Attract New Members: Your Private Club Website Isn't Just for Member Engagement
The next generation private club member — your future looks pretty slim without them, yet your current marketing strategy just isn't delivering...
28 min read
Ed Heil : Jun 18, 2018 6:30:00 AM
Do you still expect people to find your club by typing "golf club near me" into their favorite search engine? That might have worked in the past, but now people expect geotargeting to handle the "near me" portion, and voice search is replacing all of it. So, what does your club need to know about search marketing to keep getting found?
Mike McAnally is a co-founder and partner of NordicClick Interactive, a digital agency that specializes in helping businesses get found online by expanding their digital footprint through paid, owned, and earned media. And he understands the challenges of private clubs. In fact, he even belonged to one that shut down when its land became more valuable for housing development. He has some easy to understand answers, and some smart places to start.
In This Episode:
ED: Let's do this first, let's start with NordicClick. Who is NordicClick? What do you guys do? What's your specialty?
MIKE: NordicClick Interactive is a digital marketing agency. We are based out of Excelsior, Minnesota. We develop growth-oriented strategies for our businesses, and we primarily work with their websites to drive more traffic and convert more traffic.
ED: And now the other thing, for you who are listening, is that Mike is also a member of a private club. So, the idea of private clubs and some of their challenges, you're all too familiar with. In fact, you were a member of a club that shut down, right?
MIKE: Yes, I originally was a member of Minnetonka Country Club, which is now a number of homes, over there in Shorewood, Minnesota, because the value of the real estate became more valuable than the golf club could produce as far as revenue. And that's happened to a lot of clubs locally (and nationally). That's one of the reasons is real estate. So, you have clubs in primary areas that are growing and the housing is more in demand than a golf course.
ED: It's just been a very interesting time. And I know, those of you listening, you're familiar with some of these challenges and the stories that exist out there. So, today we're going to talk about SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, or — as we were discussing beforehand — Search Engine Marketing is how a lot of people refer to it. For us, as marketers, a lot of times it can feel really confusing. Yet, as consumers, we totally get it. Because whenever we're making buying decisions, we are using Google to learn more, to research, to just get answers or our questions. It has become so much a part of our world today.
MIKE: From an organic search perspective, that is where people have historically searched. We were talking earlier about Google when it originally started, and the 10 blue links. That's how Google gained popularity, and it was all based on organic. Now, there are a number of different search-type pages you'll get, based on the algorithm and based on the intent and context of your search. Organic search is still a very important part of any digital marketing strategy, however, it has been muted a little bit by the way the pages have been laid out and by a lot of the paid advertising that has propagated to the front page. It is still very important, and you cannot ignore organic search or SEO, as we'll talk about today.
ED: Great set-up for the discussion today. Let's break this down a little bit more to the buying behaviors. What you see a lot of times, and I'm sure in your experience in private clubs, what you'll see is a lot of clubs acting in a very traditional way. Traditional marketing with beautiful brochures, and websites that are asking people to come to their club for a tour, and things like that. Yet they'll also tell you that they're trying to get younger. They want younger members. You know, their average remember is 66 years old, or whatever that is. Let's talk a little bit about the younger buyer today. And by younger, it's probably anyone who thinks digitally, and is online and active and searching. Let's talk a little bit about what you're seeing and trends as far as demographics and how they're leveraging search today.
MIKE: Traditionally, the way golf clubs are marketed has always worked for that demographic. That's what people in the older generations are used to. Like you said, the slick brochures, the mailing lists, calling people, and word of mouth are how they've grown. But the new generation, as you know, they live on their phone. And the biggest impact to any business, but particularly local business, is mobile and local.
And that's where I think a lot of the courses are missing out on that aspect of their marketing plan. To reach those key buyers, that millennial demographic, those people that you need to fill the funnel for the people who eventually are going to retire or may no longer be a member your course, they're not really reaching out to them in the right way. And there are ways that you can easily address that through a sound plan around organic and local.
