Making your Wine Site or Blog "Search-Friendly"


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This is a talk given by Doug Cook, founder of Able Grape, at the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference.

In this talk I present a different view of search engine optimization for your wine blog or winery website. I discuss how people find information on the web, what the "long tail" means, and why you must understand it in order to connect with your potential audience. I define a notion of optimization that I call "search-friendliness," provide a basic overview of how to accomplish this, and outline how to be a good citizen in the search ecosystem - which ultimately means good business.

Published in: Technology

Making your Wine Site or Blog "Search-Friendly"

  1. 1. An Introduction to “Search-Friendliness”<br />Doug Cook<br />Founder, Able Grape<br />
  2. 2. Overview<br />Debunk a few search “myths”<br />What is “search-friendliness”?<br />The Long Tail and what it means<br />“Search 101”<br />How search engines work<br />Implications for how you build your site<br />Analytics<br />Able Grape demo<br />Q&A<br />
  3. 3. Debunking some myths<br />Two fictitious examples<br /><br />1000 visits/day<br /><br />10000 visits/day<br />Which site is more successful?<br />
  4. 4. Myth #1: More Traffic is Better<br />Need more information than just traffic<br /><br />35% meaningful interactions<br /><br />2% meaningful interactions<br />Humblevino is more successful<br />More (350 vs 200) users engaged each day<br />Spamovin is potentially tarnishing their brand<br />
  5. 5. Ideal Optimization<br />Connect with all the people who are interested in what you have to say, and nobody else<br />Maximizes meaningful interactions<br />I prefer the term “search-friendliness”<br />“SEO” often has connotations of spamminess<br />Similar analogy can be made for Twitter, Facebook, etc.<br />
  6. 6. THE “LONG TAIL” and why you should care<br />“I hope this talk is not too long a tale…”<br />
  7. 7. The “Long Tail” of Search<br />Number of Times Searched<br />Specific Searches<br />
  8. 8. The “Long Tail” of Search<br />“Rare” searches<br />= most of the area<br />“Popular Searches”<br />&lt; 25% of area<br />Number of Times Searched<br />Specific Searches<br />
  9. 9. The “Long Tail” of Search<br />Robert Mondavi Cabernet<br />Robert Mondavi<br />(18% of total)<br />2004 Robert Mondavi Cabernet<br />2004 Robert Mondavi Cabernet<br />Reserve<br />Number of Times Searched<br />2004 Robert Mondavi Cabernet<br />Reserve Tasting Notes<br />Specific Searches<br />
  10. 10. The “Long Tail” of Search<br />Put another way, searchers are infinitely creative<br />Even for the exact same concept, many different searches<br />2005 Hugel Riesling<br />‘05 Hugel Riesling<br />DomaineHugel Alsace Riesling 2005<br />DomaineHugel et Fils AOC Alsace Riesling 2005<br />
  11. 11. Myth #2<br />Myth: “People will come to my homepage and browse around to find what they want”<br />Some people will, most won’t<br />Mondavi example: only 18% to homepage<br />Most people find information by very specific searches<br />Expect these to take them directly to pertinent info<br />Implication: your site should have this info in a “search-friendly” format<br />
  12. 12. Myth #3<br />Myth: “I have to rank highly for some popular query to get lots of traffic”<br />Don’t try to be #1 for “cabernet”<br />Too much competition<br />Not that much traffic<br />Only 7.5% of all queries mentioning cabernet!<br />It is not the traffic you want (see Myth #1)<br />Won’t result in a “meaningful interaction” unless you truly have the best general page about Cabernet on the web<br />Put yourself in the shoes of the searcher<br />
  13. 13. The Long Tail: Implications<br />Make sure you have lots of specific content on your site<br />Wineries<br />All wines, specific vintages, past and present, with detailed information<br />Blogs<br />Post often!<br />Must be accessible to search engines<br />Must be organized so “infinitely creative” searchers can find it<br />
  14. 14. Search ENGINE 101<br />“A little knowledge can be dangerous…”<br />
  15. 15. How a Search Engine Finds Content<br />Crawler (robot, spider) fetches pages from the web<br />Parses (picks apart) page, extracts the links<br />Goes to new pages found among links, and fetches them<br />(Lather, rinse, repeat).<br />
