The website www.visitbigbend.com is arguably the most important marketing tool of Brewster County Tourism Council. Studies indicate that 80% of the traveling public plan vacations on-line. Most of our marketing efforts are designed to drive traffic to the web site and let the web site close the deal. In Jan 2010, over 15,000 people made over 22,000 visits to the site.
Having a successful web site only begins with a pretty layout. Not only do you have to drive traffic to the site, you have to immediately provide the visitor with a piece of specific information they are looking for, OR show them some really neat content that will make them pause and give a look. Advertising dollars spend generating traffic are wasted if you don't constantly examine web traffic statistics: page views per visit, average elapsed time per visit, popular pages, not popular pages, linked sites that generate lots of referrals, etc.
It is important to develop informative and entertaining content. At one time, site operators developed and served all content. With todays social networks, a smart web site will integrate user generated content, especially still photos and videos. BCTC strategy is to encourage user contribiutions by offering contests and prizes, as well as continue to invest in the development of quality content in house. By 2010, the first phase of a series of short videos depicting different aspects of the Big Bend experience will be completed and published on the Visit Big Bend You Tube Channel.
Last but not least, search engine optimization (SEO) is important to maintain and increase web site traffic. Good SEO consists of two parts:
1. Keeping up with the ever changing search criteria utilized by the big boys like google and yahoo. This is what keeps your site at the top of the heap in the "organic" search. It is a moving target because to maintain integrity, the search engines need to keep moving ahead of intelligent operators who learn how to "game the system" and get a ranking advantage that is undeserved. Good content is important, but site ranking is also judged by how many sites link to yours, and the credibility of those sites. Sites with the suffix .edu and .gov link together add weight to the search engine algorithm.
2. Buying search engine position means paying per click-through based on a search phrase or term. This is applicable for those search terms where the integrated content of the site, plus its mutual links and other criteria do not bring up the website being marketed to the top of the page. If they have to scroll, you lose. Grease google's palms and regardless of your site deficiencies, you can be at the top in the right hand column.
So, operating a functional, integrated web site is really a series of interlocking strategies to achieve a desired and trackable outcome. It is far beyond a graphic design exercize.
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