NCSE Website Re-designs are a Hit with Location Hunters

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Last fall, North Carolina’s Southeast unveiled a newly designed website that includes links to extensive regional economic and workforce data, county and industry “cluster” profiles, mapping images, testimonials and an innovative “report builder” that allows users to array, store and print information relevant to their unique needs. The site has quickly demonstrated its value as an initial point-of-contact for site seekers interested in the Southeast Region. From its launch on November 1, 2011, up to the first week of April, the region’s new website had received 10,401 visits – about three-quarters of which were “unique,” or first-time, visitors.

The impressive overall number, as well as the distinction between new and returning visits, is encouraging evidence that the Southeast Region’s online presence stands out in the thickly populated universe of economic development websites. “Having a high ratio of first-time visits indicates that new potential clients are finding us easily via search engines and our email marketing campaigns,” explains Bart Richardson, marketing research developer at North Carolina’s Southeast.  Analytical reporting tools show that in that in its initial five months, the new site gathered 21,989 page views.  The relatively low ratio of visitors to page views speaks encouragingly to the site’s user-friendliness, Mr. Richardson says. “Analyzing page-views provides us with a pretty good idea of how engaging our website is and how easy it is to navigate.”

Where are the region’s virtual visitors spending the most time? “The mapping page and the buildings and sites pages are the ‘stickiest’ sections of our site,” Mr. Richardson says, referring to the tendency of virtual visitors to “stick around” them for several minutes. “That tells me that a lot of site-selection consultants are spending time on our site,” says Mr. Richardson, who utilizes Google Analytics in making weekly and even daily assessments of the website’s effectiveness. “It’s an incredibly versatile tool -- arranging and tracking every imaginable metric right down to landing pages and exit pages,” he says.

Research published last September by New York-based Development Counsellors International (DCI) found that 65 percent of location consultants use the Internet “often” in identifying and comparing potential corporate destinations. Thirty-five percent of executives at large companies reported turning to the Web “often” to sort out location options, DCI found, with 31 percent of small business executives saying they often conducted location research this way.