(WBC Post 6) Top Wine Bloggers Offer Tips to Improve Your Blog

Blog Tips: 2 Conferences, 2 Continents


Saturday afternoon we had two sessions focusing on blogging in the wine business with transportable ideas to other areas of blogging and three topics each to choose from:

1:30 PM  Breakout Session I
Increasing Visitors to Your Blog (Flamingo Room)
Beyond Blogging – New Technologies and Social Media (Courtyard 1)
Wine Blogger Credibility (Courtyard 2)

2:45 PM  Breakout Session II
Making Money from Your Blog (Flamingo Room)
Blogging For Your Wine Business (Courtyard 1)
Wine Blogger & Industry Interaction (Courtyard 2)

It took me a few minutes to collect myself and my laptop and my iced coffee after the drive back from Quivira so I was a bit late for the start of “Increasing Visitors to Your Blog” by Tom Wark’s Fermentation and Alder Yarrow of Vinography and arrived for number 6 of Tom’s Top 10 Ways to Increase Traffic to Your Blog.

From my notes of Tom’s words with some of my commentary:

why do you deserve to be on their blogroll? make sure they are on yours
email the dude—make a list of 100 blogs you want to be on

#7 look for non-wine blogs which might be interested in your post
major blogs—posting 30-40 a day will pick up your post if they can figure out how to–they are RAVENOUS for material…do you just email them? how do you hook them I wonder

#8 link baiting –creating a post which people will want to link to
use surveys, top 10 lists (controversial), interview w/heavyweight, Tom has the American Wine Blog Awards—take nominations, do strategic blogging

#9 answer every single comment
so that people see you’re engaged in your community—Alder says he can’t underscrore this enough –gotta repay that effort. And email. Say thank you—pay them back. Most traffics are those which generate conversation—and you have to participate.

#10 use social networking tools
open wine consortium  for example

Today there are maybe more blogs but there are more eyeballs, too, they point out.

From Alder:

1) blogroll—recipricol linking works until it doesn’t
he has 400-500 links! so he moved them to a singe page

2) writing good content is the #1 way to increase traffic and the only way that matters

3) understand how google works: it sucks up your site and looks for tags: description, keywords—to site and to the page, the title of page and tile of blog as well as text tells google what it’s about, pays attention to headers, what links w/in pointing out, and coming in tells how important (generates page rank 0-10 download google tool bar and it will show rank of pages visited—also on firefox plugin)
70% of traffic from search engines

4) be sure you are listed on various directories and search engines—submit to get listed

  • consider: what you title your article is what google will think it is
  • search google webmaster guidelines and follow them all
  • sitemap??? WP? Xml doc for google to read
  • rss fed—make sure you publish it (check–is mine?)
  • email newsletter—subscribe with links to articles
  • participate in blog events like wine blogging weds link baits
  • make sure out going links are concise and complete

5) traffic doesn’t matter since you can’t make a living or quit your day job (read his post on his site)

6) so figure out your reasons why you do this—

  • enjoy it
  • to practice being a good writer–10,000 hours of practice in order to be competent—
  • to prove you can do it

For Snooth’s presentation on Monetizing your blog, I direct you to the Snooth site which has the presentation on their blog!

Essentially, to monetize your blog you will need to work your butt off selling ads yourself or with a dedicated sales team or by finding affiliates or doing contextual ads or by some other creative method which may not be invented yet… But there is money to be made, as Gary Vaynerchuk said in the opening address, and someone is going to be making it so why not you?

Mid-presentation I took a stroll and found the session by someone important from Stormhoek (but not Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void–he was at Blog 08 with other Rock Stars of the web in Amsterdam where he reportedly said “Blogs aren’t dead, people are!”) and drew this cool cartoon photographed by Anne Helmond…

photo by Anne Helmond

cartoon by Hugh McLeod; photo by Anne Helmond

Here are some of the main points:

  • using social media for brand identification
  • social media makes everything happen quicker
  • branding arc moves fast–up and down
  • the market makes us smarter

Jason from Stormhoek used lots of cartoons and one-liners by Hugh McLeod to illustrate his points like this one:

So tell me something interesting about yourself.  Lie if you have to. Hugh McLeod

What’s the story? Traditional wine story: Where it came from. Who.  Everybody tells the same story to argue why theirs is so good. It’s only about me the producer. Droning on about the same stuff. Same discussion all over the world.

What a lovely grain of sand you are. Too bad you’re lying on the beach. Hugh McLeod.

