I am often asked by economic developers why a dedicated economic development site is so much better than a few pages on a municipal website. Here are 6 good reasons:
- Get found! It is much easier to find your community and site selection information on a dedicated ED website than on sub-pages of a municipal website. Consider:
- A URL that says "InvestInMyTown.ca" or "MyCityForBusiness.ca" versus "MyTown/business/planninganddevelopment/index.php?page=152?.
- Search engines are better able to deep index all pages of a dedicated ED website with appropriate page URLs, page titles, page descriptions and meta-information. This means that individual pages of your dedicated ED website will show up in search results where the query is related to page content rather than general economic development. So if a potential investor searches "YourTown available properties", the available properties page of a dedicated ED site will appear at the top of the search results. Pages of local residential real estate brokers are usually the top search results for queries on economic development pages within a municipal website.
- Over 90% of site searches begin on the web. Site selectors may tap into a content rich website 7-9 times as they move through the search and due diligence phases of locating a project.
- Messaging: Your investment is important to us. A dedicated website says that economic development is important to your community. What message is sent if economic development is buried three levels down in a municipal website, compared to your competitor's dedicated ED website?
- Ease of navigation, content organization. In today's world of site selection, it is really an exercise in site elimination, which can occur in seconds by the way! Top site selector frustrations include poorly organized content, and navigation that is not simple, quick and intuitive. These objectives are extremely difficult to achieve when ED content is part of a much larger website, over which you have little control.
- Flexibility and control of content, branding, and updates. When a clerk can't access the local network, and you want to provide an important property availability update on your portion of the municipal website, who will get the priority from the always over-worked IT staff? A dedicated ED website gives you control over content, when and how often it gets updated, and the branding to complement your marketing plan. A dedicated ED website encourages you to prepare appropriate content that is properly organized, more than a simple municipal economic development web page does.
- Integration of social media. Social media, an integral part of your marketing strategy, should be driving people to your ED website, and not be hampered by the corporate IT rules and regulations.
The Importance of Maps in Economic Development
A site selector finds Aurora's economic development website. But is it the right Aurora? A quick google search reveals an Aurora in each of Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, and Oregon in addition to Aurora, Ontario. A good location map answers the questions: do I have the right Aurora, and where is Aurora in relation to (name a city)?
Everyone is familiar with the expression 'a picture can speak a thousand words'. This is especially true for maps used in economic development websites and marketing materials. Maps are highly sought after by site selectors because a good map can convey a lot of information very quickly. Imagine yourself reading a description along these lines "Our city is located along highway X near highway Y. The city is approximately 200 km west of City W and 150 Km east of Municipality Z". Wouldn't you rather glance at a good map and observe the same and much more spatial information in an instant? Trust us, so does a site selector.
In a study performed specifically looking at site selectors' use of Economic Development websites, it was ascertained that 84% of users were either very likely or somewhat likely to visit a page entitled 'maps' (Economic Development Website Users Study 2008, by Chabin Concepts and Austin Consulting - two of our strategic partners, along with First Energy). Obviously good maps are considered a useful tool by site selectors, and they seek them out whenever they can.
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The most obvious and necessary map to have in your arsenal is a good Location Map - this map will quickly reference where your community is located with respect to major recognizable cities, provinces and/or states, and landmarks such as the Great Lakes. Some other useful maps are Distance to Market/Market Access Map, Transportation Map, and Labour Shed Map. Examples are shown below.
As with other graphics used in marketing materials, the appearance of your maps will help set the professional appearance of your site and are "re-useable" in your marketing materials and publications, such as the community profile. Maps need to be professionally prepared by a graphic designer (GIS-generated maps are not suitable), need to be simple and readable, and have a modern appearance and colour selection. Lastly, make sure your maps are highly visible and easy to find from the home page of your website - you don't want these useful gems to go to waste.
Market Access Map
Labour Shed Map