ED: A couple of things I just want to dig into a little bit that you said. First, for context sake, Mike's in his late 40s and I'm in my early 50s, so it's not like we got a couple of 30-year-olds who don't remember very clearly what it's like to get some of that collateral. But let's talk a little bit about the trends that you're seeing. You went right to mobile and local, which we're going to talk about, for sure. And yet, when we first started having conversations with clubs, and I think in discussions with different associations, they think of their computer. They think, are they really going to their computer? And we've had people on this podcast who've said people will try to find basic information on their phones, but then go to maybe their desktop to make purchases and things like that. But so many searches start on a mobile device. Why is that significant, both from a demographic standpoint, and why is that significant for clubs that are thinking we should do more online? Should they be thinking more mobile first, rather than desktop, or does it matter?
MIKE: You need to be doing both. So, to start on the more traditional desktop piece, you want a well-optimized site for organic search. That is where you start because that is your information warehouse. So, that's where you're going to talk about the course, you're going to have pictures of the course, you're going to talk about membership. And then, if you have other facilities for weddings or banquets, if you have a pool, all those types of things, they need a warehouse, and that's where people will do a lot of the research. What we've seen is the movement to local-based searches. So, 90% (approximately) of all local searches start on a mobile phone. So, when people start searching on their phone, they are going to get local results, because Google understands the context of that. So, if you were going to search for something like "private golf courses" or "golf courses," you don't even need to put in "near me." Google's going to assume you're on a phone, they know where you are, so that's what you're looking for.
So, that's what's going to influence a lot of the decisions going forward. That's where the younger group is going to start. They may finish on your website, but they may start on mobile. So, both parts are equally important, and I think that consumers will start on one or the other, but for the most part, you have to be in both spaces or else another course may perhaps pick up that search.
ED: As a listener, I'm sitting here thinking I get it. That it's going to find me locally, and I get the whole idea of GPS or geotargeting. I get that, but how do I control that as a club? And you talked about having a site that is search-friendly, but to help a club manager or marketing person who's listening, how do they do that? How can they make sure that their website is found by Google?
MIKE: It starts with a fundamentally good site. A site that's mobile-responsive. That's the first thing.
ED: Is that the biggest thing, though, mobile-responsive, when you say a good site?
MIKE: That's what Google is looking for, now. It's going to be speed, mobile-responsive, and then also having the right keywords in the right places within your title tags and your metadata and things like that. So, setting the foundation, and then having the content that supports that.
ED: Let me stop you there, really quickly, because there are a lot of clubs who have a website that maybe was developed five years ago, and they think it's a nice website. It looks good. I don't know if it's mobile-responsive, but it looks really good. We're not going to update it. Google might be looking at that and saying, this is not mobile-response, so I'm not going to prioritize this. Is that right?
MIKE: That is correct. They have a desktop index and a mobile index, and they're moving towards mobile indexing. I don't know if they'll necessarily leave you out, but it's not going to help you if you're not mobile-responsive. Because they understand that the majority of the searches for those types of golf course terms need mobile-responsive pages. So, the first thing we would recommend is, if your site isn't up to speed — I mean that literally, loading fast and mobile-optimized — that would be the first step. It doesn't have to be a huge redesign and spending all this money, a lot of times it can be just transferring the current content to a more responsive base code. And there are a lot of them out there. The second piece is having that one page that is geotargeted towards your location, that Google can find.
ED: So is that a "where we are," location page?
MIKE: Yeah, it's your "about us" or your "contact us" page. Making sure that's optimized for geo-targeting, maybe has a Google embedded map. But that would be another piece. So, that is setting the foundation. The other pieces we'll talk about the local are a different setup, but that would be the first thing we do, is make sure the site is optimized for mobile and speed.
ED: So the next thing I wanted to ask you about — just taking baby steps — you talked about keywords. What we're trying to do is tell Google and the end user what this site is all about. You talked about meta tags and keywords and things like that. Could you just give a 30,000-foot view of what that means?
