Where I think most businesses, in every industry not just tourism, fall short is they fail to recognize the value of the SEM data that is available to them. We report on how many visitors came to our site as a result of SEO and PPC but we leave it at that. When doing keyword research you gain valuable decision making date – what do people search for to find my product? Then when you are start running PPC with those keywords you learn an even more valuable piece of data – does my product convert visitors. All of this data that you are learning as you implementing your SEM strategies should play a vital role in shaping your future marketing plans.
Let me use a tourism example that drives me crazy: agritourism. Somewhere along the line about 5 years ago, we as industry decided that we were going to invent the term “agritourism”. We did this because we learned that people like to visit places like wineries, u pick farms and ranches. People like the authentic experience of learning about where their food is produced. All valid points. Then because we are marketers we are just SURE we have to call it something catchy, enter “Agritourism”. So then there was conference after conference about agritoursim and how we need to promote it and use our resources. Again, all valid points. Were we missed the boat is then we started putting it all over our site and marketing materials. Why did we miss the boat? Because only us people in tourism know what the heck agritourism is! People, NO ONE is searching for that term. Ok I lie, an average of 1,600 people a month search for that term. 1,600 people in internet terms that is basically no one. Especially because that is the broad term I bet if you put in “agritourism your destination” you will get next to 0 searches.
Ok now let me move away from ranting and talk a little more about why this is a problem. We as marketers have all the tools we need right in front of us to research what our visitors ARE looking for but we cling to these “marketing catch phrases” that mean nothing to a user. We need to be using our SEM results to feed our marketing plans. We are receiving the most valuable data we could ever want – and no ever looks at it like that.
Now let’s go back to our agritourism example and see how we can use the data to help us make better decisions about how we phrase our content so people can find what we are all about. “Winery” as search term gleans almost 15,000 monthly searches. If you are wine destination, like napa, there are several varieties of “napa winery” that produce over 8,000 monthly searches. And those are much more qualified users than someone who is searching for “agritourism” not to mention “agritourism napa” has no monthly searches.
The main point is, do the research! You have it at your figure tips. Even if you don’t have a SEM strategy in place you can at the very least look at the monthly search volume of what you think your key product is to help you discover how people are finding it or if they aren’t interested at all. You will be amazed at what you can find as a result of doing some digging. We think in general terms sometimes as a marketer but if you really dig in and start doing the research there is always some secret search gem that you never even thought of.
If nothing else use it as a decision point. Say you can’t find data that anyone is searching for cultural centers in your destination but in your destination you have some really cool cultural centers. You have done all kinds of research and you just can’t find any term that people are searching for that is related to cultural centers. I would suggested promoting culture centers front and center on your website. Feature them on homepage, feature them on the things to do page, write some blog posts about. Then look at the data, if no one is interacting with this content, even after you made the effort to really highlight it, I would say people on the internet are not interested in that product. But if you see people are interacting with content then you can look at what they searched for to find it and what other content they engaged with after seeing it.
One thing we have to work at is: letting go. It is OK to let of the term agritourism or cultural centers if we can’t find the data to back up that people are interested. We can call it that in our tourism circles but let go from your external marketing plans. We can still talk to people about our cultural centers but we just aren’t going to make it a marketing priority. Call it what it is farms, wineries, ranches. Leave your cultural center content on the site and let people find that hidden gem. But it has to be ok to say – hey we thought all these years that X was something really cool in our destination but we just don’t have the data to support it.
Now go out, dig in, and start using that data!