What’s it like at Google? We ask so you don’t have to.

Ever wonder what it’s really like to visit the Google headquarters?

Madden Media superstars Alexis Favis and Vanessa Abril-Gutierrez were able to join our partners Jason Holic and Jessica Castro from Experience Kissimmee at Google’s main campus in California last month. Our very own Amber Ayers asked them to recount their adventure to Silicon Valley and share their experience with everyone.

You recently made a trip to Google’s Partnerplex in Mountain View for a Google Executive Summit. Tell me about some of your expectations for the trip.

VG: My expectation of the trip was to build our partner relationship with Experience Kissimmee (EK) and take an in-depth look at their current efforts to identify opportunities for growth so that we can take their campaign to the next level. Our goal is to ensure that we are doing all that we can to have a top performing campaign.

AF: From the client relations side, solidifying our relationship as a Google Premier Partner as well as bringing Kissimmee directly into those conversations for more collaboration on their Google campaigns.

What was your first impression of the campus?

AF: We visited the quad campus first and that blew me away with the amount of people, and the energy, and structure. Then actually visiting the Google Partnerplex was really special. The entrance to the Partnerplex is even guarded by security, which I wasn’t expecting. Not just anyone can enter. You truly do have to be invited. It really solidified how unique of an opportunity this was for Madden & EK.

VG: What I thought was exciting was that it has a very casual atmosphere in the way that it is set up. It’s still very structured in a way where it just oozes smart people. You really felt like everybody was on their game.

AF: The casualness fostered communication and workflow. You saw a lot of people doing their work, but there was a lot of interactivity…

VG: Collaboration. And it’s not just talking about everyday things. It’s talking about strategy and opportunity and the products themselves. What would really help our partners and the campaigns that we manage. I think that just really felt…

AF: Google-y.

VG: Yes! I felt a presence of being with really knowledgeable people. It was pretty cool.

Is the cafeteria really as cool as they say it is?

AF: It’s a whole ordeal and the food is really, really good. That was some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had and obviously there was pizza, so I was thrilled.

VG: Even the remote site was pretty cool. They had a coffee bar where we could fuel up, which got our ideas flowing, especially after a latte and Americano.

What does it mean to you to be a Google Premier Partner?

VG: For us to be a GPP is special because of the fact that we are that next level of what Google expects an agency to be. Not only from the amount of spend that we have with them, because it’s really easy for agencies to spend money with Google, but the performance aspects of it. We have to maintain a certain level of performance in order to have the Premier status. In addition to that we’re also badged in specialties—video, search, display, and mobile. That’s just another added bonus. The thing that I love about it, when we first became the Premier Partner and started working with Google directly, is the amount of access and the additional tools that we have outside of just the platform itself. With additional reporting, and being able to bounce our ideas about optimization off a third-party, which is Google, is priceless. We try to stay on top of our game as far as optimization, but to have that extra, “hey guys what do you think about this?” and have them come back and say “that’s a really good approach”—having that extra access, an allied human to go to is really priceless. Our reps are so communicative and knowledgeable and they are not afraid to bring up new ideas.

AF: That direct human contact—and you can tell how genuinely interested they are in learning about our vertical and all the nuances. They get excited about it too because we are educating them on this whole vertical of travel and tourism. The Premier Partnership shows how hard our team works to keep up that performance which is really impactful for what we do on the client side in terms of ensuring we can back-up the performance of all our campaigns.

What are some unexpected experiences you encountered?

AF: Getting to visit the quad campus was unexpected. We hadn’t initially planned on that, but it added to this unique experience.

VG: I wouldn’t say there was anything unexpected—I knew I was going to be wowed. I appreciate the fact that our reps really went above and beyond to make sure that we were comfortable, even at the remote office. When we were at the Googleplex, it was the same—making sure we were comfortable, EK was comfortable, and we always had what we needed. That level of attention to detail in addition to the fact that they wanted to make sure we were happy was like—WOW. We weren’t just there for an every-day meeting, this was really showing our bond.

You mentioned our partner, Experience Kissimmee. Were you able to gain some insights on their current and future digital marketing efforts?

