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Your Prime Season Is the Time for Photography

July 9th, 2014

Until about 7 or 8 years ago, I spent my summer weekends executing on-location commercial photography assignments at campgrounds throughout the East Coast. It was not profitable work, but it gave my company a competitive edge when designing brochures and building websites. We knew that the photography was not going to be the weak link that would limit the effectiveness of the finished products.

After the weather, the greatest source of frustration when it came to scheduling photography was procrastination on the part of my clients. My main concern was sunny skies (which seem to be less and less common these days), but my clients’ main concern seemed to be making excuses for why the upcoming weekend was not the right time for photography.

The excuses ranged from being too busy and too crowded to not being busy enough. With the exception of three-day holiday weekends, photos generally needed to be taken on a Saturday, which eliminated 6 out of the 7 days of the week. Saturdays were the days that were packed with activities, and the occupancy levels insured a ready supply of impromptu models. The weather could be gorgeous on a Wednesday, but empty campsites, an empty playground, and an empty swimming pool do not present a high level of marketing appeal.

Basically, all bets had to be placed on Saturdays, when the weather needed to be somewhere between partly cloudy and sunny. It does not require a statistician to know that the pieces did not always magically fall together. I spent many Thursday nights wondering if the weather would be sending me to North to Maine, South to Maryland, or West to Ohio. Even then, everybody knows that weather forecasts are notorious for their lack of accuracy.

My point with all this is to encourage campground owners to take photos when the time is right. As I write, it is already approaching mid-July, with two major holiday weekends and the entire month of June (perhaps the single best time to take photos) already behind us. If you have not already taken photos, what are you waiting for? Are you waiting for your pool to be closed for the year, waiting for the kids to be back to school, or waiting for pumpkins and mums to enhance your landscaping?

As I mentioned, I stopped taking photography assignments years ago, although my company does its best to locate talented freelance photographers who have the necessary skills for on-location commercial assignments on behalf of our clients. Year after year, I have campground owners contacting me looking for a referral the week before Labor Day weekend. Guess what? They’re out of luck.

Here are a few tips:

  • Hire a qualified and skilled commercial photographer. Get a referral, then view the photographer’s portfolio. Portfolios are all online these days. If the photographer shoots babies and weddings, look elsewhere.
  • Expect to pay $800.00 to $1,200.00 for a day of commercial photography. Define the day, including the expected start and finish times. If more than 100 miles or so of travel is involved, expect to pay additional travel expenses. Look at the bright side: there are no longer any fees for film and processing!
  • Expect your photographer to be using professional equipment (probably a digital SLR), including basic lighting (for interiors like your store and cabins) and a tripod. Professional photographers will always use a tripod.
  • Expect the photographer (or an assistant) to take responsibility for model releases.
  • The photographer should know how to “style” the shots, moving things around if necessary to improve the composition, but he cannot be expected to mow your lawn, pull weeds, rake your beach, replace burned out light bulbs, repair a torn volleyball net, or paint the side of a building. In other words, prepare in advance for your day of photography. If you were selling your house, would you show it to prospective buyers when the beds were unmade and there was a pile of dirty dishes in the sink? Do not expect everything to be “fixed” in Photoshop!
  • Outline in advance how long it will take for you to receive the images taken the day of the shoot and how they will be delivered (most likely on discs). Also determine in advance what usage rights will be provided. Typically, the photographer will retain the actual ownership or copyright to his work, conveying full, royalty-free usage rights to the work that was produced on your behalf. That is a reasonable expectation, particularly these days when there is no original film involved.
  • To get the job done right, the photographer you need is almost never going to be the person who you see in the mirror or somebody who addresses you as “Mom” or “Dad”.

With these tips in mind, put an end to the procrastination. Photography is almost always the weak link when my company is hired to assemble brochures, rack cards, directory ads, and other printed materials. Although websites demand lower resolution than print, the difference between good photos and bad photos makes a world of difference.

So many people obsess over the volume of traffic that reaches their websites, giving far less thought to their customers’ experience after reaching the site. The wrong photos send visual messages that essentially drive away the very same people who would be attracted by professional compositions.

If you would like much more information about planning a day of photography than could be included in this article, click here to access the online version of a seminar that I have frequently presented on this topic. The more you understand about the basics of professional photography, the better that photography will work to promote your business. Have you ever heard how a single photo is the equivalent of 1,000 words? Ensure that those words are all positive!

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Pelland Advertising Responds to GoUSACamping Announcement

June 19th, 2014

Rushed Decisions or Long-Term Plans?

So far this season, 2014 is turning out to be a year where campground owners are seeing many changes in the sea of vendors serving their industry. Following on the heels of the announcement by Evergreen USA RRG, the recent notice from GoUSACamping is certain to impact many campgrounds at the most inopportune time possible – at the height of the camping season in Northern states.

Pelland Advertising is not in the business of chasing ambulances, and we do not seek to profit from the misfortune of our fellow industry vendors; however, we also would like to assist individual park owners to take the time to make informed, long-term decisions rather than hurried choices that bear a semblance to panic attacks.

The notice that GoUSACamping sent to its clients included the advice, “If we designed and hosted your web site then contact a website hosting and web builder company such as ‘godaddy.com’ or ‘1&1.com’ to assist you with a new website.” We take strong exception to that advice, and would never advise any small business owner to turn to one of those Internet industry behemoths to provide website development or hosting services. There are several campground industry vendors who are small enough to know their clients by name, who understand the unique needs of your business, and who have a track record of serving the industry. Pelland Advertising is one of those companies.

Whether your park is directly impacted by the GoUSACamping announcement – or you simply feel that the time might be right for a change – Pelland Advertising would like to present an alternative to a rushed decision. We are one of the campground industry’s leading suppliers of website development and hosting services. Independent of any alliances with third-party online reservation services, the reservation engine of your choice may be embedded into or linked from your site. Many of our clients prefer a simpler online reservation request system that is highly effective, particularly for smaller parks, and free of transaction fees. We offer solutions and alternatives.

If your park is directly impacted by the GoUSACamping announcement, we would like to assist you in making a carefully considered decision that will provide an easy transition that will not interrupt your business and will also be as seamless as possible in the eyes of your customers. It will provide the following services:

  • Move your site to one of our dedicated servers at no charge.
  • Begin hosting your site at an annual rate that will reimburse you for 50% of the cost of any prepaid hosting fees that you may have already incurred for 2014.
  • Perform the necessary content revisions as specified by GoUSACamping, at no charge.
  • Build and install an online reservation request form onto your site for a discounted flat fee, allowing you to independently handle inquiries while you make an unrushed, intelligent long-term reservation software decision.
  • Get all of this done within the 30-day window specified by GoUSACamping.

