VentureWeb was requested to lead the charge on the online front and make www.goldenisles.com the ultimate go-to resource site for both locals of and visitors to the Golden Isles region.
Our Discovery process revealed more complexities to consider in the creation of Golden Isles' new online solution. While member confidence in the new direction was hopeful, previous initiatives had left business owners disappointed and without an appreciation for what well-planned online marketing could deliver. Many, in fact, had no online presence whatsoever, making this a venture into 'uncharted territory' for some. We determined that we'd have to find a way to bridge this gap as best we could to ensure three things:
Business members would see the value in an online presence through the new website;
Useability wouldn't suffer as a result of lack of relevant content; and,
The Golden Isles staff wouldn't be overburdened with sourcing and migrating content on their members' behalf.
We also realized that the move to a new url was going to be a more involved process. Part of that was due to the fact the previous organization had registered urls (ranging from the 'Come Coast Awhile' tagline to 'Brunswick and the Golden Isles') in addition to the online entities of the individual areas that now fell under the Golden Isles umbrella—including St. Simon's Island, Little St. Simon, Jeckyll Island, Sea Island, and Historic Brunswick—each claiming the 'official website' title of that area. Tidying up those legacies was going to be imperative in order to place high in the SERPS as both Golden Isles and the 5 areas, and ultimately win back the endorsement of the business operators to truly earn the 'official' website designation for the destination.
Social media profiles would have to be changed as well to reflect the new naming convention, and an extensive Facebook migration strategy developed ahead of the new website to effectively retain (and grow) followers and leverage their loyalty during lead up to the website launch date.
Competition presented another major factor. The east coast of the US provides numerous options for holiday travelers and, located between Florida and the resorts of South Carolina including Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach, reinventing the Golden Isles brand was going to be an uphill battle. Despite the area being dubbed ‘Golden Isles’ 500 years ago by gold seekers who, instead, found golden marshes and sunshine, the area has, to date, been known more-so by the 5 individual areas spread out amid the 100 miles of marshes and coastline. Measuring up against the more known resorts in the region and being selected as that destination of choice by families is going to require strong branding that clearly communicates the experiential range of options available so that any family can easily customize a vacation that suits their ages and interests.
As far as the solution itself, the one thing we did have was content. Rich in history, the Golden Isles' story is well documented, so the job was more to curate the best of that content rather than create it—at least in most cases. Groups and Weddings is an example of a new area identified for growth which meant work would have to be done to generate relevant user information for that section.
All this considered, it was clear what the new website had to deliver in order to support the rebranding of this destination.
Requirements were simple—build a comprehensive solution that:
effectively brands the Golden Isles as a destination that shines in its diverse range of coastal experiences in a natural setting steeped in history while, at the same time, illustrates the unique points of difference between the areas that make up the destination
shares relevant content that displays seamlessly on any device (even if the membership wasn't leading the technological charge, we know visitors are researching their travel plans online!
accurately represents the CVB's membership (nearly 4000) and demonstrates value to them,
engages users and promotes sharing of content beyond the website and repeat visits
is extensible for future development as needs of the organization change (e.g. addition of booking engine)
enables both Golden Isles staff and members to contribute and edit content easily through a user-friendly CMS interface
Armed with the insight gleaned through the Discovery process, we collaborated with Golden Isles throughout the Planning process and developed documents articulating website architecture, taxonomy and project specifications that matched the scope of the client's budget. Built on Drupal 7, we employed the use of responsive design and modern web development techniques to ensure a seamless user experience across platforms, negating the need to develop an entirely separate mobile version. Whether you look at www.goldenisles.com on your iPhone or your desktop PC, your browser will present the information in an intuitive way. Multi-tiered navigation systems, including traditional menus, multiple menu placements, calls to action and content interlinking, also contribute to a more fluid user journey throughout the site.
The resulting solution provides users with a beautifully branded portal of information they can use to plan their visit to the Golden Isles. Increased inquiries from the site indicate growing interest in the destination, and signal early success of the rebranding effort.
For the back end users, automated CMS functions were put in place to minimize administrative overhead, including the creation of a listings sub-domain where members could upload their content months ahead of the go-live date. And businesses need to create only 1 listing yet have the ability appear in all relevant site sections.
Results thus far...
Analytics data is still a bit young to regard too closely, having just launched January 31 of this year, but competitive search terms are already trending upwards for all of the regional areas, and "Golden Isles" is consistently ranking #1.
User engagement continues to increase, with Facebook referred the second most visits to the website last month and time on site is strong, much better than typical Facebook referrals, which speaks to the success of the pre-launch Facebook page migration strategy. Golden Isles has worked hard to keep their social streams fresh with interesting content and it's really paying off for them.
Members have demonstrated their approval of the new direction with ever-increasing levels of interest around updating website content. A Phase 2 development is already in the works to enable member log-in functionality for editing listings and adding events. We're happy to be continuing our relationship with the Golden Isles team, managing their Online Marketing program, including SEO and PPC, and maintaining their site with necessary platform upgrades and updates to keep it performing optimally.