Being at the top of Google Search results means more clicks into your website, more visitors, more impressions, and more inquiries on horses which could lead to a sale. The key to being at the top of Google search results is having a compelling, interesting website that encourages traffic and click-throughs. Everything you do online is tracked and recorded through "web analytics". For instance, I can tell that 14 people visited my site on Tuesday and the first link they clicked was "About Us". Thats pretty powerful information!! So how can you harness this knowledge and put it to work?
1) THE MAGIC OF A HOMEPAGE
Your homepage is hardwired to be the most-clicked spot on your website. Your home page is a good spot to put News, Events, show string information or links to topics of interest within your website (i.e.- “check out our new article” or “the babies are here! Click here to see our foal page”). At the very least your website needs to have your location and a small description about your farm.
THE GOOGLE INFO: Did you know, when someone searches “miniature horses Alberta” in Google it will bring up a list of the most relevant, popular, and updated farm websites in Alberta? Sometimes if a website is really relevant (but out of province/state), it will pop up in those searches. Imagine having a website so powerful that when you search for “miniature horses Canada” your website is on the first page in Google!
2) MAKE YOUR WEBSITE EASY TO NAVIGATE
Your website should be uncomplicated and easy to navigate. Your link bar shouldn’t have more than 8 links to keep your link bar uncluttered.
A example of links would be: Homepage, About Us page, Stallions, Mares, For Sale, Contact Form. That's 6 links. Sometimes it can be hard to narrow things down, because you may want to have a page dedicated to sharing your show success.
There are creative ways to cut down pages. For instance, you could include your contact information, location and a email button into the footer on each of your website pages. That way you don't have to have a contact page at all!
Another great way to add pages to your website without adding clutter is to utilize drop down links. Some folks like to list all their stallions on one stallion directory page on their website, where others like each stallion to have their own page. I use the drop down link system a lot. On my own website, I have a drop down link when you hover over "stallions", and you can either go to Marvels page or my reference stallions page. Versus, having 2 separate links in my main bar, cluttering it up.
THE GOOGLE INFO: Your website should be uncomplicated and easy to navigate. If your website is hard to navigate, people will leave your website. Google will notice that people "bounce" off your site and push you down in Google Rankings.
3) ATTRACTIVE DESIGN
Starting with a template helps to create a good looking, uniform site. I have had my website on the Wix.com platform for 6 years and I love it. They have a ton of free website templates. You can look back in my facebook lives to watch me edit my website live, and you can see how easy it is. Most farms choose to have their website reflect their farm colors.
If you aren't interested in designing a website on your own, there are many professionals who you can hire for this service. I made my own websites for years but when I decided that having a gorgeous website was the next step for our brand, Debby Sims Boosalis from D&M Equine Design built a website for me in 2016.
Anyone who is a professional listening to this, drop your information on how you can be contacted in the comments below!
4) HAVING PROFESSIONAL PHOTOS
I can attribute most of my horse sales to having professional photos of all my horses. EVERY client who buys from me always comments about how nice my website was to visit and the beautiful photos. Professional photos of your horse are VERY valuable for the sale of your horses and the quality boost in your website. Consider having your local horse show photographer take some photos of your horses the next time you are at a show. Its hard to depict a horses quality in blurry, zoomed in pasture photos.
5) UPDATING AT LEAST QUARTERLY
A website should be updated at least every season (3 months). Think of it like this: Foaling season (upload photos of your foals), Show season (upload photos of your show string and post their show results to social media), Show results season (brag about your results!) and Prep season (making sure your website is neat, adding for sale horses, updating stallions and broodmares info, sharing events). Google will LOVE that your site is current and updated and push you up in search results.
6) SOCIAL MEDIA TIE-INS
It’s a great idea to have your relevant social media accounts linked to your website. Your Facebook horse farm page should have your website in its details bar, so people who find you on Facebook can click through to your website easily. If you have a Facebook page for your farm, then you should definitely have a Facebook icon on your website that links to your Facebook page. I use my Facebook page to give little behind the scenes looks at our farm, share recent photos and updates. Ultimately I want to drive traffic to my website.
Pedigrees are an excellent way to give your viewers something interesting to read & reference. They take a LONG time to add, per horse, but the pay off is huge. Think about it like this… If a client is looking at a horse, and they want to see who the sire is, they don't need to navigate OFF your page to learn by opening a new browser window (in my opinion it is annoying to scour the internet researching pedigrees!). Plus, when someone searches "Grosshill Dandy's Special Edition" your website will show up in google, just because you mentioned that horses name in a pedigree on your site, which may capture new viewers that you wouldn't regularly get (ie. people in the States or out of Province).
TIP: There are online pedigree generators that you can use to code a pedigree into your website. Just search for them!