MIKE: Absolutely. Metadata and title tags are what Google indexes to tell the context about the pages. It used to be, you could manipulate them pretty well. But now Google is just looking for "you are a golf course in Edina, Minnesota," and then breaking down the pages into thematic groups. So, if you have "golf course," let's talk about the course here. If you have "banquet facilities," "wedding facilities," and building out those pages. On each page, there is going to be code that lets you put in what the titles are, what the descriptions should be for the search engines to read, and then it will follow up with the context. When Google (or the other search engines, we should not leave out Bing and those other search engines) when they index your site, they have a bot that goes through and looks at, "Here's the title tag. Here's what this page is about. Let's see if it has supporting information in the context of the page." Then it indexes that page, says this is obviously a golf course, or it's a private course, and it's in Edina, Minnesota or Wayzata, or Minnetonka, or wherever it happens to be. That's the first piece. And then it looks at all the other things on the site to make sure that the code is standard, it can load fast, and that's how it assigns that that value, based on the what the bot sends back to the search engine.
ED: What I'm hearing you say is that all these things, the coding and all that stuff is like under the water. There's a lot of work being done that you don't see. So, you can look at your site and say we have a beautiful new site, it's gorgeous, there are beautiful images, you can navigate around, it's really cool, but if the metadata, and the tags, and all the stuff that's under the water, so to speak, isn't taken care of, that's an issue. Because there are some Web companies out there that have a huge impact in the club world that don't take care of the back-end stuff, the stuff under the water. Does that mean that they're not going to get found or does it mean that other clubs are going to get found before them? What's the risk in that?
MIKE: Well, there are different ranking factors for the algorithm. And Google, at this point, because of the enterprise-level content management solutions that have come out, they expect you to have this information in the right place. Before, when HTML-based sites were out there, people were placing code in different spots and maybe it wasn't done the right way. They're like, you need to have this done the right way. This is like SEO 101, and if you don't have the foundation down, we're not even going to bother with you going forward. So, a lot of that can be taken care of in the development. It's sort of like the foundation of your house. You need to have the foundation before you decorate, but that's really what it boils down to.
And it's simpler than it seems, but once you get to that point, then Google and the search engines are going to start looking at your content, and different things that they're looking at, like do you produce relevant content to those keywords? Are you producing content often? Do you have different types of content on your page, besides just copy, like videos and those type of things? So, that gives you that overall algorithm grade, and that will get you assigned to a certain place in the search engines, based on that query. And it's going to change based on every query, device, where they're searching from, and items like that.
ED: Let's talk a little bit about images and video really quickly, because I feel like that's an opportunity for search that people don't always think about. Google can't see pictures, so on your wedding page, if you've got beautiful wedding photos, Google doesn't see that. How do people make sure that they maximize those images from an optimization perspective or for search engines?
MIKE: That's a great question. In the old days, we saw a lot of Flash or image-based sites, where Google couldn't read anything. Now, we want to encourage people to have great photography. That's what's going to sell a golf course. That's what's going to sell a banquet facility. That's what's going to sell people who are looking for a wedding is that great photography, that applies to any site we look at. And those images can be large and can be at the top of the page, we've seen that with the new website designs. The challenge is, what is below that image? You can use captions, you can use inlays on the image itself, but you need to have that copy below. You need to have, "what is this image about?" It can't just be image based. From a video standpoint, again, Google can't read the videos, but they can read the metadata around the video itself.
And a lot of people will transcribe that video and include that information, again, just because that is going to be an important piece of the indexing for that video. Also, the titles of these images from an internal linking standpoint are very important. So, what you name your images and what you name your videos is very important. Don't let your computer or your photoshop name image for you, because it's going to be some random number like image 1001234, and that doesn't provide anything to Google, especially when it comes to image searches.
So, when people search, they may be searching for golf courses and hit the image button to see these beautiful vistas of the course. Well, if you have your images and your videos with a very sequential, thought-out naming convention, you're going to see a better placement in those different areas of image and video search.
