In April, I attended the Empire State Tourism Conference hosted by NYSTIA in Schenectady. This annual conference is a gathering of some of the best tourism minds in New York State. It always promises to be chock-full of tips, advice, and recent trends in tourism. The knowledge I walked away with was not from one singular presentation, but some common themes I saw woven in throughout the keynotes and sessions.
A drone picture is worth 1,000 words- and then some
It’s not exactly breaking news to say that visuals are still key to good destination marketing- nor is it one of the more recent trends in tourism. However, with the rise in ease of access and affordability to drones, stunning landscapes and unusual angles aren’t as far out of reach as they used to be. Drones are heavily regulated under the FAA and finding a photographer that complies with all regulations is important- but the results can be well worth the work. Complying with the regulations can be time-consuming, but it’s the only way to be sure you won’t be hit with a hefty fine from the FAA, or worse- on the hook for damage from a malfunctioning drone.
Drone photography can find stunning shots you may have otherwise overlooked, like the photo from I Love NY below. Incorporating drone photography into your social media or next campaign is a sure way to produce thumb-stopping content.
Tip: Look for drone photographers in your region and explore their work. Ask if you can re-post their photos on your social media accounts with photo credit. You may be surprised by how many say yes!
SEO is more important than ever
In one session, “Why aren’t we #1: Getting found on the web,” Sarah Mannix dove into the complex world of SEO and the fundamentals of getting found on the web. While this session could have easily been a semester-long college course, she provided us with a few great tools to check the basics. Since there are over 300 factors that go into your search engine ranking, she walked us through her top 5:
- Your NAP is your Name, Address and Phone, and your score is calculated based on how easily available this information is on Google, Bing and Yelp local, as well as TripAdvisor Business. There are a few other factors that go into calculating this, but those are the main ones.
- Pushing out content for content’s sake does no one any good. You want content relevant to your business and offerings to help Google (and others) categorize you. Creating relevant content can be determined by figuring out what you want to rank for and what those keywords are. Once you’ve identified your relevant keywords, you’ll be able to tailor and narrow your focus to providing the right content to the right people. A quick way to dip your toes into this is googline the keywords you want to rank for, and exploring what appears. To take a deeper dive into SEO, you’ll want to work with an agency with SEO know-how (like us).
- Google loves to go fast and they love websites that go fast. That’s because users expect your website to load quickly. If it doesn’t, you will lose them. You can check your website’s mobile and desktop speed here, and Google will even provide insights on how to make it faster.
- To my untrained eye, all code looks complicated. But there is a difference between messy code and clean code, and that can make a world of difference in your SEO ranking. You want the tag for each page to describe your page and the keywords you’re targeting.
- Search engines, and especially Google, give preference to websites that are mobile-friendly. And since mobile searches accounted for 50.3% of all web traffic in 2017, being mobile-friendly is not just an SEO best practice, but a business best practice. You can test how mobile-friendly your site is here.
So why is SEO so important? As I heard in another session, content is king, but context is god. Good SEO practices give search engines the context they need to provide your information to the right people- and who doesn’t want more of that? They’re also aligned with how people want to view content – yet another reason to optimize.
A note of caution: SEO is not an exact science, and there are hundreds of factors that go into it. These tips are a starting point, not an all-inclusive solution.
Tip: Make sure Google, Yelp, Bing, and TripAdvisor all have your most updated NAP information, and claim your Yelp Business and TripAdvisor Business accounts if you haven’t yet. Check your page speed, mobile-friendly ranking, and your homepage code to see what search engine bots are seeing.
Small influencers can have a big impact
The keynote sessions this year was given by the Trip Sisters, two Emmy-nominated and award-winning journalists-turned-influencers. The theme of their presentation was “just say yes” – a simple concept with surprisingly difficult applications. Smaller destinations can have a hard time saying yes to big influencers or expensive campaigns- but it doesn’t have to break the bank to be effective.
Colleen and Catie explained that when they were launching their brand, they said yes to every opportunity. Sometimes the smallest opportunities turned out to have the biggest impacts. Smaller counties and cities don’t need to have the biggest influencers- they need the most impactful influencers. And sometimes those people are already in your community. Look for small or micro-influencers that already exist in your community and tap into their local pride. Engaging with them can be anything from liking and commenting on a post to inviting them to an opening of a new business. It doesn’t take much to make them feel appreciated.
Tip: Identify and engage with existing micro-influencers in your local community. Whether they’re focused on food, lifestyle, or something else doesn’t matter at first. Starting with these community ambassadors can increase your reach and open doors to bigger opportunities. Be a resource for them and let them to do the rest.