Operation Breton Island
If you thought Snoop Dog is the only celebrity who can put somewhat undervalued sites on the map, well, you were wrong. Just like the famous rapper, Donald Trump can change how people view certain parts of the world. Involuntarily, of course. Romania, quite obviously, is not Canada, and Bogata, despite its scenic landscape and awesome traditional households, is very different from Cape Breton. However, as Bogdan’s story is soon going to reveal, these two areas were, for a brief moment in history, more similar in terms of search spikes and Google analytics results than any of us would’ve ever expected. Without any further ado, we give you the thrilling detective story that unfolded one unassuming Friday afternoon in our Marketing Department:
Operation Breton Island
It was a regular Friday at the office on February 19th. A lot of buzz at noon, when some people take their lunch break. Others get busy wrapping up their weekly projects and some take time for reporting on their progress. Everyone is doing quite humble tasks, except for one guy, who was definitely not in the usual Friday mood. Alex, my colleague from the Marketing team looked somehow troubled and concerned. More so than usual. He approached me and asked me to have a look at a “bug” he discovered with one of the tools we’re using. He was looking at Google Analytics – a web analytics service offered by Google, which helps us analyze traffic on the Yardi websites – who visits the website, where they come from, how long they stay on the site, you know, the usual. And the bug he was looking at was a spike in visits for a certain section on Point2Homes.com – a Yardi owned website where people can find homes for sale or for rent in the US and Canada. The section he was looking at was the page that shows houses for sale in Cape Breton Island, an island on the Atlantic coast of Canada. The numbers in Google Analytics showed a huge increase in page views to that section, from a couple hundred per day to 52,000 on February 18th. At first, it sure looked like our tracking went nuts. It’s almost impossible to achieve this kind of growth overnight. Unless you somehow get a link from Buzzfeed.com, on their homepage, front and center. Which was not the case. And it’s not like Cape Breton Island suddenly became world famous. Or did it?
We looked at several factors that might have caused the bug Alex told me about. We found none of the usual mishaps, and what was even more mind-blowing: almost all visits originated from Google. So people were searching for something related to Cape Breton Island in Canada. And now it got interesting. Point2Homes.com is a real estate website, and we’re marketing it as the go to place for people looking to buy a house in Canada. I fired up google.com on my computer and started digging. My searches showed me that Point2Homes.com was on the 1st and the 2nd Google position for all the queries I made related to Cape Breton real estate. We realized soon that our spike in visits to that section must have been fueled by an increased interest in houses for sale in Cape Breton. Such a spike in online searches is usually caused by a real life event. Things were getting more and more interesting. In Google Trends, “Cape Breton real estate” and “Cape Breton island real estate” were both skyrocketing searches.
But so were “Cape Breton if Donald Trump wins” and “Cape Breton if Trump wins”. That’s when we realized something had gone viral: http://cbiftrumpwins.com/ – this website had been launched that week and was pitching the lovely Nova Scotian island as a place of refuge, should Trump take the White House.
We finally put the puzzle together and realized that this is the reason why people in the US were searching for houses for sale on Cape Breton Island, Canada. The site, showing gorgeous pictures of Cape Breton Island, had become an internet sensation in the US with mentions on popular TV shows and highly trafficked websites such as Mashable, Huffington Post, Daily Mail, CNN, Forbes or Time Magazine.
We decided to push the story even further and we had a quick get together with our creative geniuses: the copywriters in our team. We wrote an article about how Americans are seriously considering moving to Cape Breton Canada and approached several media outlets and pitched the story to them. Many of them responded immediately and picked up on this story. That’s how we landed mentions and links from high profile media such as: CBC (the Canadian national public radio and TV broadcaster), Buzzfeed, CBS, and CTVNews. And all of this happened because we decided to play detective with Google Analytics and Google Trends. Or, as we call it, just another regular Friday at the office.