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@BVWines protecting minors from the existence of wine, since Nov 18th 2012

1 picture might not be enough in today’s fast paced world

A picture is worth a 1000 words, or so the saying goes. Personally, I’m starting to think this idea is outdated in today’s world and even more so in relation to the photos you post online. Today, with every gadget and gizmo in your pocket having the capability to snap a photo, upload it and share it in real time, we the online surfers of this world, are constantly being assaulted with images that are at times brilliant and often quite forgettable.

I was considering this the other day when staring at a rooftop as I walked to my metro stop. The rooftop was nothing very special, but it created a nice negative space when presented against the deep blue sky. By itself, on a wall in a frame with a nice touch of sepia or black and white, the image might have been perfect to complement a room or become a talking point in a conversation. It was then that I realized that the same image when presented online, might at its best get a retweet or two, or maybe a stray comment on flickr, but would more likely stream past in a flurry like one unique snowflake tumbling to earth lost in the blizzard of others content.

Marketing your brand can be quite similar, and I think that to better understand what it takes to make your snowflake stand out you need to understand how to make that rooftop photo more relevant. What the photo of the rooftop was missing is a story. Something that links one idea to another. 1 photo in a post on a blog is nothing. Most likely you can give me any photo you take and I’ll find 300 just like it. But if you give that 1 photo context, and a relation to an idea you could keep me interested for a longer length of time.

Taking the rooftop photo example, imagine if I created an album of rooftops from around my town of Terrassa? Or images of the building who’s roof caught my attention? Weaving these images with small bursts of focused text in a post begins to give me a reason to stick around and keep reading.

Same thing goes for branding. One mailing, one website(by itself), one Twitter account, these are not going to do anything to further your brand. They provide no value by themselves. It’s only when you link them or use them to create layers, of stories, ideas, or contexts, that the real magic begins. If you havea winery with 200years of history, that is one layer, and while in some cases that layer can have influence it does have a expiration date and it really is not that unique in the world of wine. What about the story of today, or yesterday. What other stories are you forgetting to tell?

Think about what your “slideshow” is in relation to your brand. If you do you’ll be giving the consumer something to talk about.

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Experience – Borrow someone elses

“Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it. - Steven Wright

Never a truer statement spoken. Winemakers live by this motto as they craft their blends, each year learning from the previous year’s mistakes. This is why we have regions tied to single grapes, or styles of winemaking. Without others’ failures and triumphs we would not have Pinot Noir in Burgundy, Sherry in Jerez, and Port in Portugal.

Sadly, however, lack of experience often stops people from trying new things, afraid that the experience they seek is a prerequisite to trying something new. It’s not. There are many ways to gain experience, both by trial and error or from building on the experiments of others.

Surprisingly, today many wineries are still waiting to see if social media works. Ryan O’Connell of O’Vineyards recently heard a press attaché in France tell a group of winemakers the following:

“…you can’t share a story on sites like facebook or twitter. She also highly distrusts blogs and advises winemakers to be skeptical toward them. She assures us that she isn’t on facebook….”(via)

Unbelievable.

It’s time we all move on.  Social media does work. End of story. Blogs are just publishing tools, and bloggers are people that use them. Facebook and Twitter are communities, and at any time in the history of the world, communities can be found building commerce, telling stories and sharing ideas.

If you don’t believe it go out and look at the experience of others, and then join the conversation with the rest of us, using our experience as you see fit.

Ryan

Success Stories (feel free to ask them what they think):

https://www.facebook.com/Outsiders.Languedoc

http://quevedoportwine.com

http://lagramiere.com

http://ovineyards.com

http://www.twistedoak.com/

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Better Wine Blogging 101 – Using links effectively

How to link betterContinuing on with our goal to help improve your wine blogging, we want to tackle an important strategy that is often avoided, typically because many people are under the false pretense that it will hurt them, but it’s quite the contrary. This simple strategy can not only bring more traffic to your site, but will also build your rankings in Google or Bing.

Text Links are words that are “hyperlinked” to another webpage, either on your own site or on someone else’s. Here’s what a hyperlink to Wine and Food Pairing looks like. The words Wine and Food Pairing are “clickable” and link to relevant content which can help the reader learn more about this subject – in this case, my site, Catavino. These invaluable links are why the internet exists. Called the “web” because of these connections, it mimics a spiderweb where the connections build and define the structure. Unfortunately, when sites do not link to others sites, they are virtually cutting themselves off from the rest of the web and isolating their content in a bubble that becomes harder and harder for people to find and explore.

Now for all the geeks crying out that I’m over simplifying the matter, you’re absolutely correct, I am. My goal is to show the wine bloggers who never link to anyone (and that list of blogs in your sidebar does not count, they are for all practical purposes useless) that by adding strategic links within their blog posts they can actually help themselves. So please bear with me, and we can all geek out a bit in the comments section below.

For the rest of you, let’s follow a few simple rules. We’ll call it the “5 Link Rule”, which ensures that you have at least 5 hyperlinks in any post you write under 500 words, where 2 of those links point to your website and 3 point to other content on the web. The links that send people away from your site must, however, go to relevant, quality content that will help the reader, not just something random because I told you to.

But wait, you say, linking to other sites doesn’t help me! Wrong. Linking to other sites is very helpful to you. Without getting too technical, when you link to another site you’re alerting them of your connection. In turn, they can choose to link back to you or visit your site. Beyond that too, it places your site in context with other similar sites.

