The Winery Web Site Report
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Effective Winery Web Sites for May, 2006
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in this issue
-- Practical Tip: Building Site Traffic
-- Google AdWords: How NOT to do it
-- Visits and Visitors

Dear Subscriber,

Welcome to the May issue of Effective Winery Web Sites. No, you didn't miss April's issue. We didn't publish one.

According to the helpful information that our newsletter service (Constant Contact) provides, the two things you are most interested in (besides "effective winery web sites") are "building site traffic" and "search engine optimization". This month's Practical Tip offers 10 ways to build traffic to your site.

Do you read our blog? So far, I've avoided using material I've posted at blog.WineryWebSiteReport.com because some of you may read both this newsletter and the blog. Alas, I can't tell which newsletter subscribers also read our blog, so this month I'm including a recent blog post: Google AdWords: How NOT to do it. Consider it an experiment - please drop me a note with your reaction.

This newsletter is most useful when it addresses your questions, so please tell me what's on your mind. Thank you for taking the time to read this longer-than-usual issue.

Sincerely,
Mike

Michael E. Duffy, Publisher
mike@WineryWebSiteReport.com


Practical Tip: Building Site Traffic
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If you build it, they will come.

While this may have worked for Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) in Field of Dreams, it probably won't build the level of traffic you'd like to see on your winery Web site.

Building traffic to your Web site is part of your overall marketing program to build awareness of your winery. People can't visit your site if they don't know about it or it is hard to find.

Here are 10 things you ought to be doing:

1. Make sure your Web site address is on your

  • cork
  • back label
  • business cards
  • letterhead
  • press releases
  • media kit
  • shelf talkers
  • order forms
  • telephone answering message
  • reprints of reviews and ratings
  • radio/print/TV advertising
  • anything that people take away with them (even embroidered on the back of your logo hats).
In other words, someone who comes in contact with your winery should have no problem finding your Web site.

2. Check to make sure you know what happens when someone searches for the name of your winery on Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL. Try some variations, e.g. if you are Acme Winery and Vineyards, try Acme Winery, Acme Vineyards, and Acme wines in addition. Ideally, your home page will be the number one result for the name of your winery, but don't panic as long as it's in the first 10 results (studies show that most searchers don't look much beyond the first page of results).

3. Use an e-mail signature and include your site address in it:

John Doe
Doe Family Winery
www.DoeFamilyWinery.com
1-800-DOE-WINE
This is just good business e-mail practice. Most e-mail programs will turn your site address into a clickable link for the recipient.

4. Make sure to receive e-mail at your domain name (e.g. john@doefamilywinery.com, not doefamilywinery@aol.com). Again, this is just good business e-mail practice, but people will use your e-mail address as a clue for locating your Web site.

5. Have more than one Web address (own more than one domain name). People are likely to take a guess at the address of your Web site, based on the name of your winery. You should consider owning all "reasonable" guesses.

What's reasonable? Tell 10 people the name of your winery and ask them to guess your domain name (sort of like Family Feud). Domain names are $8.95 a year at GoDaddy.com, and you can point all of them them to your "real" Web site.

Example: try guessing 5 variations of Kendall- Jackson for yourself and see which ones work, or visit www.pinotnoir.com (a clever way for this pinot producer to get additional traffic).

6. Add an attractive "e-mail this page to a friend" button to the bottom of every page.



This helps people who visit your site to spread the word when they find something interesting that they want to pass along (note: requires programming)

7. Send a monthly e-mail newsletter. The key reason to do this is that it's very easy for someone reading your e-mail newsletter to click on a link to your Web site (which is the same idea behind #3 above). This "should do" is big enough for its own newsletter article, so before tackling it, wait for next month's newsletter.

8. Identify where your current Web site visitors come from by looking at your Web server statistics. Do they come from search engines (Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL)? Is some other Web site linking to you? Are they simply typing your site address into their Web browser? Think of search, referrals, and direct requests (usually based on offline exposure) as channels - you want to make sure that you're getting traffic from all of them (referring links are probably hardest to come by, since other people must *want* to link to your site).

9. Identify key search phrases used by existing visitors who arrive from search engines (again, this is part of the information collected by your Web server). Use these phrases (when appropriate) in page titles, headlines, and content. Over time, this will improve the visibility of your pages when people search for these phrases.

Some search phrases (e.g. pinot noir) may be worth using as an alternative domain name, if available (see #5 above).

10. Make sure the title of each of your Web pages is unique, with the most distinctive information first. In other words, don't write a title like

Acme Winery & Vineyards: Hand-crafted Oregon Pinot Noir
Instead, put the most distinctive information first
Hand-crafted Oregon Pinot Noir from Acme Winery & Vineyards
If appropriate, use key search phrases (like oregon pinot noir) in the title.

Bottom line: If you want to build traffic to your winery Web site, you must provide:

  • a reason for someone to visit in the first place (and help them find it)
  • a reason for people to come back
  • a reason for visitors to recommend the site to others,
and you must measure visits and visitors (see the last article in this newsletter).


Google AdWords: How NOT to do it
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[Note: I chose this post from our blog because Seth Godin found it important enough to link to from his highly- trafficked marketing blog. If you're involved in online marketing, Seth's blog is a thought-provoking read.]

If you Google the phrase pinot noir, you'll find there are over 8 million results (see image below). That makes it hard for an individual winery that makes Pinot Noir to stand out simply on the basis of "organic search placement" (i.e. the ranking of a page based on Google's opinion of the relevance of that page's content to someone searching for "pinot noir").

Google has an answer for businesses who want to place their products and services in front of people making specific searches. It's called AdWords. When someone searches for "pinot noir", your ad may be displayed alongside the "organic" search results. If someone clicks on the ad, you pay Google for the click-through. Whether your ad is actually displayed or not depends on (a) how much you are willing to pay for a click, relative to other businesses bidding on the same words, and (b) whether people actually click through on your ad.

If you did the search for pinot noir on Google, you should see an ad something like this one (search results constantly change, so I can't guarantee you'll see exactly this result):

If you click through, you are taken to this page: Arista Winery | Sonoma County, California (the Arista Winery home page). Pardon my saying so, but Arista just wasted the dollar or so that they will pay for that click.

Why? Read on to find out...


Visits and Visitors
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If you're interested in building site traffic, you also need to measure it.

In most cases, your Web server (the computer that processes requests for your Web pages) automatically records some information about every request, including the Internet (IP) address of the computer that appears to be making the request, the time of the request, the thing (page, image, etc.) that was requested, and whether the request was successfully completed. A program (called a "log analyzer") can then look at this information and try to make sense of the traffic.

The two most-useful measures of traffic are visits and unique visitors. A "visit" is simply a computer connecting to your computer, requesting some pages, and then leaving. A visit is identified by the IP address requesting the pages. Only a certain amount of time (usually no more than 30 minutes) can elapse between successive requests from the same IP address to be considered part of the same visit.

So coming to your site, looking at the home page briefly, going to CNN.com and reading the news for an hour, and then coming back to look at your home page again would count as two visits from my computer (it doesn't matter how many pages I look at, just that an hour elapsed between two of them).

Given that, a unique visitor is simply how many different visitors are represented by all the visits. In the example above, there were two visits an hour apart, but only one unique visitor (me).

Each month (at a minimum), you should take a look at the number of visits and unique visitors to your Web site. There's lots more you can do to analyze your site traffic, but this is the starting place.

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