Though Tourist Development Council executive director Jennifer Jenkins quietly rolled out the new TDC website in May, she’s now ready to show it off to the world.
The new website boasts a slew of new features designed to highlight the various businesses and adventures that Gulf County has to offer.
“Our motto in Gulf County is ‘Do your thing,’” said Jenkins. “We’ve also tried to keep the site as laid back as possible.”
Jenkins said that creating the site was a huge undertaking, costing more than $125,000.
It’s a good thing the Gulf County brand is priceless.
Helping guests find what they want has become easier than ever with a new search function that will match any query from “live music” to “pet friendly” and a responsive design that will adapt the site to function perfectly whether it’s being viewed on a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone.
The site also spotlights upcoming events, TDC partners and contains interactive maps to show pet stations, boat ramps, parks and more.
Throughout the year, content will rotate to ensure that all activities being advertised are current with the season. Jenkins and her crew have already planned out the content through December of this year.
“Every piece of data we have mapped county-wide, we have on our maps,” said Jenkins.
Rather than have to alert a web host each time a change is needed, Jenkins has access which allows she and marketing manager Michelle Perrin to add or remove photos, text and business information on the fly.
Jenkins said it was important to her to be able to manage her own content to ensure that the site was always accurate.
“We don’t sell anything…we work to promote our partners,” said Jenkins. “It’s important to be able to change anything instantly.”
Perrin said the new features make life easier on the employees, and will help streamline the process when it comes to compiling the 2015 Visitor’s Guide later this year.
Additionally, the new site is jam-packed with analytics to show partners how much traffic is coming to their website via the TDC.
Jenkins said that currently, around 48 percent of visitors are being handed off to partner sites that include lodging, restaurants and charters but aims to see that number increase to 60-70 percent with the new website.
These new statistics will track incoming and outgoing traffic with detailed reports on where the traffic comes from, what search queries were used to locate the site and which sites visitors go to next.
In June alone, visitor guide requests were up 93 percent from the same time last year, Jenkins said.
The analytic tools allow Jenkins to offer real-time feedback and she will also view and interpret monthly data to create new marketing plans for Gulf County.
“The site is easy and user-friendly,” said Jenkins. “It’s built for all our expanding needs and provides us the flexibility to do what we need to do.”
Those expanding needs include a media and press room with hi-resolution photos, awards, interviews and links to where Gulf County has been featured and a planned login system for paid partners that will allow them to update their own information to be published directly to the site.
Jenkins also said that she was excited about establishing a content contributor network to publish info from area experts.
“We want content coming directly from the front-liners,” said Jenkins. “That includes charter captains, beach ambassadors, business owners and musicians.”
Also planned for launch in the near future are a smartphone app that will act as a bridge between the website and visitor’s guide and e-newsletters to offer monthly updates on the area and a quarterly events email.
Seeing feedback as a vital to the success of the TDC, many sections of the website welcome user comments.
“Comments are important, even if they’re negative,” said Jenkins. “It allows us the opportunity to respond and reach out in the future.
“Our philosophy is that we have to reply to people. If we don’t, they’ll think we don’t care.”
Comments are moderated, but Jenkins welcomes feedback about the visitor experience whether it’s positive or negative.
“It’s another way for people to communicate with us easily, and it stays there,” said Perrin.
Jenkins said that her team and the site’s designers put many hours of time, care and thought into the new design are happy with the outcome.
“Everyone uses the internet differently,” said Jenkins. “We wanted the site to be more simplistic, but have more options.
“It’s a gateway for people who aren’t here to find out about Gulf County.”
Those interested in contributing content in the future are invited to contact the TDC at 229-7800. View the new website at www.visitgulf.com.