Explore the Bruce

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In 2017, the tourism team within the economic development department embarked on a website upgrade pilot project for www.explorethebruce.com. The purpose of this project was to create a user-friendly, interest driven website that introduced users to showcased attractions and activities across Bruce County, by using a “best-of” geographically based approach. Previously the County tourism website had operated as a listings database, creating challenges with respect to keeping data accurate and up to date, as well as coordinating the online presence of Explore the Bruce (our tourism brand) and individual communities within the County. The new site reflects Bruce County as a whole, whilst showcasing individual community brands and assets, using innovative elements – specifically the mapping functionality and what’s nearby features (which rotate), with a simple design and layout, supporting ease of navigation and searchability.

The web portal was developed, through a public private partnership with Tourist Town, offering a structure to address identified challenges and navigate users to local assets they might not otherwise discover. The sites intent is to provide a main portal for people wishing to explore the variety of Bruce County and funnel users to local business owners to “close the sale”. To achieve this goal, listings are created for businesses, with options for basic and enhanced content available, and these listings populate multiple websites, including the County site, community’s local visitor attraction site, and niche market sites for weddings, golf and local deals. Businesses are responsible for maintaining their own listings, which cross pollinate, ensuring accuracy and up to date information. The County has supplemented listings with video and image content where appropriate.

This project, and ongoing website maintenance, have the following main objectives:

  • To develop a robust website and a trip planning tool for visitors;
  • To promote Bruce County’s assets and best experiences for attraction efforts;
  • To encourage visitors to start ‘dreaming’ about coming to Bruce County and filter them through the funnel;
  • To provide an opportunity for data integration to help streamlining efforts;
  • To increase visitors length of stay in Bruce County and to increase the amount of visitor spending;
  • To continue to foster relationships with local tourism operators;
  • To build capacity at the operator level and coordination at the municipal level; and
  • To support the shift in marketing of Bruce County as a place to visit, to also a place to live and work;

The target audience includes (more detailed information is attached):

  • Nature Lovers: 35-54-year-old couples, with young children, budget conscious, love the outdoors
  • Memory Makers: 35-50-year-old couples, often sandwich generation with elementary aged children
  • Mellow Vacationers: 55+ year old, working couples without children, seeking rest and relaxation
  • Knowledge Seekers: 55+ year old, females with grown children, employed, higher levels of education
  • New Canadians: 25-34-year-old couples with young kids, high levels of education, influenced by trends, large networks, majority identify as part of a visible minority / immigrant segment

The switch to private listings provided a challenge to us, as for the first time, businesses were in charge of what content they put on their business listing as well as updating the information. Given the public private partnership, there is a cost involved for the enhanced listing option offered to businesses. This model created some public relations challenges, which were addressed by way of communication and community outreach.

Following the first year of the pilot program, an assessment of the new site and structure was carried out. This assessment was followed by a comprehensive content audit, which has seen the addition of search engine optimization tags across sites, promotional assets including new/enhanced video and imagery added to the sites various listings. Explorer stories (blogs) are added on an ongoing basis, with seasonal updates to the homepage imagery and story spotlights. SiteImprove is used on an ongoing basis to correct broken links, and spelling errors which may be overlooked in the upload process, or created by site architecture changes.

The new site launched in Q1 2017 (mid March), with Q2 (April – June 2017) reaching 132,628 users. Traffic has continued to grow with a 45% increase over the same quarter, resulting in reach to 191,738 users this past quarter (April – June 2018).

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