So how do you do it? Simple. Most web editors have a button that looks like a little bit of chain link, or something that says “link”. After you highlight the appropriate text (more on this in a bit) click this link image and you will get a dialog that looks something like this: How to add a text linkWhen filling out the dialogue box, be descriptive. First, place the actual link in the first box you see above with the preceding “http://” . Without this, you will be linking to an error page and not helping your site. Second, make sure to title your link. Tell us what it links to in order to help both search engines and your readers who are on devices that need this information. Finally, do not click the “open in a new window/tab”. I know we think if people stay on our site it’s better, but this is not always the case. I don’t want new pages opening up if I don’t ask for them, and if you provide great information, I’ll make sure to come back to you. Let your readers make their own decisions!

Ok, now back to that text you highlighted to create a link. Remember my food and wine pairing link above? In that case I created a link with the words “Wine and Food Pairing”, which is descriptive and useful, but it is also very helpful to Google. Essentially, I told Google that if people want to know about Wine and Food Pairing they should look at the site I linked to because it has quality information on the subject. In addition, I’m also saying, “Hey Google, I know where to find the best content on this subject, so come to me to learn about Wine and Food Pairing too”. Now, repeat this a few hundred times, and naturally, over the lifetime of your site you’ll be considered a resource for this type of information. What you do not want to highlight and a create a link from are things that are not useful like the words “click here”.

For the same reasons above, you also want to link to your own site with keywords that are important to you. So in our case, if I want to show that posting photos on wine blogs is something I know a lot about, I’ll make sure to link those words to older posts on the subject! Now, while Google knows you’re promoting yourself, it also recognizes that you know your content better than anywhere else. And if you provide good information through these links, rather than spammy promotions, Google will begin to  value your site higher on these specific topics, which is great!

These are very quick tips, not guaranteed tips to get you listed on page 1 of Google, that will make your site a stronger resource for wine information. Also this is presented to show you some simple best practices to make sure your website fits into the wine web more effectively. Nothing here is a trick or a solution that will trump good consistent content. You need to have good material if you hope that anything I say here is going to help you!

So, before I bore you any further, I’m opening it up to questions in the comments. Remember let’s keep this general as there are better places to talk SEO techniques, but this is a good place to get the basics of how to link out of the way, and taking the first steps to being a pro-wine-blogger! :)

Cheers,

Ryan Opaz

Let me know what other blogging 101 topics you want me to cover on Wine Conversation email me: [email protected]

Better Wine Blogging 101 – Using Photos Correctly

Night time Montjuic, BarcelonaRecently, a newbie wine blogger contacted me through Twitter to evaluate their post for general effectiveness. I promptly agreed, generally trying my best to help the community whenever possible, especially with someone new to the field. Quickly clicking on the link, I encountered 2 of the largest mistakes I typically see with new blogs, not to mention, 2 of the easiest things to fix. But when trying to explain how to remedy the situation, I also learned that they weren’t obvious to your everyday blogger. So for the sake of helping a larger audience, I thought I would post some best practices here.

Basically what I’m offering is some standard SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Nothing advanced and nothing tricky, just some best practices to make sure you are optimizing your site to get the most traffic possible. With a few simple steps, your wine blog, or website, can be more effective. The irony is that these simple steps are DEAD simple and can give you big results. So let’s start! Today, I’ll focus on images and tomorrow I’ll focus on links.

Images: Images are great for explaining ideas and giving context. That said, if you don’t optimize your image, Google and the web in general, won’t see it. The robots Google uses to read content on your site are basically blind. They are great at reading content but not at looking at images. Therefore, we need to help them out. All modern web tools let you add images easily, and most will also let you add some key elements to those images that help your site.

For the sake of explanation, I’m going to use the WordPress blogging platforms tool as an example. See the image below? When you upload an image to wordpress, it allows you to add a Title,  Alternate Text, Caption, Description and URL. They key pieces you should be fill out and be descriptive are the Title, Alt Text and URL.

  1. Title: use a simple description. If you have a wine bottle photo, the title might be the name of the wine. If it’s a picture of a vineyard, name the vineyard and be descriptive. Just titling it “Vineyard” doesn’t help anyone. Better to go specific “Merlot Vines – Chateau Bleu”.
  2. Alt text: This is the text that will show up on a person’s computer screen if their computer can’t load the photo, allowing the reader to understand what the photo is supposed to be. So building on ”Merlot Vines – Chateau No-Se-Que”, you might add here a description of the time of year: Fall, Spring, or maybe even the activity if any in the photo: harvest, pruning, veraison under way. In short, be descriptive.
  3. URL: make sure to link to the photos source or to the photo itself. This way you can credit the photographer, or you can link to a larger version which might help the reader to see the image better. I’ll explain more about why links are so important soon, but the truth is that the web does not exist without links. Make sure you use them!

How to insert an image into facebook

All that said, pictures make your posts look pretty! Thus, use photos that illustrate and help guide the story. A picture of a bottle is one thing, but a picture of the place the wine was made can be even better. Also remember that people’s faces can be very helpful. If you are talking about a person try your best to get an image of them.

Finally where do you get photos? Well you don’t steal them. Make sure if you post a photo you have permission first. It’s illegal to use photos that are copyrighted without permission from the photographer. A great tool you can use to find fabulous photos is Creative Commons. It’s a legally enforceable copyright that allows the artist/photographer to have their photos used in certain situations. I, personally, license all my photos this way, allowing you to use my photos as long as you do so non-commercially, and you give me credit.

Where do you find these? Well you can browse my photos here: Ryan Opaz’s Wine Photos on Flickr and you can search for other photos that are licensed this way here: Flickr’s Creative Commons Galleries.

Mind you, this is the short version of how to use photos in your posts. I could go on and on, but would rather you ask some questions in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer them for you!

Cheers,
Ryan Opaz

Coming soon, linking for wine for wine bloggers…

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