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January 03, 2012

By: Tim Sheets

Getting Right with Google


Google has become more than a search engine -- it is the gateway to the Internet for most users. In discussions with other alpaca farmers, we come to the consensus that we are not exactly clear how Google works and how our farms gets listed on this very important search engine. This is a topic that has spawned an entire industry called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The good news is that there is no reason to bog down in details of how Google works or the minutia of SEO. By understanding a few basics, you can get up-to-speed quickly in the realm of improving your farm's visibility on the web.

The basics:

  • You do not have direct control of what google lists or what results it returns for search terms.
  • Google will find you and your content over time, but it is a good idea to submit your site when you first release your site into the wild.
  • Google's innovation, and one of the reasons that they are able to return very relevant results to searches, is that they value your site higher if other sites link to your site. (Hint: this is the key to ranking in Google.)
  • If you return incoming links with outgoing links, Google will value the cross-linked pages even higher.

    If search engine traffic is an important aspect of your alpaca farm's marketing strategy, it is worthwhile to take some time to get people to link back to your site. You should always list your site on Localharvest and New Farm - Farm Locator and any other local directories that exist in your state or region. See my "directory of directories " to locate other agriculture related directories.

    A few more ideas for links: local Chamber of Commerce, farmer's market websites, member/customer blogs, farming associations that you belong to, and local farmer friends websites'. Just send a simple email message to the webmaster of the site to ask for a link.

    The great thing about links is that they help you in Google search results, but they also get your farm visibility on related websites that people will click through and find out about your farm and what you offer. This implies perhaps the overriding principle in getting search engine traffic: do right by "human" users -- create links on relevant websites and generate solid content on your website -- and you will get right with Google.

    I think for the average local farm that is not worried about capturing a national market for value-added goods, there are a few simple real-world marketing suggestions to get your website noticed by the people that matter:

  • Create a "web-card" on cheap stock that advertises your farm in a few words and prominently displays your web address. Put this card in every single bag that you give out at the farmer's market or wherever your farm meets the public.
  • Put out an email mailing list sign-up on your table the market to collect addresses and send regular emails during the season and the off season that highlights what you are doing on your website.
  • Put your web address in the signature area of your email software so that each time your write an email your web address is sent on to the recipient.
  • If you get any exposure through local media, ensure that they list your web address so people can find you.

    Of course, all of the suggestions in this article rely on a well-designed website that engages your visitors and customers when they visit. This takes time and commitment that will pay off over months and years. A comfortable balance between content generation on your website and low-tech search engine optimization techniques will lead to a very effective website for your farm. If you can stick with it over the long term, you will have more informed and dedicated customers.