A blog about digital government, communications, citizen satisfaction & engagement, GovDelivery, and other e-government issues
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By the GovDelivery Security Team

As a government communicator, you know your organization is constantly in the spotlight, and a phishing scam causes one fire you hope you never have to put out.  But when you operate with a high profile, you’re much more likely to become a target for phishers and spoofers. Here are a few tips on how you can prepare.

 What is spoofing and phishing?

  • Spoofing is when an unidentified sender attempts to send an email from your domain (or a similar domain) in order to trick unsuspecting recipients into doing something they might not normally do, such as opening an attachment or downloading a file.  Spoofers typically choose a sending domain similar to the target organization. For example, if the domain is state@agency.gov, spoofers might use state@agency.2.gov or state@agency.agency.gov.
  • Phishing is an attack where a sender tries to trick the recipients into giving up sensitive information, oftentimes resulting in financial gain for the sender. Phishing uses spoofing, as the sender attempts to send from your domain in order to collect information.

These aren’t technical attacks, but are known in the industry as social engineering attacks. Instead of trying to hack into your computer to get the information they want, hackers who use social engineering bypass technology controls and instead rely on the weakness of the users to simply provide that information directly. And unlike technical attacks, they’re far more difficult to protect against.

Government organizations send thousands of digital messages a week, making the industry a breeding ground for phishers and spoofers to take their domain, voice and email design in order to replicate a malicious message for the public.

Recent examples of spoofing and phishing in the public sector

The Ministry of Justice in the UK was the most recent target of spoofing.  Spoofers sent victims an email that appeared to come from the police department asking for the collection of parking fine payments. These emails instructed the recipients to download an attachment, claiming it was a form that required more information.

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The emails had been spoofed to make it appear as though they had been sent from the domain justice.gov.uk. The Ministry of Justice was able to quickly quell the situation by bringing awareness to the public. They got the word out through press releases in the local media, email communications and updates on their website.

With tax season coming up, one popular form of phishing is for unidentified senders to leverage phony Internal Revenue Service (IRS) forms to collect data. Attackers might craft emails that appear to come from IRS.gov and request unsuspecting victims to fill in attached forms and fax them to a given number. This year, phishers have been using phone calls and emails in the State of Indiana, posing as IRS agents in order to target unsuspecting victims to trick them into giving out personal information.

How does GovDelivery help?

At GovDelivery, successful delivery of public sector messages to massive groups of people is our business. Public sector organizations send billions of messages per year using the GovDelivery Communications Cloud, and because we only send on behalf of government organizations, we have the best deliverability rates in the industry (98% of emails sent through GovDelivery are successfully delivered to recipients). Spoofing or phishing messages typically don’t reach the inbox, since they are sent from a phony domain. It’s less likely that your audience will even see a spoofed email, since these often land in the Junk or SPAM folders. Knowing that messages sent through GovDelivery reach the end recipient helps your audience better determine that your emails are legitimate (and spoofed messages aren’t).

In many cases, GovDelivery is also able to handle the technical side of email spoofing or phishing attacks, since we might notice an attack before our clients do. Fraudsters will often send high volumes of phishing emails at once, so we are able to monitor and detect any unusual activity around GovDelivery domains (such as an influx of replies or inquiries to our GovDelivery Subscriber Help Center) and immediately alert the impacted organization.

Even though smaller attacks may go unnoticed, some ISPs or recipients may also reach out and send an email to abuse@govdelivery.com or postmaster@govdelivery.com as well, at which point we’ll evaluate and alert the impacted organization.

However, if fraudulent senders attempt to spoof your organization’s domain without using the GovDelivery name, we may not be able to catch those incidents since we won’t have visibility into how the domain is being used.

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What can your organization do?

While it may seem tempting to sweep a phishing attack under the rug, offering resources and open communication to your audience is the best way to reduce the amount of people who will fall prey to a phisher or spoofer.

  1. A phishing or spoofing attack can quickly become a PR issue. Many organizations choose to get the word out immediately during or after an attack with website, email and text updates, similar to the Ministry of Justice. By bringing awareness to the public, organizations can reduce the likelihood that others will fall for to the attack
  2. As a proactive measure, GovDelivery recommends providing resources and information on your website, giving your audience a place to validate any questionable emails they receive. It’s always a good idea to remind your audience that you will never ask for sensitive personal information through email, such as a bank account or social security number. Here is a great example from HM Revenue and Customs in the UK.
  3. For more in-depth preparation and damage control tips, check out this comprehensive article from CSO Data Protection, “Phishing: the Basics.”

