What The Facebook “Want” Button Means For Horse Businesses

There is a rumor flying around based on some code that Facebook accidentally leaked about a new “Want” button being implemented by Facebook, similar to the current “Like” button.  Obviously this is an attempt to bring more commerce into the Facebook platform and at first I thought it wouldn’t affect people selling horses that much.  It seems more geared for things you might sell on Amazon or something.  But then I got to thinking…

Picture this.  A person is shopping for horses.  They go to HorseBreederDirect.com and maybe a few other sites and click “Want” on a few horses they think they might like to buy.  Then they come back to HorseBreederDirect and we ask if it’s okay if we take a peak at their “Want” list.  They say it’s okay and we find that they “want” three different Arabian mares in California.  Can you see where this is going?  Now we say, “Hey, we noticed you want an Arabian mare in California.  Here are some for sale on our site!”

Of course we’ll have to wait and see if the “Want” button will arrive and how exactly it’s going to work, but it has potential to help horse businesses better target their customers and more intelligently help customers find exactly what it is they…want.

You probably don’t have a programmer in you back pocket like we do, but I’m sure there will be products and companies that spawn around this new button that will help you take full advantage of it.

How do you think a “Want” button will change things?

 

You Need To Be On Google+ Places

If you google “Horses in Sacramento”, you’ll see a map comes up and a list of businesses in the area.  The second one in the list is “Just Ducky Horse Training”.  Guess what?  They don’t even have a website and yet they beat out probably hundreds of horse businesses in Sacramento just because they’re on Google+ Places.  Are you?

According to a Google Blog, 20% of all searches are related to location and 97% of consumers search online for local businesses.

We’re not huge fans of Google+ at the moment.  We came.  We saw.  We left.  We are still keeping an eye on it though.  It might pull something out of the bag at some point down the road.  But you can’t deny that Google is trying to make it relevant to searches and to that end, it’s in your best interest to at least have a presence there so people can find you.

It’s super easy to do.  Go to the Google Places page and click on the “Get started now” button under “Claim your business listing”.

Be sure to use any keywords that you would want someone to find you with in your description.  List every service you offer, but do so using proper full sentences, not just a string of keywords.  Google is smarter than that.  Some words to consider adding in addition to the standard services you offer are “beginner”, “advanced”, “children”, or any other specialties that you think someone might search for to find your business.

If you ever go out to your customers or even if you have horses for sale and people tend to travel from far away to find you, check the “this business serves customers at their location” box.  I suggest setting your service area to 625 miles, the maximum allowed.

Use all 5 categories.  If you can, use the ones that come up in the list first when you start typing.  These are most likely to be searched on.

Obviously add pictures and video if you have them.  You know that if you see a list of business come up on Google and one has pictures and video and others don’t, you’re going to click on the one with pictures first.

When you’re all done, Google will verify that you “own” the location most likely by sending a postcard to your address with a verification code on it.  The next step is to ask your friends, family, and customers to write some reviews.  Again, people are far more likely to click a link with reviews over one without them.

Google claims “Over the next months, we’re making lots of changes to improve our local listings experience and bring the community, identity, sharing & relationships of Google+ to local businesses”, so now is a great time to get in and see where they go with it.  It’s free and you’ve got nothing to lose, but lots of new customers to gain from your newly improved placement in search results.

10 Things You Can Post On Your Facebook Wall Today

You have a Facebook wall or a blog and it’s been a few days, maybe a few weeks, since you’ve posted anything.  But what to post?  Here’s a few ideas to get your brain going:

