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Staff at the Stratford Tourism Alliance can now help local business owners update their Google business listings, improve search engine optimization, and help them overcome other online barriers.

Recently, the tourism alliance went through an in-depth certification process to become verified through the Google Destination Marketing Organization Partnership Program.

“Google recognized that when information became outdated on their systems — specifically on Google Maps — that it was creating a lot of confusion for their users,” said Stratford Tourism Alliance executive director Lori DeGraw.

The problem, she continued, was that business owners who needed to update the information in their Google business listing with, for example, a new address would have to verify that information by responding to a post card sent to that new address by the California-based tech giant.

“They have to verify that information they’re changing is accurate and it’s not somebody just calling up, saying whatever they want for whatever reason,” DeGraw said.

“… Recognizing that wasn’t ideal, that it created frustration for users and also business owners… they saw that they needed to make a change to that.”

As part of the Google Destination Marketing Organization Partnership Program — an effort to partner with local organizations to have them act as designated local verifiers of updated business information — Google reached out to the Stratford Tourism Alliance to see if it was interested.

“They reached out to us to say, ‘If you were to go through a fairly extensive process in order to become our designated local verifier organization, then we would permit you to undertake these changes on our behalf,’” DeGraw said, noting that that tourism alliance agreed and is now the only local verifier organization for Stratford and Perth County.

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And there are a number of benefits to the Stratford Tourism Alliance participating in the Google program besides having the ability to update business information online faster.

“We’ve already been working (with Google’s algorithms) so we can refine and really streamline our system so we become preferred by Google, meaning that for anyone searching for an experience or a trip, Stratford’s got a really good chance of coming up (through a Google search),” DeGraw said.

“… A Google business profile is not just an address, it’s all the information about a business. Now, that’s at our disposal.”

Depending on the needs of each business, the Stratford Tourism Alliance can ensure Stratford and area businesses benefit from having an active and complete Google listing, giving them the opportunity to reach a larger market, increase market share, and stand out among the competition.

“Every business tends to have a different issue or different need that they need help with. So it’s just about, ‘What can we do for you?’ What isn’t working right now in your Google business system. It could be something that’s handled on the phone, in an email… It’s just about that initial outreach and then a plan can be put in place,” DeGraw said.

“… We want more and more people to come to Stratford digitally so they can start to look at things that might encourage them to come and spend some time here. We may be able to make recommendations that the business wouldn’t have thought of or haven’t had exposure to otherwise.”

The Stratford Tourism Alliance is inviting all local businesses to participate in the program, ask questions, and learn more by calling 519-271-5140 ext. 5 or by emailing [email protected].

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