Afterward, when your unhurried decision has been made, we will replace the online reservation request form with the reservation engine of your choice, either embedded or linked (depending upon what is available from the third-party service provider that you will have chosen.) We will also provide a courtesy discount should you choose to have Pelland Advertising build a new site within the next 12 months.

The timing may not be ideal, but we are here to help park owners to maintain the type of continuity that is essential to their long-term success.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

What Is Branding All About?

June 12th, 2014

There is a lot of buzz about branding these days. In fact, there is so much indiscriminate use of the term that it sometimes sounds like marketing’s latest pet rock. When properly orchestrated, nothing could be further from the truth. Proper branding can make the difference between success and failure. It is the combination of many facets of marketing, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Your brand is what differentiates you from your competitor across town or down the road. In fact, it is the founding principle behind successful franchises from Hilton to KOA. It is the reason behind the word associations between “four wheel drive” and “Jeep”, “golf clubs” and “Callaway”, and “ketchup” and “Heinz”. It should be your goal to establish that same degree of name association with camping in your area.

Probably the first step in the creation of brand identity is the design of a distinctive logo. In the 18th and 19th centuries, logos were little more than visual icons. Most business was local, and much of the population was illiterate. An icon of a tooth identified you as the town dentist, and icon of a mortar and pestle identified you as the town druggist, and the icon of a horseshoe identified you as the town farrier or blacksmith. In the early 20th century, as businesses began to serve broader markets and grow beyond single locations, a more distinctive identity became necessary. Simple icons became replaced by distinctive and carefully crafted logos. Think of some of the distinctive logos that have withstood the test of time, from Coca-Cola to Kodak, Ford to McDonald’s, or Sherwin-Williams to John Deere. With one look at their logos, there is no chance of confusing any of these well-established companies with any of their competitors.

The recently released 2014 BRANDZ Report from Millward Brown lists the 100 most valuable global brand names. The top 10 are Google, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa, AT&T, Marlboro, and Amazon. Keep those highly recognizable and distinguished brands in mind when thinking about the branding of your own business.

It All Starts With Your Logo

A successful logo may sometimes be simple, but it will always be distinctive and it should never be cluttered. As the common element of your branding campaign, avoid skimping on your logo design. It should never be delegated to one of your children who happens to have “an eye for graphic design”, and it will rarely fall within the realm of expertise of the marketing person on your staff. In addition, steer clear of online “logo factories”, where the assignment will be subcontracted to somebody who has no understanding of your business or industry.

When entering into a logo design project, provide the artist with as much input as possible. Are there already colors that are identified with your business? Are there colors and fonts that you really like or intensely dislike? Are there two or three key design elements – avoiding clichés – that might summarize the distinctive appeal of your business? Expect your logo designer to present you with several initial concepts that incorporate your input, but then carry things to the next creative level.

There should be plenty of back-and-forth communication between you and your designer during a process of fine-tuning a final concept. In the end, you want a logo that is distinctive and goes well beyond looking like a montage of unrelated pieces of clipart. Ask for variations of your logo that will maintain its integrity but allow for flexibility in usage. For example, some applications might favor a wider, more panoramic appearance. These might include letterhead stationery or the header on your website. Other applications might favor a more vertical, “stacked” appearance. You should also confirm in advance that your logo will reproduce cleanly and be legible when reproduced in grayscale color mode. This might be used in advertising on newsprint.

Your finished logo should be provided to you as one or more vector images, usually an EPS (Encapsulated Postscript) or AI (Adobe Illustrator) file. It is quite likely that you will not be able to open a vector image on your own computer, unless you have a drawing program like Adobe Illustrator or an image editing program like Adobe Photoshop installed. A vector image is resolution-independent because it is made up of lines and curves, rather than pixels, meaning that it can be opened in any size without loss of quality. The same file can be used on everything from your website to a large billboard.

The designer will probably also provide you with JPEG and PDF versions of your logo, but it is important that you always provide the vector file to people who will be reproducing the logo on your behalf – from your webmaster and printer to a sign company and people producing branded merchandise. In fact, be wary of any of these people who might not know how to use your vector file.

Beyond the Logo

To be effective, your branding should be developed with some end strategies in mind. It should distinguish your business from its competitors with its clarity, enhancing the credibility of your business on several levels, some of which will be purely emotional. If your branding is effective enough, you essentially have no competition. Ultimately, you want to establish a sense of loyalty in the minds of your customers to the degree that you are motivating them to take various courses of action:

  • In the case of first-time guests, persuading them to choose your park over any and all of the alternatives.
  • In the case of existing guests, insuring that they are comfortable enough to refer your park to new campers, post positive comments on social media sites, and write reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.
  • In either case, encouraging your guests to raise their level of involvement. This could include making reservations for special meal functions, volunteering to assist with your park’s community service events, and simply showing up for your scheduled activities – all instances where everybody will have a more enjoyable time if more people are involved.

If you are thinking that these are unrealistic expectations, it could be the result of failed or non-existent branding on your part. To be effective, your branding should not only reach out to your customers on an emotional level, it should be based upon research into the actual wants and needs of your clientele. It is this identity that will establish the necessary emotional attachment. As a broad example, if the primary appeal of camping at your park is the opportunity to enjoy a memorable family experience in an outdoor setting, you need not concentrate on affordability or ease of access. At other parks, the primary appeal might very well be the affordability or ease of access that are not as important at your park. Do your research to properly define – then build – your brand.

The Venerable Tagline

Along with your logo, your branding might include a tagline that will pervade your marketing. Consider some of the great taglines that have been ingrained in our memories over the years. Is there any doubt which companies are associated with the following taglines?

  • Can You Hear Me Now? (Verizon)
  • Where’s the Beef? (Wendy’s)
  • When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best. (Hallmark)
  • Think Small. (Volkswagen)
  • Just Do It. (Nike)
  • We Try Harder. (Avis)
  • You Deserve a Break Today. (McDonald’s)

There is a tagline just waiting to be born for your business, but a tagline must be totally original in order to succeed. Forget about clichés like “The Best Kept Secret” that we have all seen a dozen or more times.

Putting It All Together

Another key branding element is your color scheme. In the campground industry, what does the color combination of yellow, red and black designate? Nobody but KOA! The colors of your logo should either be the colors of – or complement the colors of – your buildings and décor.

