Columbus Ohio SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

The State of Ohio Tourism’s SEO and Social Marketing

Cement Marketing sponsored the 2014 Ohio Conference on Tourism (OCOT) in Springfield, Ohio and we are so glad we did. 

The conference attracts Ohio’s most engaged travel and tourism leaders and is devoted to celebrating their hard work year round to attract visitors into our great state. We also met several others in the marketing and advertising industry like Jerrud Smith of Columbus-based New Vision Media who showed us how their droid can capture beautiful aerial video footage.

OhioTourismConference

(Thanks to the Springfield News Sun for this photograph and their coverage of the event).

While there, we were inspired by Department of Tourism Director Mary Cusick’s speech on cooperation amongst tourism bureaus and attractions. Her message, pushing the state’s co-op program, resonated in the point that collective collaboration could equal profound success for Ohio as a whole. That got us thinking about the potential impact a cooperative effort on the search marketing front would have on Ohio’s tourism. For example, what if every tourism bureau and attraction made a concerted effort to change the state of Ohio’s search results?

Google “Visit Ohio” and what will you find? Does it reflect our authentic experiences as Ohioans? Is it an attractive representation of Ohio?

Here’s what a Google search for the term “visit Ohio” generates now.

Google Search - Ohio's SEO

And if our visitor ventures into an image search, here’s what they would see:

Ohio images

The images and search results showing up in Google today, have a few issues: 

  1. There aren’t enough of them. Scroll down on the first page and we get into non-relevant content almost immediately, when clearly there are probably thousands of images online reflecting the true nature of Ohio.
  2. The photos we do see aren’t engaging, and many aren’t authentic (like the majestic cityscapes).
  3. Collectively, the search results do not paint an exciting picture of Ohio. On the contrary, our state looks a bit on a the drab and dreary side.

Needless to say, there’s some work to be done. The bottom line is this– we all have to tell Ohio’s story better. And we need to start with our digital content. There is truly so much to discover in Ohio every year, but if we can’t properly optimize our content – a potential visitor will be hard pressed to uncover what truly lies within our borders.

The health of Ohio’s digital reputation depends on unique counties and attractions.

Most attendees of the Ohio Conference on Tourism represent individual county visitor and tourism bureaus. These executive directors, marketing managers and others are tasked with bringing visitors into their respective counties for overnight stays, day trips and/or corporate events. It’s a tough job and one dictated, more than ever, by their county, city or district’s digital presence. After all, according to Expedia and Compete.com, the average traveler visits 38 websites on average before actually booking their trip. That’s quite a digital footprint they surf before making a decision on where to go.

Compounding this is another challenge beyond our control– in spite of all of the amazing things to do and see in Ohio, from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland to the Hocking Hills in Logan, Ohio, most potential visitors aren’t aware of what we have to offer. Our reputation, or lack thereof, is working against us. If you missed it, be sure to read the results of a $133,000 research study commissioned by Experience Columbus, the Franklin County Tourism Bureau. The study found that Columbus residents see our city in a far different light than those who have never been here. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to presume the same for the state of Ohio.

What can we do to change Ohio’s image online? It’s easy… Optimize!

In order for more visitors to travel to Ohio or to extend their stay– every piece of online content uploaded to websites or social networks must be optimized for search. Because a vast majority of the digital content about Ohio is published by visitors bureaus and unique attractions and destinations, the responsibility is on their individual marketing teams.

Together, if every county visitors bureau in Ohio upheld the best SEO practices all year round, the picture should be far different in one year’s time. Just imagine the possibilities.

Ultimately, whoever uploads the content is responsible for that content’s proper optimization. The good news? The optimization of digital content is far easier than you may think. If you have already spent the hours it takes to write a blog post or publish a gallery of photos to your website, the extra few minutes it takes to optimize those bits of content is minimal.

How to optimize content to target the search term “visit ohio”, “travel to Ohio”, “Ohio travel” and “Midwest travel destinations”:

  • Label every single image you upload with alt text including those keywords. To do this, actually label the image with keyword before you upload them into your content management system (CMS), a fancy word for your website.
  • Ensure your website is properly optimized for search. This is a huge to-do item. Contact a qualified Ohio SEO firm (like ours) to audit your website and go from there.
  • Optimize your Google Local place. As you can see in the first image on this blog post, the top results for the term “Visit Ohio” including Cedar Point and others have Google Local pages with one profile image (often their logo). This makes for a sad scene when positioned collectively in the search results. Add more engaging photos in there and really pull your visitors in.
  • Optimize every event listing or news story you publish to your website all year long. Read up on how to optimize your content here on CopyBlogger. We love this eBook by Brian Clark on SEO Copywriting.
  • Add statewide hashtags to any social media campaign you may be running. Remember, the more visitors who visit Ohio, the more who will visit your county along the way. Include Ohio and the big picture in your local campaigns.

Next year, after the 2015 OCOT, we’ll conduct the same mini audit of Ohio’s search results to see how we fared collectively. You can do it Ohio tourism pros! Optimize that content and all will be well.

Until then, please sign up for a special workshop from Cement Marketing devoted exclusively to this topic and exclusively for Ohio tourism professionals. The workshop is:

Rising Above the Rest: Pushing Your County or Attraction to the Top of Google
When: March 6, 2015
Where: Northpointe Hotel and Conference Center
Cost: $399 per attendee (early bird rate before 12/15/14)

The workshop will cover:

  • What are your visitors searching for as they vacation shop? Learn how to conduct keyword research in order to lay the foundation for your search marketing campaign.
  • Now that you have your keywords, what’s next? Learn how to form a content editorial calendar focused on your keywords.
  • Once you have your content in hand, then what? Learn how to optimize every piece of content you create.

This invaluable workshop will pay itself forward for years to come. Register Now