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Top Ten Winery Website Mistakes/Annoyances

Today, I was surfing the web looking for wine blogs run by wineries. My intent was to notify wineries of the Wine Blog Atlas’ inclusion of wineries. Being that Winecast has a nice list of wineries in Tim’s sidebar, I utilized his research to see whether any of them either updated or contained an email address. Loading links into a new browser window, and with my morning coffee in hand, I planned an easy and relaxing morning of research. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work the way we anticipate, and what I actually found prompted this post. I didn’t expect that wineries who started blogs to help promote their wines would make it SO HARD TO GET A HOLD OF THEM. Out of the 30 or more blogs that went through, including many not on Tim’s list, I was only able to find an email address a quarter of the time, let alone a contact page. Seeing that I’m attempting to learn as much as I can about the online wine marketing arena, I assumed the wise choice was to share this information with anyone out there interested in my discoveries.

  1. EMAIL – We all hate Spam! I hate Spam; you hate Spam; we all hate Spam with the exception of Hawaii. So I understand the reluctance to put up an email address on a public website, but this is not an option if you are a winery looking for publicity and higher sales. If you’re so afraid of posting an address that could become over run, at least get a free G-mail address. I’ve been using G-mail for about 3 years now and I rarely get Spam. I typically delete about 200+ a day that get shuffled into my “spam can”, as I like to call it. Email is the telephone of today, and every time I have to search for basic contact information, the business is not only losing out on free publicity, but also a simple nice comment like, “I really enjoyed your wine the other day…”
  2. Flash – If you use Flash, I hate you (as does Gabriella)! Oh wait that’s a little strong. What I meant to say was, we REALLY hate you. Flash is pretty. Flash is sexy. Flash is also a waste of a journalists or consumers time when they already know your wineries name. We don’t need your name visually poured out of a glass and onto our page with discordant violins in the background. Flash is a tool to show ideas, or for fun games, but it is not a good communicator. How many times have I just wanted to cut and paste some text from a wineries site into an article for the sake of clarification but ran into a flash site? You can’t use the text in a flash image, nor can search engines index text that is included in a flash presentation – making your website a disaster to search for.
  3. No Information about Wines – This I know seems a bit too obvious, but don’t ever think that the obvious is not capable of being missed. What’s the point of having a wine website without a link to a page about your wines? You don’t need to be flashy (pardon the pun), just a simple list of your wines, nothing more. Though, I feel there is one thing that you must include: a picture of your label, or preferably, a shot of the entire bottle. If you give a nice description, along with a visual, you’ve got a better chance of selling some wine. Without the visual, you’re making it incredibly difficult for someone to differentiate your wines from another when they walk into their local wine shop
  4. Show me the Logo! – Granted, I’ve been looking for winery blogs and not winery websites, but come on, why start a blog about your winery without a logo on it somewhere? I’m confused. Is the story of your winemaking not related to your winery? Put another way, if I visit your website once to learn about you and notice your blog that is updated regularly with new information, which site do you think I’m going to visit more often? My point, make sure you have a logo/image everywhere I, as a reader, visit. In fact, if your are a regular visitor to the World Wide Web and find yourself commenting on other people’s weblogs, why not sign up to have a Gravatar of your wine logo? Then, anywhere you go where Global Gravatars are used, your comments and forum posts will leave a logo behind.
  5. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) – not having an RSS feed on your blog is like publishing a newspaper but only selling it at the printer’s front doorstep. I thought that all blogging software had RSS built into it nowadays, but I guess I was wrong. If you don’t know what it is, whether you have it already, or don’t know how to implement it, just ask the next 10 yr old you bump into on the street. I guarantee you that that not only will they put it together faster than you can change your email options, but they’ll also charge less. Maybe you can bribe them for some Mosto (unfermented grape juice).
  6. Addresses – Another silly little thing that should be included with your email is your address, location, appellation, wine region, or what ever might help us to find you in the physical world on the website. People want to know where you are, and with today’s technology, you might as well show them exactly where you are with a Google map link. People love this and it’s SOOOOOOOO easy to do. Go to www.maps.google.com type in your address and then steal the link from the right hand corner of the map where it says, “link to this page”. That’s it. It is a simple link to a visual image of where you are located. This is an incredibly handy tool that I have used on several occasions, especially when visiting vineyards located in the middle of nowhere Iberia. If it weren’t for my doing a little research on Google Maps before my departure, I most likely would have found myself in the Mediterranean, rather than at the appointed winery. In the information age, more quality information is better then less.
  7. Blogger.com – This is a great, easy blogging tool to allow anyone to blog about their life, winery, or stuffed animal collection; however, there is one glitch. On Blogger, there is an area that allows you to make an “about” page, where you can write about yourself. Why is it then that when I click the blog’s “view my complete profile” page, I’m taken to a page where I learn: whether the author is male or female, how long they have belonged to Blogger.com, what town they are located in, and that they are interested in wine, food and travel. If I’m really lucky, I can actually learn the varietals that their particular vineyard grows. An added plus is if you choose, you can actually see how many people have wasted their precious time viewing this profile. PLEASE, put something here that helps me understand who you are, what you do, and why you have a blog. A link to your “real” website, along with a page that tells us about your passion to create wine.
  8. No Images – Wine is a sensory experience. When I taste wine, I sip, smell, look, feel, and at the greatest of times, spiritually connect with the wine in my glass. Going to a website that contains only text, and no pictures, has me running to the next website as fast as I can click. Why have a wine site if your not going to have an image of the wines you make, the vineyard the wine is made in, the local wine festivals, etc. With today’s online panoply of tools to make your blogging world easier to handle, there should be videos, pictures, and I’m sure it’s just a matter of time, smells coming out through your monitors.
  9. Language – This is a point intended for all my Iberian wine pals, though I’m sure it applies to others. Your regional language is most likely not going to be the only language that will sell your wine. Chances are that your wine is being sold to people in several different languages, the most common of them all is English. I wish the whole world was multi-lingual, and that we all spoke in multiple tongues, but alas it is not so. Therefore, please make your site bi-lingual and well translated! By well translated, I am not referring to your sixteen your old doing it for you after taking her first English class. This does not count as professional translation! Find a native speaker. I’ve never been in a country where there wasn’t an American or British Ex-pat society with members, not looking for translation gigs!
  10. Finally, SCHEDULE – Being that most of you winery bloggers, or winery owners with websites, are often busy with harvests, trade shows, and other time consuming events, it can be hard to post regularly. That’s fine. We wine lovers understand, and if you take the RSS advice to heart, then we’ll be notified the next time you post anyways. But here is one tip, please keep your readers in the loop. Before the next trip without internet access, post a note as to what you’ll be up to and what you hope to accomplish. If you’re going to be traveling, let people know where and when, so your fans can come out to see you at a tasting. Before Harvest, inform us as to what you’ll be doing and when you’ll be back. Take a camera, video, audio, whatever it takes to let us know how your doing! In short, communicate. Like a parent, we are thoroughly interested in your daily happenings. So please keep us in the loop even if it appears banal and uninteresting to you, because it will most likely be interesting to us.

So there! I’m done ranting, hoping beyond hope that some of this information was useful to you. If I’m lucky, a winery or two will take something I said to heart. I know this list is far from complete and does not get into the back end problems that many of these sites contain, but I wanted to write this from the perspective of someone unable to get quick information from a winery, preferably through their website. If you have a suggestion to add to the list please leave it in the comments.

Till soon,

Ryan Opaz

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