Is your logo on your entrance sign? Is it on your vehicle signage? For that matter, do you even have vehicle signage? The last thing that you want to do is have somebody create a sign that is not consistent with your overall branding. A multitude of random elements are not components of effective branding.

The same thing applies to apparel and other “branded” merchandise that you might sell in your store or hand out as premiums. Be certain that so-called branded merchandise is actually working to advance your branding, not work against it. A t-shirt or baseball cap that depicts a pleasant scene and includes your business name is not working to further your branding efforts. Always remember that most buying decisions are based upon a long-term accumulation of impressions. Be sure that each of those impression counts!

In the final analysis, branding is all about keeping things in focus. Try to ensure that everything that you do that will impact your business is done consistently, in a positive light, in a manner that distinguishes your business, and in a way that will engage your customers or clientele on a powerful emotional level.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Beware of Award Scams: An Update

June 4th, 2014

Back in early October of 2013, I blogged about an award scam being run by an outfit calling itself the Small Business Institute for Excellence in Commerce (SBIEC). I had never before heard of the organization, and as far as I was able to determine, the company’s only “business” was sending out these awards. The award announcement that I received read, “Each year, the Small Business Institute for Excellence in Commerce (SBIEC) panel identifies firms that have demonstrated excellence in their respective fields and achieved commercial recognition. Your firm has been one of those selected this year and this award exemplifies that distinguished accomplishment.” That vague announcement read like your horoscope. But wait, there was more! For only $358.00, you could get a framed certificate, a crystal award, and your own press release campaign (which, of course, cross promotes the SBIEC). In our instance, they would even correct our business name. Basically, they win, you lose.

Fast forward 8 months, and things have changed a bit. Thanks to that blog post and a related post on the Pelland Advertising Facebook Page, a Google search for the Small Business Institute for Excellence in Commerce featured our blog post, our Facebook post, and several related consumer complaint sites more prominently than the website of the perpetrators themselves. In reaction to that reality, the outfit has now changed its name to the United States Trade and Commerce Institute (USTCI), disabled the original website, and has an otherwise identical website to be found under the new business name. In an effort to create an air of authenticity, the About Us page even outlines various “philanthropic outreach initiatives” such as helping to finance microloans on Kiva.org “since 2007.” Well, isn’t that special? Their business’s website was only created on March 13, 2014. In a Google search for the United States Trade and Commerce Institute, we are now dogging the new business name, too.

The spam e-mails that people receive claim that the USTCI has a “panel of industry executives and consultants” and a “Media Division”. That means that the USTCI is comprised of at least 2 people, who probably spend most of their time harvesting the e-mail addresses of small business owners and processing the credit cards of unwitting award winners. They are now targeting small businesses outside of the United States, particularly Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain with the same award scam. Non-English speaking countries are bound to be targeted next.

The comments posted on our Facebook Page make it abundantly clear that it is very easy to qualify for this dubious award. At least two people posted that they had received 2013 “Business Excellence” awards for businesses that had closed in 2012! In a sad sort of way, the posts are quite entertaining. Complaints can also be found elsewhere online, on a variety of consumer complaint websites, including The Ripoff Report. Phone calls to the SBIEC reach an answering machine with an “out of office” message, and a check of their address with the U.S. Postal Service returns with, “The address you provided is not recognized by the US Postal Service as an address we serve. Mail sent to this address may be returned.” The address on the old website could also not be located on Google Maps, with the closest recognizable address being the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. The new website lists an address of 212 North Glebe Road in Arlington, Virginia. This is an image from Google Street View that shows the Knightsbridge Apartments that are located at that address. Hardly the location of such a respected and reputable company, is it?

Once again, how do you know if an award is a scam?

If you are told that you or your business is being nominated for an award – or is being presented with an award – it is probably best to think twice before you run out to buy a new tuxedo or evening dress. Follow a few guidelines, and ask a few questions.

Who is presenting the award? Do a Google search for the award. As you type in the name of the alleged award, is Google suggesting that it be followed by the word “scam”? I remember being called a few years ago (not coincidentally, during an election cycle) and being told that I was a small business leader who had been selected to be part of a recognition ceremony to be held in Washington, DC. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, not exactly. It turns out that the “award” had been concocted by a PAC (political action committee) that was designed to generate financial contributions for the National Republican Party. I know people who fell for the “award” and took the trip to have their pockets carefully picked in the nation’s capital.

Is there an entry fee? We have received direct mailings on a regular basis in recent years, inviting us to enter our work for the Davey Awards. The direct mail pieces typically look like they were designed by an untalented 9 year old, but that is just the first tell-tale sign that something is fishy. To enter the competition, you need to pay a $99.00 single entry fee, a $185.00 campaign entry fee, or $270.00 to enter a so-called integrated campaign, or go all out and pay $305.00 to enter a marketing effectiveness category. Adding insult to injury, if you win one of the dubious awards, you will be billed a $175.00 “acceptance fee” for your statuette and certificate.

We have also received similar direct mail pieces from the Telly Awards. According to their website, the organization receives 10,000 to 15,000 entries from small advertising agencies that are hoping to promote their businesses, each paying a minimum entry fee of $85.00. Do the math. That means that this questionable award generates about $1,000,000.00 for its promoters … just from the entry fees. Want to, once again, add insult to injury? If you “win” one of these dubious awards, you will be automatically charged an additional $170.00 for your award statuette (probably plastic) and your certificate. This seems to be a bargain compared to the Davey Awards, since the minimum entry fee is slightly less, and you will pay $5.00 less for your statuette if you “win”. It is no surprise that, if you search for “Telly Awards scam” on Google, there are currently 113,000 results. The Telly Awards and Davey Awards are not alone in preying upon companies that are eager to broaden their exposure. They are joined by the Webby Awards and many, many other questionable enterprises that appear to be in the business of generating entry fees and selling statuettes. Do you think that anyone who wins an Emmy, Oscar, Tony, or Grammy pays for their award?

Are winners asked to make purchases? In addition to obvious scams, there are many so-called “awards” where the winners are presented with the opportunity to spend money with the award presenters. Among the longest-running are the various Who’s Who directories. Do not be thrown off by what appears to be a recognizable and once-respected name. Who’s Who directories are about as commonplace as Yellow Pages directories these days. For years, I have been asked to validate my nomination to “Who’s Who among Executives and Professionals”. The congratulatory letters read, “The Publishing Committee selected you as a potential candidate based not only upon your current standing, but focusing as well on criteria from executive and professional directories, associations, and trade journals. Given your background, the Director believes your profile makes a fitting addition to our publication. There is no fee nor obligation to be listed. As we are working off of secondary sources, we must receive verification from you that your profile is accurate. After receiving verification, we will validate your registry listing within seven business days. Once finalized, your listing will share prominent registry space with thousands of fellow accomplished individuals across the globe, each representing accomplishment within their own geographical area.”

I do not know a single successful businessperson who needs to be included in a directory of this nature. Despite what the promoters say, there will be a fee to be listed and, of course, you will be presented with the opportunity to purchase one or more of the (very expensive) printed directories. These directories are useless in these days of online reference sources, and even most public library reference departments no longer purchase the worthless volumes. About the only buyers are the same people who think that they were honored by being included. Go to Wikipedia to learn more about various Who’s Who scams. There are currently 47,500,000 search results for the term “Who’s Who scam” on Google.

Does the award require a reciprocal link to the award website? If you remember the early days of the World Wide Web, there were an abundance of website awards that fed the egos of early webmasters. Today, if you search for “website awards” on Google, there are 1,780,000,000 search results. Most of these awards are totally worthless, randomly selecting “winners” who are encouraged to “proudly display” the award badge on their website, linking it back to the award website. Basically, these award sites are link farms that are trying to enhance their own SEO through a network of links. As time goes on, Google and the other search engine robots have gotten much better at ignoring these sites – and even penalizing the sites that are linked to or from them.

Is the award organizer the primary recipient of value from the award? Many regional newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations present annual “Best Of” awards, covering a wide range of categories. The categories all happen to consist of potential advertisers, and the awards are almost universally run by the advertising departments of the publications or broadcast organizations. The awards that are compiled based upon the votes of readers or viewers at least carry a bit of credibility. Even in those instances, the voting process may require a visit to the sponsor’s website (and all of its accompanying self-promotional messages). In almost every instance, the business that is presenting the awards will supply certificates that winners are encouraged to display at their places of business, badges that may be displayed on their websites, and award icons that may be added to their print advertising. All of that awareness does more to promote the businesses that are presenting the awards than the award recipients themselves. Is it any surprise that these awards have been concocted by advertising departments, and that winners are encouraged to buy advertising to help to promote their awards? This type of award is not an outright scam, but I would caution recipients against being overly manipulated in the process of engaging in their own part of the self-promotion.

Is the award presenter and the award recipient the same organization? There are also many thinly-veiled attempts to cross-promote one’s business ventures by having one organization present an “award” to what is essentially another arm of the same organization. This is somewhat along the lines of having General Motors present an award to its Buick division as the “Automobile Manufacturer of the Year”. Nobody would fall for that. Or would they?

Let the Winner Beware

The bottom line is that we all like to be recognized for our efforts, but beware of being exploited by people who prey upon that fact. Even recognition under legitimate competitions within an industry or a member association can be somewhat dubious because winners are only selected from among those who enter. Run your business properly, and your efforts will be acknowledged on a daily basis by your success and the satisfaction level of your clientele. This is the best recognition possible … and all that you really need.

Stay informed, because perpetrators of scams like the SBIEC and the USTCI will do their best to cover their tracks and change their appearances like chameleons. Spread the word to fellow small business owners. Information is our best defense against being scammed and exploited.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Some Common Sense Thoughts on SEO

May 29th, 2014

In the business world today, there seems to be no greater obsession than SEO – Search Engine Optimization. If website traffic falls short of an owner’s ever-increasing expectations, it is an all-too-common practice to blame SEO that is somehow not up to snuff. It amazes me how many people think that the same three letters can be either the reason for their success of the reason for their failure. In reality, people have far less control over SEO than most of us would be led to believe.

Because of that common misperception, there is an entire industry that thrives on exploiting small business owners and their belief in a silver bullet. Have you ever gotten an e-mail from a self-proclaimed SEO expert? I got spammed just this morning by somebody with the message, “Want more clients and customers? We will help them find you by putting you on the 1st page of Google.” There are no listings on the “first page of Google”, a page that only contains a stylized Google logo and a search box!

In addition to those e-mails, you have probably also gotten telemarketing calls from people who claim to hold the key to the pot of gold at the end of the Google rainbow. Sometimes the caller ID even says that the call is from “Google” … something that is easy for anybody to spoof. Trust me when I tell you that Google is never going to call you and they are never going to call me. Think about it. Have you ever been able to call Google and even speak with a receptionist?

The people who claim that they can get you that elusive prime search engine placement are – almost without exception – skilled con artists who will put the average used car salesman to shame. I recently met with the owner of a small campground who had been spending $300.00 per month for alleged SEO services with a company that was accomplishing nothing on his behalf. When he tried to cancel the service, the salesperson tried to convert him to the company’s $75.00 monthly plan. When he told me the name of the company, I did a Google search for the company name followed by the word “complaints”, and there were 755,000 results!

Search today is localized to the computer performing the search and is based upon a user’s previous usage patterns. It is relatively easy to make it look like your site is appearing near the top of broad search results, but this does not mean that your site is going to appear anywhere for somebody doing a search in Peoria or Wichita. Google has built its reputation upon providing the most highly relevant search results for any particular term and any particular user, and no self-proclaimed SEO expert can outsmart Google at its own game.

I have a friend who likes to say that his website comes up in the # 1 search position on Google for long, convoluted phrases that would never be used in an actual search. If his business was a campground, his website would appear at the top of the search results for the search phrase, “full hookup pull-thru campsites with free wi-fi on Lake Winnipesaukee in Meredith, New Hampshire”. See what I mean? Unless a business holds an international monopoly or trademark on a certain product or service, it is not going to appear at the top of the search results – on its own merits – for either a broad or highly specific search term. If you search for “iPhone”, you will be taken to Apple Computer; if you search for “2014 Mustang”, you will be taken to Ford; and if you search for “Cheerios”, you will be taken to the General Mills Cheerios website.

On the other hand, if I search for “oat cereal”, at least based upon my browsing history, Cheerios does not appear anywhere on at least the first 10 pages of search results, except for the paid “sponsored search” ad at the top of each page. Do you see my point? If I was not already familiar with “Cheerios” and specifically searching for that well-known product, it would not appear in my search results. In the case of your campground, the total number of websites in the world is expected to exceed 1 Billion by the end of June 2014, according to InternetLiveStats.com, and there are over 13,000 private campgrounds in the United States alone. Can you understand how easy it is to get lost in those numbers?

A person searching for the broad term “family camping” is unlikely to be looking for your specific campground. If your campground’s website appeared at the top of the list – outside of localized content and the user’s established usage patterns – Google would lose its credibility and its dominance in the search market. Beyond localized content and usage patterns, search results are based upon relevance (primarily found in the text on pages), a site’s relative importance, timeliness of content, and a site’s general volume of traffic. Yes, the odds are stacked against the website of a small business, particularly if that Web presence is either relatively new or if it is old and static.

The old days of keyword lists have long been replaced by today’s intuitive and content-based search results. Content is king. Most importantly, it is essential that your website delivers the type of quality experience that will ensure that, once people find you, they will be more likely to stay than leave.

With a better understanding of how search results are delivered these days, you are now better prepared to ignore those phone calls and spam e-mails from people who are in the business of selling false promises and victimizing the uninformed.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Domain Name Registration Essentials

May 16th, 2014

In recent weeks, I have been in a position where it was necessary to transfer several domain names from one registrar to another. In another instance, I successfully negotiated and rescued a domain name that had been lost four years ago by a previous webmaster who had since dropped off the face of the earth. Time and again, I am reminded of the importance of choosing a reputable registrar AND being aware of your domain name registration details.

As most people know, nobody actually owns a domain name. Think of it as a long-term lease (from 1 to 10 years) that you enter into with a domain name registrar (the equivalent of a rental agent, in this instance.) If you were leasing an apartment or an automobile, you would probably try to avoid getting burned by somebody working out of a back alley or who prefaced the conversation with the words, “Have I got a deal for you!” The same gut feelings apply to domain name registrars. My general recommendations are to never choose a registrar based solely upon price, avoid registrars that are based outside of the United States, and to resist the lemming-like tendency to choose a registrar based upon name recognition. Just because a registrar advertises on the Super Bowl does not mean that it should be your first choice.

When the time comes to transfer a registration, I have had transfers complete within 24 hours, and I have also had transfers that have dragged on for a month. I have generally found that the worst nightmares involve working with registrars based in foreign countries. In one instance, I had a client willing to pay $500.00 for an unused domain name, the widow of the registrant eager to facilitate the sale, but a registrar in Norway that refused to cooperate and eventually prevented the sale from taking place.

The first step in preventing that you ever find yourself in this type of nightmare scenario is to check the status of your existing domain name registration(s), particularly if they were registered by a webmaster or somebody else acting on your behalf. The quickest and most accurate way to check the registration of any domain name (and also to explore the availability of new domain names) is to perform a whois lookup. Go to www.whois.com, and enter the domain name in the “Whois Lookup” search box in the upper right of the page. If checking an existing domain name, the first thing that you want to check is the “Registrant” information. This should list YOUR name and YOUR business name and address, along with YOUR e-mail address. If the information is outdated or incorrect, update that information without delay. If the information is not recognizable, you may be paying for a so-called private registration. More on that later.

Another important piece of contact information associated with a domain name registration is the Administrative Contact. This will often be the contact information for your webmaster. The important things are for this to be updated if you change webmaster and for the associated e-mail address to be current and correct. Nothing will hold up a domain name registration transfer like an old e-mail address that has not been used in years. Finally, check the expiration date on your domain name, just so you can be aware of that timeframe.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you register or renew a domain name:

  • Avoid Add-Ons: I mentioned private registrations earlier in this article. That is probably the most commonly purchased domain name registration add-on, usually incurring an annual fee of $5.00 or $10.00. In almost all instances, a private registration is a total waste of money, and it will prevent you from confirming your domain name registration details without logging into your account.
  • Don’t Take the Bait: Domain name registrations can be registered for terms from one to ten years. Unless there is a significant long-term discount, I would suggest registering domains and renewing those registrations on a year-to-year basis. Of course, any registrant would like to have your business locked up for the maximum 10 years. In fact, one registrar (GoDaddy) actually spread the misinformation several years ago that a 10-year registration would enhance a domain’s search engine placement.
  • Be Aware of Scams: The reason that registrars would like you to register for 10-year periods is because of the domain slamming that contributes to the already high rate of “churn” within the industry. Be particularly wary of any mailed solicitations that you WILL receive in the mail from a company using the names “Domain Registry of America”, “Liberty Names of America”, or “Domain Registry Services”. The letters always show an icon of the American flag or the Statue of Liberty next to the return address, which will also show an address in either Buffalo or Niagara Falls, even though the company is conveniently located over the border in Canada – beyond the reach of prosecution by a number of otherwise eager state attorneys general. The letters imply that you are at risk of losing your domain name and must renew it now. Your domain name expiration date is probably months away – remember, the actual renewal date will appear in the whois lookup – and the fine print at the bottom of the letter will explain that by signing and returning the form with the required fee, you will actually be initiating the transfer of your domain name to the new registrar.
  • Beware of Country Code Solicitations: You will probably also receive e-mail solicitations (spam) from companies (usually in China), alleging that another company has “expressed interest” in registering the .cn version of your domain name. They further imply that they are paying you the “courtesy” of offering you a right of first refusal to “protect your trademark”. They will then offer you the dubious opportunity to register the .cn (the country code for China) and various other versions of your .com domain name. Doing so is a total waste of money.
  • Avoid Working with Drop Catchers:Drop catchers are people who make a living offering expired (dropped) domain names to businesses with similar domain names. When a domain name is not renewed by its registrant, it goes into a 30-day grace period, then another 5 day lock period. It is during this time period that drop catchers, without even having to actually register the expired domain in most instances, will offer it to you for purchase.Usually, they will imply that the domain name has a high value and will be going to auction. In fact, if it is of interest to you, it is highly unlikely that it will be of interest to any other business, unless there are many businesses with names similar to yours. Sometimes the drop catcher will insist that the name will go to auction. Either way, if you really want the domain name, I typically offer only $100.00, and the drop catcher will generally jump on the opportunity, since they rarely have other prospects and will have just earned about a $90.00 profit.

    The domain name registration that I recently rescued after it had been lost four years ago by an old webmaster was registered with a drop catcher. Although I was able to persuade him to do the right thing and release the domain name to my client at no charge, this is a highly unlikely scenario and a stroke of extremely good luck. The most common registrars that tailor their services to working with drop catchers are SnapNames, Enom, Pool, and GoDaddy.

When you transfer a domain name from one registrar to another, it will renew the registration and extend the expiration date by one year. This is a reciprocal arrangement that applies to all registrars. Also, once a domain is transferred to another registrar, it will be locked from further transfer for 60 days.

If you are wondering why any of this is important, just keep in mind that your domain name is essentially your second business name. Losing your domain name can be just as damaging as a wildfire or flood that devastates your business. Whether you handle your domain name registration(s) yourself or have a trusted webmaster who handles that responsibility on your behalf, take a minute to check the details of your registration and be aware of the scams and pitfalls that proliferate in the online industries.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Why You Need to Know and Love TripAdvisor

May 9th, 2014

According to the 2012 and 2013 editions of the Special Report on Camping, published by the Outdoor Foundation in partnership with KOA and Coleman, overall camping participation shows its ups and downs from year to year. The most recent statistics show 38 million Americans over the age of 6 – equating to 16% of the U.S. population – taking at least one camping trip over the course of the previous 12 months. If the industry is to grow, it needs to aggressively pursue the remaining 84% of the population, and individual campgrounds need to do the same.

One of the challenges for every campground is to grow its customer base. Despite your best efforts at customer satisfaction, you will lose campers from year to year. Some succumb to the lure of a competitor’s marketing, an aging population gradually loses its mobility, and others are simply not totally sold on the concept of camping. The American Camper Report refers to this churn rate among camping participants as the “leaky bucket” effect, and it increased from 16% to 32% from 2012 to 2013. Not a good trend. To continue growing the industry – and, of course, to continue growing the occupancy rates at individual campgrounds – it is necessary to reach new markets of first-time campers, as well as to re-engage campers who are still not fully committed to the experience.

In 2012, first-time campers comprised 10% of the overall numbers. If 16% of the population camped that year, this means that only 1.6% of participants came from the enormous 84% potential market of non-campers. Admittedly, campers are never going to constitute 100% of the population; however, as an industry, we need to choose between scrambling to rearrange shares of an existing market and engaging in the pursuit of new markets that will lead to real growth. We need to spend less time focused on pulling campers from one campground to another or one region to another, spending more time introducing new people to the overall camping experience.

Camping Cabins

One way of doing this is to focus on the gateways for new campers. Few people who have never camped before are going to spend $25,000 on a trailer of $250,000 on a motorhome just to see if they like camping. The gateways are tents (typically for younger campers) and rental accommodations – generally cabins and cottages, but also including rental trailers, yurts, treehouses, and other types of specialty lodging. Although the latest American Camper Report shows that people camping in their own RVs outnumber those camping in cabins by an 8 to 1 ratio, it is time to concentrate on reaching out to those new campers.


This Is Where TripAdvisor Comes to the Rescue

If your campground includes cabins or other types of rentals, you are on the right track. If rentals are not part of your package, it is something clearly worth considering. TripAdvisor is the undisputed giant of online travel resources, with 260 million users per month posting 90 new reviews every minute. Campgrounds with rental accommodations are now listed under TripAdvisor’s Specialty Lodging category. According to Alexa, TripAdvisor is currently ranked as # 92 among the most popular websites in the United States (# 209 globally), higher than any other travel-related website. For the sake of comparison, Expedia is # 138 (# 508 globally), Travelocity is # 371 (# 1,390 globally), the National Park Service is # 874 (# 4,175 globally), RV Park Reviews is # 19,215 (# 93,364 globally), and Go Camping America is # 186,792 (# 492,114 globally).

Part of the beauty of TripAdvisor is that it is not a search engine or directory. It is a depository of travel-related consumer reviews. Unlike many of the campground review sites (which reach very limited and narrow audiences), TripAdvisor reviewers are serious about travel and generally do not post reviews because they have an axe to grind. People turn to TripAdvisor for ratings and reliable reviews that have been written by their peers, basing subsequent travel decisions upon what they have read. I have personally planned entire vacations upon TripAdvisor reviews and always turn to this resource when choosing restaurants in unfamiliar destinations. I have never been disappointed. In an effort to share my experiences with others, I am also a Top Contributor who has up until now written 64 reviews which have received 58 helpful votes (which are indications that subsequent visitors made decisions that were at least partially based upon one of my reviews).

For campground owners, TripAdvisor represents a perfect opportunity to reach new markets, both domestic and international. When someone is looking for lodging in your area, they soon recognize that there are many alternatives to conventional hotels – including inns, house rentals, and cabins at your campground. In a recent seminar that I presented before the Mid-Atlantic Coastal States Campground Conference (consisting of New Jersey and Maryland campground owners), I showed that there were four campgrounds listed under the specialty lodging category for Cape May Court House, New Jersey. (Three days later, there were five campgrounds listed, an indication of how these listings are rapidly growing!) Each of these campgrounds had positive ratings, one with 29 reviews and two others with 11 reviews apiece. I would venture to guess that the owners of most of these campgrounds did not even know that their parks were listed. Out of all of the reviews that were posted for these campgrounds, there was not a single management response. Their owners are missing the boat on an opportunity to directly engage, not only with the reviewers but with every reader of those reviews.

It Is Time to Get on Board

Go to https://www.tripadvisor.com/Owners, follow the links to claim your business, then create a free business account. This will allow you to update the details about your business, add photos that will make your listing stand out, receive e-mail notifications every time somebody reviews your business, track your performance on TripAdvisor to see how your business is comparing with its competitors, and – most importantly – allow you to respond to guest reviews. If a review is positive, enter a personalized “thank you” response. If a review demonstrates either a complaint or disappointment, address the issue as immediately and diplomatically as possible. Either way, you are sending a message that you care about your guests. If a review is suspicious (for example, if it appears to be written by a competitor on an employee of a competitor) or if it violates TripAdvisor’s guidelines (for example, if it is off-topic or contains inappropriate language or content), you may file a request for editorial intervention.

Most campground review sites do not present business owners with these vital tools, nor do they reach potential new markets of non-campers. This is why you need to get to know and love TripAdvisor as a means of growing your market and base of campers!

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Is Facebook Today’s Milton Berle?

May 1st, 2014

Like a TV star at the peak of his prime, with ratings going through the roof, only to face cancellation two seasons later, the popularity of Facebook may very well be in decline. Think of Facebook in terms of Milton Berle’s career in the early days of television.