Remember, no organization is impervious to phishing or spoofing, but they can prepare themselves should the unfortunate situation occur. For more information on how to protect yourself, check out the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s article, “Phishing” Fraud: How to avoid getting fried by phony phishermen.

 

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Guest Post by: Lynn Wehrman, President & Test Management Team Director, WeCo

As the President of a small, mission-based start-up, I’m often asked what led me to leave a comfortable government position to pioneer a company in a field that is only just emerging, covering a need that few companies understand: electronic accessibility.  While the reasons were many, including seeing first-hand how inaccessible websites keep people living with disabilities from receiving services and having access to vital information, an extremely important, underlying reason came from what I observed when I was just beginning to encounter the fields of accessibility and disability advocacy.WeCo access approved

Like many of us who enter accessibility from a government position, I was a writer/web developer who was assigned to assist with a consumer-based committee who was working on accessibility initiatives with my agency, the Minnesota Department of Transportation.  Being the only department that builds infrastructure, DOTs can be exceptionally vulnerable to legal liability surrounding accessibility.  As a result, the agency I worked for was encountering a growing number of complaints and facing potential lawsuits over curb ramps and other crucial features in our transportation system that were not working for taxpayers who lived with disabilities.

In response, Mn/DOT forged a committee of individuals representing advocacy groups and citizens living with disabilities, many of whom lived with disabilities themselves, to work directly with the agency to update its Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan and begin to implement accessible changes to the state’s infrastructure.  My initial part in that effort was to construct an accessible website devoted to this work and to see to it that meeting communications were accessible.

Prior to this position, my contact with people living with physical disabilities was somewhat limited. Working on Mn/DOT’s ADA Transition Plan Committee allowed me to meet people who encountered life in a very different way than what I experienced.

The experience made me realize the amount of time and level of understanding, that is required to truly recognize the needs people have when they navigate life differently and how few people and organizations feel that they should invest that time or nurture that understanding.

For example, I witnessed people living with sight-related disabilities spend hours attempting to locate one piece of information on a website, simply because a web developer had not taken the time to mark the information so that their screen reader software could easily locate it.  I also heard the anger in the user’s voice when they contacted the organization, several times, asking them to facilitate the use of their product or information, and realizing that they were not considered a priority.

Many of the early meetings I attended at Mn/DOT regarding the ADA Transition Plan were peppered with that type of interaction and a strongly nurtured expectation on the part of the taxpayers who lived with disabilities that it was likely that no one would listen to their needs.

At the same time, I also watched caring government employees attending advocacy events after their work hours, pouring over research to educate themselves and actively listening to angry and frustrated taxpayers, with a strong desire to change that pattern of ignorance and indifference.

From the unique position I occupied as the group communication coordinator, I was more easily accepted as a member of both the taxpayer and government groups working on the new ADA Transition Plan, and was able to watch the transformation that occurred on both sides. Slowly, with the aid of a trained mediator, I watched as these people began to trust and believe in each other, the process they were engaged in, and transformed themselves from two camps into one.  What I learned from what I had observed was both how powerful government can be for the good of the taxpayer who lives with disabilities and how effective the disabled taxpayer can be at teaching the government what they need.

It was from this concept that the idea for WeCo was born.  Watching first-hand what could be accomplished when the ignorance, indifference, anger and fear are defused and people simply sit down together and work toward a solution.

The partnership between WeCo and GovDelivery is a perfect embodiment of that hopeful vision. Because of the priority GovDelivery places on “real life” accessibility, they selected WeCo’s human-based testing methods which covers much more than just the devices people use to access their products, it encompasses all types of disabilities people live with, as defined by the US Department of Human Services: sight, hearing, motor skill and cognitive.

This means that, over the course of a typical workday, a WeCo Test Consultant who lives with blindness will describe how her screen reader interacts with a product, over the phone in her home, to a GovDelivery software engineer.  In a coffee house across town, GovDelivery marketing staff will meet with a WeCo Accessibility Specialist who works from his wheel chair, to learn how he uses Section 508 and WCAG guidance to test their products and how their customers can benefit from knowing more about the process.

