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www.birmingham.gov.uk Alpha project - Marketing campaigns on the home page

simon gray - 2013-02-20, 10:12:31

Back in late September 2012, as part of my work at Birmingham City Council, I instigated and led on a programme of incremental improvements to the council's website, blogging about the ideas and progress along the way, taking inspiration from Shropshire Council's Project WIP and the Government Digital Service work on www.gov.uk. The site on which I blogged has been taken down now, but I thought it worth reposting the more broad-reaching content from it here.

As well as the issue of images on the home page, another issue which has been the subject of a fair amount of internal discussion is the one of marketing campaigns on the home page.

Our current site – like almost every other council website in the country – has an area on the home page devoted marketing campaigns, such as where we promote our commercial property portfolio, advice about staying warm in winter, or information about public question time at full council meetings.

It’s part of the received wisdom of how a council website is constructed that the council has messages it needs to communicate to the public, and the place for it to communicate those messages is via the home page, because the home page is the most important page of the site, isn’t it?

We now challenge that received wisdom.

We have a number of evidential reasons to challenge the notion that the best place to market to our audience is via the home page, plus the consideration of what is the established marketing good practice of segmenting your market and targeting your campaign material according to your audience. Clearly, mixing messages about democracy, winter warmth advice for the elderly, and commercial property to let all in the same campaign space flies in the face of that good practice.

Looking at the actual statistical evidence, of the 34,400,030 pageviews our main website has had in the last 12 months, only 1,617,239 of them – 4.7% – have been of the home page. Looking at the first page people arrive on the site, you might expect that most people indeed arrive at the site on the home page. Wrong! Of the 9,049,851visits the site has received in the last 12 months, only 1,098,829 of them, or 12%, have arrived at the site via the home page.

The majority of our site visitors – 68.37% of them – arrived arrived at the site via a search engine. 18.24% were via referrals, and only 13.38% were ‘direct’ traffic, and of the direct traffic only 273,501 of the visits were of people actually typing www.birmingham.gov.uk into their browser bar; the overwhelming majority of visitors typed keywords relating to the service they required into Google, which took them straight to the information they were looking for bypassing the home page entirely.

Even of those views of the home page itself, whilst we can’t know how many visitors read and digested any of the information in the home page campaigns, we can tell how many people went to the pages referenced by them. Looking at some of our current home page campaigns over the last three months:

  • Stay Warm, Stay Well – 748 pageviews,
  • LGBT Network – 116 pageviews,
  • Birmingham Bulletin – 4,609 pageviews (this page is actually extensively marketed elsewhere, too),
  • Fostering –551 pageviews,
  • Question time – 225 pageviews, and
  • Cycling routes – 461 pageviews

During that three month period, the home page itself received 380,378 pageviews; removing the anomoly of the Bulletin campaign has an average pageviews for the campaigns of 420, giving a maximum potential clickthrough rate for those campaigns of 0.001262, or 0.1%.

Clearly from a marketing perspective, marketing via the home page is a sub-optimal strategy.

Our proposed alternative is to shift the campaign boxes from the home page to each segment landing page – so campaigns of interest to residents will be on the residents landing page, campaigns for business on the business landing page, etc, and further use the right hand sidebar of the the pages to deliver other more focussed and targeted campaign material direct to the customers who need it.

This way, we believe everybody will win – customers will see the campaigns which are relevant to them, and service areas will be sure their campaigns are going to the relevant audiences.

#localgovdigital #localgov

In group Public / Third Sector Digital

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