No doubt the past three weeks have changed the game for Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino wineries. With over 900 wineries in these counties alone, fierce competition for the fickle or frightened wine country visitor is getting downright gladiatorial. It’s time to get down and dirty with new wine marketing strategy. By some accounts, the number of reservation cancellations is 60 percent. Since that doesn’t leave much to make revenue budgets for 2017, getting creative with digital tactics is the answer. 64 percent of all web traffic begins with an internet search engine result. And yet so few wineries take advantage of the world wide web of search marketing that it’s kind of shocking.
Other industries long ago discovered this tool for reaching consumers where they begin their research, but the wine industry has been very slow to capitalize on it. Is your business listed on the front page of results when you Google a phrase that a potential visitor or ecommerce buyer would use? A search of “Willamette Valley wineries” receives around 5,000 searches per month but results in only three individual wineries showing up in the first two pages of organic results. Nor are there any paid winery ads. Wait… what? That said, this battlefield is admittedly very intimidating. How do you take advantage of these workhorse marketing tactics? You’ll need some determination and a little bit of time, but trust me, it pays off in the end.
The Basics of a Key Wine Marketing Strategy: SEO
Search Engine Optimization helps websites gain traffic from the “organic” search results on search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo. “Organic” in Google-speak (which equates to over 90% of search engine usage) means that the listing isn’t paid for and doesn’t have “Sponsored” next to it. SEO helps search engines determine whether a website is relevant to the person entering in the search terms (aka “keywords”), like “Willamette Valley wineries”. The primary question that search engines try to answer is “will the user be satisfied after typing in their query and landing on your site”? The right SEO on your website assists a search engine in delivering your content to that person who searches for what you have to offer.
In order to compete for attention and placement in the search engines, this wine marketing strategy is the answer. Those with the knowledge and experience to improve their website’s ranking will reap the benefits of the increased traffic and visibility. To take advantage of the basic SEO opportunities on your current website, there are easy fixes. For a full a SEO program, it takes many, many steps (think 200+ different factors), but there are some essential tactics you can easily implement. WordPress-based websites are best suited to optimize for search engine traffic. If you’re lucky enough to have this content management system already, install a plug-in called Yoast SEO. It can walk you through how to make yourself known to the search engines by using keywords. To aid you in this exercise, check out some SEO basics articles like this one from Moz or Search Engine Watch. If your site is on Weebly or Squarespace, there are basic SEO settings available to set up, as well as on the Vin65 platform. Vin65 also has some good SEO advice for wineries to follow.
In order to compete for attention and placement in the search engines, those with the knowledge and experience to improve their website’s ranking will reap the benefits of the increased traffic and visibility.
Learn Google Ads.
Although search engine marketing involves a few other tactics, people like me refer to Google Ads as Search Engine Marketing or SEM. This very effective program serves up the advertisements you see every day when you Google something, and also includes ads that are displayed on websites. They both show up marked as “Ads” or “Sponsored”. For this article, I’m going to focus on search results Google Ads.
The curve is slightly steep, but Google Ads can be learned and is fairly straightforward if you think like a potential visitor. For instance, when you’re planning a trip to the Finger Lakes wine region, and you don’t have any clue about where go, you might start your research by entering “Best Finger Lakes Wineries” into the Google Search bar. If you own a winery in this region and are looking to gain more traffic using search engine marketing, “Best Finger Lakes Wineries” would be a great “keyword” to buy (not to make this even more confusing but a “keyword” can also be a phrase). The ad will make your winery name show up on that first page, when a potential visitor is searching for places like yours. Results depend on the keyword and industry but click through rates average around 2% and you only pay per click, so the spend is pretty efficient. I’ve gotten great results for wineries for $300 – $400 per month.
By the way, if you own a winery in the Finger Lakes, that keyword phrase is ripe for the picking and pretty cheap. Go get on that.
Want to master this burgeoning advertising arena? A good resource to learn more about Google Ads is the Google Adwords Academy and be sure to take advantage of Google’s free keyword planner for both SEO and SEM – it’s available after you set up an account.
Gaining new customers within a competitive field as crowded as the wine industry can be daunting at best and frustrating, to say the least. Digital tools are a very affordable avenue to capture attention where people are living more and more of their lives. Take advantage of it while others aren’t, and you can really maximize your impact.
If you’d like assistance with jumping into the digital space, Cork & Fork Digital Media is here to help. Contact us for a free hour consult.