By CARL SMITH
Visits to Starkville’s primary tourism website are increasing, a fact that reflects greater interest in the city and the impact of special promotions, Greater Starkville Development Partnership officials said Wednesday.
Jennifer Gregory, GSDP chief operating officer and vice president for tourism, presented a website traffic analysis for the entity’s primary tourism website — http://www.visit.starkville.org  — which tracked more than 64,000 visits between January 2012 and Tuesday. Comparatively, the site only experienced 19,181 visits between Jan. 6, 2011 and Jan. 7, 2012. The increased traffic over the past calendar year represents a 233.73 percent increase.
In-state visits dominated the website’s total traffic, Gregory said, with Starkville (15,766), Jackson (4,032) and Columbus (1,402) placing in the top five list of cities visiting the site. The website also drew more than 1,000 visitors from both Tupelo and Hattiesburg.
Gregory said it was encouraging to see increased page views from nearby communities because of the potential for the town to attract day visitors.
As for out-of-state visitors, New Orleans, La. (2,172 visits, fourth overall) led the list, followed by Houston, Texas (950 visits, eighth overall) and Memphis, Tenn. (848 visits, ninth overall).
When Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau board members asked Gregory how advertising campaigns target Mississippi State University alumni in metro areas across the Southeast, she said the Partnership sends postcards directly to season ticket holders of major university sporting programs. This allows the Partnership to avoid hefty advertising costs in large metropolitan cities and also reach more than 10,000 people directly, she said.
The way Web browsers are reaching the Partnership’s site also changed in the past calendar year. More visitors found the site through Google in both 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, but direct visits jumped from the third most-common avenue to the second. Almost 22,000 website visits were conducted using Google search last year, but direct visits accounted for 9,394 hits. From 2011-2012, that number was only 2,111. The change represents a 345 percent increase according to website analysis documents.
“We like to see that because we want to be searchable and visible,” Gregory said referencing Google’s impact on the GSDP website.
Combined, off-site referrals accounted for 20,100 visits to the website. Those referrals include MSU’s primary and athletic pages, Facebook and link-shortening services primarily used on Twitter and other social media sites.
In all, visitors to the website averaged 2.35 pages per session, an increase of 4.95 percent from the previous calendar year. Visit duration dropped .12 percent in that same time period, but Gregory said a site reorganization streamlined navigation and could explain the slight drop in time.