By Brian Richardson
Many wineries do not use the web as effectively as they could. While this is partially due to restrictions in time and budget, it is largely a result of simply not being able to keep up with the ever-evolving digital marketing ecosystem. If your winery falls into this category, rest assured that you are not alone. Fortunately, there is a wealth of resources online to provide your winery with the marketing education to recalibrate your digital strategy.
Start with a Full Website Analysis
Ground zero for wine education and brand awareness should be your core website. This is ultimately where you want all of your traffic from search engines, apps, media articles, social media, directory listings, etc., to end up. Therefore, before you spend another minute developing your social media or pouring money into advertising, take a close look at your winery’s website and identify ways that it can be improved. You want people to learn about your winery. You want them to be inspired to visit or confident in their choice to buy your wines. You want them to be educated on your brand so that they spread this knowledge to their friends when opening the bottle. Is your website achieving this?
No website is perfect, and most winery websites are very flawed. The wine industry is behind the times when it comes to quality winery websites. The reasons for this are not surprising. For a long time, website development was an expensive investment. Wineries would have to shell out a lot of money to get a decent website. With slim profit margins and a long-lasting recession, it’s no wonder that a fancy new website was put on the back burner in exchange for investment in better equipment, packaging, labels, etc.
Wineries now find themselves in a much more favorable climate to invest in a new winery website. Development costs are much lower thanks to technological advancements. Content Management Systems like WordPress and Squarespace offer powerful, fully-featured websites that are cost-effective to build and easy for anyone to maintain. With cost less of a barrier to improving your winery website, it is time to analyze your current site and start envisioning what your revitalized website will look like. Start by asking these questions:
- Is my website legible and navigable on smart phones and tables (mobile responsive)?
- Does it inspire action?
- Does it serve as a testament to the quality of our wines/winery/people?
- Is it attractive and sophisticated?
- Is it fast?
- Is it informative?
Create a Website Upkeep Plan
When crafting a digital marketing plan, identify a key person who will be able to post content updates and take care of technical issues that crop up. Does this person need training to keep up with the technology? Have you considered outsourcing the maintenance and oversight of your website? Too many wineries totally neglect their websites as a result of being too busy, not delegating, and not having the skills needed to keep the site fresh. It is also critical that you have analytics tools like Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools tracking your website and monitoring how users are interacting with it. Analysis of this data provides valuable insight into ways to refine your website to better meet your business goals.
Review Your Search Engine Presence
Most wineries rank in the #1 position on search engines for their winery name. However, ranking high is not the only goal of search engine optimization. You actually have quite a bit of control over exactly how your listing appears and whether additional information (pictures, business hours, etc.) appear to the right of the search results.
- Does your meta description (the text that describes what the link is about) read clearly, or is it a jumble of random text?
- Is your complete business information showing in the righthand side of the search result page?
- Is your business information (hours, phone, address, etc.) standard across all websites?
- Are you showing up on Google, Apple, and other map platforms? This is a major oversight of many wineries! Many tasting room visitors choose where to taste while out tasting simply by searching for nearby wineries. Your tasting room traffic will be significantly impacted if your winery is not displaying on the popular online maps.
Tech Tip: Google rewards mobile-friendly sites and penalizes sites that are not coded to display on mobile devices. A mobile friendly website is built on code structure that automatically resizes the site content to fit smaller screens. If your winery’s website is not mobile-responsive (many aren’t!), you should update your site as soon as possible.
Boost Your Presence on External Channels
Social Media: Since wine is such a visually appealing topic, the more media-rich platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest perform well for wineries. Twitter can also be a great way to engage, especially with media/PR and the tech-savvy, but is not utilized by all wineries. Use hashtags liberally since some people discover content through tags like #oregonwine and #pinotnoir. Designate a winery employee who can actively monitor your social media and post interesting content & images to your chosen channels on a regular basis. The key is to have an authentic winery voice that provides engaging content on a fairly regular basis.
Industry Directories: Many people determine where to go tasting by looking through listings on industry websites, like Willamette Valley Wineries Association. Is your site listed in all local industry directories and trade groups? Are you happy with your listing or can it be fleshed out with more images, correct hours, website link, etc.? Take some time to review all the links into your website and ensure you are satisfied with how your business is presented on these various sites.
Pro Tip: Put your winery website address into Open Site Explorer to see who is linking to your website.
Other External Channels / Apps: The more roads you build into town, the more traffic you are going to get. Presence on a wide variety of apps and websites will increase your exposure to a diverse audience. Some channels to consider:
- Is your business represented on Yelp? Are there negative reviews that warrant a response from the winery?
- Is your winery well-represented on wine apps like Delectable?
- Do you have historic photographs of your winery? Consider posting them to HistoryPin.
- Is your winery and vineyard information profiled in Everyvine?
- Are you listed in roadtrip / travel apps like Roadtripper?
- Do you have videos that can be posted on Youtube or Vimeo?
Redesign Your Email Marketing
Email marketing, when done right, is a powerful driver of tasting room traffic and online wine sales. Emails should be well-designed with attractive graphics and a clear call to action. Unfortunately, many wineries send emails that look like an afterthought using outdated, clunky designs. It usually requires adoption of a new email system (we recommend Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor) and some basic design chops to craft beautiful winery emails that actually sell wine and encourage visits to the tasting room.
Here are three key areas to consider when assessing the effectiveness of your email marketing:
- Recipients: Are you sending to the correct list or segment of subscribers? Has your list been cleaned lately? Do you have segmented lists for customers who prefer certain varietals?
- Setup: Does your subject line captivate the audience? Is your email personalized? Does your unsubscribe button work? Are you sending emails at the most optimal time? Are email analytics set up and analyzed?
- Design: Is your email responsive and mobile-friendly? Is your Call to Action clearly visible “above the fold”? Have you included attractive imagery / font consistent with your brand?