Help your citizens find your emergency notification service with SEO

We talk a lot about helping you get your residents signed up for emergency alerts. And we do a lot to help you. For example, Hyper-Reach has the most ways for citizens to register for alerts.  And we make it easier for them to sign up than our competitors. We’ve also developed a plan template that you can use to promote your system. (It’s free; just ask us for a copy. We’ll even help you implement the plan.) And there are more ways you can take advantage of these resources.

To make the most of your mass notification system you need to make it easy for citizens to find you. And that means making yourself visible on the Internet, which is the way most people get their news and other information. And a few simple steps can get more visibility, both for the alert service and for your agency. 

What we’re talking about here is what’s called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. That’s the process that companies and other organizations use to make it easy for someone to find them using Google, Bing or other search engines. It’s something that your agency can do, too.  And we’ll help, with tips, tricks and content you can use to promote your system. 

Here’s a start. On the web page that links to your signup form, do you use the phrase “emergency alerts” or “emergency notification” when describing your system? If you’re just using one, we suggest you use both. The reason is that some people may be searching for the first phrase while others may use the second one. You can also use phrases like “emergency messages”, “weather alerts”, “evacuation notices”, etc. on that same web page. And be sure to use the name of your county or city, because most people will need to include their area if they are going to find your sign up page. 

You can even use the names of either the cities in your county or the county you belong to, depending on whether you’re a county-level agency or a municipal one. 

In SEO-speak, these phrases are called “keywords”. SEO professionals try to make sure their “content” (a fancy word for web pages, blog posts, social media posts, etc.) are full of relevant keywords they think people are searching for. 

The trick here is to think like someone who might be looking for emergency alerts in your area.  What would you search for if you were an average citizen trying to find out how to sign up for emergency alerts?

We’ll offer more tips in coming months, and other resources too. So stay tuned.

Content you can use: Boil Water Notice Article

As we’ve said before, one of the techniques that professionals use to get attention on the Internet (aka “Search Engine Optimization” or SEO) is to provide “content” with the relevant phrases that your residents might be searching for when they are doing a Google or other search that relates to what you do.

You may already be providing your residents with content, just because it’s helpful information.  For example, many emergency management agencies have articles for citizens about how to create an emergency supply kit or how to make an emergency plan. If you have articles like these, congratulations. 

Because one of the most common mass notification messages that local governments send out is a boil water alert, we thought that subject would make an interesting article that would help get citizens’ attention and provide them with useful information. So we wrote one. And we’re offering it to you for free.

This article (which you can find here) explains what boil water notices are, how to respond to them correctly, and some of the causes of public water system contamination. The article is written for a general audience, so it’s perfect for your agency to offer it as a resource for your community. 

While you could just post a link to the article on your website, we’d encourage you to post the actual text and graphics if you’d like. You can even personalize it, so that citizens see it as coming from your agency. And with the right personalized phrases (e.g. “boil water alerts from Johnson County emergency management”), they can help you get more traffic to your website and point people to your signup form for emergency alerts. 

If you need any help in copying the content and using it on your website, let us know. We want to help you get more of your citizens registered for your Hyper-Reach system.

A big jump in the number of wireless-only households

Twice a year, the CDC releases a survey that shows the number of wireless-only households.  That figure – as we’re sure you know – has been growing steadily for the past 20 years or so.  And it’s taken its biggest jump in quite a few years: now at almost 66%. So only about a third of the country has a traditional home telephone.

What that means for emergency mass notification is that the traditional method of reaching people using wireline telephone data is becoming less and less effective. And doing so at an even faster rate. 

The CDC cautions that the COVID-19 pandemic may have affected the survey’s accuracy. But we think it’s equally likely that the pandemic is the cause of this accelerating drop in traditional home phones. The increased economic stress of the last 19 months has probably forced some households to cut back on spending, and wireline phones are clearly expendable for many people. In addition, COVID has had its biggest impact on the elderly, who are the most likely to have a wired home phone. 

The future looks even grimmer for landline phones. Over 80% of people aged 25 – 34 live in wireless-only households. As those people become a bigger share of the population, they – and the kids they’re having – are far less likely to have a home phone. 

This is one of the reasons we put so much emphasis on getting citizens signed up for emergency alerts. And it’s a big part of why we developed AlertSmart™, our method of delivering mass notification through smart speakers, like Amazon Alexa. 

Unlike home phones, smart speakers are growing, with current growth estimates of 17% per year. And they’re especially prevalent among younger households – the very people who are least likely to have a landline telephone. Finally, there are reasons to believe that some people are beginning to use smart speakers as a replacement for a telephone. Amazon Alexa devices,  for example, can now be used to place and receive phone calls, as well as sending text messages. 

As landline phones continue to drop in use, it’s critical for emergency managers to find new ways to communicate with the public. And you can count on Hyper-Reach to continue to research and develop new tools you can use to deliver your messages to your community.