Keeping Focused: Marketing Your Site During a Tough Tourist Economy

In the current competitive climate, tourism-dependant businesses in Coastal Maine are looking for every possible edge to set themselves above their competition. The internet has quickly become the ubiquitous marketing venue for tourism and travel, and our local businesses have jumped into this venue with both feet forward.

For several years, search engine marketing firms have sold pay-per-click, link farms, and meta-tags as the must-do's for increasing web visibility. Tactics such as tag-stuffing, hiding keyword instances, or creating unintelligible site content in order to trigger higher pageranking have served to increase traffic for some, but have severely decreased the quality of search results for the consumer. Over time, vanguards in the industry have come to understand that it is the searcher whose needs should be the focus, not the business that wants desperately to be found.

The increasingly jaded public, through such daily delights as spam and pop-up ads, has learned quickly to dismiss businesses that force themselves on them. I know from my own search experience that I tend to ignore both sponsored ads and even the highest ranked search results if the description looks or smells anything like either a paid placement or a keyword-jammed "information portal". Now don't get me wrong, all of these sights get tons of traffic, but that's not my point. My point is that consumers are becoming more hip to the game, and the trust that is necessary to produce a financial transaction with them can be severely inhibited through seemingly disingenuous marketing techniques.

Companies like Google have pivoted left and right to shake the rigging of search results. Their mission has re-focused lately , and they are developing brilliant techniques to make sure their users are delivered PERTINENT search results. They still generate revenue from paid advertisers, thats true, but look where they put the ads. They are clearly seperated from the search results, and are clearly labeled 'sponsored links'. As a matter of fact, the majority of these links are placed in the right column of the page, a veritable no-man's land for browsers, according to eye-tracking studies.

Anyhow the important thing to keep in mind is that, rather than trying to 'beat the system", businesses would be better served if they moved toward creating the pertinent site search engines are trying to return to their users. Instead of jamming tags and buying links, businesses should be making sure their sites are chock full of good, pertinent content. If you own a gas station, your website should strive to be the end-all, be-all location for gas related information in your area. Not only will the mass of content help the search engines find you and rank you higher, but visitors will be happier, more satisfied, and consider you the expert in your field. Others will link to you as an expert, and this is probably the most effective single way to increase traffic to your site.

Lance Dutson runs Maine Coast Design, an internet design and marketing firm catering to tourist-oriented businesses on the coast of Maine.

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