Wrangell aims to put itself on the virtual map

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

Wrangell’s local government recently Googled itself. And didn’t like what it saw. Now, the city is working with a contractor to brush up its online image.

Most folks have probably Googled themselves. Wrangell’s economic development director Carol Rushmore typed in 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, 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 — for many — people’s first impression of the town.

“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 rep with Truly360.

He says 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 Street View. Soon anyone with an internet connection will be able to take a virtual tour via Google Street View.

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

Brook Leslie runs the tour company Alaska Waters. She attended a training with Trautloff, and says she’ll start referring customers to rate her business on Google, not just TripAdvisor and Facebook.

All of this is to attract more visitors to town. With summer coming to a close, Rushmore says the 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 says 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.