainable.
Here are a few resources to help you test your site for common problems:
A simple website review and SEO Audit Tool that will generate a quick and easy-to-read SEO audit of any web page.
Issues a report based on performance, mobile, SEO and security
Issues a report based on overview, general SEO, speed, server & security, mobile usability and advanced SEO.
If you're interested in obtaining a comprehensive website audit, the RCS Hospitality Group offers several options to suit your needs. We can also consult on design, service providers, SEO management, and other tools.