With the recent focus here on this blog on how to use analytics software, I think it is also important to step back from the numbers.
I received an email from a Small Farm Central member who has become a friend:
Have been enjoying learning about Bounce Rates, etc. Our numbers go up and down like GM stock, but I think the real meaning is who it reaches, not necessarily the numbers.
He goes on to detail some interesting connections he has made through the website such a local reporter and a customer looking for fertilized eggs.
That's exactly right: your farm website is never going to get traffic like Amazon.com or Ebay and that isn't the point. You are looking for quality over quantity.
People in your area want to create a long-term relationship with a farmer just like you. What is a website visitor worth who will buy a CSA share every year for the next 10 years? will become a great friend or ally? or order a side of beef every fall?
Having friendly and open communication on your website is a step in turning these visitors into supporters.
It doesn't matter what your bounce rate or new visitor percentage is: keep making connections consistently and it will be good for the long-term health of your farm and your local food economy.
Last week, you installed Google Analytics on your farm website. If everything worked correctly, the software has been quietly collecting statistics about your visitors. Now let’s look at that data and see how it may affect your web marketing.
Login to your Google Analytics account and the first screen you will see is “The Dashboard” which gives you a good overview of what is going on with your site.
At the top right of the screen you will see a date range such as Apr 5, 2008 – May 5, 2008. Click the gray arrow to right of the dates to select the range of data you will see throughout the analytics software. As you get more data, you may want to view data for a single day or for a whole month.
One very useful tool is comparing date ranges. This is only applicable when you have a bit more data in your site, so if you just installed last week, just keep this in mind. When you click the down arrow to the right of the date range, select a date range and then in the “Comparison” drop down menu instead of “site” select “date range.” Then you can select the comparison date range that you would like to look at.
See the screenshot below for how this will look. The original date range will be shown in blue while the comparison is shown in green. Hopefully throughout the months and years, traffic on your website is growing and this is a great way to determine success over time.
One question that people often ask is: how many hits should I be getting? I suggest thinking in trends – as long as traffic is steadily increasing, you know you are you going in the right direction with your web marketing.
The comparison feature is very valuable for this type of assessment. If you are following some of the basic marketing tactics that I suggest: keeping your website fresh, sending your web address with each email in your footer, distributing your web address at markets or wherever you connect with the public, sending a weekly mailing list, you can’t fail over the long run.
Just keep doing the right thing every day by connecting consistently with your customers and the time you spend on your website will pay off.
Now go further into the software – there is a pretty amazing amount of detail you can get on your visitors. Take a look around. Keep these terms in mind as you look around:
Bounce Rate - Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. Use this metric to measure visit quality - a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors. The more compelling your landing pages, the more visitors will stay on your site…
First Time Unique Visitor - The number of Unique Visitors to your website that had not visited prior to the time frame being analyzed.
Keyword - A keyword is a database index entry that identifies a specific record or document. Keyword searching is the most common form of text search on the web. Most search engines do their text query and retrieval using keywords.
Referrals - A referral occurs when any hyperlink is clicked on that takes a web surfer to any page or file in another website; it could be text, an image, or any other type of link.
Unique Visitors - Unique Visitors represents the number of unduplicated (counted only once) visitors to your website over the course of a specified time period.
View more terms at: http://empoweryou.ca/2007/04/22/glossary/
Is there more?
There is a lot more to talk about with Google Analytics, but I’ll let this be directed by the readers. As you look around are there any specific questions you have on how to use the software?
Since you spend precious time keeping your farm website fresh, you need to determine how effective your website is in engaging visitors. What sites do they come to your site from? What are they searching for on search engines when they visit? Do they visit from bookmarks or email referrals? How long do they stay when they visit? What pages do they like the best?
All of these questions can be answered using a web analytics package. The standard these days is Google Analytics mainly because it is free, but also because it is a very impressive piece of software that provides lots of detail on your website and it integrates well into other Google services.
Over the next few weeks, we are going to delve into using Google Analytics to understand the visitors to your farm website. What's bounce rate? How many visitors a day is a good rate? What is a referral? Click here to get updates right in your inbox when we update the blog.
