Steps to Build a Blue Trail: Promote

Create a Website

ar-bluetrails-siteThe Internet is a primary source of information for travelers and tourists. Unlike printed materials, websites can be constantly updated. You can provide current information about weather conditions, special events, services along the blue trail, and change photographs of your Blue Trail according to the seasons.

Depending on the technology you choose, you don’t have to be a computer wizard to create and manage a website. Database technology makes it easy to create and manage a website without using an expensive web designer. The key to developing a useful website that is visited again and again is to establish a unique presence and offer accurate and useful information. Below is basic information on the website creation process.

Get started

Consider your budget: Can you afford a static site or one that is interactive?  If necessary, begin with a simple homepage and build on it as your budget allows.

Find the expertise: Look within your group of supporters first. There may be someone who knows how to create a website. The more elaborate your site, the more likely you’ll need to hire a professional.

Find a hosting service: Look at the websites of other groups and contact them for referrals for websites you find particularly useful and attractive. Be sure to check out services that have been set up for blogs (Blogger, Typepad, and WordPress are some examples). These are often easy-to-use tools that also have designs that are ready to use immediately. This will help you get started faster 

Ask yourself basic questions: How will the site be updated and monitored? Will email be built-in? If so, who will respond to email messages? Is a professional web master needed to manage the site? Is there a volunteer or staff person able to take on this responsibility?

Determine your style: Consider what you’d like for graphics, colors, text, and a background for your page. Be sure to use colors and themes from your local area. This will pull in the local flavor and engage your audience quickly.

Create a unique address: Your URL or domain name should be short, simple, and one that people will remember.

Determine your audience: This will help shape what content you need as well as how you say it.

Use what’s available: Use existing materials such as brochures, videos, and newsletters on your website. Repurpose content as much as possible. If you write a brochure, pull out pieces for blog posts. A videotaped interview can become a blog post. Pull out the sound and you have a podcast.

Locate photographs: Photos can help convey your message more powerfully than words.

Show off your logo: Use your logo throughout your website.

Website content

Accurate and current information: Focus on the content, not so much on how it looks. People will return to your website if they can count on getting the basic, yet accurate information they need.

Make your home page easy to read: Don’t clutter it with too much information.  Give users an easy way to find topics.

Avoid too many photos or lengthy video: Everyone hates to wait for something that takes a long time to download. A good rule of thumb is that a video should not be longer than 3 minutes.

Track usage: This will help you see what does and does not work. While it is helpful to know how many people are coming to your site, it is even more important to know where they came from (referring sites) and what content they liked the most. Use that information to help with your marketing as well as to shape what content you build out on your site.

Get the word out

Advertise your website: Put your website address on all your printed materials, including brochures, newsletters, business cards, and letterhead.

Register your website: Make sure that your site is listed on Google and Yahoo. This will help you get found. Be careful when using services the “guarantee” listings on “thousands of search engines and websites.” Some of these companies are not reputable and your site may get flagged as spam.

Link to related websites: Get them to link to yours as well. Connect with other attractions in your area that have websites. Don’t forget your state tourism office, and other state and regional websites.

Create an email address: Provide a feedback mechanism so potential visitors can communicate with you.

Create a photo blog: A typical blog uses text as its primary form of communication, in a photo blog the emphasis is photographs.