Before a club even begins to build a website they should ask themselves who they intend their audience to be and how they are going to reach out and grow that audience.

The Two Parts of a Club Website

As the name implies, when ClubRunner was created, it conceived of a system which would assist Rotarians in the management of a club.
This decision had the added benefit of creating a public face for a Club purchasing the ClubRunner system. Hence each platform was divided into two components — the club management component, hidden from view and only accessible to members with a login name and a password, and a public space viewable by everyone.
The question is what to do with the public space?
Most Clubs quickly think about using the space to attract future Rotarians to join their Clubs. How do we then use a club website to attract an audience? The short answer lies in the word “content”.
Before I address content, however, we need to explore the term audience and what its implications are.

Where and Who is your audience?

First, your audience is “out there,” and they are not Rotarians. On the Internet “there” is a very big place.  If a club is the only one in town, then it likely has the same name as the community in which it exists. That is going to define the geographic parameters of your audience.  However, if the club is in a large city, it is competing with many other clubs for the same audience, and that may require additional strategies.
How do you know if an audience is even there?
Building an audience also means you have to have some way of knowing whether you even have an audience. And since your audience could be anywhere in the World, you have to know what fraction of that audience is from within the catchment area for your club. Hence if you have a club website, and it does not have a counter embedded into it you are literally in a room with no windows and the lights are out.
Virtually free or low-cost products like Statcounter and Google Analytics will tell you how many page views, unique visits, first time visits, repeat visits, the geographic location of each visitor, the amount of time on your site, the stories they visited, where they entered  and left the site and how they found the site.

The Two Types of Content

The “how” of attracting an outside audience requires two very different pieces of content.
  1. Invitational Content
The content creators of the majority of club websites have given a lot of thought to one of the two components — my term for this component is “invitational content”.  This area of the content invites visitors to join the club and provides an overview of the Rotary movement and the club’s activities.  It can even have a form or portal by which you can contact club members or request to join the club.
One good example of a “home” page, independently designed, with invitational content as its primary feature is this one.
If this is the only content you have on your front page then it follows that a visitor has purposefully come to the site to learn more about Rotary. It also means that they have heard about Rotary elsewhere and want to learn more.
If this is the sole content of your publically visible site, your external audience is likely small, infrequent and the return rate low to non-existent. But it is easy to maintain since it is infrequently updated. 
  1. Community Content
If one wants to grow the number of non-Rotarian visitors one needs to create what I term “community content”. The content must reach out to the community. The traditional word for this content is “news”.
Ask yourself -- How does Rotary produce “news”? It does many activities, supports many local causes, has work parties, and sponsors youth competitions to name a few. Each event is a news story. Each event is a story for a club website.
There is, however, one other feature of Rotary meetings that is “news” worthy. The speaker and speech of the week! Local weekly or daily newspapers, and TV or Radio Stations rarely cover a Rotary Club’s weekly guest speaker. At The Rotary Club of Dryden activities and the guest's speeches have been the weekly content put on the website to attract website visitors.
Two crucial events follow from this. Over time you amass a large body of content on a wide variety of topics. You also gather a significant amount of content that provides particular examples of what we do as Rotarians in the community. Another valuable benefit would be the collection of vocational speeches given by your members. Combined this gives search engines like Google and Bing many opportunities to find articles on the website and bring unsuspecting future client-members to a site.
The Dryden Rotary site is now approaching its 500th story.
In the first year, 2010, the number of page views was around 5000. It remained near that number for the next five years. Then we must have reached a tipping point because page views doubled and have stayed near 10,000/yr. since.
The challenge now is to go to the next plateau which I have defined as 20,000 page views.  I think I know how to do it, but it will take the cooperation and courage of all members to achieve it.  I would like each member to post the week’s Club news (once it is on the website) to their personal Facebook page.

Some Brief Statistics

In the past four months, 82.4% (2413) of the page views originate from Canada. The USA is next with 9.3% (271) while an additional 53 Countries share the final 8.3%
Of the regions (States & Provinces) Ontario accounts for 79.2% of the page views. Somewhat surprisingly, the State of Illinois is second at 3.2%. Nine provinces make up an additional 9.1%. That leaves 119 States/Regions sharing  the remaining 8.5%
At the city level, Dryden is first in page views at 29.2 %. The figure rises to 34.7% when thirteen other communities within Dryden’s local orbit are factored in. The Facebook initiative, described above, would help in raising the Dryden area to above 50%.

Front Page Layout

Since the goal is to attract as large an audience as possible, the Rotary Club of Dryden’s website puts the most current stories first. The Join Rotary custom widget is next. A Facebook insert follows.
At this point, you might wonder about the number of visitors who have viewed the “Join Us” pages. The answer is 1% or 14 of 1331 visits.  I am not surprised by that statistic because using the 2016 census data, I discovered that the Dryden Club's membership is almost exactly 1% of the adult population in the Dryden area.
Something else has occurred during 2018.  We have in attendance at our weekly lunch meetings reporters from three other news gatherers: the weekly newspaper, the radio station which posts local news on their website, and our local cable operator. The latter creates videos and broadcasts them to the community. I can not prove there is a direct correlation with the decision to create the Club website as a community news portal but at the very least it validates my belief that our speakers are newsworthy. Together we are all building an audience.
Add to that mix a talented member who invigorated the Public Relations portfolio and a ridiculously dynamic Rotarian whose talent is recruiting new members and you have a club which has increased its membership by 18.5% during the past twelve months.