I’m a member of a stimulating Facebook Group called Social Media and Wine. Recently Andrew Hanigan from Derwent Estate Wines asked a question which is relevant to anyone who has an online presence:
So has the role of a Winery website changed with the onset of FB, Twitter, Instagram etc? What should it still contain, what is no longer relevant? Is a well maintained/up to date DIY site enough these days or do I still need an expensive platform?
Some time back it could have been argued that a Facebook page was a cheap and practical alternative to a webpage. But this is risky because it is owned not by you but by Facebook and it can and does change everything at its own whim. As can Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest for that matter.
As Marketingland says: “The demise of Google+ also underscores just how critical owned media is. Focusing on your own websites, or those of your clients, is a safer bet than having tunnel vision on a site that you don’t own.”
Your website is the only online space you truly own (though you are also beholden to the whim of Google’s search algorithm).
Facebook – and every other social media site – is looking out for its own interests, which are its revenue stream and how to keep its market share of people’s online time by ensuring their feeds are interesting an not stacked with ads.
So what is the role of the website?
Each business and website has its own aims and goals. And nowadays whatever your demographic you require a website that can be viewed and used properly on devices from large computer monitors down to tablets and small phones. Most people will find about 40% or more traffic comes from mobile devices; I have one client where the figure is 60%.
For most physical businesses that means you want to manage your reputation, give practical information, use it to sell products and take bookings for events.
And there is a new role I will talk about later in this post – it is the best place to build your email list and other equally powerful audiences – for instance people who have visited your website.
The website is also a place for story telling through a blog (or newsletter) which will increase traffic to your website which leads to more sales, email sign-ups and social media followers.
There is a direct relationship between website traffic, bookings, sales, email sign-ups, online reviews and Facebook likes if you get everything set up right.
Managing your reputation
This is telling the website visitor about you with words and pictures. If you are selling a product you want to include prices. If you have a restaurant you want to spell out what food is served and the cost – not on a pdf but on a webpage.
You may want a single hero image and you certainly want a gallery. You also want to talk about the personalities involved, without which you are simply an anonymous business. The biggest mistake I find small businesses make is to forget they are about people.
Location, location, location. You want your address, telephone number (ideally one that will dial at a click from a phone, and a link -or embedded – Google Places listing.
Include your opening times and any other useful instructions.
Sell products or take bookings
There is no reason why your website should not pay for itself. I’ve seen may wineries pay tens of thousands of dollars for websites and nothing has sold. The same for restaurants.
If you sell anything or take bookings you want a big obvious link, graphic or button that says this.
You want a simple design and a checkout process that removes all obstacles to sales.
And you want to promote this, which is part of a digital plan which should include building the right sort of traffic to your website.
Selling stuff online is a numbers game.The more of your target audience that visits the more your sell.
Harvest your audience
Congratulations somebody has visited your website. What do you do next?
For most visitors it will be their first visit. They may not be ready to buy a product or book a meal or an event
And while one technique for building your audience is to ask people to sign-up for emails, they may not be ready share their email address with you as you’ve only recently met.
The fact is your website is one of the best places to collect emails. Tasteful pop-up forms are de rigour and you can also opt people in when they purchase or book something.
You can also track your visitors using a technique called remarketing where a low cost ad will follow them across the web, to Facebook, Twitter and websites through Google and other ad sales organisations.
Personally, I think the simplest and most effective of these is Facebook. To set up the code is 5 minutes work and it means you can convert website visitors into Facebook likes. Or if you structure the right sort of campaign convert those people back into email sign-ups.
This audience of people who have visited your website is increasingly being recognised as powerful, if not more powerful, than email lists.
Building traffic with a blog
We are all under pressure but why wouldn’t you blog?
Writing posts relevant to your audience increases traffic and takes you a step closer to a sales goal.
That’s why I do this here; my last post increased traffic by several hundred a day and I’ve had posts that have drawn thousands of people in for myself and clients.
If you want to be scientific about it you can even check for popular keywords through Google’s Keywords Planner.
More ways to increase web traffic
I’m simply going to put a list here:
1. Be mobile optimised – otherwise you will get fewer visits from people searching on their phone.
2. Be accessible. That means accessible to disabled people for instance, blind people, by ensuring each image has appropriate “alt text” and not using pdfs.
3. Register Google Places for Business.
4. Ensure your basic search engine optimisation is set-up correctly.
5. Pictures. Ensure that they are named correctly. My-company-name-product.jpg which Google sees as multiple words rather than My_company_name_product.jpg which is seen as a single string.
6. Set a plan for social media sharing of blog posts to build even more traffic. Post multiple times over a period of months.
7. Send out interesting email newsletters promoting blog posts to build traffic.
Social media’s role
I’ve found that social media sharing of blog posts are some of the most effective in terms of engagement and reach on Facebook and Twitter.
It is worth building blogging into your social media plans with an aim of building your website audience.
Advertising the new paradigm
And it is also worth running low cost ad campaigns to drive people to your website and build traffic.
It is also worth harvesting this audience with a plan to convert them into Facebook likes, Twitter followers or email sign-ups.
I’m going to tackle this expanding and sometimes complicated area in a future post.
Your website is more valuable and important than it ever has been.
Start with small steps by ensuring it is doing its job properly and reaching its potential.