Making it Easy for Citizens to Register for Emergency Alerts

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We’ve been working on a comprehensive “marketing playbook” to help get citizens signed up for emergency alerts. With the right tactics, we think we can get 40% or more of a community’s residents signed up for alerts, instead of the 2%-6% which is much more typical. 

We want to talk about what local governments do – and don’t do – to make it easy for residents to sign up for their mass notification system. So we did a little research. Using a random sample of 50 governments we knew had an alert system (including Hyper-Reach, Everbridge, OnSolve, and Rave Mobile Safety) we reviewed their website and did Internet searches to see how easy it would be for a citizen to find their sign up form. 

In case you’re interested, it was a pretty diverse sample, ranging from Los Angeles, CA to Surrey County, NC, with lots of other cities and counties around the country. Here’s what we found: 

Sign Up Links Are (Mostly) on the Home Page

This was great news. While the link wasn’t always very visible or easy to find, it was on the home page in more than 2/3rds of local government websites. 

But you can do better.  After reviewing every homepage, here are a few suggestions: 

  1. Use a button instead of text. A lot of the time, the link was just in the form of text, making it hard to see. A button, or even some bolding and highlighting of the letters would help it stand out. 
  2. Put it high on the page. Some home pages take 2, 3 and even 4 screenfuls.  We understand: your county or city has a lot of information to convey. But if you want people to act, you need to make it easy for them to see the link instead of making them scroll down to the bottom.
  3. Eliminate ambiguity. Many websites seem to have multiple ways to sign up for “alerts.” (This is especially true of CivicPlus websites.) In reality, many of these alerts have nothing to do with emergencies, but often it’s not so clear. Look at your website and ask yourself, “if I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, would I know which alerts to sign up for?”

How Many Clicks to Get to the Form?

This was not such great news.  Most of the time, the link on the home page went to some other page – such as the Emergency Management page – instead of directly to the form. And then to another page. And another. About 2/3rds of the time, someone looking for the signup form would need to click four or more times. And every click is an opportunity for your citizen to give up before filling that form out. 

One page should be the most someone needs to go through to get to the signup form.  And that page should have a very clear link to the form, preferably in the form of a button.

Can You Find it on Google?

Since 28% of websites didn’t have the link on their homepage, what about Google? We searched on “emergency alerts for [county/city, state]” (filling in the name of the community), and found that the link only showed up about a third of the time. 

This is a great opportunity for search engine optimization or “SEO”.  It’s exactly the kind of information that search engines want to help people find. If you don’t know how to do SEO, we’re planning to write a future article to help you. 

How Many Clicks From the Google Results?

At this point, we’re down to a very small sample, but once again you can see that a resident looking for their community’s alert sign up form has to do more work than they should. 

What’s the bottom line?

Based on this research, it shouldn’t be surprising that most communities get so few people signed up for emergency notification. It’s too hard to find the form – even when you know what you’re looking for (and most people don’t.)

Want to do better? We’ve identified more than 50 steps that can help you get more of your citizens signed up. And we’re working on more!

If you’re a Hyper-Reach customer, we’ll be contacting you about how you can improve your signup rates.  And if you’re not, set up a demo and we’ll tell you all about it.

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