ED: If I'm listening to this and think it's really helpful, I'm going to go into the back end of our website and make sure we've got metadata and all of the descriptions filled out and all that stuff. And I'm thinking, "So, how do I get ranked higher than others? Like, sometimes I'll go search for our club and I'll see all my competitors before me." Why does that happen?
MIKE: The first thing that a search engine is going to look for is proximity. How close are you? I mean, because if I'm ordering a pizza, there may be a great pizza place in St. Paul, but if I'm in Minnetonka, odds are Google knows I'm probably not going to go to St. Paul for pizza. Now with golf courses, it's a little more challenging.
From a from a member, private course, golf club standpoint, the majority of your members are going to be within a ten-mile radius, because this is the course you're playing all the time. So, I want something close so I can go out and play nine at night, or when I'm going to league, I don't have to drive an hour. Now, for courses around the Twin Cities that may be public, you may drive an hour to play a course. I drove an hour to go play a course over near Woodbury because it was a great course. I'm not going to do that every day.
The first thing you look at is proximity. That's what Google's going to look at. How close is this search to the person who is searching it? Now, on a mobile device, almost all the time I have my location on, so I can zero-in and say I'm standing in the parking lot here in St. Louis Park. If I search it, I'm going to get courses that are around here. If you're on a desktop, depending on where your IP comes from and a lot of other factors, if you block cookies and all of those things, it may not be able to give you the same really personalized search result. So, the first thing we're going to look at is proximity. And the way you identify the proximity is you have to have that information on your site. And then you also have to have those listings on places like Google Business, Bing and some of the other aggregators out there that are going to say "here is a golf course that's located in Plymouth, Minnesota and this is the Zip code." So that's the next piece.
ED: The idea of having your club registered with Google Business or those business pages. If you're not doing that, that's that's a huge mistake, is it not?
MIKE: Absolutely. For a local business, that is key. Claiming those listings in what's called either a citation or a NAP, which is name, address, phone number. And having consistency, not only on Google, not only on Bing, but all the other aggregators that are out there. Yelp may be another example. There are a lot of Yellow Page providers that have translated online. There are a lot of search and GPS aggregators that will have that information. So, that's the next thing we do is develop a consistent citation across the web. so whenever somebody searches you, you're going to have a consistent address and phone number and information about your location.
ED: So, when you say citation, that's kind of like you're boilerplate information that's consistent.
MIKE: Yeah, exactly.
ED: And I just want to clarify, if I'm hearing you correctly, you could get a totally different ranking on your phone, when you do a search based on where you are, versus if you're sitting in your office or your home, doing the same query.
MIKE: Yes, just because of the ability to... And we're talking about if people don't have the privacy stuff all turned off, they're not trying to cloak themselves or searching incognito. But yes, they're getting better with the desktops, but the phone is obviously going to be geotargeted down to your exact location. So, those searches will be primarily more accurate than a desktop search, from a local perspective.
ED: I think the local search thing is such an interesting topic. When it comes to organic search versus a paid campaign, what are the important things that people have to know about the difference between them? Sometimes I think people think, well paid is the only way because there's that old mindset, which is that if I pay for it then I know I'm going to see it. Which is good, I always feel like that's really good for brand awareness and making sure that you're top of mind for people, but we also recognize that not a lot of people are clicking paid ads — at least it depends on what the ad is. But what should clubs know about the differences and when to use an organic play versus a paid?
MIKE: Well, organic should be your long strategy. We look at organic as the marathon versus paid as the sprint. So, organic should be worked-on consistently, so that it's working for you all year long. And when we look at local, we really consider that local SEO as local organic search. So, that's the first place that we would really suggest clubs work. And when we look at local SEO, we talked about the citations or the name, address, and phone number, having that consistent. And we look at those directories that you can submit — legitimate directories that we work with that you can submit your location to hundreds of different aggregators.
