Monday, November 17, 2008

Guest post: How you can increase traffic to Government websites with Government Press Releases

Today I welcome a post from guest blogger Cheryl Hardy, of the Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development (DIIRD), State Government of Victoria, Victoria, Australia.

Cheryl manages eGovernment Research in DIIRD and is a prime operative behind the Victorian eGovernment Resource Centre, which was one of the global top ten nominees for the World e-Democracy Awards 2008, winning a Special Mention, just behind award winners such as

The eGovernment Resource Centre is, in my opinion, the single best resource for egovernment and online channel information in Australia.

How you can increase traffic to Government websites with Government Press Releases

You are a government web manager. Imagine you live in a perfect world. (Suspend reality for just a few minutes!) Imagine you had control over government press release content - (wow like that is going to happen!) then you could optimise its content and potentially bring a substantial increase in traffic to your website.

Keep imagining - To do this successfully you must use keywords (especially those that your target audience are using), in the content of the press release, and link these to strategic content pages on your website(s).

For example, the following press release was published on 15 September 2008 on a State Government website in Victoria: "BRUMBY GOVERNMENT UNTANGLES PLANNING RED TAPE".

There is some really great content in this release, but there are no links to where people can find out more information. Here is how I would have written this release (in my imaginary world) using keywords with links to relevant content, provided by Victorian Government websites, while making the content useful to the residents of Victoria:

Victorian Government untangles planning red tape

The Victorian Government has acted to remove unnecessary planning permits for some residential and commercial work, including rain water tanks and sheds in regional areas of the state.

Acting Planning Minister, Richard Wynne, said the Cutting Red Tape in Planning exemptions are part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to cut planning red tape.

It is estimated that up to 2,000 planning applications will no longer be required as a result of these changes. Victorians are encouraged to contact their local council to confirm what permits are required before they start any work so they fully understand the changes.

The implementation of Cutting Red Tape in Planning coincides with a reduction in permit application numbers from 54,788 to 49,587 over four years despite strong activity in the building industry.

During 2006-7, applications for residential alteration and additions, specifically targeted by the cutting red tape initiatives, dropped by over ten per cent. However, in the same period there has been ongoing increase in the number of building permits now at slightly over 100,000 reflecting Victoria’s growth.

The new exemptions will mean that:
  • Rain water tanks in rural areas no longer need a planning permit regardless of size;
  • Rain water tanks in industrial areas on longer need a planning permit provided they meet site and height requirements;
  • Domestic sheds under 50 m2 no longer need a planning permit in farming zones (This document requires the use of Adobe Acrobat Reader). You can also convert PDF documents into alternative formats; and
  • Minor domestic building work such as a pergola, deck, swimming pool no longer need planning permit in most areas that are not in a flood prone, heritage or environmentally significant area.
Cutting Red Tape in Planning is the Victorian Government's plan from which key improvement in planning have originated including:
For more information visit the Planning section on the Department of Planning and Community Development website.

Forgetting search engine ranking for now, providing links to all this content provided by the Victorian Government achieves two things:
  1. the reader of the press release can find out more information about the topic very easily if they choose to; and
  2. visitor traffic is then driven out to the content providers. This is traffic they would not have received using the existing format of the press release
Which press release do you think visitors to this site would like to read and which one do you think will drive traffic to government website(s)?

Do you have examples of press releases which could be rewritten to provide more usable content? Send in your examples - we could start a competition!


  1. It's very frustrating reading government press releases that provide no links for further information. There is some great content on government websites so government should be promoting it! This will ram home the message that the government is the authoritative source.

  2. It's the old 'Publish a press release and, oh, by the way, let's lob it in the storage facility otherwise called the internet as an afterthought' trick.