  1. You’re in this business for two reasons. You love horses. You need to make money so you can eat. Post an ad for one of your horses for sale, or a promotion you’re running, or an event you have coming up. Your fans are following you because they’re interested in your business, so don’t be afraid to tell them about it. It doesn’t have to be a hard sell, just a “Hey, here’s what we have to offer.”
  2. Speaking of events. Have you been to any recently? Post pictures and a recap. Are you going to one soon? Post pictures from the last one and talk about why you’re excited about the one coming up.
  3. Do you sell horses? Put them in a rotation and make it a ritual, maybe once a week, to take a picture of your “horse of the week”, talk about their progress in training, anecdotes about what they’ve been doing, and why you think it would be the perfect horse for someone.
  4. Post a link to something your fans would find useful. This is simple. Go to news.google.com, search for “horses” and pick something. Or search for your breed or specialty. You may want to consider adding “-racing” to your search to filter out all of the horse racing news (unless that’s your thing). Also check your favorite Facebook pages to see if there’s something good to share. Whatever it is though, try to post a comment that makes it relevant to your fans and maybe ask them a question about it to strike up a conversation.
  5. Have you won any awards lately? Competed in any shows? Gotten any press? Earned any recognition of any kind? Or maybe one of your satisfied customers has won something. Tell us all about it.
  6. Use the Facebook polling feature called “Questions”. Everyone loves polls and to be asked what they think. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had coffee yet, but it took me a bit to find out how to do this. Use Facebook as your page, not as your personal account, then click on “Home”, then “ask a question” is an option to post at the top. I don’t know why it’s not an option directly from the page. Try not to be too controversial, but make it interesting. Asking about preferences on something is good. English versus Western…leather versus plastic…favorite type of hay to feed. That sort of thing.
  7. Do you have any success stories? Pictures and e-mails from satisfied customers? Post them. We love it. Everyone loves to see a satisfied customer or a horse that has gone to a happy home.
  8. What have you learned lately? Share your wisdom with the rest of us. Horses teach us things all the time. So do customers. And you can’t run a horse business without learning a few things the hard way. You’re an expert in your field (sometimes literally in a field), so show your customers that you are and give them some practical advice at the same time. It will establish your credibility as an expert and they’ll think of you when they need your services.
  9. Some of your most mundane chores that you take for granted might be really interesting to horse lovers out there that aren’t necessarily “in the industry”. Talk about some of your day-to-day operations. Do you have any clever feeding solutions? Tricks to clean a stall quickly? Post some pictures of your feed room or your tack room and talk about why you have it set up that way. Every farm we visit, there’s some strange configuration and they have a clever reason for setting it up that way. You’re a rock star to horse lovers everywhere that wish they could be in the horse industry and they’d love to get a glimpse of the inside operations and feel like they’re a part of it.
  10. We’re at the bottom of the list. I saved this one for last because it pains me to say it. But it works. Post…a cute picture of a foal. That’s it. People go nuts for foals. It almost doesn’t matter what you say with it. You can say “Like this if you hate kittens” and you’ll get a ton of likes because nobody will read it.  They…just…love…foals. Obviously it would be ideal if it were one or yours or somehow related to your business, but if you’ve gotten to number 10 in the list and you’re desperate…this is your out. Hey, what’s that picture at the top of this post?! How’d that get there?!

So, bookmark this post. Share it with your friends. Next time you find yourself stuck thinking you need to post something, just run down the list and see if anything jogs your brain. If not…there’s always the foal technique. *sigh*

Get Out Of Your Marketing Rut

Are you selling as many horses as you’d like?  Do you want more customers for your horse business?  When was the last time you took a good hard look at your marketing strategy?

As a marketing company, we look at our own marketing strategy almost daily.  Two or three times a week we have a “Starbucks Meeting” to talk about it.  Let me invite you to a virtual Starbucks Meeting right now with us.  Grab a cup of coffee or tea…or a mimosa…whatever, we won’t judge you.  Let’s chat, shall we?

So, let’s start by making a list.  What are you doing right now?  Go on, write it down.  Word of mouth?  Magazine ads?  Online classifieds?  Posting on the feed shop bulletin board?  Yellow pages?  Facebook wall?  Dig deep…anything that you’re spending time or money on with the intent of getting more customers, write it down.

Good, now let’s go through the list and figure out what’s NOT working.  I’m not going to tell you what works or doesn’t work because it’s different for different markets, regions, and business types, so you have to figure this out and be honest with yourself.  If you spent $200 for a magazine ad, plus a few hours maybe designing it, taking photos of your horses, and talking with the publisher, etc…did you get any sales from it?  Do you feel like you’ve given it a fair shake?  If it’s not working, let’s check it off the list.  Good, we just freed up some time and money to try something else.  It doesn’t matter if people tell you that you should be doing something.  What matters is if it’s working.

I can tell you that in our early meetings, we crossed off magazine ads, Twitter (more on that in another post, but you probably don’t need it either), classified ads, and a slew of other things.  It’s a good thing because it made the next step easier.