The second most important piece is reviews. Do you have reviews of your establishment? So, from a course standpoint, you're going to have reviews of the course. We're not even talking about necessarily needing to be all good reviews. If you have six 5-star reviews, it's better to have hundreds of reviews that give you an overall rating of 4.5.
ED: From a search perspective. And it might make a GM go, "No, I don't want that."
MIKE: Yeah. When I went through, and I've done searches in the past, helping out my own local club and things like that, we look and say, "You have 20 reviews, yet you have 300 members." You have 300 members that are paying and are our brand advocates for you. They obviously like your club because they're paying to be a member, yet they haven't reviewed the course.
So, we don't want to pay people to solicit, we don't want to be unethical when we ask for reviews, but there's nothing wrong with asking members to review the course. Because those peer reviews are going to be what bring people in. If I'm looking for a family-friendly course for — like I have to have three sons, two of them are starting Junior League on Monday — I may be searching primarily for a family-based course that has family-oriented features like golf training, pools, whatever it happens to be. If I see another person who's like me, maybe my same age or close, giving a good review about a course, that's going to sway my decision more than if I went to their static website and looked at a bunch of pretty pictures. So, having those reviews is really a key part of driving that person to say, I'm going to pick up the phone or I'm going to click this little website button and check it out. And then they get to the website and then you're going to have all the typical CTAs, call-to-actions, that you would see: request a brochure, give us a call, membership options, those type of things.
ED: That's great advice, especially when you said we have 300 members but we have 20 reviews. And I get that as a club manager, you're going, "I'm not going to my members to say hey, review us on Google." But what if you said your members, "Here's what we're trying to do. We're trying to raise awareness of our club and all the great benefits that our club has to offer. If you could take a few minutes to review us on Google, we'll give you $25 shop credit, we'll give you $100 shop credit, whatever that is, some sort of a credit to your members to say we appreciate you supporting the club in this way." Just a thought, because Google doesn't know if you have an incentive, but it does know whether your club has been reviewed, and it values that tremendously.
MIKE: It's a good point. We try to avoid any kind of paid reviews because if Google finds out about that, they can nick you on that a little bit. But there are other ways to do that. I mean, we know that manufacturers send out free pairs of shoes to bloggers and reviewers online to review and let them keep them. So, it is kind of that payola thing, right? Most of the time, what we've seen success with is just, in the club newsletter, reaching out to members and saying, "Hey we'd love to hear your opinion the course. Please go online and review the course. Be honest. And, in particular, mention any people at the course that provide outstanding customer service for you.".
ED: That's good.
MIKE: When you look at Trip Advisor, one of the things that they do a really good job of with resorts is they really encourage you to say, "Hey, you know John was awesome, he treated my family so well this week." And that gives John kudos on those, Ed. So, I think when golf courses try to personalize it, people will be like, "You know what, Bob at the course has been awesome. I've been a member for five years, my clubs are always ready, he's always friendly, he's great to my kids, we should mention Bob in the review." So, those are the type of things that we look at. You can and incent people to make those reviews by just reaching out to your base. They may want to do it, they're just busy people and they forget about it. And then if you remind them and tell them how to do it, give him a link, that's the kind of area where you can pick up 20 or 30 reviews quickly, just from the membership base.
ED: And what we're seeing is that reviews are becoming more and more important for ranking. I mean, Google wants to direct people to the best possible result for their query. And if a lot of people are saying "Hey, we've been here. Hey, we've experienced it." And they're going to prioritize them in that way. The one thing I want to just throw out there, as well, as another opportunity for clubs is, you do weddings, you do events, you do Monday golf outings. And those are all opportunities. So many businesses these days want your review. I just flew Delta and right away, you get that survey. So, you could do that survey for your own intel, for your own knowledge, so you know. But could you ask them to just say, "Hey, we'd love to hear your thoughts, feel free to offer your review on Google." That's not breaking the rule, I guess, is what I'm getting at.