8) ADDING CURRENT EVENTS
Consider adding events to your website like "Calgary Stampede" or "Wild Rose Show, Olds Alberta" with the location & date of the event. Also, think about potential buyers that are too shy to contact you through email but just so happen to be attending Stampede as well? Chances are, they will make a point of stopping by your booth at the Stampede, look around, and visit with you in person. Or at least make a point to watch the horse show and take note of your show results.
Another little tip, You can also add events to your Facebook farm page . For instance our local horse club, WCMHC creates show events on their Facebook page. I can add those events to my own Facebook events.
THE GOOGLE INFO: It adds time sensitive events to your website that Google will say--- "This website is current and up to date". You wouldn't think that sharing events with your website viewers would make a big difference, but it totally does!!!
9) LINKING IT UP
This is a Google info heavy topic! Links are one of the biggest proponents of ranking high on Google. Now, isn't leading people OFF your website a bad thing? (for instance to your favorite horse transporters website)? WRONG!! Google picks this up and says--- YES this website is being productive and useful to its viewers. And Google gives your website a big thumbs up. So, with that info, link it up!! Link to the horse clubs you're part of, link to your favorite vendors (ie. Feed stores), link your horses pedigrees to other farm websites (ie. McCarthys Jesse James of Rivenburgh is a link that will take my viewers to Painted H Ranch, in California). As long as your website is the source of the traffic, you will rank in Google. I like to program my links on my website to "Open in a New Window" so that my viewership can still stay on my website in one window, while they explore the link I sent them to in a different window.
10) OFFERING YOUR VIEWERS LOADS OF INFORMATION
People come to your website for one thing. INFORMATION. When you do not provide that information, people will leave your site to gather it on their own. This is why each of my horses have a pedigree, professional photos, show results, and a little bit of writing or context. When you make website viewers go elsewhere on the internet to find out more information, you are doing your horses a grand injustice. Besides, its not that hard to tell everyone why you love your horses so much!!
11) MAKE SURE TO MAKE IT PERSONAL AND INCLUDE AN ABOUT US PAGE
You would be surprised to see how many people click into your "About Us" page. People want to KNOW who they are buying from and what voice they are hearing, when they read through your website. It’s a great place to put photos of your facilities and your team. You can take it even farther and share about your favorite show achievements. It’s a good spot to add a list of your preferred vendors as well (links to your favorite tack stores, feed stores, transporters, etc).
For my writer friends, If you are knowledgeable & creditable about a subject then write about it!!! Add it in an Article section of your website. This will boost in you in Google as a valuable resource. For instance if you raise Appaloosas, write an article explaining Appaloosa genetics. If you like to show, explain how to fill out your show entry forms. If you train horses, write about teaching a horse to back up. For myself, in the new year, I would like to start an annual journal on our show placings in 2020. I often get frustrated that I forget my horses placings over the years. I want to include the show date, venue, the judges and how each judge placed my horses, and include photos of my horses wins and ribbons.
Videos are a fun extra to add to your site that will make you more attractive to viewers. Especially for sales horses!!! Film videos of a horse at liberty (running around in a pen), and then in-hand walking towards the camera and away from the camera (to display correctness of legs) and opening the mouth to show the bite. If you are selling a driving horse, upload a video of that horse executing a walk, trot along a rail, whoa, and back up. I've found (for my own purposes) that when a selection of good quality photos + some videos are offered on a horse, I get less 'curious' emails from people requesting more photos. Videos are still a tough spot for me - its always the last on my to-do list. BUT, you can take pretty great videos with your phone these days and edit the video in a free video editor.
Testimonials are a perfect addition to your website. This adds to your credibility and builds client trust. As a general rule of business you should strive for a happy client every time, BUT we have all heard horror stories of dishonest horse sellers: selling a horse and when it gets off the trailer it is not as advertised! Separate yourself from the crowd with a testimonial / review page. This can fit on your Contact Form page, or on your About Us Page.
15) BREEDING PROGRAM
As they say, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Your breeding program is information people want to know. Why are you crossing this line, to that line—what are you trying to create? Multi-generational breeders: What have you achieved so far and what is the next step in your program? What is the proof of your success? If you are starting the first generation of your program, iterate your dreams & goals and the change you hope to see in 5, 10, 15 years. This step may be something you haven’t done yet but is extremely important for anyone who breeds horses!! I started to reference my breeding program on my reference stallion page.
Before I go, a final word about Google. Being within the first page of Google is extremely important to your website. Think about this: when was the last time you searched for something on Google and clicked through page 2, 3, 4 of the search results to find what you were looking for? Probably a long, long time. If your website isn’t on the first page of Google then think about all of the potential viewers (and business!) you are missing out on. Good luck!!