Here I'm going to talk about the basic factors required of a Winery and Vineyard website that will amplify any SEO work that you do. Set up your website the right way and Search Engine Optimization will be a breeze. Do it the wrong way and it will be a constant struggle with some SEO tasks proving impossible or expensive to achieve.
Providing a solid platform on which your website can be Search Engine Optimized is a critical step that is all too often overlooked or rushed by in the excitement to SEO. But, by the time you have reached the bottom of this page you'll know exactly how to do your set up and you won't need any technical expertise to make it happen!
This work is also going to be crucial for turning your website visitors into visitors making enquiries and visitors coming through your door. The wrong site set up leaks potential visitors and wastes your SEO efforts.
So what do you need from a website?:
Let's start with looking great and being secure!
As a Winery and Vineyard you've got two choices here:
Now I know there are a myriad of other options available from Wix to Weebly to Wordpress.com but my answer to all of them is "No". They don't tick all four boxes above. Wix might be free and its designs can be pretty good but their search engine optimizing abilities are poor. Wordpress.com hosted websites are also free but to SEO you'll need plugins which means using their $24 per month plan, much worse value than Squarespace or Wordpress with BlueHost.
I could go through the rest of them but that would be a page in itself. Seriously, Squarespace or Wordpress with BlueHost - I'll explain the ins and outs of them both.
Squarespace is the ultimate hassle free option with nothing to learn. You just sign up, create pages and fill them in with your text and images.
Squarespace host the website so you don't need to go finding a host, they supply the SSL (which makes your site secure) and they have already created an extensive and impressive assortment of ready made websites which look the part, load super fast, are mega reliable and are highly search engine optimizable. If you have absolutely no website at all right now they'll even help you set up your domain name.
If you struggle at any point they have exceptional customer service and a great user community so you'll never be on you own with any "How to" or "Why" questions.
It really is so incredibly straightforward that any Winery and Vineyard Owner could have something pretty amazing set up today.
What's not to like? Well compared to WordPress its pricey. Squarespace is $12 per month while a Wordpress site can be as little as $3. What your paying for with Squarespace is a lot less less flaffing around as you will see when you read through the WordPress option below.
So what are the downsides? Apart from cost, if you start to get into your website design you might very quickly find Squarespace is restrictive. There is only so much you can do with their 'Ready Made' templates and a lot of webmasters find they are bumping their heads on the ceiling of possibilities very quickly.
That's when Wordpress comes into its own with its infinite flexibility.
So what do we have going on here? BlueHost are the people that will supply the online server where your website lives. That makes them, as their name suggests, "the Host". For small business websites which are pretty straightforward, and your standard Wineries and Vineyards website is just that, their hardware ticks all the boxes - they are fast, reliable and have superb customer service.
For less than $3 per month BlueHost will do the complete set up for you. They'll install Wordpress, sort out your SSL (that thing which makes your site secure) and even organize a domain name if you don't have one yet. So far so good.
Click here to visit BlueHost and order your Wordpress hosting package - you want their "Basic" hosting plan.
Open your website at this point though and it will look bloody awful. That's because it will be using the standard Wordpress theme that will make you want to cry! You'll need to install a better theme but again you don't need any techie skills.
If you simply want a smart, straightforward website with the minimum of hassle just google "free wordpress repsonsive themes for wineries and vineyards" or "wordpress repsonsive themes for wineries and vineyards" to see paid options.
Note the word 'responsive'. This is to ensure you search out themes which will work on any device (smartphone, tablet or computer) with any screen size.
It may take a bit of time rooting through the choices but you should be able to find something that will make your basic Wordpress site into something pretty slick.
Each theme will come with step by step instructions on how to install it.
If you have a particular design in mind and there is no ready made theme that appeals to you then I'd choose one of the following:
OK, hold up, so I just said "Ethos 1 stack"? Yes Wordpress has a bit of a learning curve, more than Squarespace but in return for more possibilities. I'd call it a short and steep learning curve. Wordpress might look daunting at first but you can just play around with it to start with and grow your confidence
So a "stack" is just a ready made set of options available from one Theme. Here are all the stack Demos for Theme X.
Now I've added links to the demos but don't get mislead. The demos are just to show you what is possible. You can do almost anything you want and setting up a page design is about clicking and dragging stuff around using integrated builders. That said you'll need to put a good few hours aside to get to grips with either theme's page builders to get what you want out of them.
Yes, both Divi and Theme X cost but they are designed to give you the opportunity to create an incredible Winery and Vineyard website and are built with SEO in mind. As very popular paid themes there is sound customer support and a huge community of other users who can answer questions or make suggestions.
Right, you might have spotted something now. With the cost of a theme at $59 (Theme X) or $89 a year (Divi) and with monthly hosting at around $3 the true monthly cost is actually around $8 per month for Theme X or $10 per month for Divi. So we're not that different to Squarespace now.
That doesn't mean I think you should wheel back and choose Squarespace, remember its still restrictive in many ways and doesn't offer the flexibility of Wordpress.
