As we are constantly looking for and linking to websites of historical interest we have listed below 16 tips for history societies to use to help promote themselves to the wider community.
1. Keep your website up to date
If your site is out of date or it looks as though it is not maintained, visitors may think your group is inactive. They are unlikely to consider becoming members or support you if they think the group has disbanded. If you can't keep your pages up to date consider making a Facebook page for news and interaction and just put generic information on your site.
2. Check for broken links
Check the links you have to external sites regularly to make sure they are not broken and that they're still relevant. Don't rely on your visitors to tell you if a link is wrong or broken - they won't. Always make links to external pages open in a new browser tab or new window so that your visitor stays with your site.
3. Put your physical address on your website
If you have a physical location that's open to visitors, state the full address clearly including the State and Postcode. These days many people use online mapping or GPS to find locations and these are usually dependant on the device being provided with at least a street name, city and state.
One of the oddest addresses we've seen goes something like this:
"Our office is located in the Library building. Go in to the library, past the information desk and then turn right. Walk another few metres and you will find us through the first door on the right."
While specific directions are great also remember to provide the actual address as a separate item.
Also, avoid putting something like "2 Smith St, (next to the old Bakery, turn right at the courthouse), Smithfield". People are quite capable of finding you if they have the actual address.
4. State your opening hours or where/when you meet
Don't make visitors arrive at something that is not open. If your location is not always open, at least ask visitors to phone ahead for details. If you regularly meet, tell your visitors where and when and state whether visitors are welcome to attend, if it's for members only or if there is a fee involved.
5. Display readable text
Centering everything on the page may seem like a great idea for something like a wedding invitation. However, humans logically read the English language left to right. Make it easy for your site visitors by putting your text in left aligned magazine (non-justified) or newspaper (justified) format.
6. Put the name of your society in text on each page
Some people's internet browsers block images so if you rely on an image (picture) to display the name of your society it may not be seen. Also, search engines like Google cannot read text within images, therefore if you want to be listed in the search engines, give them some text to index.
7. Have some way to be contacted
If you want to be contacted, clearly state a phone number or at least give your visitors a contact form to fill out. Make sure someone is actually able to answer the phone and that the email address works and is received and responded by someone at your end.
8. Go straight to the home page
Having an "entry page" is not good practice. Give the visitor the minimum amount of clicks necessary to get to the information you want them to see. "Entry" pages are old school and annoy people especially if they take some time to load.
9. Avoid weird colour schemes and stranger fonts
Not all computer screens will render your content exactly as you anticipate. Stuffing it with all the colours of the rainbow and lots of clipart may possibly put your visitors off. You may want to display your headlines using ye olde' English alphabet but remember that unless the font is installed on your visitors device (PC, phone etc) they will probably see it as dull Times New Roman and your creative efforts will have been in vain. Use simple generic fonts that are pleasing to the eye and easy to read.
10. Make sure your site is fast to load
Sites that are slow to load are usually attributable to one of two things, large or too many images on the page or slow unreliable hosting. Make sure your website hosting is reliable and fast. Sometimes cheap or free hosting is so slow that ist is actually detrimental to your site in such that visitors will give up and move on. Also, Google will penalise your site in its index if it's slow to load, this includes pages that are stuffed with big images. Speak to your web developer if there are issues or find good hosting if you do it yourself.
11. Be responsive
If your website was built before the invention of the iPad then it may as well have been built before the Arc. These days with the wonder of iPads and tablets, your website should be responsive (resize) according to the device being used to view it. This is called responsive web design (RWD) and means it should be viewable on as many browsing devices as possible right down to an iPhone.
12. Ensure the website is not down or infected
Make sure your site is "up" and that it is not infected with virii that may be harmful to the visitor's pc. Make sure the PC you use to update your website is virus free to avoid uploading harmful things to your site.
13. Encourage your visitors to join your group
If you accept members be clear about how to join, what benefits are available and how much it costs and for how long.
14. Monetise your site
There are many ways to generate revenue from your site to enhance your membership coffers. Pay-per-click advertising is one method, banner advertising is another. Maybe ask your local businesses to pay a fee for a banner ad. Usually you will need to provide them with some visitor statistics so make sure you track your visitors by using something like Google Analytics.
15. Acknowledge your supporters
Remember to show support in kind and acknowledge anyone who supports your group. Link to their site and ask them to link to yours.
16. Ask for help
Good on you for having an internet site! Keep it relevant and ask for help.
Speak to your web developer for ideas. If you are a non-profit and they have agreed to help - ask them to - especially if they have a link to their business on your site.
If you are a member of a publicly funded association ask them to help you promote your group. The benefits are mutual.
Speak to your local council. If your group is promoting your district then your local council should support you. Also, if your group is the local "keeper of the history" then it is in their interests to help you gather and preserve it and promote it. People are interested in history for a variety of reasons including family research, architecture, archaeology, monuments, education, lifestyle and general history. Many will often visit the district in their area of interest so your group is potentially a valuable tourism drawcard and resource - make the most of your assets by asking for support. Many local councils may have professional web people that can help you.
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- The disappearing men - using census records
- Following naming conventions in genealogy
- Come find me, actually come find me
- Improved Victorian BDM
- Adopting a grave
- Finding burial information - tips and traps
- Find a history group faster
- Grave destruction
- 16 tips to promote your history group website
- 14th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry