The challenge of any website is to convert traffic into buyers who take the site’s prescribed call to action. Whether it means putting an item into a shopping cart, signing an online petition to save the whales, making a charitable contribution, or reserving a campsite for the third weekend in August, if a site lacks traffic it has no chance of converting those numbers of visitors into buyers. Fortunately, there are many ways to drive traffic to your site.
Many businesses have become convinced in recent years that the key to traffic is strictly a matter of search engine optimization (SEO). In desperation and out of confusion, they fall prey to a host of companies (who often initiate contact through spam or from a telemarketing boiler room operation) offering so-called guaranteed search engine placement or keyword analysis services that usually run automated software. Some other companies act like they possess a uniquely secret talent, with one recently proclaiming itself to be the “official SEO company of the campground industry”. The claims can get pretty preposterous. I actually received a telemarketing call a while back from an outfit in India called “BS SEO”. The name says it all!
With the decreasing role of search engine traffic, the role of referring sites becomes ever more important. The cumulative impact from established referring sites is not only measured directly by the traffic that they generate but also from the listings and their positive influence upon search engine rankings. With that in mind, one of your goals should be to ensure that your website is listed in as many online resources that are relevant to your business as possible. More importantly, check to confirm that the listings and links to your website are correct and unbroken.
Where to List
The best way to start is to compile a list of resources where your business should already be listed as one of your benefits of membership. Never assume that these listings are correct and up-to-date. Check them individually, and you will often be surprised by outdated content that could be negatively impacting the effectiveness of your listing. Start this list with your membership listings on any local, regional, or state chambers of commerce and tourism boards to which you belong. Check for details like current e-mail addresses, as well as your correct Web address, ideally including a direct link to your website.
Next on the checklist for campgrounds and related businesses are the state, regional, and national associations where your business maintains membership. These include National ARVC’s Go Camping America website and your state association website. When checking listings recently on three of the largest campground state association websites in the United States, I was shocked by the number of broken website links that I encountered. Most of those were the result of programming errors within the sites, a few were the result of spelling errors, but others were the result of updated information that was never passed along to the association by the owners of the individual campgrounds.
There were also several instances of campgrounds that had lost the domain names that were listed, even though they had new websites built under new domain names. Rather than sending people to their new (and presumably improved) website, visitors encountered either a “404 file not found” error page or a page indicating that the old domain name was for sale – either way leading many people to conclude that the campground is out of business and permanently closed. In one or two other instances, I found campgrounds with new domain names and who had not lost control of their old domain names, but did not provide redirects from the old to the new.
I should also mention that I encountered many websites with e-mail addresses that were invalid, making any attempt to contact the businesses bounce faster than a basketball. I have also encountered phone numbers that go to voicemail but that are either not set up to accept voicemails or have mailboxes that are full. Why not just lock your doors and find another line of work?
Each of the state associations has a member services website, usually password-protected, where you can enter any listing information that may be incorrect, incomplete, or entirely missing. Check your listings, and get ensure that they are as complete, correct, and up-to-date as possible.
Those are some of the most obvious resources where your campground would expect to be listed. Next, it is time to get listed in any of a wide range of specialized directories that relate to your business. Be sure to include performers who are scheduled to appear at your park. Almost all of them have their own websites, where they list their upcoming performance schedules. Provide links to them on your website’s activities schedule, then insist that they provide reciprocal links to your site. Many fans of these performers follow their schedules and could become first-time guests at your park.
Dog-Friendly Online Directories
There are many websites that list campgrounds that cater to specific types of camping. Some, for example, list campgrounds with yurts. Others list campgrounds with free wi-fi service. Others list campgrounds that are pet-friendly, and I will concentrate on these. Pets are indisputably the new family members. If your park is pet-friendly, there are many online resources that will help you to spread the word. Some of these sites even offer free listings or free trials. To save you time in researching these resources, I have compiled a comprehensive list of sites that cater to pet-friendly travel. I have excluded any sites that appear to be down, list only hotels, or are tied into another paid service.
In each instance, I am listing the website’s URL, its number of yearly visitors (as shown at StatShow.com), its annual listing fee, and the cost per thousand yearly visitors. This last number is an apples-to-apples way of comparing the cost-effectiveness of each site.
Somebody searching for camping accommodations on one or more of these sites is an excellent prospect to become a guest at your campground, probably a camper who has not stayed at your park before and would be unlikely to choose your park without this referral “nudge”. Since most people probably refer to only one of these resources – rather than searching through multiple resources – listing your park on more than one site is probably going to significantly expand your reach.
Building your presence on referral sites is only one of many ways to attract new guests. Now that you have this information at your disposal, put it to use!
This post was written by Peter Pelland