Pennsylvania Great Lakes Region
Why this case study may be relevant to you
Across the counties it serves — Erie, Crawford, Venango and Mercer — PAGLR shares a
mission to promote all that Northwest Pennsylvania has to offer. But when the COVID-19
pandemic hit, like so many other destinations, the area faced a never-before-seen set of
challenges and a sudden drop in tourism.
PAGLR secured a Google Ads Nonprofit Grant to ramp up their promotional efforts, but lacked the in-house resources and know-how to use these dollars for maximum impact.
The DMOs within the organization were also wary of relinquishing control of marketing assets to a third party, especially during such a precarious time for the industry. Bull Moose Marketing worked to build a deep level of client trust, paving the way for a successful digital campaign. By conducting thorough keyword research, directing ad setup and management for quarterly campaigns and improving content for website landing pages, Bull Moose Marketing helped PAGLR launch a series of complementary quarterly ad sets for each respective county, as well as an overarching regional campaign. The campaigns were nimble, responding quickly to new travel regulations and adjusting ads and approaches accordingly and focused on top cultural and outdoor attractions in the area.
● Gaining the trust of DMOs involved
● Increasing tourism numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic
● Vying for tourism dollars while competing with larger surrounding areas like Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Cleveland
● Improving results for underperforming county websites
● Responding quickly to changing travel regulations and other obstacles introduced by the pandemic
● Build trust and understanding by breaking down analytics with the client, and discussing the campaign’s performance within an understandable context
● Leveraging resources and partners in each individual county to drive the success of the county-specific and overall campaigns
● Adjusting advertisements as needed based on data and other outside factors (e.g., increasing focus on popular search terms, such as capitalizing on summer Presque Isle searches in Erie County and shifting focus from underperforming areas, such as golf-related ads in Mercer County’s spring ad campaign)
● Adhere to grant objectives of $10,000 per month in Google Ad spend
● Maintain a cost-per-click of $2 or less and a clickthrough rate of 5% or more
● Encourage prospective visitors from out of town to book overnight stays and weekend trips
● Marry individual county ad campaigns with the overall PAGLR campaign
● Safety and comfort are key. Accounting for pandemic-related restrictions and visitor caution, the campaign stayed attuned to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, messaging exploited a strong desire for outdoor amenities and locations where people could comfortably distance, like beaches, campgrounds, lakes and rooftop bars.
● The Pennsylvania Great Lakes Region is a prime destination in every season. Digital content highlighted key seasonal offerings to drive steady traffic and promote the region as a year-round destination. In summer, ads leveraged amenities such as local campgrounds and farmers markets, and events such as Conneaut Lake’s Winter Ice House Park Festival were key draws in wintertime.
● Everyone deserves a getaway: The PA Great Lakes Region competes with larger surrounding areas for tourism dollars, but its strength lies in the cultural and outdoor attractions it offers at a greater value and more accessible cost.
Ad campaigns for PAGLR and its individual counties were run quarterly and highlighted season-specific attractions and events most likely to inspire target audiences to book a trip to the area. Prime target audiences included nature lovers, families looking for child-friendly activities and events, heritage tourists and visitors looking for budget-friendly getaways.
Responsive search ads linked to landing pages on the PAGLR website and typically involved two ad sets: one for cultural and community attractions (appealing to target audiences such as heritage tourists) and one featuring the areas outdoor amenities (appealing to target audiences such as outdoor enthusiasts). Additionally, to reach a specific set of seasonal visitors, event-based ads were occasionally run to advertise a specific area event for holidays such as Easter or Father’s Day.
Results to Date
“The best part for me about the Google Ad experience, through Bull Moose Marketing’s efforts, was seeing the spend go from leaving money on the table when no one was performing overly well to maximizing our ad (free) dollars. Not only did the spend finally hit the anticipated mark, but BMM sent great reporting to show all of us where we did well, how we can improve, and where opportunities are. It was above and beyond sending lame statistics; it was a personal touch to always wanting us to improve. I could feel the level of care that went into each reporting.”
–Victoria Soff, Executive Director, Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Platforms for Advertising:
● Pennsylvania Great Lakes Region website
● Individual county websites (Erie, Crawford, Mercer and Venango)
Promotional content resonated strongly with potential visitors who live near the area (~500 miles away or closer) as well as those looking for budget-friendly vacations.
Complementary work to develop a full marketing strategy for the Visit Crawford campaign identified three detailed personas to focus marketing efforts on:
● Outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers
● Families looking for kid-friendly events and activities
● Retirees seeking smaller-town trips with historical and cultural attractions
● Ad spend was tracked to analyze if the marketing campaign met grant objectives and leveraged the full amount of resources.
● CTR was tracked to see how many visitors clicked onto landing pages.
● Impressions highlighted the overall digital reach of the campaigns.
● Conversions show the number of visitors who booked a trip to the area (was not tracked in 2020).
Reporting for the Campaign:
From fall 2020 to fall 2021, both the general PAGLR campaign and the individual counties’ campaigns were highly successful in multiple metrics, from ad spend to impressions.
● Total amount of money spent on the ad campaigns (spend) increased from 18% to 82%.
● Overall impressions increased from around 21,000 to over 200,000 — an increase of more than 822%.
● Combined conversions totaled 323 (numbers not available for 2020).
● Ads for attractions drove 72% of conversions and a clickthrough rate of 9.56% — more than double the average CTR for the tourism industry of 4.68%.
● Clicks increased by 902%.
● Impressions hit 45,988, an increase of nearly 980%.
Individual County Campaigns:
● Crawford County ads experienced an increase in clicks by nearly 4,800%.
● Venango County achieved more than 21,000 impressions.
● Mercer County achieved 34,762 impressions — a 219% increase.
● Erie County reached an average CTR of 7.54% – an increase of more than 6%, far outperforming the industry average.