MIKE: No, not at all. There are even crazy things like beacon technology that could prompt things on their phone when they walk in for a wedding. But again, that's getting a little creepy. That might freak people out. With members, it's easier, because they're going to come back, and you can remind and multiple time. People who may be there for a wedding may be there once. They may go to that golf course once in their life, but they might have a great experience and want to review you, so obviously you want to leave, whether it's a sign on the door.
You know, any resort I've ever been to, there is Trip Advisor stuff everywhere. "We're a 5-star Trip Adviser resort. Please review us on Trip Advisor, it's in your room." I don't think courses are aggressive enough on asking people to tell. And if you do a good job and you feel great about your facility, you should want reviews to come in. And be ready to take your lumps. You may get some bad ones, but when people look at reviews, I would rather see a few reviews that are maybe not as good, but then you know all the reviews are honest.
The second piece of that, which you mentioned earlier, when we look at things you need to do from a local perspective, is local links. So, a lot of courses have on Monday, the typical private course outings are on Monday. If you have a charitable foundation coming in, or you're giving some sort of help, maybe not charging sales tax because they're a charitable foundation, or you're providing some things for free, getting a local link from their site is going to be a very powerful tool for Google. I run my wrestling golf outing at my club, and we give a link back. Those types of dot org links are very powerful from a local perspective. So, getting those links back and asking for those links, there's nothing wrong with that, and asking those people to share a review of the course, too, to talk about how great the facility was. You're not always recruiting members, you want people to come there for weddings, banquets, and events. That's the lifeblood a course throughout the year, of that constant revenue, because most of the dues are paid up-front, so they need those things to keep the course operationally sound throughout the year.
ED: This is a little bit of a tangent, but I think it's really worthwhile, and it's just on the idea of reviews. Sometimes people don't ask for it, because sometimes they think I don't know what they're going to say, or what if they don't say something good? I just did a review. I bought a couple of things, my daughter and I are doing a mission trip, and I was reading reviews on cots, because I don't want to sleep on an air mattress. So, I read a bunch of reviews and the average was like 4.5 stars or something like that. And I read one review that was like a one, and it was so funny. So, the guy gave it a one because he's like five-feet two-inches, he said, and he likes to sleep with his leg hanging over the edge. And the way the cot was built is his leg was like right on where the frame bends, and it hurt his leg. And I'm like, so you gave it one star because you happen to be of a certain size and sleep in a very particular way, so the thing is bad? Yet a lot of times, as businesses, we know that's kind of kooky, and we don't like to read bad reviews. And yet, the way I look at it, and we've had some bad Glassdoor reviews, for example, at StoryTeller, I love the feedback. I love to know what people are thinking, and you can have all the excuses for it, but in the end, it doesn't matter what you think. Don't you really want to know what other people are saying about your club, right?
MIKE: Yes. We use the old phrase, "a rotten apple spoils the bunch." One of the things with the reviews is, if you only have 20 reviews, and one or two are bad, they can they can tank your rating. And it could be something completely based on, like you say, my leg hurts, or I didn't book the trip right, but I'm going to rip this hotel because they didn't give me an upgrade. There are all those types of things that happen. So, you want as many 5-star and 4-star reviews as possible to offset those ones that will go there. Because, as we know, if you have a bad customer experience on an airline, you're more likely to fill out that survey than if everything went fine. That's what you're dealing with.
You have to have a good offense to offset those people are going to come in that had that bad experience. At the same time, people freak about bad reviews. And we're like, you know what, if somebody is legitimately reading the reviews, and I do all the time. I look at peer reviews for restaurants, I look at them for hotels or anything, and I want to see those ones every once in a while because it makes it more natural. Not bought for reviews. It's not the old infomercial — "Mike B. from wherever loves this product." It's like who is Mike B.? So it gives a little more realism.