WeCo and GovDelivery are bringing together accessible solutions which captures the real experiences of those of us who live with disabilities.  We believe that this synergy can only be passed on to the government organizations that use the products we create and test together.

This blog post was originally posted on the Guardian Public Leaders Network. It was written by Sarah Lay, a senior digital officer for one of GovDelivery’s U.K. clients, Nottinghamshire County Council. Sarah also serves as the communications and community management lead for the LocalGov Digital network.

Councils vary wildly in their willingness to grasp the potential of digital services. Some are using digital technology to help them reshape services, create centres of innovation and harness the enthusiasm of their staff, while others still struggle to get their websites to work properly.

Wearable technology such as Google Glass offers the potential for local government services to be delivered remotely. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

Wearable technology such as Google Glass offers the potential for local government services to be delivered remotely. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

Too much investment has been made in large, unwieldy systems. In fact, local government has been doing the wrong digital activity really well for the past 10 years, according to Devon county council’s Carl Haggerty, chair of the LocalGov Digital network. But this is now starting to change. Innovators, experts and enthusiasts are looking at the example set by central government’s Government Digital Service and are recognising that to get people to access council services online, they have to be so good people actually want to use them.

Some councils are already exploring technology in a deeper way. Here are a few examples. Shift Surrey at Surrey county council is aiming to redesign services radically through its innovation lab. The intrapreneur programme at Monmouthshire council is using fresh ideas from the authority’s own workforce. And FutureGov is delivering services made possible by digital technology, such as its Casserole project in areas of London,which connects neighbours with spare portions of food to those in their community who need a good meal.

Technology has also helped local government to share information and work more collaboratively together. Networks like Localgov Digital bring together councils with digital enthusiasts to share resources, skills and, ultimately, savings.

Digital technology is also an opportunity to engage with residents. Social media is now widely used, with more councils giving access to frontline staff and using it as a conversational rather than broadcast tool. Many councils also offer email alerts, newsletters and social media updates instead of printed material.

What next for local public services?

The sector needs to become more adept at recognising and implementing digital excellence that is already happening in other sectors. User-focused digital delivery should become commonplace, rather than the domain of a few leading councils.

Technological advances will offer more possibilities for local government. Affordable, wearable internet devices and the “internet of things”, including devices such as Google Glass, bio-monitors in shoes or clothing, and connected household goods, have the potential to enable councils, traditionally heavily reliant on personal labour, to provide more services remotely. Bio-monitors in the clothing of vulnerable people could send alerts to careworkers, for instance, while smart systems in car parks could help people find free spaces, as already happens in San Francisco already..

Technology itself can also help us address the digital divide. Councils are already very aware that the people who need their services most are not only among the most vulnerable in society, but also probably the most digitally excluded. There are programmes underway around the country to improve broadband provision but not everyone can afford this. But using technology to increase collaboration could see projects springing up , such as public or shared Wi-Fi and services tailored to smartphones, tablets and other devices. Making council data more open, and encouraging development by local digital enthusiasts could also have benefits, potentially leading to tools that will help communities to help themselves.

And finally, digital technology also has the potential to transform the way people work in local government. Technology like mobile video conference, such as G+, Facetime and Skype, could help council staff become more flexible and dynamic in the way they work.

None of this lies too far in the future. Increasingly, people, things and organisations are going to be connected up. It’s time for local government to harness this potential.

 

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By: Thomas Francisco, Engagement Specialist

While, Google Analytics doesn’t automatically track file downloads, the good news is that getting it to track downloads doesn’t take a tremendous amount of effort on your end. Check out my last post on “Tracking, Measuring and Reporting What Happens After The Click: Measuring Your Most Effective Communication Channels” for more background on website reporting.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to setup click tracking, there are a couple of prerequisites that are necessary. You must have a working knowledge of HTML in order to make these changes to your web pages. In addition, you’ll also need to have the ability to make said changes to your webpages and to your Google Analytics account.

Note: The method outlined below is for use with the ga.js tracking code and not for use with the analytics.js tracking code. For details regarding Event Tracking with analytics.js see Google’s documentation.

Event Tracking is a method available in the ga.js tracking code that you can use to record user interaction with PDFs, videos, file downloads, and form submissions; essentially any non-webpage. This is accomplished by attaching a “method call” to the particular UI element  you want to track. When used this way, all user activity on such elements is calculated and displayed as Events in the Analytics reporting interface.  In order to track the requested elements, you need to update both the HTML of the source page/element as well as the Google Analytics account.

