As one of Oregon’s major destination marketing organizations, Visit Tillamook Coast supports the coastal region from Manzanita to Neskowin. Their brand story centers on unspoiled natural experiences, including awe-inspiring outdoor activities, local cuisine, artisanal crafts, and cultural heritage—for those who favor a hands-on experience. They initially engaged us to redesign and optimize their website, but discovered we could do a lot more.
The VTC website presented a complicated situation that required care, communication, and teamwork, to avoid making things worse. Functional issues needed to be addressed, including a confusing and buggy navigation, and a Home page that made poor use of high-visibility space. The client wanted to improve the quality and organization of the site’s content and showcase newly produced videos, along with streamlining their approach to search engine optimization.
VTC needed a partner with both technical and creative expertise to provide ongoing support. This included coordinating with other vendors while finding new ways to highlight the unique aspects of their brand.
User Experience Testing
To better understand what wasn’t working on the VTC website, we organized a one-day user testing session. Here, we gathered subjects from each of the client’s main demographic groups and observed their interactions with the site. What we learned would inform our approach to the redesign.
“Design” applies to both aesthetics and how easy something is to use. We wanted to win on both fronts for this client through the selection of fonts, colors, and layout—and by creating icons and graphics that elevated the brand. Though it was essential to first align with target visitors, we emphasized making the site a practical tool to help them plan a tailored experience.
The previous site had a lot of content, strong search visibility, and decent SEO stats. We had to be careful not to capsize the gains they had already earned. So we decided to retain the overall site structure but made the navigation simpler and clearer with submenus and “cookie crumb” links.
We halted the existing low-cost (and low value) Google display ads—as many appeared in contexts obviously not connected to visitor demographics. The budget was redirected to text-based search ads, which we asserted would better reflect user intent, and produce more valuable traffic.
This was a high-pressure situation where it was critical to communicate clearly with VTC and other stakeholders and provide a rationale for our recommendations.
Optimizing the Site
We performed a thorough technical and content audit, then prioritized the most critical issues. These included basics like fixing broken links, and meatier tasks such as curating a dearth of low-quality and out-of-date pages that were being indexed but never visited.
Beyond the Website
VTC leaned on us for support with digital ads and collateral, along with branding and design for specific tourism initiatives like the Crave the Coast food festival. We made their job easier by acting as a single point of contact who provides a variety of interconnected creative and technical services.
We played a vital role in an overall marketing effort that is unprecedented in the organization’s history for all major growth metrics. Feedback from the client and their constituents confirmed that the website was easier to navigate, faster, and well-optimized for mobile devices. Our efforts have resulted in continual increases in organic search visibility. Some improvements were dramatic:
Increase in impressions, from 292,451/mo. to 528,911/mo. YoY (March 2019)
Increase in clicks, YoY (March 2019)
Increase in organic traffic, YoY (April 2019)
“Cardwell Creative is not just a vendor but a partner in the way we do business. We depend on them for accurate and effective websites, SEO/SEM, social media ads, graphic design, and solutions to problems we encounter in tourism industry campaigns and messaging. Cardwell is reliable, and timely, and are great communicators. Highly recommend this talented firm.”
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