VG: Yes, we actually were able to gain quite a few insights. Not only for their existing campaigns, but we also identified opportunities for things that they aren’t currently running and provided data and facts to support reasons why they should be doing it.

AF: That is another GPP benefit. We can get introduced to betas that are really good fits for our clients and they are always trying to bring those opportunities to us, where we wouldn’t be able to get those otherwise. All of the data and resources that we get as a GPP really sheds some light on their campaign and gave us and EK quite a few ah-ha moments—things they were excited to take back to Florida with them.

What’s next for the future of digital marketing with Google and its brands?

VG: The machine learning and smart bidding is really their focus—what we are working with them on. Something else is the attribution models that we bring to the table.

AF: That’s a really good point regarding the attribution innovations, because for the vertical that we work in, it’s often a soft conversion, so to speak. There are a lot of other factors that play into conversion, so specifically for DMOs and CVBs, finding new ways to do attribution is really exciting. Video is going to be the cornerstone of more digital marketing campaigns, so I’m excited about all the capabilities we have to distribute that with Google. All the different strategies, video lengths, where consumers are seeing video, and the content of those videos at different points in the travel cycle can be leveraged in campaigns.

VG: Back at the beginning of 2017, when they had their Google Next Keynote speech, you could really see the areas of that speech tied into the products that we’re implementing, including attribution. I feel like that tied together with their goals as a company. You could see that in the way that they were speaking to us about their products that we are implementing for our partners.

Vanessa & Alexis’ insider travel tip: Android Statue Garden—Google has an Android statue “graveyard” with all of the past versions of Google’s Android mobile operating system, based on their code names, named after desserts and sweet treats. The garden is located next to the Google Merchandise Store, which is open to Google employees and their guests.

Food Tourism

Food. In our daily lives it can be a hassle to plan and make those meals, making sure we balance the right amount of meat with vegetables, and wine with water, so when we go on vacation, we often let loose. Gaining weight on a trip doesn’t really come as a surprise anymore, if anything a few pounds are expected.

But food isn’t only being consumed on vacations, it’s driving the decision to travel.

Places like Charleston, New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago, Portland are foodie hotspots with their unique offerings.

Portland takes food tourism to a whole other level. This dish from Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine is an adventure all in itself.

Source: Travel Portland

Where better to have beignets than New Orleans? Sugar-topped deliciousness with some coffee from Café Du Monde. Sign us up.

Source: Visit New Orleans

One of our employees recently traveled to St. Louis for business and stopped for a bite in the St. Charles Historic District. Are you drooling? Because we are.

Source: _Arexis

Here in Tucson we’ve got Sonoran Dogs, prickly pear, and so much more to thrill the taste buds of visitors. What kind of unique dishes catch your eye when thinking about traveling?

The digital marketing trends all the cool kids are talking about

Want to know more about the latest digital marketing trends that can help bring visitors to your destination? We’ve got you covered. As we travel around the country attending conferences and talking to destination marketers, our teams continue learning about the latest digital marketing trends impacting tourism. From Google Destinations to mobile-inspired ads, User Generated Content to video marketing, there are always new strategies that you can use in your digital campaigns.

Conventions and meetings are big business for destinations

So how do you land the big gigs?

Let’s start with the basics: does your destination have the facilities to host conventions like trade shows and conferences? If your answer is no—skip down to the next paragraph. If your answer is yes—high-five! Your destination is well equipped for event planners looking for the ideal place to book their event. A comprehensive marketing campaign, using platforms like LinkedIn to reach professionals and tactics like storytelling to share firsthand experiences while highlighting the technical aspects of your hosting capabilities, offer an innovative way for interested parties to get inspired. Keep the information dynamic, and make sure to sell yourself beyond the venue. Your unique amenities and attractions may make the difference on whether an event planner selects your destination over another.

Keep the information dynamic and make sure to sell yourself beyond the venue.

Most destinations aren’t equipped with grand convention centers or sprawling resorts, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to entice meeting planners with the venues you DO have. Meetings like off-site company gatherings or group events have the ability to bring serious dollars to your destination. Upgrading your search engine marketing efforts ensures meeting planners searching for the perfect venue find you for all the right reasons at the exact right time. LinkedIn and Facebook ads with professional targeting can also be great tactics in this space. Always make sure to have dedicated pages on your website for this specific audience with clear calls-to-action.