GAConfig is an amazing tool that will help you generate the script needed to be added to your webpage, document URLs and external links in order for them to be properly tracked in your Google Analytics account. The method outlined below is for setting up events tracking in Google Analytics for file downloads. Consult either GAConfig or Google Analytics documentation for steps needed to track videos and form submissions.

1. Set up tracking on your site. Make sure you have set up tracking for your website.

2. Call the _trackEvent() method in the source code of requested pages and documents:

The specification for the _trackEvent() method is:

_trackEvent(category, action, opt_label, opt_value, opt_noninteraction)

  • category (required) The name you supply for the group of objects you want to track.
    • In the example link below: Download
  • action (required) A string that is uniquely paired with each category, and commonly used to define the type of user interaction for the web object.
    • In the example link below User Guide
  • label (optional) An optional string to provide additional dimensions to the event data.
    • In the link below 2014 Community User Guide
  • value (optional) An integer that you can use to provide numerical data about the user event.
    • In the example link below Version2
  • non-interaction (optional) A boolean that when set to true, indicates that the event hit will not be used in bounce-rate calculation.
    • Can be only true or false as a value.

Example: <a href=”/downloads/example-userguide.pdf” onClick=”_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Download', 'User Guide', '2014 Community User Guide', Version2, false]);”>Download PDF</a>

The link found above will need to be added to your website as well as used in any email messaging sent out linking to this document. Once you’ve properly set up and coded your links, all that is left to do is set up the event as a conversion goal in Google Analytics. To do so you:

1. Open up the profile you wish to set up the goal in. thomas3

2. Click the gear icon in the upper right corner of the Google Analytics interface.

3. Click the Goals tab (in the sub-navigation just below where your Profile is listed).

4. Choose the Goal Set you wish to add the event to.

5. Name your goal and select the Event radio button.

6. Populate the following goal details:

  • Category (matches same as above)
  • Action (matches same as above)
  • Label (matches same as above)
  • Value (matches same as above)

7. If you’ve added a Value in step 1, leave the “Use the actual Event Value” radio button selected.

8. Click “Save” and you’re ready to go!

Did you know?

By utilizing a Custom URL you can track even more detailed conversions through your email newsletters, press releases, or marketing promotions. While Event Tracking gives you an overall picture of the effectiveness of individual communication channels, a custom URL gives you insight into the effectiveness of individual instances of communication. As such, you can see which tweet, newsletter, or Facebook share garnered the most engagement with your stakeholders. 

By Thomas Francisco, Engagement Specialist

As a communicator your job is to advance your organization’s objectives using a variety of digital communication tools. With dwindling resources and increasing demand of your time, you need to choose to spend your time where it has the most impact. But how can you best discern how you are achieving your goals and through which channel they’re most impactful? The GovDelivery Communications Cloud provides you with robust analytics about the messages you send, but have you ever wondered what happens after the click? Have you ever wondered which communication channels drive the most bang for your buck?

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As you likely know, when it comes to understanding what web content your organization publishes is of most interest to your citizens, nothing gets the job done quite like Google Analytics. As communicators, Google Analytics provides us with unprecedented access to the habits and interests of those that visit our websites and read our emails. We can not only see exactly what people are clicking on, but we can also track the route that brought them to that point.

To start reporting on what happens after the click, we need to understand what your objectives are. If your objectives include getting people to take a measurable action such as downloading a document, registering for an event, or driving additional fishing licence registrations, then Google Analytics can provide you real time statistics on the most
effective method through which your objectives are completed. Within Google Analytics, your objectives are identified as goals. By setting up what are called conversion goals, Google Analytics allows you to tie together your email messaging, social media posting and all other web channels to see in real-time which of these communication channels complete your goals most frequently.

