GREENFIELD — Hancock County Tourism is partnering with a California company on the “cutting edge” of Google marketing to grow the county’s online presence, the tourism director says.
Truly360, a San Diego-based marketing company, has been managing how Hancock County-related content is seen on Google, said Brigette Cook Jones, executive director of Hancock County Tourism. Next month, Jones said Truly360 employees will drive a Google Maps Street View vehicle across 200 miles of Hancock County roads, highlighting local businesses and organizations with entertaining photos.
She said it’s all part of tourism’s initiative to improve the county’s brand and advertising on the internet.
“This is huge,” Jones said about partnering with Truly360. “This is going to really impact our tourism and going to raise awareness of Hancock County as a place to come and stay and do things.”
Jones said Truly360 employees are aiming to drive the Google Maps Street View vehicle throughout the county at different times from July 23-25. It’s a new strategy of the Google Trusted Agency, she said.
When the Google vehicle typically drives through cities and towns, the photos blur out people’s faces. This is different. Jones said she, and members of the Hancock County Tourism Commission, are working to round up business owners, organizations and other community members to stand outside their places of work and main gathering areas in each Hancock County city and town as the Google car drives by.
Business owners might want to show off their products or color coordinate as a staff, Jones said, and event and festival organizers can display signs only if their event occurs on a certain date each year.
“We want lots of people outside,” Jones said. “We want lots of activity.”
Jones said tourism is also planning a “Where’s Waldo” element to the street-view photos. Someone will dress up as James Whitcomb Riley and hold a large book at different places in the county.
The hope, Jones said, is that if someone is looking at the street-view map of Hancock County, they will see “crazy stuff” happening, and that might convince them to keep looking online and later visit.
Taking Google Maps Street View photos is just one aspect of the Truly360’s services, Jones said. Tourism has agreed to pay the agency nearly $2,000 a month for two years. Jones said the tourism director can spend up to $3,000 per advertising opportunity each month without commission approval. Hancock County Tourism is funded by the county’s 5% innkeepers tax, money collected from hotel guests.
Truly360 has been optimizing the county’s presence on Google over the past few months, Jones said. That includes pulling event and business information year-round from the tourism website and using it to promote Hancock County on the county’s Google listing and Google’s travel guide. The more events and businesses submitted on the county’s tourism website, the larger the reach on Google, Jones said.
“When they Google Hancock County, we want them to see top-notch information,” she said.
Hancock County Tourism uses the Deck App event management software to input events online, Jones said. People need to register with the application in order to send event information to the county’s website. The organization also plans to roll out a new printed visitor’s guide, Jones added.
Truly360 will also take 360-degree videos inside the county’s top four hotels; conduct one-on-one training with six other hotels to improve their Google presence; and record drone aerial tours of two Hancock County communities, Jones said.
She first contacted the company following a recent Indiana Tourism Association conference. The San Diego-based agency piloted their Google marketing strategy for Hamilton County Tourism Inc. in 2018.
Ashley Ledford, director of marketing and promotions for Hamilton County Tourism, told the Daily Reporter in an email that when the organization started working with Truly360, they focused on training community partners, such as restaurants, shops and local attractions, on how to grow their online presence. Since then, Truly360 has captured 1,000 miles of customized Google Maps Street View photos, taken 100 high-definition tours of county destinations, conducted Google optimization and much else.
Ledford said more people have clicked on websites, searched for directions and called various business and attractions in Hamilton County based off their Google listings during the past few months.
“It is improving the online presence of our destination,” Ledford said. “We want those that are searching online to see current imagery and reviews, up-to-date events and guides that will help shape their experience.”
Jones said if anyone wants to participate in the Google Street View event at the end of July, they can contact her at 317-477-8687; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or at the Hancock County Visitors Center, 119 E. North St. in Greenfield.