The next step is thinking of new things to try.  Scary, right?  Sometimes the most successful strategies are not the most obvious or intuitive, so go nuts here.  Anything that MIGHT work, put it on the list and let’s try it.  Early on, we figured we’d try Facebook ads…3000+ fans later, it was a smashing success.  We’re looking at LinkedIn ads now…just evaluating it.  Did you know that you can advertise directly to the LinkedIn group that specializes in your breed or type of horses?  Or to people that like your breed and live in your state?  One more surprisingly successful tactic…Craig’s List.  We’ve had clients put their horses on Craig’s List and get a spike of 200+ visitors to their site the next day.  What about a radio interview?  Why not write an article about your breed or farm for a local magazine?  What else haven’t you tried?  Where do you go to find things to buy?

Okay, good.  We have our new strategy.  We’re out of the rut.  Let’s give it a whirl and meet back here to do it again in a few weeks.

You May Have Duplicate Websites And Not Know It

Horse Head ImageHorse Head ImageA lot of people have two different versions of their website and they don’t even know it.  I’m talking about the difference between www.mydomain.com and just plain ol’ mydomain.com.  Try it out right now.  If you go to your domain without a www, does it forward you to the www version?  Or visa versa?  If not, Google may be punishing you in search results for “duplicate content”.  Sometimes it’s smart enough to figure it out, but sometimes it isn’t.

Here’s a quick test to see if you’re likely having issues:
1. Go to www.google.com
2. Search for “site:mydomain.com”
3. Check the results.

Obviously change “mydomain.com” to your domain and don’t put the quotes in.  By putting “site:” in front, you’re telling google to only search your domain.  Do you see the same pages listed twice, once with and once without the “www”?  Does the result count match the page count of your site, or does it seem high?  If it’s high, you may have some pages out there that you don’t link to anymore, but Google still indexes…or you may have duplicate content.

So, what’s the fix?  Many domain registrars, like GoDaddy, offer free domain forwarding service.  So you can tell it to automatically redirect from yourdomain.com to www.yourdomain.com.  If you don’t see that option, there are technical ways to tell Google to permanently redirect (sometimes called a 301 redirect), but it’s a bit too advanced to go into here.  You may be able to contact your domain registrar or hosting provider and ask them to fix it for you.

Incidentally, if you’re a Punk Horse client…don’t worry about it.  We got it covered. :)

Google Is Crazy Smart

The number one question we get asked about here at Punk Horse is, “How do I get higher in Google search results?”  So, let’s talk about it, shall we?

There are two pieces to our advice.  Let’s get the simple one out of the way.  Here it is: Don’t try to outsmart Google.  That’s it.  More and more, Google is punishing websites that try to rig the system.  We’ve found that keyword stuffing, cramming every word someone might search for into your page somewhere, is the most common way people try to get traffic to their site.  It used to work.  Not so much now.  Check out the Google Blog post just a few days ago talking about the new algorithms to punish sites that try to rig the system.  The other thing people like to use are “meta tags”, which sometimes can be helpful for telling search engines what to display for your synopsis, etc. but it has NO effect on search engine rankings anymore.

So, what are we to do then if the usual tricks don’t work?  That brings us to our second piece of advice.  Work on your content.  Make it incredibly clear what it is you’re offering and make sure you do it in a way that would be helpful to someone trying to find you.  Now, we hate it when bloggers make these broad generalized statements and then walk away, so…let’s get down to some practical advice here.

Check this out.  We did a Google search for “dressage barns in california”.  Look at the results below.  Pay special attention to the words that Google has bolded in the results.

Google Screenshot

Wait…what?  But we didn’t search for “training” or “lessons”…why is it highlighting those words as if we did?  See this post title for the answer to that question.

So, ask yourself, what would you search for if you were trying to find yourself in Google?  Maybe “arabian horses for sale”?  Maybe “calf roping lessons”?  Maybe “horse boarding”?  Or even “arabian horses for sale in kentucky”?  Now that you have your list, go look and see if those phrases appear on your website anywhere.  There is a difference between “…we offer several varieties of training…blah blah blah…bring your horse over today…”, which contains all of the keywords, and “we offer the widest variety of horse training in California”.  Now you have “horse training in California” right on your site and will more likely come up in searches for that phrase.

There’s a lot more to search engine optimization, which we’ll cover in future posts, but this is THE biggest thing to get right.

Bonus Tip: Google gives more weight to keywords towards the top of the page and when they’re in header tags.  If you can do that in a way that makes sense for your site, all the better.