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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]

A new wine conversation

Welcome to the new WineConversation, one where you will find a few new, but familiar voices.

Virtually all blogs begin as solitary endeavours driven by the author’s energy and motivation to share some message or theme. In most cases, this energy is lost over time. The world changes. Eventually the themes have been explored and the clever puns have all been made. The blog gets tired, and authors move on.

A great many bloggers have found it easier to continue their online conversations with specific groups of like-minded friends on Facebook and Twitter rather than continue to preach from the lonely soap-box of the blog, and so blogs eventually die.

However, if you driven to create content as well as sharing it, you need a platform.

I’ve long felt that the future for many bloggers was to move on from running all aspects of their sites, from being publisher, editor, author, marketer, ad sales and chief spokesperson, and to pool their knowledge and resources with others and specialise. The effect will be to create bigger, better, more interesting group blogs. These don’t have to be huge publishing enterprises such as Huffington Post or TechCrunch, but niche sites as before where content creators focus on producing quality content without the need for the filler stuff that keeps blogs ticking over.

When I started this blog in June 2006, it was only intended as a small place for me to publish a few comments about what I was thinking about wine culture in the UK. I hadn’t expected it to become a major part of my working life. I didn’t really have any other “social media” channels to participate in – Facebook was not yet available and Twitter was about to launch. However, it grew, partly because I was convinced that this was going to be important for the wine business, and largely because I was getting to know so many cool people.

Two of those amazingly cool people were Ryan & Gabriella Opaz, not only experts on Iberia writing on Catavino.net, but the experts behind Catavino Marketing.

After becoming friends via Facebook (yes, we are a product of Facebook) we eventually went on to create the European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC), the Access Zone, the Born Digital Wine Awards and more. It made sense to create a proper structure for all these projects, and so together we are launching a new business called Vrazon (and you’ll hear a LOT more on that soon).

This new focus needs a home. It needs a place where all of us can share our thoughts on how social media and new technologies can benefit the wine business. A place where we can inform you about the conferences, events and campaigns that we are participating in, so you might be able to benefit from them too. A place where you can find us easily and contact us with your comments, questions and suggestions.

The obvious solution was this site.

WineConversation was always about the convergence of wine, marketing and social media (well, in the last couple of years anyway), so this is a logical step. I will still be covering these topics, except now the site will have an even greater International focus, it will benefit from an ‘Opaz’ perspective from the US, Spain & Portugal and it will give the site greater access to Ryan’s technical expertise and Gabriella’s insight, editorial skills and management.

Welcome to the NEW Wine Conversation

We are really looking forward to getting started and hearing what you think.

And finally, special thank you to my many readers, commenters, friends and supporters over the first stage of this site’s development. I owe you so much! I will continue to have a space for more personal thoughts on wine, UK events and activities over at thirstforwine.co.uk so do drop by there from time to time too.

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Give them Access, They Will Talk

Last week, the London International Wine Fair (#LIWF) saw the arrival of a new breed of exhibitor. This one was called “The Access Zone”.

The Access Zone was a combination of Press Office, Lecture Theatre, Consultancy Office, Networking Zone, Business Centre, Free Wi-Fi Spot and Sales Platform.

Instead of a stand being directed by a single company or brand, or acting as a neutral information or service point, The Access Zone was a place where ideas were exchanged, wines tasted and business contacts made. In many ways it was an exhibition within an exhibition. You can read some of the results here (thanks to @gabriellaopaz)

The organisers of the LIWF invited Ryan & Gabriella Opaz of Catavino.net, and my partners in The European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC), to help put together a site dedicated to Social Media in the wine business as part of the main event. This ‘hub’ was then home to all sorts of individuals and companies that wanted to explore the possibilities of social media for promoting wine, including this site as one of the main sponsors.

The users determined the content

What made this stand different was that all sorts of people in the trade were invited to give talks relating to social media tools and strategies. There were interactive talks on using facebook for wineries, wine fault seminars, promoting films, wine blending, personal branding (my own contribution), the launch of the EWBC 2010 in Austria, and more. The USERS determined the content, then stayed there to help others. It was about bringing our online social networks to life, and as such it was important to have the right people at the centre who could motivate and attract an interesting group of friends.

What did we discover? Well, in a show affected by the economic downturn and volcanic ash related travel woes, it was good to have a positive message to discuss. This was especially true online, but also in the trade press. The wine business is very interested in the potential of social media, but still uncertain as to how to achieve this. Having people there, not just us ‘consultants’, but practitioners, brands with experience and brands who invest in social marketing, they were able to get a better overall picture.

