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The Thrive Hive

Tips on digital marketing you can apply today.

Alaska Tourism - How Can You Thrive With Minimal State Marketing

Kristen Lindsey - Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The state of Alaska's budget woes have reached the tourism industry. Despite near record visitor numbers and a thriving industry, critical state marketing support for the industry has dwindled from upwards of twenty million dollars to to a mere 1.5 million dollars.

Many of our clients are asking about how they can retool their own marketing programs in response to this situation. Here are some digital strategies to consider:

1.  Do you have the right business intelligence?

Of course, businesses look at overall revenues, profit margins, etc. but there are other important ways of tracking your marketing program. Evaluating which analytics you review to support your marketing objectives is an important first step. 

You need a fuel gauge in your car to know if you're running out of fuel, right? Just looking at miles traveled will not tell you if you are in danger. Are you looking at mere website traffic to determine your digital success? Rethink your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and find the ones that give you actionable information. Some examples of KPIs we use with some clients are engaged visitors (sessions of x page views or more), shopping cart abandonment rate, average order value and more.

2. How is your website conversion rate?

Is your site optimized to maximize bookings? An incremental increase in your conversion rate is one of the biggest ways you can improve your digital marketing performance. Analysis tools like heat maps, exit surveys or landing page optimization testing can help you find areas of opportunity. Google Analytics has multiple ways to measure conversion, and spending a little on development to get this information can pay big dividends.

3. Are you spending your digital advertising in the right places?

U.S. department store merchant John Wanamaker is credited with the quote, "I know half my advertising is working; I just don't know which half." With digital advertising & marketing, this is no longer the case. Conducting an ad cost analysis (i.e. cost per conversion by advertising medium) can prevent you from throwing money at a poor performing tactic and underspending on something really valuable. For example, when executed properly, paid search advertising can have the lowest cost per acquisition of almost any other type of advertising. If you have an effective paid search program but not maximizing your spending, you are losing cost effective conversions.

4. Is your site mobile optimized?

So many travelers are making decisions on where to eat, what to do and even where to stay once they have already arrived at their destination, and they are mostly using mobile devices to make these bookings. If your site is not optimized for mobile yet, it is time to bite the bullet and make the investment. Yes, it is a capital expense that may feel like a lot, but is the most important part of conversion optimization you can undertake.

5. It is time to professionalize your social media presence.

Playing around with social media and seeing if it can contribute to your marketing program is a thing of the past. The size of audiences on social media now easily rival audiences in other areas, such as search. Developing a coordinated social media strategy in alignment with the rest of your marketing as well as exploring paid social advertising options will enhance your overall program and increase its impact. As with all marketing, with digital, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Synergy and consistent message among all tactics - search, display, email, social - can have a disproportionate impact and huge bang for the buck.

So, if you are looking for ways to leverage your marketing program further to make up for State of Alaska marketing program support, here are some ideas to start with. Do these resonate with you? Any other comments on digital opportunities you see? Please share in the comments!




Adapting to Keyword Data Not Provided

Scott Thomas - Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Google has begun a major shift to encrypting all non-paid (organic) search activity, while continuing to provide keyword data for ad clicks. Within Google Analytics (or other Analytics platforms), this query data was lumped into the (not provided) segment. Anyone involved with online marketing or tracking their website performance with Analytics is likely well aware that this segment of "not provided" keyword data has been growing. Google has confirmed that it has begun shifting all searches to encrypted search, and many marketers have noticed a huge spike of (not provided) this month (Sept. 2013). 

A Brief History of Not Provided

Since October of 2011, Google began encrypting search queries for people who were logged into their Google Account. Initially, Google stated that the percentage of keyword data lost to marketers would be in the single digits. Over time, more searches were encrypted, including search boxes & from the Address/URL bar of the Chrome, Apple's Safari browser in iOS6 and Firefox browsers. Marketers began to track the percentage of not provided and finding ways to adapt to the situation.

The Shift from Tracking Keywords to Landing Page Performance

Given the increasing percentage of not provided keyword data since 2011, the quality of the remaining keyword data from Google organic search has been questionable at best over the last year or so. Instead of evaluating your site's Google organic traffic via the associated keyword data, it's time to shift your tracking to a landing page metric. Based upon the landing pages of your site's visits from Google organic traffic, one can infer the type of keyword phrases that were likely used to find each landing page. 

Other Options for Adapting to Not Provided

Fortunately, Bing still passes on the keyword data for organic search visits. Bing also provides a very high quality set of Webmaster Tools, complete with keyword research tools and SEO recommendations. Unfortunately, due to their small market share, gleaning data for small niche markets can be difficult. 

Since keyword data is still passed onto advertisers, one can use Google AdWords to acquire paid keyword data through CPC advertising. One can measure impression and click through data for a variety of branded and non-branded keywords, and track a site's progress over time.

Google Webmaster Tools provides data on the search queries, impressions, average position, and click data for your website. Currently, Google provides 90 days worth of data, but plans to provide up to one year of historical data in the near future. 

Time to Think Beyond the Keywords

In many ways, Google is pushing online marketers and website owners to think beyond the keyword and trying to rank well. If you are not already, it's time to focus on what really matters: the entire experience of your users. Can they find what they are looking for on your website? Are you providing unique, remarkable content to hold their attention? Will they keep your business in mind when they consider all their options? 

While I don't buy Google's arguments of protecting users' privacy by withholding organic keyword data while providing keyword data for paid ads, that's the world we live in now.