Wrangell aims to put itself on the (virtual) map

Tech company Truly360 drove around town taking panoramic shots of Wrangell’s streets. The shots will be used for Google Street View, a virtual tour platform on Google. (Photo by June Leffler/KSTK)

Wrangell’s local government recently Googled itself. And it didn’t like what it saw.

Carol Rushmore, Wrangell’s economic development director, typed the name of the city she works for into the world’s most popular search engine and found the results wanting.

“I just think the representation can be different,” Rushmore said.

For example, a Google search for Wrangell shows top destinations in town: Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park, a popular hiking trail and a park. Not bad. But then there’s the description: It’s just census data that looks like it was lifted from Wikipedia.

The information in the box is technical information,” Rushmore said. “Why can’t we provide some basic, fun information about the community?”

So the city hired a contractor that works closely with Google. The city will pay Truly360 about $1,500 a month to curate what could be many people’s first impression of the city.

“If they don’t like what they see on Google, they might not even get to your website, your Facebook, your Instagram,” said Eric Trautloff, a representative with Truly360.

He said the global search engine can be guided.

“Google’s taking information from wherever they can find it and putting it in, if you guys are not actively doing it yourself,” Trautloff said. “So that can be terrifying at the same time, because you don’t know what’s going up.”

To curate Wrangell’s Google presence, Trautloff started his trip driving around Wrangell’s humble 30 miles of road taking shots for Google Street View. Soon anyone with an internet connection will be able to take a virtual tour of Wrangell.

As part of the deal, Truly360 will advise the local tribe, the Wrangell Chamber of Commerce and local businesses on ways they can improve their digital footprint.

All of this is to attract more visitors to town. With summer coming to a close, Rushmore said now is the time to act.

“It’s actually good timing,” she said. “So we’ll have it in advance of people really searching for their next summer’s vacation.”

By that time, Rushmore said she’ll have counted clicks that show web traffic. Then she’ll be to see just how many more virtual visitors have dropped in to check out her town.

Only 2% of Alaska cruise passengers will visit Wrangell in 2019. And the town is fine with that.

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