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Wine SEO in 3 words – High Quality Links

Wine SEO is about four things:

  1. Trust/Authority of the Host Domain (i.e. “www.the-domain.com”)
  2. Link Popularity of the Specific Page (i.e. “www.the-domain.com/the-specific-page.html”)
  3. Anchor Text of External Links (i.e. this is what anchor text looks like )
  4. On-Page Keyword Usage (e.g. keywords in the title tag – usually seen at the top of your web browser)

EDIT (June 2011): Recently the power of links have become less important and social media has become more important for SEO. See the same updated seomoz report.

Note that you only control the last one – everything else is controlled by third parties.

So getting to the top of Google rankings, with the resulting huge boost in traffic, comes down to getting other quality sites to link to you.

This is what this post is about (and what traditional internet marketers – the SEO crowd – do every day). I’ve previously put a fair amount of emphasis on SEO for traffic but, as you’ll see in a post to come, I’m about to deemphasis this part of the service.

However it’s still important – just not the most important challenge of internet marketers in 2011.

It is all about creating great content.

Content is King – but not just for the reasons you think

Here’s what I’m going to cover in this post:

Wine Internet World

Meaty post huh! And not just about SEO – but that’s the main focus.

Let’s look at what the search engines want

The search engines (Google and Yahoo/Bing) are in a fierce competitive battle. The better their search engine results, the more people use them, the more advertising they sell, and the higher their profits.

People, or “users”, want the most relevant results for their search query. They want to type in a keyword phrase and see the solution to their search problem straight away.

So if someone types in Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Merlot 2007 they may want to (a) buy it or (b) get information about it.

It’s difficult to work out what a user wants from a simple phrase. So the search engines provide a list of possible answers feeling reasonably confident that one of them will solve the searcher’s problem.

When I searched Google for the merlot product above (in the US in 2010), Stags’ Leap winery headed the list, then there were shopping results after that, some shopping comparison sites, some wine stores, and lastly wikipedia. A nice set of possible answers to an unclear query – and the reason why so many people use Google!

Google knows users wants a list of different answers – not a list of the same results from different websites.

Which brings me to my first point.

1. Having the same standard product description is not good enough to do well with search engines

This is what Google’s top search engineer, Matt Cutts says,

“do I want to make the Ecommerce site if I don’t have a lot of original content?”

And what you should be asking yourself is… do I want to make the Ecommerce site if I don’t have a lot of original content or value add or if I have a lot of duplicate content … And so I’d ask yourself, do you really want to jump into that and start optimizing that, or do you want to look for something a little more original or something more compelling … And so my advice is … think about how you can move more towards that high value add, unique sort of site, not just … a page that looks just like 500 other pages that they’ve just seen on the web.

Top ranking websites have unique content.

The search engines also want Credibility and Relevance

Stand out from other webpagesI think it’s commonly known that search engines want to show the most relevant results. If I search for Stags’ Leap Napa Merlot I don’t want Sonoma Zinfadel.

What’s not terribly well understood is how the search engines rate your site for a particular search phrase – they are looking for credibility and relevance. Credibility is from high authority websites linking to you. Relevance is having descriptive link text (usually blue and underlined) that is about your subject.

So if the Wine Spectator’s Blog wrote about a great Napa Merlot tasting event at your wine store, with the phrase Napa Merlot as a hyperlink to your Napa Merlot page, then you have a high authority link with great descriptive text. You would find that you get more traffic from Google for the search phrase napa merlot.

Which brings me to my second point.

2. You need other (wine) websites to give you high quality links to your website.

This is known as off site optimization and is the most important element in your ranking. The best way to do this is to have great content that people want to link to. More about this below.

The Internet as a neighborhood

Relevance and your website

Search engines also want to assess your site for subject matter expertise. It’s pretty easy to show them you sell wine.

It’s much harder to show them that you are a subject matter expert on Napa Merlot, it’s even harder to show them you have more information about Stags’ Leap Napa Merlot than your competitors.

