the children's museum of south dakota

Children’s Museum of South Dakota Draws Customers with Google AdWords

Manufacturer and philanthropist Dale Larson and his family founded The Children’s Museum of South Dakota in 2010. Based in a former elementary school, the museum caters mostly to kids 12 and younger. Visitors can roam 44,000 square-feet of indoor space and four acres of prairie. Over 5,000 objects, which workers call “loose parts,” give children something to touch and explore. Outside, an animatronic dinosaur called “Mama T. Rex”—25 feet high and 60 feet long—is a guest favorite. “We’re very interactive, very hands-on,” says Randy Grimsley, Director of Marketing. “We provide a different journey, a different experience for our guests every time. It is what they make of it.”

“We attract visitors to a small community. The way most people find out about us is through searching online.”

Randy Grimsley, Director of Marketing

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The Children’s Museum draws many vacationers headed for Mount Rushmore and other nearby tourist destinations. They use AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to inspire these families to stop and visit the museum. “Through AdWords, we’re able to open the doors to people who are looking for children’s activities,” Randy says. “Many people are looking for what we provide, not our name. So the link that connects us is AdWords.” YouTube videos bring to life what visitors can do at the museum. Google Analytics helps track the performance and efficiency of their website. “Analytics allows me to see what is working, and what isn’t, and to adjust accordingly,” Randy adds. Google Apps for Work helps the staff communicate and share documents.

The Children’s Museum of South Dakota has more than 100,000 visitors annually.

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Located in a community of 25,000 people in rural east-central South Dakota, the museum has already attracted more than 600,000 visitors, drawing visitors from all 50 states and about 30 countries. “They may not even be thinking about a children’s museum, but we can appear in front of them online,” Randy says. At least two-thirds of their website visitors are finding them through Google. “In the old days, marketing was a shot in the dark, just trying to grab people’s attention when they were on the road. Now they’re planning trips online and we can be part of their plan.” Those marketing efforts are paying off. “We’re known in the museum industry, for sure,” Randy says. “And we’re becoming more and more known in the tourism and travel industries. If we continue on this trajectory, we’ll all be happy.”

For more information on the Children’s Museum of South Dakota case study, visit

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