By Braden Walker, TXAD Internet
Peter Pelland, Pelland Advertising
In today’s digital world there are many options when it comes to promoting your business online, but understanding the best options can be difficult. That’s why TXAD Internet and Pelland Advertising have come together in this article to provide our expertise as industry leaders to help you understand what to look for when deciding where to spend your advertising dollars.
The Difference Between Hits and Real Stats
There are currently several websites within the RV/Campground industry that are attempting to market their services based upon persuasive but questionable statistics. When a website promotes that it has millions of “hits,” it sounds like there are millions of people going to the site and engaging with its listings or content, but this defies the definition of a “hit.”
When a website is built, it might have hundreds of files that create the content on any particular page. Hits refer to how many files have been loaded when that one page is viewed in a browser. If a website’s home page has seventy to a hundred files that create that page, that is how many hits are shown when that page is loaded (ex. 1 visitor = 100 hits). You can certainly see how the term could be used as a smokescreen to present seemingly important information that is actually of little or no consequence when it comes to increasing business.
The information that is important for you to assess involves the number of unique visitors that are coming to your site with a given timeframe. In the case of listings, how many unique visitors are interacting with your particular listing? How long they are staying on the site, are they new or repeat visitors, where did they originate, and what did they do when they were on the site? All of this information is provided with one free tool that every legitimate website should have installed, and that is Google Analytics.
What Kinds of Online Advertising Work?
There are many ways to advertise online. From social media to having a listing or ad on your state association website to Google AdWords … the list goes on. There are a few key points to take into consideration when making these decisions. First, know the real stats before you move forward with a decision. Second, are you showing up in front of your audience? This is where Google AdWords can come into play.
If you have ever searched Google for anything, you more than likely have been exposed to a Google AdWords campaign. These are the search results that appear with a little green “AD” box under the listing. These ads appear because someone has decided that they want to be found when you type in a particular search phrase, and they are willing to pay for every instance when somebody clicks on their ad.
AdWords can be a great use of your advertising dollars, if done right. Google is the go-to online search vehicle for most of us. While Google provides the tools to run your own AdWords campaign, many who choose to manage things themselves tend to have disappointing results because they are unfamiliar with the inner workings of AdWords.
Having someone with a proven track record of providing above average results, who knows what to look for, and who provides you with the reports that validate increases in your business is incredibly valuable. One important thing to remember is that you can attract people to your website from any of these sources; however, if your website is lackluster and is not engaging, it won’t matter how many people go to your site if they all leave soon after arrival.
Work with a Company You Can Trust
At this point, you have probably been contacted by campground listing and reservation consolidators nearly as often as you have been called by people who pretend to be associated with Microsoft or Google. Be wary. At first glance, these new websites would appear to be good things, wouldn’t they? Any resource that is sending you business is generally welcome to do so. After all, your campground is probably sent online traffic from a variety of referring sites already – everything from Go Camping America to your state association website to Good Sam to your local tourism association.
Over the years, a number of websites have sprouted up that are essentially directories of local businesses. Many of these have evolved from so-called “yellow pages” companies, and their business model is to persuade gullible business owners to pay for enhanced listings. More recently, these sites have begun to target specific industries such as the family camping industry – particularly in instances where there is more money to be made by “getting a piece of the reservation action” than there is from collecting any actual listing fees. This business model, where income is generated through the collection of reservation referral or transaction fees, can be so lucrative that the listing fees have often been completely eliminated in order to encourage greater participation.
What is the problem with these sites? Well, first of all there is a problem with compiled data. How often is the data updated and how accurate is the initial source? Checking one of these sites, campgrounds listed in Massachusetts included fictitious listings, listings for municipal parks that have nothing to do with camping, listings for campgrounds that have been out of business for several years, and listings for summer camps.
The second problem is the potential for these sites to compete with your own official website and your own chosen online reservation engine, a situation that can only serve to confuse consumers and that could inflict harm upon your business. Why would you pay somebody to remove the lid from a pickle jar that you have already struggled to open yourself?
A savvy business owner will not want any other company representing his business. You should be feverishly protective against any threats to your company’s unique online identity. Particularly if pricing (that may or may not be accurate) or reservations enter into the equation, the potential for problems is very real.
Thirdly, if you choose to get on board, be sure to read the fine print. The “Terms of Service” listed on one of these websites, when copied and pasted into a Word document, consisted of over 20,000 words that ran 42 pages in length. That’s a far cry from the old-fashioned handshake agreement of years past, and probably reason to proceed with caution.
Keep in mind that any online directories or search engines built upon compiled data (even Google itself!) need businesses like yours as much as you need them. Without listing real businesses that consumers are seeking, they have no product to offer. It is your decision whether or not to get on board with any particular website. To funnel traffic from your website to a startup company’s booking engine is probably not in your best interest. Understand the potential risks and benefits, and then make a decision based upon what is best for your business and how it can most effectively meet the needs and expectations of its core clientele.
Given the choice between engaging with something that is new and unproven or working with somebody with a proven track record and a trustworthy reputation would seem to be a very simple and straightforward decision to make.