It’s a sea of sameness and we expect them (consumers) to study our product enough to understand what we’re talking about. So how to use 2.0 to DE-commodify yourself and create a unique product? when we all have the same social lubricant–wine–to sell?

Social media can disrupt the status quo because the costs of publishing is next to zero. So how to subvert?
Impact the info silos—distribution/communication and regulation of info.

Social media allows the winery to directly communicate with the consumer and bypass layers of gatekeepers between the winemaker and the drinker.

How to engage people and create grassroots interest in the brand?

Stormhoek hosted wine dinners by offering to consumers to sponsor a dinner and they’d hook up people with the wine. 100 days, 100 dinners was the goal and they had 90 attended by 4-5000 people, ultimately changing the  conversation about wine.

How to harness social media? If you wanna have a cool product you gotta do cool shit!
1. Great product a given
2. It’s even more important for having a reason for being: a purpose.
3. Start a conversation
4  Use all the tools/toys/play try it see what happens
5. A global microbrand can be created online and at little cost. It’s about creativity not budget.

Can’t look at direct return on investment—it’s longterm brand building.

So there you have it in 1100 words–some of the highlights of blogging conferences on two continents during the same weekend!

Whew. Now really to increase my page views, I should have broke this down to 4 posts averaging 250 words each as seems to be the common practice…

Upcoming: commentary on this social media report–“FEED: The Razorfish Consumer Experience Report”

(WBC Post 5) Biodynamic & mostly organic Quivera

Biodynamic & mostly organic: Quivira

Saturday morning I packed up and left my sweet zin suite at the Flamingo Hotel to jump on a shuttle with other attendees of the First Wine Bloggers Conference for a hike through the wine country…except I watched the shuttles head off into the morning without me.

Fortunately, I could jump on my cell and talk with organizer Allan Wright who sent me to Quivira, and since I had both a car and Quivira marketing director Nancy’s card, I was set with a quick call from her for directions. Off I went down the chill autumn, chasing after the van, and dodging bicycles on the back roads of Sonoma County’s Dry Valley Creek Road until I found myself pulling into the idyllic, picturesque barnyard setting of Quivira, chickens, solar panels, and all.

Farmer and winemaker Steve Canter was at work with the dozen or so bloggers, explaining biodynamics and homeopathy and everything else under the sun including cleansing and purification rituals he uses (go for the power of the earth, Steve!!).

And then we went for a lovely walk, visiting goats, and Ruby the pig, and picking grapes off the vines (my favs were the old zins of course), looping along unusually dry Wine Creek to Dry Valley Creek, both which eventually feed into the Russian River, then under a fig tree, and up a ridge planted in zin and down along the olive trees to the barn.

Steve and Nancy tag teamed a bit, telling stories about the vines, the wines, and the processes both of biodynamics and organics in practice here. Of particular interest to me was how they are healing Wine Creek by building weirs to slow down the water to create better habitat for steelhead and other native species practically wiped out by the previous channelization and control of the creek.

Approved Biodynamic wineries like Quivera can use this seal

Approved Biodynamic wineries like Quivera can use this seal

The idea behind biodynamics seems an obvious one: in order for a wine to reflect the land where it came from, it needs to be fed as much as possible by an integrated series of local, native, natural influences. That means Continue reading

(WBC Post 4) An Armload of New Zealand Pinot Noirs

Wine Blogger’s Conference: After Zin, Comes New Zealand Vin

Unfortunately, my sweet suite at the Wine Bloggers Conference at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa was going to charge me to get on line so I poured myself a glass of Mauritson’s Rockpile 2006 Zin (which I liked even better than the reserve–not as “fruity” but more cherry and better structure and balance and depth), grabbed my MacBook Pro and some crackers, and wandered back into the lobby which had quieted down significantly save for the music blasting “Brick House” from the bar. I used the code from my Wine Bloggers Conference Welcome packet and got right on.

I didn’t stay on for long, certainly not long enough to get a post written or an email sent, as I struck up a conversation with three gentlemen with some open wine bottles across the lobby, and quickly found myself on their couch with a sample of a New Zealand Pinot Noir in my glass–something completely different than the zins in the sweet suite or the Aussie shiraz I spent the summer drinking!

I found myself in the presence of David Strada, New Zealand wine guy, who had organized a wine tasting of New Zealand wines which went on while I was in the sweet zin sweet snacking on cheese and crackers. Next thing I knew, I was in the presence of a roomful of New Zealand wines, with permission to swoop up any that interested me–but I had to do it quick!