These channels include:

  • Email Messages (from GovDelivery or elsewhere)
  • Facebook Posts/Shares
  • Tweets
  • Direct Web Traffic (coming from someone on your website)
  • Referral Web Traffic (coming from another website)

I know… concepts in web analytics can get pretty convoluted. You have event tracking, conversion goals, success events, multichannel funnels, profiles, filters, dimensions, regular expressions, etc. But for what we’re looking to achieve, it’s a little more simple. I recommend using Google Analytics Event Tracking. Event Tracking is focused on helping you identify specific actions that occur on your site. This is an important feature for a myriad of reasons, but primarily because it allows you to measure the performance of elements on your site, such as:

  • PDF Downloads
  • Event Registrations
  • Press Releases
  • Council Meeting Minutes
  • Form Submissions
  • Video Downloads
  • General User Behavior (how users navigate through your site)

Google Analytics is known as a valuable resource in regards to understanding the behavior and habits of a site’s visitors throughout both the private and the public sector. Not only can you receive real time reports on exactly what happens on your website, but Google Analytics also allows organizations to truly understand what motivates their stakeholders to act through their direct interaction with your content. Whether you’re wanting to measure the effectiveness of your email call-to-actions and social media postings, monitoring an email campaign, promoting new documentation, or just interested in knowing what content on your site is of most interest to visitors, Google Analytics conversion goals provide a robust platform for doing so.

Stay tuned for Friday’s post, How to Track What Happens After the Click where I’ll go further in-depth with the step-by-step approach to setting up robust tracking on your website.

At November’s UK annual digital communications event in London, speaker Carl Haggerty offered his insights (and delightful illustrations) about the the state of local government communicationscarl haggerty

Carl, a Digital Communications Manager for the Devon City Council, started off by noting that local governments have taken on massive amounts of debt and are being forced to operate on continuously reduced budgets. But, he says, “We can tell our story about the challenge of massive debt, but that doesn’t stop someone having a social care need, or the need for public transport, or wanting to feel safe walking down the street”. Even though many local governments are in the position of having to reduce their budgets by roughly 150 million pounds over the next three years, their citizens’ needs still haven’t changed. While this may lead some people to have the perception that local government agencies are in dire straits, Carl believes the situation actually provides a big opportunity for communication professionals.

The challenge for organisations, he says, is to shift responsibility onto citizens by providing encouragement and guidance for seeking out community solutions to their needs instead of defaulting to local authorities. For example, rather than immediately contacting local government agencies about a snowed-in road, a person might first seek help from their neighbors by asking if anyone has a snow-blower they could borrow. Local governments could facilitate this engagement by providing a form on their website that allows users to easily request help from their community. There are, of course, some needs that only government services can address, but communication professionals are in a unique position to help reduce the burden on local governments by providing that facilitation.

To do this effectively, Carl argues, local governments need to focus on prevention, managing demand, and fostering behavior change. If agencies use a prevention approach, it will help make demand for services more manageable in the long term. By preparing twenty and thirty year old citizens today, they’ll be less dependent on government services when they turn sixty and seventy. Agencies also need to promote a large-scale behavior change by redefining their relationship with citizens and helping to create a new social contract within the community, where citizens feel that it’s okay to ask for help and offer help within the community, rather than depending solely on local government. By stepping back a little and allowing this community supported environment to grow on its own, what will remain is the need for a local government safety net only.

Despite this massive shift, communication professionals still have a responsibility to ensure that people have access to good information and good advice. To do this, Carl said,

There’s a shift for us to think about how we really focus on user needs, not just assuming that someone turns up on a council’s home page and then starts there and navigates through some kind of glorious organizational structure. But actually it’s about putting the user first and the organization is kind of irrelevant in that point. If we have a role to play to provide public information we should do it. If we have a role to provide a service we should do it. And if we have a clear role to provide information and advice that help people find services in their local community we should do it.

Additionally, Carl said, it’s essential that government makes sure that people not only have access to the technology that will make it possible for them to find this information, but they also must ensure that people understand why being educated about that technology is important. In order for this community sourced approach to work, citizens need to be able to easily connect across communities, and it’s the government’s responsibility to provide the infrastructure for this. Once governments have provided these capabilities, they then have to ask whether or not their citizens are actively participating in digital connectivity and using the internet in a way that helps improve their lives, and if they aren’t, how can the government help educate people about why they should?

Carl wrapped up his presentation with this insight: “The global outcomes of all this are that we should be generally improving people’s lives and contributing to a climate where growth and well-being is something that we all work towards. We have to ask ourselves, if we’re not adding value as communications professionals, what are we doing?”

To view his full presentation check out the video here.

