15 Apr Airo AV Announces: Club Spotlight: The Back 40 Flying Club, How An Updated Web…
The Back 40 Flying Club based at Fort Wayne International Airport (FWA) in Indiana has been around since 1952. The club has had stable leadership and the 17 members had no problems booking either the club’s Cherokee Archer or Cessna 172. The club ran smoothly, doing things as it always had for many years.
But 2019 was a year of change. In the summer the treasurer stepped down and in November the president moved out of state to pursue a career opportunity. Although the new president and treasurer were existing board members who stepped up to fill the vacant positions, the turnover in the board resulted in the club evaluating their operations and making some changes.
“The majority of the board in six months went from being a bunch of older members to a bunch of younger people who are excited and motivated to change,” new Treasurer Colin Gibb said.
One of the first things the new board took on was updating the club’s website and modernizing its operations. This had an immediate impact – for current and potential members.
The club changed its online scheduler to Flight Circle, in part because it gave members the opportunity to electronically log their time and electronically report maintenance squawks. Prior to this change, time and squawks were written on paper and the maintenance officer and treasurer would physically have to go to the airport to get the sheets.
The club also liked that Flight Circle could link with Quickbooks, which made billing fairly automated. The club also added a PayPal account so dues and aircraft use payments could be made electronically. Prior to updating their web page, “payments were only accepted by check and everything was done by paper,” Colin said. “The club went all electronic with check-in logs online, and we enabled online payments for the first time.”
These changes reduced the workload for the board members and made the club attractive to new members. “All these little things, when new members look at joining a club, they see it is modern, everything is convenient and online. And that attracts people,” Colin said.
Improving Search Engine Optimization
Attracting people was the biggest benefit of updating the website. One of the key ways potential members will find your club is by searching the Internet. As we all know, if you type in a few key words you’ll get a list of websites.
What the Back 40 Flying Club found was that its old website was not optimized for mobile devices, which had two negative effects. First, anyone using a phone or tablet to view the club website didn’t have a good experience. Older websites that aren’t optimized for mobile devices are hard to read and navigate from the palm of your hand. Which means people won’t stay on your site very long.
But more importantly, if your website is not mobile-friendly, it will fall well down in search engine results, even on a computer. The club’s old website was not optimized for mobile devices, and when doing a search, the Back 40 web page would be all the way down on the sixth or seventh page of search results.
“There are numerous articles about how Google and Bing prioritize hits based on content,” said Kyle Schwyn, the Club Board Member who did the website redesign using WordPress. “They look for relevancy. Updated pages that aren’t stale is a good thing.”
Google, likes to optimize its search engine with sites that are mobile-based or that are considered dynamic, meaning the web site will adjust to whatever size screen you have on any device.
When the club updated its website, one of the key factors was to make it mobile friendly for visitors. But an equally important factor was to use a platform that didn’t require knowing the ins and outs of programming to maintain the site.
“WordPress is one of the easiest visual editors to use so you don’t have to know programming at all,” Kyle said. “Anybody can log in and develop content or change pages as long as they understand how [Microsoft] Word works, or PowerPoint.”
Using WordPress allowed the club to build a platform that has plenty of capability but is also simple to use. The site uses a lot of drag and drop features making it easy to create an attractive site. And there are lots of tutorial videos that can guide you through the process of using WordPress.
The club launched the new site last summer. In just a few days, they saw the Back 40 website appearing in the first few listings when doing a search, rather than being buried in a long list.
In addition, the club starting using its Facebook page, which they had not been actively using. There are three members who are administrators of the page who began posting and adding info with the goal of driving people to the club’s website. The results were startling.
Attracting New Members
“Between Facebook and the website being more visible, our membership officer will probably get three or four inquiries a month that are serious,” Colin said. “We’ve been acquiring about an average of one new member a month for the past few months.”
Since updating the website, the club has grown from 17 members to 26 in the past six to eight months. And with increased members, there has been an increase in flying – all because of the improved website and greater social media presence.
Colin emphasized the most important thing the club learned is having a website that is mobile friendly so it is optimized in search engines and user-friendly no matter what device someone is using. But what are some other elements that make a good club website?
Tips for Setting Up Your Club Website
A flying club’s web page is essentially the front door to your organization. It’s the first place most people will go to get information about your club. It’s important to present the message and face you want to portray so prospective members get a sense of the club and its operations. But keep in mind your web site is not just for the outside world, it’s a tool for…