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Buying Internet Advertising Helps Promote the Farm

By Jane Eckert

Agritourism speaker and consultant Jane Eckert is CEO of Eckert AgriMarketing and RuralBounty.comThe last couple of months, we have been talking about the Internet search engines and how to move your farm up higher on the rankings. We talked about the keywords in your Web site, and about making sure that your keywords are used frequently and kept relevant.  Placement of these keywords in your headlines, sub-headlines and the first paragraph of copy, also help to improve your ranking.

Another important step we’ve discussed is that you must not only keep your Web site up-to-date, you also need to make changes just to keep the site fresh.  Search engines, like Yahoo™ and Google™ likely give a higher ranking to a site that changed content last week, versus one that hasn’t changed the content in over a year.

When a Good Website Isn’t Enough
But what if you have done these things, and your Web site still doesn’t show up on the first page of a Google search when you type in your keywords: such as “pumpkins, corn maze and Ohio”?

Well, then it’s time to consider going the next step and actually buy that front page placement.  You’ve seen them, like the listings on the right side of a Google or Yahoo search page under the heading, “Sponsored Links.”

The sponsored link puts your listing on the top, and a lot of people do click on this right hand column—and I want you to know, this form of advertising does work, and it is growing. 

The growth of U.S. advertising dollars spent online is increasing each year. Total online advertising spending, as a percentage of total ad dollars spent, was 12.1 % in 2006, in 2007 it increased to 13.4%, and in 2008 is projected to be 16.0%.

The big advertisers would not be redistributing their ad dollars if the Internet wasn’t working for them, and if it works for the big guys – we can make it work for farms. 
 
Learning the Online Advertising Process
Recently, I took the Google Ad Words seminar and want to share with you some of the things that I learned that could help you begin Internet advertising. In addition to this article, you’ll want to go to www.adwords.google.com and you’ll see a full tutorial to get started. 
It does seem a bit overwhelming to many, and it will certainly take some time and study to get it all correct.  For some, it might be a nice winter project. Here’s how it works:

Step 1 – Register and start your campaign set up. You will probably want to create multiple campaigns based on your season, keywords etc.  Each campaign can be given a unique name and therefore results will be tracked separately.

Step 2 – Define your GeoTarget, a term referring in part to the geographical area around your business. When a person logs onto the Internet, software can easily detect approximately where that computer is located, based on the service provider you use. Since most of your farm visitors will come from within, say, 100 miles, you can specify that you only want to pay for searches coming from computers within 100 miles of your farm and select the appropriate Google region.  This is the GeoTarget for your advertising.

Step 4 – Write your ad text.  This is easy to do because the actual form is broken down into four lines of copy and tells you how many characters are permitted.  As you type in your text, you see your ad being created. It’s only 95 spaces, so we’re not talking about creative writing.

Step 5 – Choose your keywords.  These are all of the words that people could use in their search that are relevant to your farm. There is no limit to how many keywords you can use and you should use both the singular and plural of our most popular words such as corn maze and corn mazes.  Still, I would caution you to keep your keywords relevant so that the click thrus you pay for are all relevant.

Step 6 – Set your budget.  That’s right.  You tell Google the maximum amount you are willing to spend per day for your advertising campaign.

You are charged based on “click thrus.”  Here’s the simplified explanation:  when someone searches for your keywords, then your listing will come up in the Sponsored Links listing.  But you only pay for that ad if the person actually clicks on the link, and goes thru to your website.

The cost of the keywords depends on both the search volume and the number of advertisers competing for the same keywords. It is like an auction, the more advertisers that want the word “pumpkin” as a keyword; the more it will cost to appear at the top of the list. That might be 6 cents for a click through, or it might be a $1.12.  You tell Google how much you are willing to spend per day for these customers.  Once you reach your maximum daily budget, your ad will not appear any more that day.

The budget page has more information here to assist you in deciding what you want to spend and how to determine your maximum per day.  Note: High volume keywords will cost you more than low volume keywords.

Google Ad Words is pretty self explanatory, but does take time to learn. There are many online tutorials at each of the steps to give you information and guidance.  You don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money to get started, and you will quickly be able to go into your account to review the number of page clicks you have received from your advertising. The reports are constantly being updated for your easy review.

My final word of caution is that this is a program to be reviewed often.  It’s not one that you can set up and ignore for weeks at a time.  If you can’t, or you are not willing to make this time commitment, there are companies that manage Internet marketing for others.  No matter what you choose, Internet marketing should be a component of your annual marketing budget.

Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.