In October of 2012 the UK government launched a new website, Gov.UK, which was designed to host all of the central government’s information in one spot. Neil Williams, Product Manager at Gov.UK, spoke about the strategy and process behind building the website in his presentation “Government Digital Service: Gov.UK” at this year’s UK digital communications event. gov.uk

As Neil explained, the Gov.UK site was created to provide a single website for the central government that would replace the central government’s previous two main sites, DirectGov and Business Link, with something clearer and simpler for users. As part of the migration, thousands of pages from DirectGov and Business Link that no one visited were archived, and those pages that remained were made as easy and accessible to the user as possible. As of April 2013, all 24 of the government department sites had migrated to the central Gov.UK site. Rather than having to visit multiple pages on multiple websites to find information or an answer to a question, users can now find everything they need in one place. But, Neil said, that doesn’t mean the work is over.

“Gov.UK is designed to react to user needs, which means that we make small improvements to the site nearly every single day. This kind of iterative response and change based on what our users need is at the heart of everything we do.” Clearly, this approach has paid off. Earlier this year Gov.UK won the prestigious Design Museum’s 2013 Design of the Year Award, the first website ever to do so.

So, how do you make a useful website that wins awards?

You start with needs, Neil said. People don’t come to government websites for fun, they come to accomplish tasks and fulfill needs. Creating any web page without that as the central design principle is a simple waste of time. You have to understand what users are coming to your site for, and structure the site around that. Gov.UK achieved this by creating user stories for its 6.5 million unique visitors every week. They found that those 6.5 million people were coming to do roughly the same 3000 things, so they focused their attention on figuring out how to make doing those things easier, faster, and more efficient.

There are currently 102 organizations publishing their content on Gov.UK, with over 200 more on the way. Of course, this means there’s an extremely high volume of content being published every single day. To keep things manageable for users, Neil and his team created a publishing system that only allows organizations to publish content that meets defined user needs. There is no such thing as a general information page on Gov.UK.

“So how do we make sense of all of this? How do people understand and find the content they want? First, we needed to collaborate across organizations. And second, we need to notify people about new or updated content that meets their needs,” Neil said.

Before, when users wanted to find information about a certain topic, like climate change for example, they would have to jump from site to site, attempting to locate what they wanted from any number of different government organizations and never knowing if it was the best or most current content. Now, because everything is located on one page on one central site, users can find exactly what they need much easier. To ensure the content on each topical page is the most accurate and relevant available, all departments and agencies with information on that topic work together to curate what is included and how it is presented. Users are now brought to a single page with clear and concise information, and a “details” tab with more information in case they want to dig deeper.

Letting people know when information they’re interested in is available is where GovDelivery comes in, Neil explained. Gov.UK allows users to subscribe to extremely specific alerts, offering many different permutations based on organization, topics, and policies, all the way down to publication type. So, if a user is interested in getting alerts whenever a new speech about education is published, they can filter and combine to build a special alert sent through GovDelivery that meets their very specific interest.

Gov.UK now has over 415 mailing lists and email alerts are the sixth top referrers back to the Gov.UK site. Though these numbers indicate that the subscription system is meeting user needs, Neil and his team would like to make the alerts even more specific.

“People’s interests are unique. We want to provide as useful a service  as we can, which means helping the people who want email alerts to get exactly the emails they need and nothing more. If we focus on user needs, collaborate across governments to create content that better meets those needs, and notify people about just the things they’re interested in, it means we can have a better signal to noise ratio from central government.”

For the full story about the ideas and process behind Gov.UK, watch Neil Williams’ presentation here.

GearsBy Rishi Vajpeyi, Solutions Consultant

Among content management systems—software that enables publishing, editing and modifying content on a website—Drupal continues to be a major player in the public sector space following its widespread adoption by the White House, Small Business Administration, House of Representatives, Department of Energy, and Department of Education, to name just a few customers.  In fact, the United States Federal market has several hundred websites launched or in the process of launching with Drupal. State governments have also begun adopting Drupal as their content management system due to the plethora of open-source, government specific modules currently in circulation.  To date, 175 state-government websites across 38 states and territories are running or launching on Drupal, and this number is expected to grow.

Government organizations are putting more effort than ever into building dynamic and engaging websites. However, the opportunity to provide information to website visitors is limited to their visit. In order to offer the greatest service to the visitor, organizations need to give them the opportunity to continue to receive information even after they leave a website.  The GovDelivery Drupal integration allows government organizations to make their website content available as outbound digital communications, increase their digital outreach and provide mailing capabilities that are both secure and scalable.