I didn’t even try to think–I just walked past all those tempting whites and headed for the pinot noirs–after sampling what was on the table in the lobby, I had to try more!

I grabbed pinot noirs by Wild Earth, Forrest Estate, and Wooleston, plus a syrah by…(oh, no I don’t remember now! Trinity Hill maybe?)

“Good choices!” said David. “We have a nice selection of wines on the table, a selection from the different wine growing regions of New Zealand–the Wild Earth from Otago, Forrest Estate from Marlborough, and Wooleston from Nelson. Did you know that? How did you choose them?”

“Well, I liked the label on the Wild Earth,” I admitted.

Award Winning Wild Earth Pinot Noir

Award Winning Wild Earth Pinot

“Yes, Americans do like that one,” he said with a smile. Continue reading

(WBC Post 3) Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels: the more the merrier!

Zinfandel Heaven

So there I was, in the Grand Ballroom of the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa at the Wine Bloggers Conference, surrounded by empty dinner plates, empty dessert bowls, empty wine glasses and empty wine bottles.

My stomach too was empty. But the hotel was full, full, full, as full as the bellies in the banquet room.

What’s a gal to do?

Get in a conversation with Leslie who reps the Dry Creek Valley wines, of course, and get invited back to their hospitality suite and load up on crackers, cheese, grapes, nuts, chocolate, and–most importantly for a budding wine blogger–lots and lots and lots of Dry Creek Valley ZINS!

“Bring a glass–we’re all out!” she urged.

I followed her through the swarms of wine bloggers, across the lobby, passed the bar with a funk and r&b band blaring, through the courtyard and around the pool toward a banner proclaiming “Dry Creek Valley Vineyards” or some such. Inside, two tables were laden with 2 dozen or more half full wines, and another table held the promised cheese and other munchies. Where to start first?

I set my bag with my laptop down and staring me in the face was a bottle of Mauritson 2005 Growers Reserve Zinfandel so I started there. Only 257 cases were produced of this 15.5 alc wine with plenty of fruit and zin attitude to stand up to the alcohol. Ahhh, finally, heaven, zinfandel heaven. And for a wine lover who cut her teeth on Ridge Zinfandel, it really was.

I felt positively schizophrenic, manic even, trying to decide what to do and doing everything at once: drink? eat? help them pack up? do all at the same time and stay out of the way?

It didn’t really matter though, with all those beautiful wines waiting…wines which unfortunately were getting packed up quicker than I drove up here. My day was just starting–but Leslie’s very busy day was about done!

“Here, take some,” she urged. “Taste them tonight at your leisure!”

I grabbed some bottles, more or less randomly since they all sounded great, and she threw in more: “Dutcher Creek, you have to have this. And you liked the Mauritson? You have to have this Rockpile. Oh and this Quivira, and this Red Rooster was poured at dinner, you missed that, and …”

Next thing I knew there were quite a few bottles and we were scrambling for a box to put them in, as well as packing up the food, and collecting information about all the wines and Dry Creek Valley’s various vineyards.

“Have you checked into your room?” asked Leslie as my pile of goods grew greater.

“No,” I admitted, “this was all so last minute I don’t have a reservation. I can go stay with my nephew in Berkeley if I don’t have much more to drink, or try to find some place close by.”

Next thing I knew, she was handing me a room key card!

Heaven–Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is your name!

(WBC Post 2) Gary Vaynerchuk’s advice: how to make $100,000

WBC: Gary Vaynerchuk’s keynote “How To Make $100,000 Blogging”

At the last minute I heard from organizer Allan Wright that I could get into the (busting at the seams full!) First Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa, California. I arrived right in the middle of Gary Vaynerchuk’s keynote address–and watched the plates get cleared, the creme brulee served, and the port poured…for everyone but me as I stood on the sidelines and drooled. No clean glasses in sight for water or wine–either one would have worked for me after the 7 hour long drive. Admittedly, Allan had warned me there might not be a seat at a table or food for me, but my goodness, I did expect to find a glass of wine while I listened to Gary’s enthusiastic address!