Installing Google Analytics on your website
The first step is getting Google Analytics the data it needs to track visitors to your site. The basic concept is that a small piece of code needs to reside on each page of your site. Obviously, this process differs based on how you developed your website and who hosts it. It may be difficult to do this if you developed your website yourself in pure HTML, but if you use Small Farm Central (or have advanced functionality on your site) it is easy. I am going to describe this process in relation to installing analytics on a Small Farm Central site, but the steps will be the same for any site except how the code is added to your pages.
Add the code to your website
Now we are ready to get the code on your website so the analytics package can start to record your stats. This process is different depending on how you developed your website; of course if you are running a Small Farm Central website, it is very easy. What follows is an explanation for farmers that are using the Small Farm Central system.
Take the time to add Google Analytics to your website now; in the next few weeks I will describe how to interpret your results. So, if you add the tracking code to your website, you will have something to look at when the go further into how to use the stats. Click here to get updates right in your inbox when we update the blog.
(Photo by el7bara)
You may also be interested in:
Getting right with google and other farm website visibility techniques
But I grow food not blogs - starting your farm blog
Add an interactive map to your farm website
I have worked farmers markets. I have gotten up at dawn to pick, clean, and pack produce. I have started the drive to the farmers market in the mid-afternoon sun, set up a stand that highlights the abundance of a farm in the summertime, sold produce for several hours, packed the truck, driven back to the farm, unloaded after dark and to bed.
I understand how exciting markets are, but I also understand the work that goes into them. That is why Small Farm Central is helping farmers streamline the ordering process and increase sales at their markets.
We are offering a new stand-alone service (or in conjunction with a full website) that allows you to pre-sell your farmers market products online. Again, you do not need have a regular Small Farm Central website to take advantage of this service.
Some customers just want "easy"
There are many customers who come to a market to socialize with friends, take a walk with the kids, and interact with many different farmers and vendors. These are the types of people that make farmers markets one of the vibrant expressions of community that we have in small towns. These people are not in the market for online ordering.
On the other hand, there are always customers who rush out of work as soon as possible to get to the market only to be disappointed by the quality of products that are left near the end of the market and may or may not complain to you. It is likely that they don't come back to your stand or the market.
For these people, the possibility of ordering online a day or two before the market makes a lot of sense. These are working people who are online most of the day and can take a few minutes at lunch to place an order and will be very excited to think that they have a box waiting for them at the market when they get there late. This type of customer will be likely to order their whole week of food from your farm instead of shopping around because you have made it so easy. If you could get 20-30 of these customers to make a $20-30 purchase on your site as a pre-sale each week, you have $400-900 in extra sales each week.
Easy on you too
Like the rest of the Small Farm Central system, the farmers market pre-sales component is designed for use by farmers without technical knowledge. Create the items you want to sell, list the inventory you have available, and your store is ready to go.
Many farms will have a window that the online store is open. If your market is on Thursday evening, perhaps you list your inventory and open the store at 8am on Monday morning. When the store is open, you will send out a mass email to your customers telling them the store is open for orders. The store will stay open until 6am on Thursday when you click one button in the control panel to disable access to the page.
Then you can create a report that lists all the sales made from Monday at 8am to Thursday at 6am. One feature of the reporting capability is that in additional to listing individual orders, it also lists an aggregate total of items that were ordered, so you can see how many bunches of kale or pounds of ground beef were requested in all of the orders. This report will help you easily plan for picking and packing the truck.
For more detailed info see:
Once the customer has created an order, you still need to get payed.
You have the choice of sending the customer through a credit card processor (we use an easy to set-up service called Google Checkout) or having the user create an account with their contact information. If you choose the second option, the customer can come back the next week and just type in their user name and password so they do not have to re-enter contact information. This helps you identify particular customers and track them over time. Using the second option also has the advantage of saving the 2% of sales that the payment processor will take.
One feature that will aid some farmers in payment processing is the ability to have "private store" pages, which are only accessible by certain types of users. A farmer may have a committed group of customers (this works really well for restaurants and CSA sales, but could also apply to farmers markets): they can limit a particular ecommerce page for access only by users within a particular group. This has the potential to eliminate the payment processing fees, but also limits orders to trusted customers, so there are not any fraudulent orders.
Online pre-ordering is not a new concept -- many farms have been running an email list with products for sale and working responses into an Excel spreadsheet. The difference here is that a little technology makes this process much less time-consuming for the farmer and enticing to the customer.