ED: Great segue to one of the last things I wanted to just get your thoughts on, advertising and organic. We talked a little bit before we started today about the emphasis on having really good content, really good information. A lot of clubs that we talk to think, we don't know how to create that, or we don't know what is good, or where does it go and things like that? But the clubs that really look at paid strategies and whether that's Facebook Ads or Google Ads or whatever that is. You talked about the long-term play and the short-term play. What should people know about that long-term play as it relates to how much content? We've talked on this podcast about blogging and that slow burn and building an audience and things like that. What are the things from your perspective, being close to this marketing part, what do you see as being the critical things if you're going to start an organic play?
MIKE: We've really discussed organic and you mentioned the paid advertising, right? The true reality is that Google has pushed, and the other search engines have pushed the organic top search ranking down about 400 pixels on the page. Every search you have, there are going to be shopping ads, there are going to be local ads, there are going to be whatever. So, you need to compete with paid media, just to sometimes be found. So, one of the challenges with golf clubs that we see is, well it could cheapen the brand. You know, we don't want to look like we're desperate for members. But, at the same time, there's no brand, even luxury brands, that don't have some sort of advertising. You can look at Gucci or whatever you want, they put ads out there. It doesn't tarnish the brand. The key is, you want to have a strategy that has what we talked about, your SEO organic content growth, local search, that should be going on year-round. But you can have what we call sprints with paid media and say starting in March, when that snow starts to melt here in Minnesota, and again it's different all over the country, we should have a blitz of advertising about our Spring Membership special. We're offering a slow equity or no equity or play fora certain cost until June 15th (offer) and make your decision. Those are the type of things that you can get good placement. And the good news for anybody out there who has courses listening, there's not a lot of competition out there right now, so it wouldn't cost you a lot of money. And when we look at paid media, we're going to look at geotargeted campaigns that you can run specific to whatever it happens to be, whatever that searches is. So, if you want to promote your banquet business, or your wedding business, or your courses, your Monday outings, or just membership, you can cater those campaigns towards it. You can create content specific to weddings. You can go as granular and say, "I want to run within ten miles, I want to appear if somebody searches for a private golf course near me." Or, I want to appear in all of the Twin Cities for somebody searching for wedding facilities. You could cater one would be, we're going to drive those people to our site and we're going to have them see all the pretty pictures about the golf course, and we're going to try to get them to get download the membership form or call in. From the banquet perspective, you could have a video from a most recent wedding or a banquet that you're pushing the page to. Again, one's a more aggressive hard sell, and one's a more soft sell. The beauty of paid media is that you can cater the campaign to the specific call-to-action. So, you can be more top of the funnel and educational, catching them when they're researching, and say I want these to be desktop-based searches. Or you can be more of a call-to-action. "We want people to come out and golf because it's spring." Same thing with fall. A lot of courses do what they call fall specials because they want people to come out mid-August and golf for the rest of the year and see how beautiful the course is when the leaves change. That should be part of your whole marketing mix. They used to call it SEM, which is Search Engine Optimization and PPC together. Now it's bigger than that. Now it's the organic search, social, paid media, all working together to drive that qualified traffic to your site.
ED: One of the things I love about what you're saying is just that luxury resorts advertise and it doesn't tarnish their brand. Whether or not you are a club that says we want to push our spring special, fall special as an ad online, it's your call. But it doesn't mean that you can't do some sort of a paid campaign that appeals to people in a different way. Maybe it's your emotions, or isn't it time you explore family experiences, whatever fits your brand. It's a great idea, and I love the fact that you can do it in sprints. I want to ask you something that's kind of it's a little squirrelly and it's probably not super ethical — I mean for a club to do — but can a club say, "I'm going to buy the search terms for all my competitors in the market." So, if anyone is going to look up, in my area, the competing clubs, if they Google them, they're going to get my paid ad first. Can they do that?
MIKE: Yes they can. They can buy the terms. There are some trademark rules where you can't put the name of the course in your ad copy. But if somebody searched for your neighboring course and they're close to you, you could buy their name for those searches and you mysteriously pop up. We see it all the time. Even some of our biggest clients that are Fortune 500 companies will have competitors bidding on their terms. You have to be a little sneaky about it, and there are ways to do it, and sometimes your quality score won't be as good as it needs to be to get that placement. But if there's nobody bidding on it, it might be a little more expensive, but you can do that. And you're right, it is kind of sneaky, but it happens.
