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"I want the family farm - the backbone of our country's heritage - to thrive and survive for future generations."

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Your Search Engine Rankings Depend on Many Factors

By Jane Eckert

Last month, we talked about the basics of how a search engine like Google™ or Yahoo™  works in order for you to improve your placement when people Jane Eckert, CEO Eckert AgriMarketing and RuralBounty.comenter a keyword or phrase to conduct a search on the Internet.  Identifying the “keywords” of your business and optimizing their use throughout your website are important ways to improve your page rank listing.

Keeping your website up to date is another important step to boost your page ranking.  Yes, the search engines can detect the last time a website has been updated, and the companies will likely give a higher ranking to a site that changed content last week versus one that didn’t change content since last year.

Show your guests that you care enough to keep your picking calendar current, update your events calendar, and provide them with plenty of new photographs of new attractions and new reasons to return to the farm.  It is really disappointing to go to a website looking for their current calendar, and the website still has information from last season.

The sooner you can put your updated information on your website the better.  Often times, farmers wait until the last minute, the week before the event, to update their information, and that just might be too late—what if the customer planned their weekend a month ahead?

Recently, I learned in a Google marketing class that they also give higher rankings to websites that have been online for several years, since that shows that the company has been established for a while.  Similarly, they also rank websites higher if they are registered for several years into the future—the logic here is the same—it shows that you plan to stay in business for the long haul.  It’s a way to weed out the one-year-and-out of business fly by night companies. 

So, assuming you are in business for the long haul, it’s worth your money to pay upfront and let Google™ and the other search engines know that you are serious.  The registrar we use only charges about $10 a year, so it doesn’t cost much to keep registered for the next ten years, and earn that slightly higher ranking.  (With some domain registration companies, you will actually pay less on a per year basis if you purchase multiple years upfront.)

Another major way to increase your website rankings on the search engines, and to increase the number of people visiting your website directly, is to have your website address appear on other websites with links to your site.  In another words, the more times we can locate Walter’s Pumpkin Patch on the Internet the more likely it is that the search engines will place your domain with a higher ranking. Here is a word of caution, however, when listing your website on other sites.  You should only list your business on sites that have a relevant relationship. Websites that sell you the opportunity to list on their site but are not relevant are known by the search engines, and such listings are actually penalized, lowering your ranking.

Look for these reciprocal link opportunities. If you belong to the local Chamber of Commerce or Visitor and Convention Bureau make sure that your website appears with your membership listing.  Most state farm associations and corn maze companies also have a website that list their members, and I am always amazed at the farms that show their street address and contact information, but don’t provide their web address as a direct link. 

Depending on your type of business, there are many opportunities to list your farm for free or for a membership price. These online directories are often very specific to your business, such as www.pickyourown.org or www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org .  Similarly, if you have farm based lodging or hunting available on your farm, there are directories that show these providers by state.

How do you find these listing opportunities?  Search by your most important keywords and see what type of directories might appear on the first page.  Then click through and see if these directories are relevant to your business. 

I would be remiss not to mention my own newest venture, www.ruralbounty.com, a North American agritourism directory promoting the rich bounty of our farms, ranches, wineries and farmer’s markets.  The directory will allow you to list all your farm fresh products, activities, lodging, dining, events and much more happening on your property.  We’ll be investing considerable time and funds in promoting this new resource as the number one source in North America to locate any farm or agritourism venture.

I’ve devoted two full articles to this important topic, and I hope that if you missed last month’s, you’ll go back and retrieve it.  I think it is essential that everyone fully understands that the Internet is where people are now getting there information, even if you don’t.  Secondly, once you have a website online, there are things you can do to attract more viewers, and consequently more farm visitors.  Update your site often, look for opportunities to list your site, and keep in mind that the best communication is to answer your customer’s questions, and the Internet is where they are going to be looking for answers.

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.