Column: Finding Delta County through Escanaba

ESCANABA — Are you a native Yooper that once lived in another town in the Midwest like I have? If so, I’m sure you were very happy to tell people in your new city where you were from originally. When I lived in Lower Michigan in the late 1990s and 2000s, I worked in sales and told everyone about my hometown. It was a nice ice breaker because a lot of people knew about the Upper Peninsula and they had fond memories of visiting the U.P. I heard thousands of stories over the years about family trips across the bridge, pasties, lakes, and other fun adventures. I was surprised by how many people knew about the U.P. and the different regions of the Upper Peninsula.

Because I was in sales and meeting lots of new people every day, I had many conversations about where I was from. Some people had heard of my hometown of Gladstone, but many more people knew exactly where Escanaba was. Old school rivalries soon faded and I began telling everyone I was from Escanaba to make a quicker connection. Most people replied “in the moonlight” and then went on to talk about how much they loved the Upper Peninsula. I know other natives from Delta County towns like Bark River, Rapid River, and Gladstone have had similar experiences and happily tell people they are from Escanaba so their new friends and acquaintances have an idea about where in the U.P. they are from.

In 2008, I returned to the U.P. and began operating a bed and breakfast in Gladstone with my wife. We took a class on Internet search engine optimization to help us design and manage a website for our business. We learned a key factor for success online was to find out what terms people were searching when they found our website and to make sure to have those terms associated with our site. Even though we were based in Gladstone we made sure to include Escanaba in our page titles and other key areas of the site because we could see that is what many people were searching when they found us. Using Escanaba resulted in more people finding our website even though we were in Gladstone, and it was well within the range of Escanaba so it was a very relevant search result for people looking at visiting our region.

About five years ago the tourism marketing organization for Delta County, the Bays de Noc Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), worked with tourism industry experts to identify how people were finding Delta County when they were searching for travel information online. They found that overwhelmingly people were searching for Escanaba when they located places to do business in Delta County. This led to the CVB changing their website to Escanaba is a powerful search term on the Internet because it is a unique word and there is only one Escanaba. Capitalizing on this dynamic has led to more people finding the organization’s website and eventually more people coming here to do business. The Bays de Noc CVB has rebranded exclusively to Visit Escanaba and is using this brand when attracting visitors from outside of our region.

The reason I wanted to share these stories is to give some background on the strategy being used by Visit Escanaba. Broader terms like Delta County or Bays de Noc might seem more accurate to those of us that live here and know local geography, but they would not be as effective in capturing people that are looking online to travel to our area to do business. Visit Escanaba will continue to proudly promote all areas of Delta County and the Upper Peninsula in an effort to attract new business and we will rely heavily on this incredibly supportive community to help us provide relevant information to travelers and the general public alike. More people are finding Delta County and coming here to do business. It is an exciting time to be a part of this thriving community. Thank you for making this area special.

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Robert Micheau is executive director of Visit Escanaba