  16. 16. Implications<br />Crawler must find a link to your page<br />Dynamic technologies (Flash, Javascript) problematic<br />Content generated in response to user input (navigation by search/option menus) problematic<br />Sitemaps (XML or HTML) can mitigate<br />Crawler must be able to fetch/parse the page<br />Flash: difficult/impossible to parse<br />Age verification: is a crawler old enough to drink?<br />Sites depending upon registration: bad<br />Sites depending upon cookie from home page: bad<br />Crawler doesn’t visit the homepage first! <br />Blogging platforms OK, winery sites often problematic<br />
  17. 17. How a Search Engine Searches<br />Search Engines are not very smart!<br />Looks for all the search terms at least once in the combined:<br />Document body<br />Title<br />Inbound link text<br />Document URL<br />
  18. 18. Not all Text is Equal<br />Title and inbound link text are seen as most likely description of what page is “about”<br />Thus weighted more heavily by search engine<br />Links are very valuable<br />Quantity is of some interest<br />Text of links is very important<br />
  19. 19. Example Blog post:<br />A Great Wine I Tasted<br />Last night I tasted the 2007 Hugel Gewürztraminer and it was good.<br />Click hereto read a wine review of the ‘07.<br />Hugel’sGewürz is not bad. Mr Wine Headreviews the 2007.<br />Hypothetical “long tail” searches:<br />2007 Hugel Gewürztraminer: will show up somewhere, not rank highly<br />2007 Hugel et Fils Alsace Gewürtztraminer: nope<br />(But for “click here” this page will be the billionth result!)<br />
  20. 20. Better Version:<br />Tasted: 2007 Hugel Gewürztraminer<br />Last night I tasted the ’07 Gewürz from DomaineHugel in Alsace, and boy, was it good.<br />Check out a wine review of the 2007 Hügel Gewürztraminer.<br />Hugel’sGewürz is not bad. Mr. Wine Head reviews the ’07.<br />Hypothetical “long tail” searches:<br />2007 Hugel Gewürztraminer: yep<br />2007 DomaineHugel Alsace Gewürtztraminer: yep<br />
  21. 21. Alternative Version:<br />Bloggers like creative titles. You might use an internal link to be the “full, descriptive” title, giving you more flexibility with the title. Experiment, but measure your results!<br />HugelGewürzRocks Again<br />Last night I tasted the ’07 Gewürztraminer from DomaineHugel in Alsace, and boy, was it good.<br />Internal Link:<br />Check out a wine review of the 2007 Hügel Gewürztraminer.<br />Hugel’sGewürz is not bad. Mr. Wine Head reviews the ’07.<br />Hypothetical “long tail” searches:<br />2007 Hugel Gewürztraminer: yep<br />2007 DomaineHugel Alsace Gewürtztraminer: yep<br />
  22. 22. So what does this mean for you?<br />Choose your title carefully: should be complete yet concise description of topic<br />Missing words = missed opportunity for “tail searches”<br />But long titles have less weight, can bring irrelevant traffic<br />When linking to others, choose your link text as you would a title for the page<br />
  23. 23. Encourage links to your pages!<br />Tools to ease sharing/linking (e.g. sharethis)<br />Use social media to get visits, some visitors may link back<br />Twitter, Facebook, Stumbleupon, Digg, Technorati<br />Essential: have something unique and interesting to say<br />
  24. 24. Analytics<br />If you want to make something better, you must measure it<br />
  25. 25. Analytics<br />How do you know your changes are working?<br />Where do you get inspiration for other changes to make?<br />Track your traffic<br />Where is it from?<br />If from a search engine, what searches are they using?<br />What pages are users visiting? <br />
  26. 26. How do users respond to your site?<br />Bounce rate<br />If you double your traffic, and halve your “connect rate”…<br />Time on site<br />Where do your users go after the landing page?<br />Optimizing is about learning from your users and evolving your site.<br />NB: Google tracks these things too!<br />Sites with high bounce rates may rank lower<br />
  27. 27. Analytics Platforms<br />Blogging platforms often include basic analytics<br />Google Analytics – free, much more sophisticated.<br />Awstats – requires access to server logs<br />Number of commercial packages (Omniture, etc)<br />
  28. 28. Experiment!<br />Don’t be afraid to try things, as long as you measure the results<br />A/B tests can be very useful<br />Surprising things can matter<br />Fonts, colors…<br />
  29. 29. Summary<br />Produce unique, useful, interesting content!<br />Understand the implications of the long tail<br />Make sure your pages are findable/fetchable by search engines<br />Make sure your content, especially titles/anchors, are well-chosen<br />Measure your results and tune<br />