Colorado Tourism Office used as Web analytics example at conference

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— Gunnison may not have as many Facebook “likes” as Estes Park, but of their respective tourism agencies, Gunnison has more engagement with those looking to travel to Colorado.

In a session titled Paralysis by Analysis at the Colorado Tourism Conference, Nikki Burmaster and R.A. Burrell used the work they have done for the Colorado Tourism Office as an outline for other tourism-related businesses looking to parse the vast universe of analytics data into bite-sized, readily understandable bits of information.

Focus was the key of the session.

When technology makes it possible to measure 5,000 actions, which ones matter? And which ones should a business focus finite time and energy on?

Businesses should “not be afraid to focus on a few things,” said Burmaster, who works for the Denver-based advertising firm Karsh Hagan.

Detailing the intensely data-driven process by which her team streamlined the Tourism Office’s digital marketing, Burmaster said the data should tell a story once it’s down to a few key points.

The Tourism Office has a top-down approach, Burrell said. Its job is to warm up potential visitors and pass them off to hotels, local chambers of commerce, resorts, etc.

Once goals are established, the proper Web analytics metrics to measure whether those goals are realized — conversions, in marketing-speak — can be tracked. The constant feedback loop of Web analytics data and refining marketing tactics serves to highlight what’s working and what’s dead weight.

Burrell, who is a principal at the tourism marketing company Internet Honey, spoke about separating social buzz from actual conversions.

Data is worthless without context, Burrell said.

On the list of Colorado tourism agencies, the ones with the most “likes” didn’t necessarily have the most engagement. Using the “talking about this” metric provided by Facebook insights, Burrell showed graphs where engagement correlated with the agency’s goals on its own website and graphs where the two metrics were not in sync.

When the two metrics are in sync, the buzz generated by social media is shown to be productive in driving bookings, purchases or whatever is the goal of the agency.

Conversions — realizing those goals determined early in the process — was the term that dominated the session. Despite Web traffic, social buzz, targeted media and all the different tools and techniques, it’s conversions that matter and hopefully equate to business and revenue.

“Keep moving forward. By next year, it will all probably change,” Burmaster said about the tools. “Do a few things right.”

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com

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