What if you had a few hundred dollars in sales in your pocket before you started picking, packing, and driving?
Currently we have a special going to get you started with farmers market pre-ordering this year for $185 -- this includes the new member fee and 6 months of service (normally this would cost $220). For each month that you want to use the service beyond that, it is $20/month. You only pay when you are using the service, so you can let the service lapse in the wintertime and restart it for the 2009 season without payment of the new member fee again.
If you are ready to get started:
If you want some more information on farmers market presales and ordering see:
Farm ecommerce brings direct, local sales to farms
I hope everyone is having a productive Spring. I know you are busy preparing the fields, fixing machinery and planting, but I really think online pre-selling is one way to vastly improve your marketing this year without breaking your rhythm in the fields.
A farm website with fresh content encourages return visitors, deepens your relationship with customers, and will lead to increased sales in the long run. The problem is always time: there are struggling transplants to water, your livestock are giving birth, there’s the orchard to prune.
I have to admit missing a full week of blogging here at the Small Farm Central because there were simply other, more pressing tasks to attend to. I don’t think you need to always stick to a rigid schedule for freshening your website. That would ignore the realities of farming. If you have a commitment to communicating your vision and telling your farm story, the rest will fall into place.
The best advice I can give is: make it easy.
Even if you are committed to communicating, writing, and posting pictures throughout the summer season because you truly believe in the long term benefits, it isn’t going to happen if posting to your website is hard.
Do you need to re-learn HTML and CSS every month? What’s the FTP password again? How do I change the title of the page? These are questions you don’t want to answer deep the summer season when there are more pressing concerns in the fields.Schedules are meant to be broken
Make a schedule, but remember that schedules are meant to be broken. I plan to post one blog entry here each week throughout the year, but I would rather post quality content that helps farmers think about their web communication and commerce rather than something inadequate that shows I just didn’t have time. Each contact must add value to your customers experience with your farm or they won’t spend the time to read that next mailing list email or come back to your site to look at farm photos.
I have already seen such an improvement in farm websites this Spring as farmers sign on to Small Farm Central. There are farmers blogging, posting photos regularly, keeping an updated calendar, and sending weekly emails to customers, and selling their goods through their website.
I hope that however you decide to solve your web communication and commerce needs, you can see the long-term benefits of honest, value-adding communication with customers. This isn’t something that will help you this month or even this season; this is for the long term health of your farm and business.
I was reading Cosmo a few weeks ago, or some such magazine (please don't judge, it was a long car ride), and it included tips for "going green." Nestled among tips such as "Use only one towel at the gym" and buy make-up from companies with their green creds all in order, I saw "Be a localvore".
I'm not suggesting that you need to start gearing up for fashion shoots among the tomatoes or start a gym with hay bales as resistance, but there are new people drawn to local food each year. These are not extremely motivated local eaters, but they are cautiously interested in buying products from a farm.
I heard them referred to today as "loco-curious" and "fencers" and the goal is always to create loco-fanatics who will buy CSA shares, get a raw milk share, or buy a side of beef. It won't start out that way -- get them to your farmer's market stand, offer a CSA test box for someone who doesn't want to commit for the season, and give ample recipes for the goods you produce.
Your website is the place to start this process of conversion. Clean layout and frequent updates are going to signal to these wavering converts that you care about the customer and keeping communication open.
These visitors are saying, "make me feel green!" Talk about how the cows are happy and healthy and write about the advantages of your shade of organic or local. Maybe a big button in the middle of your homepage that says, "10 reasons to buy raw milk from us" or other teasing content that sells to the fencer. This is about narrative and the story because this new customer needs a storyline to convince themselves, family, and friends that it is worthwhile to spend an hour at the farmer's market or pay more for pastured poultry.
From Glamour to green - convert the loco-curious this year and all of us will benefit.
Most of Small Farm Central's farmers are focused on their local communities for sales, but some are looking outside of their locality for sales of shipped products. This is a challenging, but potentially rewarding market.
This morning, I was viewing my personal email on Gmail and I saw the following advertisement at the top of my screen and couldn't help but click on it.
