Saturday, January 10, 2009

Loudoun Business Challenge - Help Stimulate Loudoun's Economy in 2009

Loudoun Businesses – a Challenge to Stimulate Loudoun's Economy in 2009

Here's a sure-fire way that We All, as Loudoun Business Owners, can provide a collective economic stimulus package of our own to Loudoun County – basically for free.

We're challenging all Loudoun Businesses (heck, lets add Western Fairfax and Western Prince William in there too!) to collectively and coordinately promote Loudoun County online, as a great place to visit and/or invest, with your website or blog!

But how, you ask, in a way that truly makes a difference?

Answer: by leveraging professional Internet Marketing and Social Media techniques, in a coordinated fashion.

Following is a summary explanation of why it's necessary, and what you can/should do. Note that this cursory analysis is only a very small part of what should be a holistic Internet Marketing strategy, coordinated across the County government and with its businesses and business partners.

What exactly are people, businesses, organizations or investors searching for in Google (or any search engine online), that Loudoun County is most interested in promoting? You'd think things like great schools, reasonable housing value, business opportunities, educated employees. That's certainly true, but in the online marketing world, these somewhat tacit themes or ideas need to be distilled into more explicit keywords and phrases. What, specifically, should Loudoun County be marketing online in terms of keywords, in order to attract attention and dollars in the form of business and consumer investment?

There isn't an easy, clear answer – but some clues can be found on the Loudoun Department of Economic Development (DED) website. In terms of online marketing maturity (as constructive criticism), however, this site requires some quick attention (for example the "title" of the site's home page is just "home", vs. something like "Loudoun County business investment|economic incentives|business opportunities – Northern Virginia's economic engine!"). The site's "keywords" expressed as "metatags" in the website's computer code include the following words and phrases (along with our brief assessment):

  • Loudoun location (ok, not too bad, one must first be interested in Loudoun to search for this)
  • relocation to Loudoun (ok, the DED's services include help here)
  • relocate business to Loudoun (again, one must first be interested in Loudoun)
  • Loudoun County Economic Development (well, you're here already!)
  • Sheila Johnson (Loudoun's greatest asset?)
  • Larry Rosenstrauch (DED Director)
  • John Wood, Lew Parker, Gerry Rubin, Joe Travez, Mary Porter, Jim Bennett (fine representatives of Loudoun business success, but people might probably first search LinkedIn or Facebook for better information…)
  • DotNetNuke (bleah - some leftover advertising for the website's underlying software – free advertising taxpayers pay for)
  • DNN (same)

We'll also point out the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority is eating our lunch in their ability to attract business investment via the Internet – while the reasons are many, and the PR resources available are more numerous and much different, there are certainly very visible differences from an online marketing perspective that could be fixed, quickly and inexpensively. Search for each, for example, in Google – the results are strikingly different, for the first items that come up:

Search for: "Fairfax County Economic Development":

Now search for: "Loudoun County Economic Development":

Here's a Tag Cloud visualization of all the keyword phrases (basically how many of these keywords there are) on the primary DED pages devoted to "Considering a Loudoun Location"? (Not too exciting, is it…)

Look at this cloud from Clear Creek County, Colorado's Ski Vacation Destination (a favorite virtual destination of ours!)...much more attractive (but they've got bigger mountains, after all).

The Loudoun Convention and Visitor's Association seems to have a better handle on the sorts of things that attract investment and investors to Loudoun (wine and horses!) with their keywords (notwithstanding the fact that keywords used in metatags, these days, don't get much play in the search engines anymore) – they include things like:

  • air & space museum
  • bed & breakfast
  • wineries
  • airport
  • equestrian events
  • fine dining
  • shopping
  • steeplechase...etc.

The problem is that people aren't typically searching for these things without qualifiers like "Loudoun", "Northern Virginia", "Metro DC", "Virginia" or even "Mid-Atlantic". (Or "Fairfax" – note it's common practice in online marketing to do things like lure people to click on a link for "Fairfax fine dining", and see a page of nice (eastern) Loudoun restaurants included.) The Loudoun Visitor's association IS getting a bit more active in the circles of social media, with their Twitter (here's ours), Youtube and Blogging presence – but it still lacks the real focus on incentives people are searching for, and cross-fertilization of assets (is Loudoun only about wine? We prefer Loudoun beer).