Travel to where the jobs are

What influences someone to relocate? Is it the job benefits? The salary? But those are only part of the reason. Professionals want to live in a place where they can explore, dine, and relax on their downtime and continue to be successful while on the clock. But it can be a challenge to encourage these professionals to consider relocating. People are always dreaming of the perfect job, but don’t always consider that the perfect job could be in a different city—or even a different state. By showing off the top quality-of-life reasons to live, work, and thrive, Madden Media is able to target professionals who are looking for a job and influence them as they consider moving. But how does it work? Take a peek below to see how Lubbock, Texas was successfully able to encourage IT professionals to relocate.

Case Study: Lubbock Economic Development Alliance

The Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA) partnered with Madden Media on a strategic digital campaign focused on growing Lubbock’s IT industry by recruiting IT professionals. They also sought to increase awareness of Lubbock’s competitive technical industry and excellent quality of life. After reviewing the city’s goals and determining the audience, Madden Media devised a plan and tactics to execute the campaign. The campaign utilized LinkedIn to target the most desirable audiences, specifically Texas Tech alumni and those educated in IT Engineering. LinkedIn Display Ads and InMail marketing were launched to generate visits to the Alliance’s microsite, Return2LBK.org, which featured IT job listings and quality of life comparisons between Lubbock and other major cities. Within a very short period, LEDA had already received more than 20 responses from IT professionals interested in being considered for job opportunities in the area.

Results:

  • LinkedIn InMail Marketing for LEDA averaged a 6.8% CTR and 54.7% open rate (LinkedIn benchmarks are 4% and 40%)

LEDA’s campaign delivered more than 719,000 impressions and a total of 1,090 clicks to Return2LBK.org

Travel Micro-Moments

What is a micro-moment and why should you care?

When you turn to a device looking to learn, discover, or find or buy something, you are creating a micro-moment. During this time, preferences and decisions are often made. These moments give tourism entities a perfect chance to influence potential visitors.

Dreaming

Sitting in a boring meeting, hearing a friend talk about their fantastic trip, or seeing an ad about a destination—all of these can spark an “I want to get away” moment. In this moment, they will turn to their device to look more into getting away. It’s important to kindle that spark of desire to travel. Mobile is huge—60% of searches for destination information are coming from mobile devices. 1 in 3 travelers say they haven’t typically decided on a specific destination, so it’s the perfect time to bring out all the bells and whistles. Be inspiring. People look at 10 images on average when dreaming about vacationing—the greatest engagement is with the main image. Don’t bog them down with details or try to get them to commit to booking at this time, they just want to get excited by the idea of visiting your destination. So show it off!

Planning

Once they are inspired and are dreaming about visiting your destination, travelers move into a “Time to make a plan” moment. This is your chance to add in a bit more detail about your destination. They are looking at hotels and flights, reading stories about what others have done there—the logistics of their travel plans—and the majority of visitors do it on their phones. 70% of travelers with a smartphone have done travel research on their smartphone. Now, more than ever, it’s important to have a mobile-responsive website that is inspiring and easy to navigate.

Booking

After visitors have decided that their plans are feasible, they are ready to start booking the trip—the “Let’s book it” moment. Here is where device really matters. 46% of mobile travelers say they make decisions on mobile, but then book on another device. Mobile limitations and usability is usually the reason for the switch to another device, which can often delay booking or sometimes derail it entirely. What can you do to keep the ball rolling and make it easier for visitors looking to book on mobile? Here are a few tips:

  • Implement one-click functionality
  • Help the traveler fill in forms
  • Put call-to-action front and center
  • Decrease the amount of steps to book
  • Decrease loading time—any wait will make them question whether they want to continue

Experiencing

They’ve booked—congratulations! Now what? Visitors move into a “Can’t wait to explore” moment. It’s during this time you want to keep up the feel-good feelings. Now make sure they enjoy their time in your destination and, of course, feed your local economy with tourist dollars. The best way to sustain a destination’s success is to encourage your visitors to get out and engage in experiences. 67% of travelers feel more loyal towards a travel company that shares information during their trip that improves their travel experience. 