This month, GovDelivery is excited to launch new and updated modules that allow organizations running Drupal to enhance the power of their website by leveraging GovDelivery’s digital communications platform and messaging services. The new modules available within the Drupal interface are the Subscription Sign-Up Service, Topic Creation Service and Integrated Transactional Messaging Service.

Email subscription boxes drive an average of 30% more subscribers when positioned correctly throughout your web properties. The GovDelivery Sign-up module allows Drupal administrators to place sign-up boxes anywhere within a Drupal website to convert more website visitors into direct email or SMS communication subscribers.  These sign-up boxes connect to the GovDelivery digital communications subscription process, making the collection and organization of your digital audience easier than ever.

Does your organization have multiple departments? Or a variety of topics that your audience should know about? With the Topic Creation Service module, organizations can easily take advantage of cross-promoting information across a breadth of topics. The Topic Creation module integrates with GovDelivery’s digital communications platform to create subscription topics for every taxonomy term or content tag within the Drupal website, allowing website visitors to subscribe to these topics. When a new page, story, or custom content type is published with tags, all subscribers are sent a triggered email or SMS notification automatically. Creating new topics is a breeze and when you offer more topics, you are more likely to garner a larger audience across the entire organization.

Adoption of government websites and online services drastically increases when paired with transactional messaging.  Any new user to an online system, change to a profile, or fee payment should all generate a follow-up transactional message. Capitalizing on the timeliness of these interactions reaches users when they are most engaged. The GovDelivery Transactional Messaging module gives Drupal administrators access to GovDelivery’s bulk-mail sending infrastructure. This module mitigates the need for a backend SMTP server for a Drupal website by replacing it with GovDelivery Transactional Messaging. Bulk messages can now be sent securely, effortlessly and with ample reporting. Sending the right message, to the right person, at the right time drives the most engagement.

If your organization is using or plans to launch a Drupal website, please contact us through our Customer Support site at support.govdelivery.com. If have any questions or comments about integrating your Drupal website with GovDelivery, feel free to reach out to us at info@govdelivery.com.

18 Ways to Drive Web Traffic

September 6th, 2013 | Posted by Mary Yang in E-Government | Web 2.0 | Web/Tech - (4 Comments)

webtrafficYou spend hours honing and perfecting content. You’re delivering information that citizens need and want. And yet your website’s traffic numbers aren’t reflecting your effort. Why? It could be a combination of things, but there’s something you can do. To boost traffic – and help drive your organization’s mission – here are some quick tips that you can implement immediately. We’ve broken the ideas out into focus categories: content, promotion and design.

 

Content

  1. Use Keywords. We all know that keywords are fundamental to search engine optimization (SEO), but remember to use SEO terms in the title, at least a couple times in the text and in the headline on the page to gain maximum exposure.
  2. Refresh Frequently. Staffing levels are down, but one of the main tenets of driving traffic is refreshing content on a regular basis. Regular doesn’t necessarily mean every day, but content should be reviewed and updated at least once a week. This doesn’t mean you have to rewrite your entire site, but you should add or change content on your home page or secondary pages. It’s what keeps search engines displaying your website higher in search results and people coming back for more.
  3. Offer Quality Content. Generating quality content can be a real challenge, so leverage the expertise of colleagues. Additionally, look around for content that you can comment on or that inspire you when you feel tapped out. Just make sure you put your own spin on it first, which leads us to our next tip.
  4. Stick to What You Know. Focus on your organization’s areas of expertise. If you’re inspired by something you’ve read, tie it to your organization’s mission before posting on your website. Don’t post new content just for the sake of posting something new – make sure it’s core to your organization’s mission.
  5. Snappy Headlines, Shorter Text. Think about the last time you saw something you wanted to read. It probably had an interesting headline, which made you click in to view the content. Once you clicked through to the web page, you likely took a look at the amount of content before you started reading. Make sure your content is short and to the point. If your topic is complex and your content needs to be longer, be sure to break it up into manageable chunks, which leads us into our last content tip.
  6. Break Up Text. Make sure your content is crisp and to-the-point. Breaking up content into bullets and numbered lists helps make information easy to read.