While some of the conference was devoted exclusively to wine, quite a few of the ideas transport easily to other on-line communities, and I will focus on those ideas here.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk’s claims to fame are broad and bold–at least in the world of blogging, and especially wine blogging. His bio on his site says:

On February 21, 2006, Gary launched Wine Library TV (WLTV), a free daily video blog in which Gary tastes and reviews wines.  Gary made television appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and The Ellen Degeneres Show, and he has garnered widespread media recognition including features by the LA Times and Washington Post. In February and March of 2008, Gary became increasingly known throughout the Web 2.0 community. His remarks on branding within the social media landscape at FOWA, Strategic Profits, and South By Southwest occasioned praise from established web denizens including Kathy Sierra and earned the admiration of countless bloggers and aspiring entrepreneurs. Gary even made headlines with an impromptu free wine party during South by Southwest.

At the Wine Bloggers Conference, Gary suggests that

10-20% of our time as bloggers should be spent building community.

That means visiting other bloggers and leaving comments etc. Where to find the time? a winemaker asked. Stop looking at your stats, he joked, and cut back more on sleep, he said not kidding.

Now I don’t imagine that winemaker spends much time on the naval gazing phenomena of so-called “stats analysis” (at least that’s how I justify my time there!) We all have the same challenge of figuring out how to prioritize the amount of time in the day we are each allotted–24 hours, no way of cheating on that.

In order to have a healthy developing, growing blog with more and more readers, he argued, we must participate in our communities.

And we must blog regularly–at least once every day. As I reported in an earlier post, he asked how many blog. Of the 200 or so people there, about 160-180 people raised their hands. When he asked how many post daily, with daily defined as 5 days a week, only about 10 hands were raised, with my hand one of them. I try to post every day, and to have almost as many posts as there are days in a month. I have found the more often I post, the more traffic I get, and I’ve been able to develop an audience of both new and regular readers and 30,500 page views over this, my first year of blogging (my first blogoversary is election day!)

People perked up quite a bit when he talked about monetizing blogs.

Any wine blogger can make six figures in ad revenue in 2009, claims Gary Vaynerchuk.

Note that he didn’t say EVERY wine blogger can make six figures in 2009. Note that he didn’t say it would be easy. It’s not easy. It’s a lot of work making $100,000 a year blogging–the drinking of wine may be a breeze but selling advertising is not. He suggests bloggers make cold calls or cold emails and sell ads on their sites.

If a potential client doesn’t get social media, then move on–don’t bother arguing with someone who is going to get left behind. Instead find those who do get social media, and cultivate that relationship. Many people in all industries are misspending their marketing budgets, using pre-web 2.0 models. It is up to us to figure out ways to sell space and pimp ads on our sites, and in the process, change the way the world does business.

Blogging is the greenest way to advertise.

Important questions for any blogger to consider include:

  • what’s your goal with your blog?

  • what do you want out of it?

  • global or regional?

  • how can I mix it up?

  • what’s my “real” job?

  • how can I kick ass and create cool shit?

Next up: Adventures with Dry Creek Valley Zins and what to do when alone in a roomful of New Zealnd wines? Scoop them up! (Let’s hope I don’t get in too much trouble for revealing these secrets from the First Wine Bloggers Conference!)

(WBC Post 1) Wine Predator Drinks Up 1st Wine Bloggers Conference

Wine Predator Drinks Up 1st Wine Bloggers Conference

I’m drinking an iced coffee on a warm sunny day in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, from the lobby of the Flamingo Hotel, host of the First Wine Bloggers Conference and watching cases of wine roll by which they are opening rapidy as they set up for the next tasting of Sonoma wines.

Wine bloggers wander around a bit dazed; the women all seem to be drinking coffee as we all gear up for more wine! I seem to be the only person publicly bloggging; maybe people are in their rooms writing but I doubt it. Last night when Gary Vaynerchuk gave the keynote, he asked how many people in the room have a blog and most of them raised their hands–probably 150 of the 180 people in the room. But when he asked how often people post, only 10 of us post 5 or more times a week. (And yes, I was one of the 10!)

Since I drove in last night (in the new wonderful soon to be written up car!), I have tasted 10 or so Zinfandels from the Dry Creek Valley,  tasted a half dozen wines from New Zealand, walked through the organic and biodynamic winery Quivera with the winemaker Steve Cantor,  enjoyed an incredible lunch of local foods and venison navy bean soup and Quivera wines, and followed by two breakout sessions. My head swims with wine and wine words.

Adventures and details to follow soon–after I taste some more Sonoma County wines! After that, we have dinner tonight at Sebastiani with keynote speaker Alice Feiring author The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization which I recently devoured and can’t recommend highly enough!

Am having a fantabulous time–wish you were here!

P.S. Since they ran out of nametags, I get to wear my Lettre Sauvage letterpress beautiful card around my neck!!