ED: Well, that's why I was thinking when you said it's not super competitive. And, if you're wondering what that means because you're new to this whole conversation, it means that if there's a search term that a lot of people want to be found for, it's like a bidding war. Google will set that price and can potentially drive the price through the roof if there's enough competition. Let's wrap up with a couple of things. Where is this all going? What do you think the future is for search, especially with Google Assistant now getting so strong, and so much voice stuff? Where do you think this is all going to go in the next five or 10 years?
MIKE: You mentioned voice. I mean there's a lot of futuristic things about there. You mentioned voice, and voice is going to be the biggest influencer on the searches and the way anything goes forward. I have kids, younger kids, and they grew up with an iPhone. We have Amazon Alexa in the house. There's Google Home, Siri, all these things. They're used to talking to their devices. So, when you look at voice search, where it's taking off is obviously the younger generation, but also the older generation, because it's harder for them to type and see those things so they talk into their than their phones and ask questions. My dad yells into his phone all the time, asking questions about politics or whatever happens to be. So, I think the days of "golf courses near me" searches are going to be in the rearview mirror from "I'm looking for a golf course that has a pool and family activities." Those are the type of search you're going to get. So you need to build content towards that, right? So, having those different type pieces of content, where Google says, "Wow this course has a video on family-friendly activities on their site." So we have junior league, we have games, we have movie night, we have the pool, those type of things. Those are the type of things that are going to be key to creating the proper content. Looking at your analytics on your site, seeing what people are searching, asking your members in review, looking through the reviews, how do they refer to your course? What do they talk about? And then building out content towards that. Futuristically, we talked about beacons and things like that where you walk in the proximity of a course and an ad pops up. You're driving down the road, perhaps someday when the cars even get more, and in your map is going to be a picture and an advertisement of the golf course that's right around the corner. And you may be like, I never even knew there was a golf course down that road. I never knew there was a course that close to me. I think a lot of that really zeroing-in on location and then, of course, your behavior. What are you searching online, are you signed in, and catering those messages to you.
We've heard so much about Google and Facebook privacy and how they're dialing that back. But, the funny thing is, we want them to dial back, we're really concerned about our privacy, but we want a personalized experience at the same time. When we search "golf courses," I don't want to see a golf course in Omaha. I want that precise information. Well, how do they get that? They have to have some information on you. So, it's really a trade. We had to trade some of our personal information to get that personalized experience, and at the same time, we don't want them invading our privacy to the point where we feel like this is a little creepy.
ED: We've reached this point where I feel like Google, Facebook, any online company like Amazon, they all know. In fact, I almost feel like they could unleash so much technology today but they don't want to freak people out. You know, because you see things starting to change and evolve like Google Maps. I was looking at Google Maps the other day because I use it to get anywhere now. And it has started to pin drop all of the locations and places that I've visited, and I'm like, "Wow, that was really, really cool."
MIKE: And you hear the stories of Alexa listening to you. My kids now unplug Alexa when they're not using it. You know, I've been on phone calls before where I'm on in the office on a phone call, and Siri all of the sudden starts talking. I might have said something that triggered her or something. But I think people get a little freaked out about what level of information are you collecting? I mean how do I control that? And I think that's going to be the biggest step to having that personalized experience of I can talk to my device and it gives me information. Whenever we get to holograms someday or whatever, it's going to be that control of privacy. What level of information do these giants have right now? I think if we knew how much they have right now, we'd be scared to death.
ED: Yeah exactly. Well Mike, thanks so much for your time and your insight today, it's been really helpful. For people listening, where can they find out more about NordicClick?
MIKE: They can go to our website at NordicClick.com, and all our social profiles are on the same, just NordicClick. So please check us out, and definitely appreciate the time to talk about one of my favorite subjects, which is golf and digital marketing at the same time.
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