I couldn't resist clicking on it to find out about the "Fruit and Veggie Guru"! This is an example of a perfectly executed text ad. I like strawberries! I know they are red and tasty...but I am sure I can learn more, so I clicked. And look, now I am writing a blog entry about the site.
The key in these ads is creating interest and excitement -- with the limited space of about 100 characters that is no small feat.
This advertisement is part of Google's Adwords program which allows you place small text ads in the search results of Google pages, affiliates, and in this case, Google mail. This can be a very inexpensive way of advertising your goods or services because you pay by the click and you can set a budget.
Perhaps you want to spend $100 per month or $5 per day, you can tell Google your exact budget. Maybe you only want to pay 20 cents per click or maybe you can pay up to a dollar -- just tell Google what you are willing to spend and they will show your ad on related searches only.
Google Adwords may even be viable for a locally based business because you can geo-target the ads to a specific region.
This a very large subject and it would take many more blog entries to explain fully; there are whole blogs devoted to the subject. I am not sure how many farmers out there are interested in this subject.
Do you want to learn more about the Google Adwords system?
I am getting mixed signals today from around the Small Farm Central universe.
Circle A Garden in Montrose, Colorado writes in their blog:
Do I dare say that spring is here?? Maybe I should wait until after this next bit of weather goes on east!! This last week has been glorious; warm sunny days with just a few wisps of clouds overhead. The snow here has been rapidly melting; welcome to mud season!! Tommorow, though, the weatherman says it's supposed to snow here.
The photos look decidedly Spring-like:
The work has definitely begun. That Guy's Family Farm in Clarksville, Ohio is getting ready for their chicks by moving a brooder the three miles from Wilson farm.
Brand new Small Farm Central member, Ibiwisi Alpacas in Putney, Vermont is having a little trouble believing that Spring is coming:
For those of you who live in New England, you get the drift (pun intended). How much more snow can we take? Where will be put it all? Stay tuned to find out...
It is kidding season over at Hidden Springs Farms in Springfield, Tennessee:
I am sure we'll get another cold spell this winter, but life is slowly returning to farms across the country. There is a lot of work and joy ahead of us this season. I look forward to watching all that growth through the blogs and sites of Small Farm Central's farmers because I will not be directly participating this year.
If you have a chance, go and connect with one of the farmers by leaving a comment on their blog. I am sure they would love to hear from you.
If this sounds like a lot of work, another option is to go with a full-service firm like Farm Web Design or Small Farm Central that will create, design and maintain your web site for you. Prices vary: For a basic web site from Farm Web Design, expect to pay around $1,195 for a domain, hosting and maintenance for a year, plus a custom-designed web site, including content specially written for you based on a survey of what you'd like your web site to accomplish.
Small Farm Central operates differently—instead of getting a from-scratch web site designed only for your farm, you choose from three templates, which can all be customized to fit your specifications for content, colors, images and more.
For $20 per month, payable in six- or 12-month increments, you get a web site (domain, hosting, customizable design) and an easy-to-use content management system that allows you to update a photo gallery, current products, surveys and even a blog.
And some good general advice (mostly taken from this blog):
Web Site Essentials
Now that you're interested in a web site, here's what your basic site should include:
1. Contact information and directions. Nothing will frustrate visitors to your site more than not being able to easily locate your contact information. If possible, include your phone number and e-mail address on each page of your site. (And make sure you check the e-mail address at least once a week.)
2. Photography. "Photos are the first thing that people look at when they look at a farm web site," says Simon Huntley, lead designer of Small Farm Central. "Get a nice, cheap digital camera—you can get one for $100. Take photos, upload them and just make it a habit. Not only is it good for marketing, but it's good for the farmers to get a look over the years."
3. Navigation. Make sure your site is easy to navigate, from page to page, and that you can return to the home page easily from anywhere on your site.
4. Your specialties. Make sure your web site includes your seasonal hours, what you're growing, when you'll be harvesting, etc. An "About Us" page is also a great way to highlight the things that you're passionate about and tell your visitors what you do well.
Adding a basic, interactive map to your farm website is easy with the wonderful mapping tools that have come out in the last few years. My favorite is the Google Maps package. Have you seen street view (2)?
Google maps makes it easy.
To add an interactive map to your website (like Stargazers Vineyard):
Then you have a nice, interactive map that adds some zip to your farm website.