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Officers' Quarters: 6 ways to market your guild's website

Six murloc headpieces
Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, available from No Starch Press.

To officers, a guild's website is invaluable. It's the one reliable method of communication that we have with our members. It's far more flexible than any guild UI feature, and it will never be pushed out of someone's chat window by Blizzard's messages like the guild message of the day constantly is. It's the one place where we can post something and guarantee that everyone in the guild is able to see it.

There's just one ongoing problem: getting members to visit the website on a regular basis. This week, a guild leader asks how to accomplish that.

Hi Scott!

First, I'd like you to know how much I enjoyed your Guild Leader's Handbook. I reference it every now and again when issues threaten to crop up, and it helps a lot!

I'm one of two GMs of a small raiding guild on Spinebreaker-US. One of our guild's biggest issues this expansion has been a lack of interest in the guild's website, which my Co-GM pays for and maintains. His WoW background includes several guilds that each had thriving out-of-game communities through their guild website's forums. We've tried to replicate this, but we don't seem to be succeeding.

We seem to have all of the essentials: a well written guild charter, clearly explained raiding and loot policies, class discussion forums, 'general chat' style areas, advice about addons and the auction house, links to all the common online resources (EJ, Wow Insider, MMO-Champ, Mr Robot, etc.) and strategy videos for every raid encounter. (Most of this is behind a members-only wall, but is it a big deal to have to sign up to use your guild's website?) We post screenshots and videos of big guild achievements on the front page, ask poll questions about when to add a new raid night or who would be interested in a weekly PVP night, and all the other things you would expect to see in a well-organized guild website.

Problem is, the only people who post anything or reply to any post seem to be my Co-GM, two of my officers, and myself.

... How can I encourage people to use the website? Are there any tricks you've come across that can really drive up interest in this kind of thing? I kind of felt like if we built it, they would come... but they haven't.

Any advice you have for us would really be appreciated. :)

Yours in the Holy Light,

Touk, H-Spinebreaker US
the-end-guild.guildzilla.com

Hi, Touk.

It's frustrating, isn't it? You put in all the work, you pay for the site, and it's a ghost town. You take the time to post a crucial announcement, and then you have to explain it over and over again anyway. I actually wrote about boosting your website's traffic waaaay back in 2007. With officers everywhere gearing up for Mists, it seems like a good time to revisit the topic.

You've offered a lot on your site, but the problem is this: Your members don't really care about charters and rules -- that stuff is for mostly for you. And the other stuff, they can find elsewhere.

A marketing problem

Getting people to use any service is fundamentally a marketing problem. Therefore, the solutions are marketing solutions. I'm no marketing expert, but I know that some of the keys to improving a site's traffic are building awareness, offering incentives for an initial visit, and then providing reasons for people to revisit once they've checked it out. Here are six ways you can do that:

1. Require new players to sign up. If getting people just to sign up for the site is a problem, then make it a requirement before they even join. Make it necessary to sign up to fill out an application.

Some would argue that this may reduce the number of people who apply. That's actually a good thing. Why would you want someone in your guild who's too lazy to spend an extra two minutes signing up? When they become a member, they're now already aware of the site and more likely to use it since the annoying part (the signup) has already been done.

2. Put important information on the site and nowhere else. If you have a raid schedule that frequently changes, a slot rotation for your raids, a loot system, etc., make your members use to site to access that information. That way, when you have other important announcements, they are already in the habit of visiting to obtain important info.

3. Use loot to your advantage. One way my guild used to incentivize website use was by giving out bonus DKP. We asked our raiders to sign up for raids via the site. Those who didn't weren't actively penalized -- but those who did had an advantage.

4. Give away free stuff. Contests are a tried-and-true method for boosting a site's traffic. It works for WoW Insider, and it can work for you. It doesn't matter what the contest is, as long as people have to post in your forums to enter. It could be something as simple as writing a haiku about the guild or a screenshot contest.

For prizes, you could spend some money on authenticators or a Murloc hat, some gold on an in-game item such as a rare pet or mount, or you could simply offer a service. One free wish from the officers is always an interesting prize (just make sure to say the prize can't violate the guild's policies). When someone wishes for an officer to post a video of themselves doing the Caramelldansen, everyone benefits.

5. Takei the heck out of it. Anyone who Likes George Takei on Facebook knows what I'm talking about. The guy posts hilarious stuff pretty much every day. Whenever he wants to promote something, by offering all that value just for Liking him, he has a huge built-in audience.

Now that you've gotten people to visit the site for business, give them a reason to keep coming back for fun. Post funny links and photos. Start discussion threads about gaming, movies, sports, crafts, cooking, or a crazy story from the news (stay away from politics, though). Talk smack with another officer where everyone can see. MMOs are about having fun, and your site should be, too.

6. Get personal. A guild is a community, but it's a strange community. Members can be part of it for years without anyone knowing who they really are. Some people prefer to remain mostly anonymous, but most people like to know more about the people they're spending so much time with online. It's especially true that members like to know more about the officers leading them.

If you feel comfortable, use the site as a way to connect with people in a more personal way. The most popular threads on guild sites are almost always threads where people post pics of themselves, talk about what they do for a living, and share other information about themselves. When people learn more about each other, they find other common interests that they can then discuss on your site's forums.

The launch of a new expansion is always a great time to make adjustments to policies. The upcoming release of Mists is a perfect opportunity to generate traffic for your site.

/salute

Officers' Quarters keeps your guild leadership on track to cope with sticky situations such as members turned poachers or the return of an ex-guild leader and looking forward to what guilds need in Mists of Pandaria. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to scott@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Guilds, Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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