But it’s harder still to tell them that you are a subject matter expert for

  • wine buyers
  • who live near your store
  • who want to buy Stags Leap Napa Merlot 2007.

If you think about it there are hundreds of wine websites that sell Stags’ Leap Napa Merlot. They all have respectable eCommerce websites with a Merlot category. Scores of them are in your town.

How do you show you are a better search result than any of them?

Which brings me to my third point

3. Clearly show Google that you are a subject matter expert for wine categories.

Wine ExpertIn this case the category, or what I call a “theme”, would be merlot. With a sub theme of Napa merlot, and the product Stags’ Leap Napa Merlot (2007).

You clearly flag to Google your subject matter expertise by keeping your products in strict themes. You write unique content about each theme and sub theme, and carefully delineate themes through internal links.

Now when Google looks at your site it sees that

  • the major theme is wine store and there are clearly some other (sub) themes
  • one of them is merlot and there is some interesting unique content about your Merlot range that Google’s users may find very useful
  • there is clearly another sub theme in the merlot theme about Napa merlot with some more interesting content
  • you can buy Napa merlot products
  • and if the user is near the store then it flags that as well.

Here’s my fourth point

4. It’s not just the left hand side of the Google result page, it’s also the right hand side or Adwords.

Adwords are also known as “sponsored links”, Pay Per Click (PPC) or Paid Search.

So if you can’t get on the left hand side buy your way onto the right hand side. This is less about great content and links and more about straight out Direct Marketing.

That great content you’ve written for those themes comes into play here too. You create an adwords campaign for each (sub) theme with the ad clickers landing on your theme web page.

So here’s my fifth point

5. Use social media to spread your word, your “content”

Not all our time is spent searching for things. We also like to interact with others about things that we are passionate about. And oh boy is wine one of those things! Google has now recognized social media as an important indicator of authority.

The Internet Retail World

We talk about wine to our friends on facebook, tweet to our followers on twitter, and present videos on youtube. This interaction can drive lots of traffic to our websites by diplomatically including our website address and, guess what, it’s all your interesting unique content.

Social media also includes blogs and forums. The classic example is Gary Vaynerchuk. He creates content on video and interacts with his fans on his winelibrary.tv forum.

There are other examples such as Must Love Wine, Wine 2.0 as well as 100s of wine bloggers.

But first and foremost there is your blog. More about that soon. First let’s talk about what your web browsers want.

Which leads us to point six

6. Make it easy to buy

So you’ve got them to your website. Congratulations! That was hard work so let’s not let them down.

You’ve got all this great information about wines they want to know about. It’s carefully organized so it’s easy to find due to your careful content categorization and theming.

They wanted a Napa merlot. You’ve convinced them that you can offer them the perfect wine on its own wine page. They now want to buy. This is where you have a clear call to action saying BUY NOW. Then you make it as easy as possible to buy.

If this is through eCommerce then ensure no registration is required, checkout is one page, payment is secure, and shipping costs are clear. If it’s by phone then the phone number is obvious. Or you may just be driving people into the store in which case your address should be clear and present.

Sure its great to have eCommerce software but MyLocalWineStore is not so much about software, it’s about a system or process of boosting sales.

Lastly point seven

7. One purchase is nice, but a customer for life is better. Time to use professional email marketing software.

The real aim is not to sell one customer one bottle, but many customers many bottles. This is where your email marketing comes in. All that time and effort you spent creating theme based content is used many times to make many sales.

And this is one reason why an email service that can easily broadcast your content to an interested list is important.

Creating Content is a Real Pain

By now you’ve probably seen where I’m heading. First let’s review.

  • Search engines want to list the most relevant sites for a user query.
  • They do this by looking for unique content that is linked to by other high authority websites.
  • Social media sites are awash with potential customers but you need to provide them with a reason to visit your website.
  • Once they get to your website you want to make it easy to buy.
  • After they’ve made a purchase you want to keep them buying.

You need to start creating content. Not just cut and past winery reviews but create good content for search terms that are important to your business.

Images courtesy of: Poster Web 2.0, istockphoto

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