The Texaco Star Theatre was a popular radio show that transitioned to television in 1948, featuring a rotating series of hosts until settling upon comedian Milton Berle for the 1948-49 TV season. The show was an immediate hit with Uncle Miltie at the helm, commanding as much as 80% of the viewing audience, keeping people home on Tuesday nights, and driving the sale of televisions. Wanting to latch onto something new and extremely popular, NBC signed an unprecedented (and soon to be regretted) 30-year contract with Berle, culminating with the premier of the Milton Berle Show in 1955-56 (cancelled after that single season). The comedy shtick of “Mr. Television” had outworn the public’s patience with recycled material and failed to meet its demand for things that are “new and improved”.

Not long ago, Facebook was also at the top of its game, but I think that it is fair to say that the game is changing. According to Facebook’s own statistics from January 1, 2014, there were 1,310,000,000 active users, including 680,000,000 mobile users. They also admit to 81,000,000 fake Facebook profiles. Also according to Facebook’s own statistics, the total number of users between the ages of 13-17 has declined by 25.3% in the 3 years from January of 2011 to January of 2014. During this same period, users between the ages of 18-24 declined by 7.5%. As grandma and grandpa have opened accounts in droves, in an attempt to stay in touch with their children’s children, the same people with whom they want to connect are disconnecting at a record pace. Users currently enrolled in high school have declined by 58.9%, and users currently in college have declined by 59.1%.

According to a Pew Research Center report released in late 2013, the popularity of Facebook in the hierarchy of social media site usage by teens is in freefall, being surpassed by Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and smartphone apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Vine. Beyond that, social media applications in general are being put aside in favor of instant messaging.

As a business, does Facebook still fit into your marketing strategy?

A few years ago, Facebook usage was growing across the board, demographically speaking, and businesses were creating Pages and content in an effort to capitalize upon a new and growingly receptive market. Before the conversion of business Pages to the Timeline format, “unliked” Pages could designate custom landing page that could be designed to more actively engage visitors. The introduction of the Timeline format ended that capability. Since the introduction of the Timeline format, far more emphasis has been put on Facebook Advertising, which is now the only way to designate a custom landing page.

In the beginning, if a Facebook user “liked” your Page, they would be shown posts from your Page; however, since the introduction of the Timeline format, fewer and fewer people have been seeing a business’s organic posts. In fact, every time you post anything to your Page, you will see a link to the right of the Timeline that says “See Your Ad Here” with a link that says “Boost Post”. In addition, every post is now followed by a “Boost Post” link directly alongside of the small number of people who have already seen your post. Whereas it used to be that Facebook Advertising was an effective way to reach new people, now Facebook is using it as a means to get businesses to pay to reach even their existing followers!

With the latest version of the Timeline format, more space is being devoted to advertising and slightly less is devoted to content. For users, the updates that they want to see – including posts from your business – are far less likely to appear, having been largely replaced by advertising (with a small “Sponsored” disclaimer) disguised as real content. Although Google and other search engines have always showed clearly identified sponsored search content, the display of that advertising has not come at the expense of the organic search results that are the foundation behind usage. Facebook – a company that touts so-called “transparency” – is violating the trust of its end users and further insuring its ultimate decline. The official explanation is that their objective is to “improve the quality and relevancy of news feed content.”

The truth can be found in a recent Valleywag report quoting an anonymous source from within Facebook, disclosing that Facebook’s current strategy is to reduce the reach of organic posts to somewhere between 1% and 2%.

Creating and maintaining Facebook content for your business made infinite sense as little as a year or two ago. Today, the impact and return on the time and expense invested is questionable at best. Although my company has built well over 100 Facebook Pages, including custom content, for all types of small business clients in years past, we are no longer recommending that our clients expect a Facebook presence to create an impact that will be a significant component of their overall marketing strategy. Yes, you still want to be found on Facebook, but we can no longer recommend anything beyond the bare basics of content. Quite simply, there are far more cost-efficient ways to generate new business.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Looking for Business in All the Right Places

April 25th, 2014

The owner of an equine campground contacted me recently, asking for advice on where to market her park to people who are interested in camping with their horses. I replied that she would likely see the greatest impact by targeting her marketing toward horse owners rather than the broader camping market. Her clientele consists of people who are both campers and horse owners; however there is a far greater percentage of horse owners who would like to camp than there are campers who happen to own horses. A so-called “shotgun” marketing approach is rarely effective – and almost never cost-effective.

The 2013 edition of the American Camper Report, published by the Outdoor Foundation in partnership with KOA and Coleman, lists detailed statistics regarding the sports and leisure activities of camping participants while camping. Not surprisingly, 76% say that their favorite activity is hiking, followed by outdoor cooking at 32%, and fishing at 23%. A full range of activities is listed, based upon actual survey results, right down to those that are only identified by 1% of survey respondents (including scuba diving, surfing, and skiing), with another 14% listing “other” activities (a very small unidentified percentage of which may include horseback riding).

The report also lists similar statistics regarding the sports and leisure activities of camping participants when they are not out camping. Once again, 76% say that their favorite such activity is hiking, followed by running or jogging at 71%, and road biking at 58%. Once again, a full range of activities is listed right down to those that are only identified by 1% of survey respondents (yoga, ATV trail riding, and tennis). Again, horseback riding is not even on the list.

These survey results support my thinking that a highly specialized campground needs to market to people who are already predisposed toward their message. Nudist campgrounds and other “lifestyle” parks have recognized this reality for decades, and the same logic applies to any campground with a specialized draw that might not appeal to the general population.

In offering further advice to the owner of the equine campground, I found that a Google search for “camping with horses” or “equine campgrounds” turned up dozens of sites where a campground could be listed – and subsequently located by people looking for precisely this experience. I also found that there were no sponsored search ads on Google for either of those search terms, meaning that a very inexpensive Google AdWords camping would result in first position ranking.

There was also a “Camping with Your Horses” open Facebook Group with over 3,000 members, as well as smaller Facebook Groups with similar missions. I suggested that those groups should be joined and that appropriate messages be posted, where allowed, along with comments regarding posts of others – subtly referencing the campground. A Facebook Advertising campaign could also be launched, targeting members of these groups as well as people who like a combination of camping and horses.

Finally, I briefly researched horse-related trade shows and suggested that participation in some of those more regional events might be worth investigating. Most campgrounds participate, either directly or indirectly, in camping shows, so why not participate in similar shows that reach out to your core clientele?

Your park need not be totally committed to any one particular activity in order to capitalize upon marketing to specific population segments, following the same basic concepts that I used in quickly researching equine camping. If your park has a safari field, think about inviting in groups that will fill the space, in many instances engaging in activities that will appeal to the rest of your guests. Here are a few additional ideas, but you should already know which activities apply to your park. It’s just that sometimes we take familiar things for granted, failing to realize their appeal and marketing potential.

