It only took a few hours for Visit Topeka to blow through its entirely monthly AdWords budget of $500 after Google changed its logo on April Fool’s Day to Topeka, but the tourism board replenished the kitty later in the day and used the Google Hot Trends tool ¬†to alter its AdWords buys to take advantage of the traffic spike.
The City of Topeka, which is the capital of Kansas, had changed its name to Google during March in a bid to woo Google as the favored community for its broadband experiment. Although the city mayor had advance notice, city residents and Visit Topeka officials were surprised — to say the least — when they saw Google’s April 1 logo.
Shalyn Marsh, Visit Topeka’s communications and marketing manager, says the tourism board replenished its AdWords coffers with $1,000 that day “so we could manage the opportunity we had.”
Prior to Google’s transformation into Topeka, Visit Topeka had been using keywords such as Kansas capital, capital history, places to visit in Kansas, hotel accommodations and convention centers.
But, with all of the publicity, Visit Topeka used the Google Hot Trends tool for guidance on how to tweak its ad campaign. ¬†Topeka at one point on April 1 was the #1 hot trend and the tool showed that Topeka searches were “volcanic.”
Marsh says Visit Topeka quickly added keywords Google Topeka and Google Kansas to its regular AdWords campaign.
Google spokeswoman Sarah Tran says the Google Hot Trends tool enables advertisers like Visit Topeka to manage their campaigns in flexible ways.
“By using trends tools, they’re exercising the flexibility of the ads programs under such a time crunch,” Tran says.
Google is seeing “more and more savvy tourism boards and destination websites use online advertising to attract visitors and raise awareness about their attractions,” Tran says.
At the end of the day, April 1, Visit Topeka attracted 3,764 website visitors, of which 3,526 were unique visitors.
The April 1 website-visitor surge for Visit Topeka may not seem huge, but it equaled about two weeks’ average traffic for the website, Marsh says.
“We normally are not on Hot Trends,” she adds.
And, that points to one of the challenges facing destination marketing organizations, or DMOs, which don’t find themselves situated in major markets like New York, Las Vegas, Paris or Beijing.
After all, Marsh says, even in Kansas, travelers are more likely to search for Kansas City than Topeka.
Alissa Sheley, who handles Visit Topeka’s AdWords campaigns as social media director of Jones Huyett Partners, an ad agency in Topeka, says it’s tough for Topeka to get the tourism attention it deserves because “Topeka really isn’t a hot trend” and online travel agencies like Expedia rarely list the city as a recommended destination.
“When you see their hot deals,” Sheley says, referring to online travel agencies, “we are really not in the top tier.”
Although Visit Topeka’s AdWords account enables the DMO to track advertising performance, it doesn’t suggest keyword changes on the fly in rapid-fire mode the way the Hot Trends feature does, Sheley says.
Sheley suggests it “would be really cool” if Google would integrate another Hot Trends-like feature into AdWords that would provide more-frequent alerts to smaller advertisers about recommended changes to their AdWords purchases.
Meanwhile. Google’s logo reverted from “Topeka” back to “Google” April 2 — and tourism officials in Topeka are hoping to reap some ongoing advantage from all of the publicity.