Over at the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, the online Loudoun-centric promotion with good keywords simply isn't available – the website title is " ", and the keywords (i.e. "about, resources, newsroom", etc.) are without Loudoun or Virginia context. A "keyword-density analysis" of the "2009 Public Policy" paper (which appears to be the best place to find all the reasons why Loudoun should be promoted to be a good place to do business) - reveals the frequency of useful, marketing-centric 2-word phrases (like "Virginia community, public safety, or workforce development") to be less than .1% of the document (the best targets for online marketing and exposure in search engines are greater than 2%).

So, while there's some attention being paid around the Loudoun PR community to attracting online traffic, and hopefully subsequent offline traffic and money, are these efforts working? Well, not so much online...while we can't peer into the actual website traffic reports of the county, we can certainly pretend to be Bavarian business owners flush with cash looking for a place to build a new business near Washington, or, a group of retired Microsoft employees looking for great entertainment near Dulles Airport. In Google, we might search for things like (and we describe the results, in terms of whether Loudoun or Loudoun's businesses are represented):

  • "Loudoun shopping" (is there really good shopping outside of Fairfax?)
    - Page 1 search results: not too bad, but just directories (including ours) and media – where are the businesses?
  • "Northern Virginia business climate" (any news or info on what areas are "friendliest"?)
    - The state of Virginia's well represented, and Fairfax checks in with a good result – but no Loudoun
  • "DC Metro commercial investment properties" (where can we build?)
    - This brings up all the realtors (by far the best marketers of the county)...but didn't see the word Loudoun, however, in the first 5 pages of results
  • "Northern Virginia Building and Construction" (who's going to build it?)
    - Again, no real Loudoun-centric information in the first few pages
  • "Business-friendly neighborhoods near Dulles Airport" (not Brambleton, evidently, if you're building a hospital)
    - Well, Herndon was evidently in the "top 100 places to raise your family" in 2006, Supervisor McGimsey says the County is shaped like a fat "Letter L", and "Dulles is the worst run airport in the United States", according to Bacon’s Rebellion Blog. This topic really deserves a nice article in WAPO.
  • "Loudoun businesses" (who'll be my business partners, suppliers, neighbors?)
    - Only 2 Loudoun businesses come up on the 1st page of results, that's Dulles South Online and Leesburg Today (where's everyone else?) Loudoun's DED did show up.

Therefore, in our nutshell, abbreviated opinion – Loudoun's being ineffectively marketed online to investors and visitors. There are many, many ways to fix this (fairly cheaply), that could take another 100 pages to describe – but here's a way YOU can quickly help YOUR county as a Business Owner, Organization Director or even Home Owner (don't you want your property values back where they were? So you can finally retire to Southern Maryland or Clear Creek County Colorado?).

Here are the first, simplest things to do to help promote Loudoun (besides rooting for the Loudoun Redskins), and thereby promote your own business – do them all, or perhaps just one (contact us if you need help):

1. Put a sentence on your website that includes the words Virginia, DC, business, invest, economy, and Loudoun, plus a superlative. For example "Find us in Loudoun County, the DC metro region’s premier business investment location in Northern Virginia and business-friendly economy". Preferably put this word on your front page.

2. Include a link to your favorite Loudoun business-assistance or promotion entity on your website – either standalone, or embedded in a sentence like the one above. For example, link "premier business investment location in Northern Virginia" to "".

3. Contribute an article, comment, picture, video or other feedback online, wherever you happen to make online contributions – but try to use a sentence like the one above, link back to a Loudoun PR entity, and use keywords like those above (especially "Loudoun" and "business"!). Do this often.

4. Share ideas and input regarding how you feel Loudoun can be better promoted online – here, through your memberships/affiliations with the Loudoun government entities, or otherwise.

5. Include a Loudoun "badge" on your site – while Loudoun doesn't currently have an "official" one (hint-hint, Loudoun DED!) – you can start with our own "unofficial" Loudoun badge.

6. If you want more basic advice, look here for an "Internet Checklist for Starting a Business in Loudoun County".

Let's have a great Loudoun business year, in 2009!

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home