SHELBYVILLE, IL. —
By Frank Mulholland
Contributing Reporter for the Daily Union
This is the second article in a two-part story about the new website that has been built by Brian Tucker and his company, SimplySell. The new website had its official launch on June 28, 2012. The first article, that appeared in last Friday's Daily Union, was about the work behind the scenes to get the website started.
This article will explore the goals of the website, how to use the website, and how the results may be tracked and quantified to provide verifiable results. The will be used to improve the website, and expand the overall community marketing strategy.
The website is Shelbyvilleillinois.net, which contains roughly 80 pages of information to market the area and has the backing of the Shelbyville City Council and the Greater Shelbyville Chamber of Commerce. The website is managed in a partnership between Tucker's company and the "Shelbyville Works" M.A.P.P.I.N.G. group.
"We want to get more people to take a sip of Shelbyville and what our entire area has to offer", said Tucker. "The more we can get information about our area and activities online, the better off we are."
The website has eight different categories, each with a drop down menu. Those eight categories include: Home Page, Play, Stay, Shop, Eat, Live, Contact, and a community news Blog. Tucker said his close association with the "Shelbyville Works" group meant that he tried to align the website towards the five major goals of the MAPPING group. The goals of the mapping group are: 1. Increase Tourism Traffic 2. Grow Businesses and Jobs 3. Improve the Downtown Experience 4. Promote Education and 5. Strengthen Community Involvement.
Local businessman, John Chambers, who is on the Shelbyville Works Steering Committee and has worked with Tucker, said the MAPPING group is very pleased with the progress.
"We (Shelbyville Works Steering Committee) were thrilled the website is up and running in advance of the July Fourth holiday, when a large number of tourists visit our area," said Chambers. "We also are happy that there is still a lot of summer left to capitalize on the website."
Like most websites, this Home Page includes general information such as travel directions, things to do in Shelbyville, and information of upcoming community events such as the Relay for Life and the Fourth of July Celebration. But, this new website is so much more.
Tucker said, "Testing done prior to the launch showed that most inquiries are not about finding Shelbyville, because most already know where Shelbyville is and how to get there."
"So, they don't type Shelbyville into Google; they type in things like Shelbyville swimming pool, campgrounds near Lake Shelbyville, Shelbyville area restaurants, that is how they (visitors) search and that is the kind of traffic we are seeing."
Tucker said the most sought after information now is about the Aquatic Center because of the weather, and now there is material about the swimming pool on the site.
Tucker explained there are traditionally three parts to any website. The first is the marketing message - what you want to say, and who you think you want to say it to. The second part is the technology side of it, which is actually building the website with the design and infrastructure and laying it all out. The third piece, that most traditional web designers don't do, is to actually go out and figure out where the people you are trying to get your message to are at online, so you can get your targeted message in front of them. For example, getting these search phrases listed at the top of social media search sites like Facebook and search engines like Yahoo or Bing.
Tucker said "This is the secret sauce so to speak. We take pieces of the website that are relevant to those people and get them placed where they will bring traffic to the website."
This third part of the process is a hot new technology called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is vitally important because most people have thrown their local phone books in the trash and use the Internet to search for businesses, especially when they’re on the road.
Tucker said, "It’s proven that over 90% of local Internet searches result in a phone call, in-store visit, or e-mail follow-up to buy. People who search the Internet are self-educating themselves. They know what they are looking for and are ready to buy. To further that, we have a projected visitor base of over 4 million people visiting the lake this summer. They are all searching on their computers before they leave and smart phones while they’re here for things to do in the Shelbyville area. Before this website, we really didn’t exist to those types of searchers, which are growing exponentially by the day and are now becoming the norm. Now, when people search for things to do in the area we come up at the top of the search page results."
Tucker knows that targeting this population will measurably translate into increased local business and tax revenue for everyone.
He said the problem with most websites is they build the website but then do not have traffic to that site.
"It is kind of like building a billboard in the desert. A website is a business growth investment that should start paying you back immediately."
Another important tool Tucker has built into the website is verifiable results. Many website owners boast of how many "hits" ( a pool of visits to the site) their website receives. "Hits" can come from many sources including other computers that are scanning the website for information. A website may have many hits in a month, but the real question would be - of those hits how many were real users.
"We can take that data (hits) and go deeper and figure out if they were really users. Then we can ask, what were the things they looked for most on the site, how long were they on the site, how many times did they came back to the site, and how many pages did they view while on the site.”
Tucker and the Shelbyville Works group can use the information to improve the site by adding more information to the frequent inquiries and clarifying some of the information.
The website is linked to other websites in our area such as the Daily Union and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Local merchants are also beginning to link to the website.
Another very important feature of the website is an electronic e-mail list. It is a data base that allows a user who comes to the site to receive information about Shelbyville. After they enter their name and e-mail address they immediately get an automated e-mail back that gives them a link to download "Shop Shelbyville" coupons, which are specifically tied to one of the MAPPING initiatives currently underway. Users can then print off and use the coupons at local businesses. The website visitors are also automatically subscribed to receive future updates, which could include more coupons or announcements.
"Now we are not only putting information on the site, we are also sending that information to them directly in the inbox," Tucker said.
He said there will be some small advertising, both local and national, on the site to help offset continuing costs of maintenance.
"The site in itself is not supposed to be a money-maker, this is part of a non-profit community marketing program geared to boost the area's overall economy.”