  • Bass fishing: If your park includes a boat launch on the shore of a lake with some serious bass fishing, how about sponsoring a fishing tournament? Get a local sporting goods store or boat dealer involved, and give away some serious prizes. Waive entry fees with two or more nights of camping, keeping in mind that serious competitors may want to arrive a day or two early to get to know the lake. Include an “amateur” category that will get all of your campers, young and old, involved and enthused.
  • Nearby trail networks: If your park is adjacent to a network of off-road trails, you may want to consider reaching out to an ATV club or partnering with a tour operator. If your park is located in the North and is open year round, the same trail network may attract snowmobilers who are also looking for a friendly place to stay as a group.
  • Dark skies: So many people these days have rarely seen a starlit sky. If your park has truly dark skies, away from urban light pollution (and your own scattered lighting), capitalize on that fact. There are 777 astronomy clubs in the United States (and another 121 in Canada), with locations in virtually every state. Find them online at www.AstronomyClubs.com. Invite one or more nearby clubs to camp and set up telescopes in an area where you have an unobstructed view of the sky, with the understanding that they will devote some public viewing time for the education and enjoyment of your other campers. With no telescopes required, consider making the annual Perseids Meteor Shower (5 days around August 10th) a special event.

Notice that the examples that I have offered do not require any sort of investment on your part. Two capitalize upon proximity to nearby resources, and one simply requires a clear view of the night sky. Each in its own way, these group activities can help you to fill your campground while getting a significant number of people to enjoy the great outdoors.

To continue growing the occupancy rates at your campground – and to bring in new guests to replace those that are lost due to attrition – it is necessary to reach out to new markets. Markets full of people with very specific interests who might also recognize the appeal of camping at your park. Don’t expect these folks to go out and buy a horse (or a fishing boat, an ATV, or a telescope) just to try camping. Instead, reach out to people who simply need a good reason to invest in a tent or to reserve one of your rental units.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Advantages of Multiple Websites & Multiple Domain Names

April 15th, 2014

These days, the domain name of a business is nearly as important as the business’s name itself. In a process referred to as a “type-in”, customers expect to be able to enter a business name followed by the .com extension into their browser’s address bar to be brought to the proper website. Stories abound about businesses (and even the White House!) that were asleep at the switch and found what should have been their domain names grabbed up by competitive forces. Of course, as time has progressed, many first choices have long ago been registered by businesses with similar names. For example, there appear to be more than a dozen parks name Shady Oaks Campground throughout the United States alone. The campground by that name in Maine registered the first-choice ShadyOaksCampground.com back in 1998, and the even more desirable ShadyOaks.com was registered by a nursery by that name in Minnesota two years earlier, back in 1996. Everyone else since then has faced the need for creativity in choosing an alternate domain name that might make sense.

When looking for the best available domain name, the rules of thumb are to keep it intuitive (in other words, having an obvious relation to your business), as short as possible, easy to spell, and ending in the .com extension. Some people persist in believing the myth that a long domain name that contains multiple keywords (even including words that do not relate to their business) will somehow enhance a website’s search engine ranking. In fact, I recently came across a campground in Georgia with a domain name that is made up of a combination of 9 words, for a total of 43 characters ahead of the .com – absolutely absurd! While it is true that an Exact Match Domain (EMD) name – such as the aforementioned ShadyOaksCampground.com – might offer a slight edge over less intuitive domain names in a list of search results, the general rule is to find the best available domain name that will make sense to your customers, particularly new customers who are not already familiar with your business.

Up until now, I have been referring to the best choice for a primary domain name for your business, but what about multiple domain names? Do they make sense?

Multiple Domain Names

Domain name registration fees are relatively minor in the overall scope of things, and many businesses like to explore the advantages of multiple domain names. These secondary domain names are typically setup as domain aliases that seamlessly redirect traffic to the primary domain. They are often based upon appropriate keyword phrases and are considered Phrase Match Domain (PMD) names. Whether or not these influence search results is open to debate; however, they may have value simply from the “type-in” perspective. My own research, based upon Google search results for keyword phrases that represent actual domains registered on behalf of our clients, suggests that domain aliases have very little influence upon search results.

Even in instances where these domain aliases are quite intuitive and directly relate to a business name or location, a search for the keyword phrase contained within that PMD typically produces surprisingly dismal results. My conclusion is that registering multiple domain names strictly for their search engine value is probably a futile effort that cannot even justify the relatively minimal expense. The exceptions are:

  • If an alternate domain name protects your name or trademark from potential infringement (or even confusion in the eyes of consumers). For example, if your business name was Willow Shores Campground and your domain name was WillowShores.com, you might want to register WillowShoresCampground.com as a domain alias.
  • If the alternate domain name points to unique content, rather than simply redirecting to another URL.

This last point is important. Although you do NOT want to have multiple websites for the same business competing for search engine ranking and confusing your customers, if you can justify building a secondary website that showcases unique content that represents a facet of your business, that website will appear in appropriate search queries and it will enhance the SEO of sites (including, of course, your primary website) that are linked to that secondary site. Note my emphasis on the word “unique” – search engines will typically penalize all of the sites involved when one or more sites simply mirror the content of another.

Examples Where Secondary Websites Make Sense

When justified by content, secondary websites make a great deal of sense. They can also help to generate search engine rankings and, subsequently, business. As an example, one of our clients is a large tea company with a long list of alternate domain names. Some are domain aliases that represent variations of their business name and protect their trademark from infringement. More importantly, there are separate, small websites for several of their flagship products. These sites appear at the top of search results for those products, while also directing significant traffic to the company’s main online commerce website.

Another example is the website for our client, James Kitchen, a prominent New England sculptor. His primary website provides all the information anyone might need – from finding the locations of installations, viewing a schedule of upcoming exhibitions, or watching a short documentary film on the artist. A new, smaller website showcases the artist’s contribution to a major Steampunk exhibition that is being hosted by the city of Springfield, Massachusetts from late March through late September 2014. This site will generate SEO and traffic within its own right, while also enhancing the SEO of the main James Kitchen site.

What works for a tea company and an artist can also work for a campground. Many campgrounds benefit (or could benefit) from a secondary website that showcases their canoe rental operation, adjoining restaurant or lodging, or miniature golf course that is open to the public. Others could benefit from a secondary website capitalizing upon their proximity to nearby attractions such as rail trails, fishing, or hiking. If your business has more than one profit center, there is no reason to limit your reach to a single website.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

   
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