Is your brand easily accessible during each of these micro-moments?

Building a Dynamic Digital Campaign

At Madden Media, each digital marketing component we provide for our clients has a purpose and strategy behind it. Components fit together like pieces of a puzzle, building to create a comprehensive campaign that will drive visitors closer to booking their vacation.

Website

Your website is the foundation of your marketing campaign. It has to deliver on the promise to consumers of what’s being advertised. You need to send interested readers to compelling landing pages that reflect your branding and offer relevant and engaging details about your destination. Not sure what you should shoot for? We think a few of our partners have really easy-to-navigate websites with engaging landing pages that are not only informative, but also inspiring. Take a look:

Experience Columbus won the Skift 2016 Award for Best Website 

Outer Banks of North Carolina won an Adrian Award, Gold in the category Tourism Website

Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater won an Internet Advertising Competition Award for Best Travel Website 

Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing

Once you have a fabulously designed site where visitors can easily explore all the amazing options available to them, it’s time to integrate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) into your mix to bring in highly-relevant site traffic. SEO works behind the scenes of your website, harnessing strategic keywords and relevant content to move your site organically closer to the top of search engines like Google and Bing. Ensuring that your site’s code and structure delivers an optimal user experience, and that the content is original and engaging, will help your site move past the competition in search results.

SEM allows you to market to consumers at the exact moment they’re searching for keywords relevant to your brand and deliver them the content they desire.

SEM allows an advertiser to bid on keywords valuable to their business, serve custom ads, and compete with other advertisers on a cost-per-click basis to earn clicks to their website. SEM allows you to market to consumers at the exact moment they’re searching for keywords relevant to your brand and deliver them the content they desire.

Content and Display

You’ve heard it before, but it still rings true…Content is king. No, we don’t mean the traditional content of “what to see” or “where to stay” that most destinations use on their sites. This information is certainly important to help visitors learn more, but we encourage our clients to take it a step further to create an emotional connection with immersive stories written in such a way that the reader can imagine themselves in the destination. But it doesn’t just include a content plan and stories that live on your site waiting to be found. We recommend proactive distribution on popular news, lifestyle, and social media websites which drives new, potential visitors to the stories on your website.

Display Ads can play a valuable role in building awareness about a destination, offer, or event. Not only can these ads improve brand recognition and bring new visitors to your site, but also can be used as a strategic follow-up to those who have already been there—“Hey, you visited our site. Did you maybe want to go back to look around some more? Would this special offer entice you to book today?” When encouraging visitors to more deeply consider your destination and to book their vacation, remarketing is an invaluable tool.

Social

When you’ve built up the foundation of your core marketing campaign, you should then include social media advertising: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Snapchat, to name a few. While maintaining every-day social media posts is something we feel is best handled by each destination, creating and optimizing ads through these platforms to spread the word, gain more followers, and increase views should be an important facet of your paid media mix. From your individual goals, we can determine which platform would be most beneficial. For example, if you are looking for a fun element that brings awareness to your destination, Snapchat is your jam. If you’ve got some videos promoting your area, Facebook or YouTube will work well. If making visitors drool over your images is your thing, using Instagram is where you’ll see the best results.

For example, if you are looking for a fun element that brings awareness to your destination, Snapchat is your jam.

Now that you’ve laid the foundation of a comprehensive digital campaign, you can begin thinking about honing your strategy by activating more robust targeting or including influencers and user-generated content into the mix.

Research and Analytics

You’ve made a comprehensive digital campaign—now what? The best piece of advice we can give is to establish your goals up front and don’t build or promote anything you can’t track. Knowing what’s working and what’s not working using metrics from the individual platforms, as well as your website analytics, ensures that you’re able to continually optimize and maximize your marketing dollars.

Madden Media’s team of digital experts is ready to work with you on a strategy, keep you updated with regular reports and daily optimizations, walk you through the performance results (good and bad), and make adjustments based on tracking of your goals.