Building eGovernment Websites


Public Awareness

How Do I Maintain Awareness Of My eGovernment Website?

The promotion of your site should not stop after its initial launch (see: How Do I Launch My Website?).

In fact, the promotion of your site really starts once the site is online, not before, as now it is possible for other sites to provide links to yours. Online promotion is perhaps the most effective form of promotion, as it takes advantage of the key feature of the World Wide Web, the possibility to link from one document to another, and between separate sites. Users navigating other parts of the web can therefore be directed to your site: this will only happen if you publicise your site through the web. This can be done in a variety of ways:

Beyond this, a key factor in improving search engine visibility is to have good quality content, written in simple and understandable language, and providing alternative definitions or wordings for the same concept: this is because search engines employ "spider" software (called this way because it runs through the web from point to point like a spider would do), which scans through the contents of each page it comes across on the web and stores the words it contains for reference. If what you write in your site corresponds closely to what users of search engines are looking for, it is more likely that the site's address will rank high in the results. And because users are likely to define and call things in different ways, it will help if you consider this when writing contents for your site, and therefore spell out clearly and in several ways the information you intend to convey.

Another important vehicle for the online promotion of websites is e-mail, as it often allows you to include "clickable" links in the body of text: this means that the recipients of e-mail with links in them are just one click away from reaching your site, thus making it a very effective and direct means of promotion. In order to fully take advantage of the promotional value of e-mail, it would be useful to compile mailing lists, made of the addresses of visitors to your website: these can be obtained by asking users to register for specific services, or by logging their address when they make enquiries online. You can then send these users newsletters , which regularly provide them with information about the site, and about any updates or new features, or which generally publicise the site's existence, thus maintaining public awareness. But note that if you choose to use e-mail as a promotional medium, you should make sure that users are informed that their e-mail address may be used for this purpose, and that they are always given the possibility to "opt out" from these mailings (or, even better, allow them to "opt in" voluntarily, rather than include them by default in your lists). Sending unsolicited mail is likely to detract from the image of your agency, and in many countries it is also illegal.

The other main strategy to maintain awareness of your site is offline promotion , using traditional communication channels. For a start, you should make sure the address of your site is always included in your official literature: not just reports, brochures and other publications but also letterheads, business cards and e-mail signature files. Secondly, you could consider including promotional brochures or cards in your agency's customary postal mailings (e.g. in reply to a query, or attached to a bill) to make recipients aware that information or transaction mechanisms are also available via your website. If budget allows, you could also consider regular or one-off public awareness campaigns through the media (press, radio, TV), where the benefits of the site are illustrated in direct and effective ways.

Finally, never underestimate the power of word of mouth as a promotional tool, which again is connected to the quality of the service you provide: if users are satisfied with your website, it is likely that they will make other potential users aware of its existence, and personal recommendations from trusted individuals often tend to rank higher in people's considerations than public promotional or advertising campaigns.

However you choose to promote your website, you should always make sure that the techniques you adopt are realistic, especially in financial terms, and that they target the right audiences in the right way. A low-budget but constant and promotional effort may work better than big, "one-off" promotional activities, and it will be also easier to fine tune according to the lessons you learn with experience.

Page Author: Andrea Bardelli Danieli. Last updated on 19 October, 2008.
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