Promotepromote

  1. Promote with Email and Social Media. Don’t be shy about promoting your website content via email to subscribers and social media more broadly. By delivering the content you’re already creating to your stakeholders and the public, this gives them the opportunity to share content with their friends and family and grow your following.
  2. Link it up. Make sure to link your content to other government organizations’ content. If you view another organization as an expert on a topic and are willing to link to their content, they are likely to return the favor. This also helps build more credibility for your website in search engine algorithms.
  3. Promote Content in Your Signature Line. Include a link in your email signature to your site’s content for cross-promotion.
  4. Share on Social Media. Add social media links to the top and bottom of your site. When you also share your website content on your social channels, others can easily spread the word.
  5. Add Video. If you have video content that you can share on your site, do it! It’s a quick and engaging addition.
  6. Sponsor a Post. If you feel your stakeholders are engaged with your Facebook or Twitter pages, consider sponsoring a post for as little as $10.
  7. Invite Feedback. Ask visitors to share feedback and respond – nothing delights people more than knowing someone paid attention to a comment they left.
  8. Connect face-to-face. Don’t forget the impact of connecting and promoting “in real life.” That means promoting your content on non-digital channels, such as promoting your website URL as part of the hold message in your organization’s call centers or with small cards at offices where stakeholders are likely to visit. Get creative!

Design

  1. Break Up Content with Photos and Images. Studies show that online content that includes imagery generates more traffic, so add visual imagery to keep your content interesting.
  2. Keep a Clean Palate. Once your content is in a good place, don’t forget to ensure a clean design with tabs and pull-down menus that make it easy to spot the content visitors want and need. Also, remember that the eye can only focus on so much as once, and attempting to maintain a balanced page helps people navigate to content they’re looking for.
  3. Plain, Simple Backgrounds. Black text on a white background is always easiest to read. This basic, clean design is critical to accessibility and readability.
  4. Place Important Content Higher. Keep important or new content “above the fold” of the browser to provide Web visitors with key information easily and quickly.

If you follow even a few of these tips, you’ll find traffic increasing to your site in no time.

Please share what you’ve done to increase traffic to your site. We look forward to hearing your innovative ideas.

By this point you’ve read our posts about digital communication management, Beyond Email Lists and Delivering the Right Message in the Right Way, so you know some of the benefits and features of DCM. But you want to see what it all amounts to. What you’re saying, in other words, is “Show me the money!” Well, Jerry Maguire, we can’t show you the money, but we can show you results from an excellent example of DCM in action.

The case
Founded in 1953, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) mission is to help Americans start, build and grow businesses. By providing millions of loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions and other forms of assistance, holding sproutSBA has positioned itself as a backbone of our country’s small business community. But even backbones need some help connecting with their limbs. With all the useful information it had to share, SBA knew it wasn’t reaching as many potential and current small business owners as it would like, and the ones it was reaching weren’t being communicated with in the most effective or direct way possible.

So the SBA came to GovDelivery with some very specific goals:

  • Increase proactive and direct communications with key stakeholders, such as small businesses, to further its core mission
  • Expand the agency’s visibility, reach and public perception
  • Organize and automate the dissemination of information across central and regional SBA offices
  • Increase the number of website visitors to valuable online resources
  • Reduce printed newsletter distribution costs and effort
  • Ensure Section 508 compliance with its digital communications

The solution
By implementing a robust DCM solution based on the SBA’s unique needs, SBA was able to address each of those specific goals and see some pretty impressive results.

Here are a few of their results:

  • More than 65 million emails sent in the last 12 months
  • Reaching over 1 million subscribers across over 175 specific topics, such as Growing Your Business, Employment & Labor Law, Grants, and Taxes & Finance Law
  • Significant increase in Web visitors and social media fans/followers
  • Increase of 255% enrollment in the SBA’s Government Contracting 101 course

The moral of the story
Every government agency has its own unique audiences and strategies for trying to reach them. And while cumbersome traditional email listservs may have been the only option for organizations wanting to use digital communications in the past, there’s a better way to do things now. Just like SBA, you don’t have to settle for doing things the way you’ve always done them.

A DCM solution will help you expand your reach, increase efficiency and drive meaningful engagement. And if you still need more information to be convinced, check out this new white paper The Transformative Power of Communications: Digital Communication Management for the Public Sector.

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