Author Archives: Ryan Opaz

About Ryan Opaz

I am cofounder of the European Wine Bloggers Conference, Born Digital Wine Awards and run fun things like: The Access Zone at the #LIWF. Contact me if you want someone to speak about where the internet and wine intersect. I am a Liquid Agnostic.

Night time Montjuic, Barcelona

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…

The Perfect Wine “App”

Day 18: Most Used AppsOne of my favorite podcasts is NPR‘s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Wait Wait is a weekly new’s quiz show, based out of Chicago, that invites various guests to answer a series of satirical questions.

This past week, Ev Williams of Twitter was invited onto the show as a guest, and he echoed a comment I happened to make recently when talking to a friend about wine apps for mobile. People often complain about the mundane tweets that happen on twitter, with a occasional traffic update or news item. What’s interesting is that this worked to train the users to use twitter to communicate. If you had built an app  for these “traffic updates”, people wouldn’t use it since it was not part of the way they communicated. They’d forget it’s there and therefore, not tell everyone what’s happening on the freeway.

From the Show: It turns out it has a lot of different facets, because while there’s many people doing stupid narcissistic things, that gets you to use it(twitter) on a regular basis and it gets you familiar with it. But then when you see an accident, you’re trained to tweet that you’ve just seen an accident, and suddenly that’s a useful piece of information. Whereas, if we told you that this was a program only for reporting accidents, you’d never think of it. – Ev Williams

When my friend asked, “what is the best wine app”, my response was, bluntly, that they all sucked.

I might want to clarify and say that they all suck for 99% of the population of wine drinkers. The current wine apps are all what I call “destination apps”, meaning you need to make them your destination for information you need. The truth is that we need apps that are not destinations, but rather locations were we hang out. I mentioned to him that if you want to make a wine app that works, try making a “life app” that includes wine.

For me it comes down to a few apps that already exist. Evernote: a place where I share all my wine notes and store information that I find online. I use it everyday and would feel as though I was missing an arm if I didn’t have it at the ready. It’s a tool that I use for organizing my life, and wine is one aspect of my life (shocking I know, I do enjoy other things too!). Then you have the other arm of social: Twitter, Facebook and to a growing extent Google+, all of which are places where I share my life with friends and family. Since wine is a social lubricant, it only goes to show how natural it is to talk about the various wines I’m enjoying.

I don’t want to get too detailed, but I do want to offer up a challenge to wine app creators. What we need is a lifestyle app that builds wine into its core, or an app that allows for conversations, categorizations, or amplifications of things other than wine. Do this and you’ll have an app that normal folk can relate to. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for specialist apps, each discipline needs these, but they are not going to grow an audience much bigger than the niche they are built for.

Till soon,

Ryan Opaz

Read the full transcript of Ev Williams on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me 

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Branding Tip: Gravatar

A big part of branding is consistency: making sure that when you leave comments and links around  the web, you do it in a way that creates a trail of similar information. When we consult new wineries who want to get online, we tell them to make a special folder that they keep on their computer with: a headshot, image  (of winery, vineyard, team, etc), logo, a text document with some cut and paste descriptions that they can use, and any other relevant “social information”. This very simple trick ensures that your information is relevant and consistent.

One other tool and one that is EASY and indispensable to getting online is: Gravatar. Gravatar stands for “Globally Recognized Avatar”. Avatar is both a 3d movie featuring agile blue people, and more importantly for us, a visual representation of yourself online. Usually Avatars are small square images that you see show up in the comments section in blogs, your photo in Facebook and your icon on Twitter. Using an image of your profile can go a long ways to helping people visually connect with you and your brand. Gravatar helps your brand be dispersed everywhere, without you having to think about it.

Check out this video for more info:

Hope you like today’s tech tip. Now go sign up for your Gravatar, and then test it out in the comments below by telling us how it went!

Ryan

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Does your website have a mobile version?

photo credit @Flickr .m for matthijs

It was reported today that consumers spend more time on mobile apps than on the web. Really this is no surprise. It is the way the world works, big things become smaller and smaller as technology gets better and better. If we could go back in time and start the computer revolution today, no-one would design a big box that sits in a special room in your house as a way to get online. If we started from scratch, we’d probably begin with something a bit more “iphone-like”. Small, portable and always connected to the web.

Laptops are shrinking into “pads” and desktops are more and more specialized professional tools, which brings me to today’s question:

Do you have a mobile version of your website, version that looks good on a small screen and is easy to navigate? Have you even checked?

If you’re working with an open CMS system like WordPress, or something even more cutting edge like Posterous, you are probably fine.

If you know what a wordpress plugin is, you might try one of these out.

If these don’t mean much to you, then go and check out your website on a mobile app.

Here’s a tip: if your site has pretty moving things on the screen when you look at it, it’s most likely using Flash. And what does Flash mean? It means that no-one with an iPhone can access your site, and many others will quickly lose patience and go elsewhere rather than watch your site load. If you’re using flash, get a new site.

Your customers are more likely today to find you while navigating on their phone, than on a laptop. If they can’t interact with your site you will be losing customers and fans!

Any questions?

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Wine Branding Disruption

In an effort to broaden our communication channels, Robert and I are back with a first podcast for some time, this time for the new Wine Conversation. In this episode we talk about an exciting project we have lined up for the Access Zone at the London International Wine Fair. Called “Disrupt”, the idea is to create wine at the London International Wine Fair in 3 days, from blending to putting it on sale for all of you to be able to buy. Take a listen and let us know what you think!