If you are undecided then its well worth shelling out for BlueHosts one year basic plan which will set you back less than $50 but give you a WordPress site you can experiment on. WordPress even provide a quick start tutorial that will help you learn the essentials of getting around the admin panel in order to create a basic website.
You can try installing different themes and plugins, do some basic tutorials (which I link to below) and see how you get on.
Squarespace offer a 14 day trial so you can compare it to Wordpress.
If you're feeling comfortable with Wordpress and want to use Divi or Theme X then:
Now with your theme chosen you will also need plugins that give you various bits of functionality which don't come built in to Wordpress off the shelf. You'll need:
There are a whole bunch of other plugins that you'll also need before we are finished such as the one that allows integration of Google Analytics so you can see how many visitors your website is getting and where they are coming from but we'll come to those as we need them.
I'm just pointing it out here because this is the Achilles heel of Wordpress.
Every so often you'll see a notice in your Wordpress admin screen recommending that you update to the latest version of the platform, usually just to keep everything secure. That's easy, you just click a button and it happens ... but then your website disappears!
Why? Usually because one or more of the plugins is out of date and no longer compatible with the latest version of Wordpress so you need to uninstall them all and then reinstall them one by one to find the guilty plugin and then go off and search for a newer version or a replacement.
All the plugins I recommend are very well supported and kept up to date (although you will need to activate these updates in the Wordpress admin plugin screen) so crashes are rare but it can still be a bit of a flaff.
Again I'm not ramming Squarespace down your throat (although it really sounds like I am :) ) - some Winery and Vineyard Owners take to Wordpress like a duck to water and love how you can do so much more with it than Squarespace will ever allow. For others learning how to fit everything together and make it work becomes bang-your-head-on-a-table kind of stuff.
I put it this way: If you are the kind of person that has a rebellious washing machine which won't do what you want but works perfectly when anyone else touches it (in other words technology just doesn't seem to like you!) then you want Squarespace.
If you go right now to Facebook, set up a Facebook page for your Winery and Vineyard and find the whole thing pretty straightforward and intuitive then you will be fine with Wordpress hosted on BlueHost.
Right, be it Squarespace or Wordpress your website is now set up ... but empty.
For now we're just going to put SEO to one side and create the basics for a standard Winery and Vineyard website (we can get fancy later). You need:
Now you might want to go further than this:
That's up to you, we'll discuss the limited SEO merits of this extra content later but it could prove a positive experience for your visitors so I'm not throwing cold water on it!
OK so just go through now and add the four core pages to your website:
For the moment you can just call your pages "Home", "Contact", "Services" and "About". Add some appropriate text you feel comfortable with to each one so you have the structure of the website taking shape. We'll come back to SEO this later.
Your "home" page is going to be whatever someone sees when they go to https://yourdomainname.com.
In Wordpress you'll also need to set up your permalinks. I'll explain why later. Just follow this tutorial for the moment choosing 'Post Name' as your permalink setting.
Obviously an all text website is going to look pretty dry and uninviting. You'll be needing some images.
If your pages are going to look great then your images need to look great. In an ideal world you'll have some excellent pictures in and around your Vineyard. The ones which carry the most power are:
Why all the smiley-smiley stuff? Because you are providing a solution to a problem and if someone has a problem they are unhappy and they want to be happy. If they see you, your team and your current visitors are happy you are selling the 'lifestyle' part of the solution ... happiness because the problem is gone and it was you who made it go away!
Now you don't need any kind of special equipment to snap your own images, most smartphones will take photos of perfectly good quality. Its far more important that what is in the photo looks professional - tidy, clean, smart locations with happy Winery and Vineyard Owners and visitors!
Well sometimes you just aren't comfortable with your own pictures so where to go then? Stock images. I use:
On both platforms you will be offered a variety of image sizes for every photograph. Choose the one closest to 1,000 pixels wide as you won't need anything larger.
And of course remember to cancel your subscription when you are all done.
Obviously it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, don't use stock photos that suggest your Winery and Vineyard is something that it is not. This increases the chances of disappointed visitors and the specter or bad reviews. Reviews are something I'll cover later as they are important to your online presence - all I'll say for now is that you really don't want to be racking up negative feedback.
Whether your photos are coming off your own camera or Smartphone or you got them from Dreamstime or Storyblocks they need a bit of preparation before you add them to your site - be it Squarespace or Wordpress.
Images which are too large can slow down your page loading speeds to a crawl, especially on mobile devices with slow internet connections, and Google and Bing hate slow loading pages!
Photos from your camera or smartphone are going to be huuuuge! So upload them to http://www.countingcharacters.com/image-resizer-online, set the output size to Blog Graphic Size and download the result.
If you are using Squarespace next run the image through Shortpixel. This won't change the dimensions but it will optimize the file size so its as small as it can be without losing quality.
If you are using Wordpress you can install Shortpixel as a plugin (yes, another plugin!) and it will work its magic on everything you add to your Media Library.
Once your images are fully optimized you can load them into your various pages:
Now you have a four page website with optimized images ready and waiting. What next?
We need to optimize what you have done for search engines so far and add optimized content to those pages ... so time to learn SEO for Winery and Vineyard Websites