The stand was always busy, with a variety of bigger and smaller exhibitors coming to attend talks or meet someone on the stand, including generic wine bodies, wine journalists and winemakers. The stand also hosted Naked Winesspectacular selection process where their ‘angels’ selected a wine (video) to import which then sold out in less than 24 hours! (more videos here)

The Access Zone is not necessarily a model for every future exhibition. In reality, embracing social media is something ALL exhibitors should do, but while adoption is still very low and exhibitors and visitors are interested in learning more in a non-commercial atmosphere, the Access Zone model is probably one that more exhibitions around the world should emulate. I suspect that many other wine events will now look to have such a space, and will invite key players from around the globe to fill it.

Did you come along? What did you think? Worth repeating? Was there other content you would have liked to see?

Well done James!

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Past Discussions about Wine Future

I had forgotten about this talk. Ryan Opaz of Catavino, Andre Ribeirinho of Adegga and I got together to share some thoughts during the Wine Future Conference in Rioja in November 2009.

We attempted to broadcast this live, but I’m not sure it went out or was archived. Thankfully our very resourceful Eduardo Benito of VinusTV was present to record the event.

I hope you agree that there are some things worth thinking about (even if you were not at the event itself).

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The value of a tasting note

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Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time, I even drafted a post, but recent events have prompted me to complete it.

What is a single tasting note worth?

Ryan Opaz of Catavino recently asked this question on twitter after a discussion we had, and it still has me thinking.

I suppose one could argue that tasting notes are worth exactly what you pay for them. In most cases, such as blogs, wine social networks and twitter, the answer is NOTHING. They are free! They are given away as they are shared by those tasting wines mainly for their own enjoyment.

But this is only part of the story. There are those sites that do charge to give you access to information such as tasting notes. In addition, even if consumers are not paying for tasting notes, that is not to say they are not “worth” something to someone.

Subscription Sites

There are sites where some of the key ‘value’ are the tasting notes on offer – not because they are tasting notes as such, but because they are buying advice (e.g. The Wine Gang) or “insider information” on the potential future value of premium wines (e.g. JancisRobinson.com on En Primeur)

There will always be a small number of people willing to pay for these sites to get this information rather than searching through multiple sites or waiting to personally taste wines they mean to buy – which may not even be possible. The question is whether there are enough of them to make a site profitable.

Social Networks

On the other hand, there are many social networks out there (e.g. Snooth, Adegga, etc.) where the tasting notes themselves are free content. They still represent value for people, but this is exchanged for attracting more friends & followers or becoming known as a reliable expert. The value is in social recognition, something some might call Whuffie or ‘Social Capital

And then there is the law …

What prompted me to write this today was the Decanter story that a journalist, Martin Isark, is suing Majestic for using his tasting note to promote a wine called “Cuvée de Richard Vin de Pays de l’Aude”. He wrote a note which apparently included the words “incredible value” in a newspaper in 2001 – and apparently Majestic have been using those words, attached to his name, ever since to promote subsequent vintages. So now, he is claiming £50,000 in damages for “‘false endorsements’ and ‘infringement of copyright’” to get them to stop according to the story (NB. I’m no lawyer, I’m only reporting information available on other sites).

Whilst I agree that the note is [arguably] false endorsement if they do not clearly show it was for a (much) older vintage, it makes you wonder how much Martin Isark thinks that endorsement is worth if the “damage” is £50,000 (as far as I know the UK law does not allow for punitive damages). I’m sure that Majestic will have sold some additional bottles of the back of the note, but that would be a LOT of bottles. And what about the benefits to Mr Isark (who, I must admit, I had not heard of before this incident)? He has had his name promoted to thousands of Majestic customers over the years – could he not have made something positive of this, offering to review (accurately and honestly) future vintages or more wines?

So, the question remains, how much is a tasting note worth?

Like any content, tasting notes have value and with the right ‘context’ there are ways to make them generate money for someone – let’s just hope it isn’t all for the lawyers, but for wine writers and drinkers instead!

[full disclosure: I am married to a lawyer, and benefit greatly from the good work that lawyers do :) ]

[UPDATE 20/11/09 14:23: On closer examination, Martin Isark answers the question on his website. The answer, at least for Martin Isark is: £15,000 PLUS 2% of sales as a royalty payment. This is astronomically high, and also makes one wonder about the potential ethical issues of journalists receiving royalties on related sales. Of course, he can name whatever price he wants, but I wonder whether anyone would really accept this value as realistic? If so, I need to start writing more tasting notes ;) ]

[UPDATE 20/11/09 14:27: inserted the word "arguably" in para 9 erroneously missed off original post!]

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