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Oklahoma Wine News Blog Origin

Oklahoma Wine News Blog

 

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A small but shrinking number of people have emailed me asking for details about how and why I started a weblog on the unlikely subject of Oklahoma wine news. After answering several individual emails, I decided to post the answers online.

Question: Why did you start blogging? 

The Short Answer is that my wife Dianne and I operate a small business providing web sites and related services to local wineries and my parents own one of Oklahoma's first local wineries (Nuyaka Creek Winery). The market niche for promoting Oklahoma wineries is quite small and since most Oklahoma winery owners are family businesses, they don't have a lot of money to spend on advertising and marketing. Despite the size of the market, these small wineries needed low cost ways to announce festivals, banquets, benefit fundraisers and other wine tasting events to a public audience.

We started the Oklahoma Wine News blog with a number of goals.

1. Encourage attendance to any and all Oklahoma wine events.

2. Create 'one-stop shopping' for Oklahoma area wine lovers and wine tourism enthusiasts.

3. Improve knowledge sharing between the major players in the Oklahoma wine industry.

4. Eliminate a number of problems by replacing our email newsletter with an RSS Feed.

5. Increase the LOCAL traffic to Nuyaka Creek Winery.

 

 

The Longer Answer – Now With Humiliating Details!

Since we first created the website for Nuyaka Creek Winery, we tried to publish as much content as possible. We hoped the content would be keyword rich enough to attract search engine traffic because we knew that ad buys would be few and far between. 

Although blogging seemed like a good fit for our content-based strategy, I was skeptical about putting too much stake in a relatively new technology. However, when the winery newsletter exploded, I knew something had to change.

My hosting provider’s basic web package included some web email accounts and a web based mailing list manager. Although it was cumbersome and lacking in a number of critical features, I used it anyway because it was free. I, like most Okies, cannot resist anything that is free.

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When I originally configured Nuyaka Creek’s mailing list, I made it strictly one way. I tested it to make sure that subscribers could neither see, nor email to the other members of the list. This worked fine for many months…then one day it failed miserably without warning.

One member replied to their newsletter with something very brief like ‘where can I buy tickets?’ and it went out to the whole list. Lots of subscribers then reply to the message saying that they got the reply by mistake. Each time they reply, they broadcast their own email address to the whole list and generate a new round of helpful subscribers pointing out the error. Now you have the beginning of a cruel circle that eventually ends with many lost subscribers, a dead email subscribers list and a shocking number of colorful remarks about me that I won’t share.

After that horrible fiasco, I was ready to try something new. The new solutions had some difficult constraints to overcome. It needed to be subscriber controlled, where they could be confident their privacy was not at risk.

I also needed the ability to update it daily, without annoying people with more inbox clutter. I wanted all of the postings to be archived online. I wanted to offer the headlines as an RSS Feed that anyone could add to their site. I wanted some assurance that phishers wouldn’t use my credibility to con my subscribers.

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Question: Has it met your original objectives? How?

I think blogging has been a very effective tool in achieving our goals.  Many Oklahoma wineries send us notifications of new events they are hosting or attending.  Traffic to my parent's winery website, VineByDesign.com and the Oklahoma Wine News blog have been rising steadily.  The search engine results page ranking on our sites is pretty good, considering we spend NO money for placement or links from anyone.

New wineries are contacting us for winery promotion jobs. The number of winery website customers that VineByDesign.com handled tripled in the first year of blogging. The blog’s RSS News Feed and Atom News Feed makes our events more easily accessible than ever before and the blog has been successful in making our website traffic more regional rather than global. This is important for tourism related sites like ours.

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Question: Have your blogging objectives evolved? Do they continue to be met?

Shortly after establishing the blog, we decided to try and make it carry its own costs through advertising and referral sales of books and stuff. That appears to be going well, as it brings in a few hundred bucks per quarter to cover expenses. 

Wine tourists are eager to discover good wine and 'The Good Life'. Along the way they expect to find charming restaurants, lodging and a mix of shops and recreational activities. We may not be all the way there yet, but Oklahoma wineries are already stimulating an enticing new alternative economy to grow. In the future, we hope the Oklahoma Wine News blog will help bring business people work together to create a sustainable Oklahoma Wine Country for tourists to enjoy.

My latest objective is to get some local winery owners posting their events and observations directly rather than contacting me. That is going much more slowly.

Check out a recent article from the Spring 2007 issue of My Business Asset. To learn how we can help your Oklahoma winery or vineyard Make the web work for you.

 

Question: What have been the biggest challenges you have faced?

The two biggest challenges would have to be coming up with daily news to post and explaining to folks what a blog is and why they should care.  2010 UPDATE: Blogger was the service provider I used for my blog, in 2010 they forced my to move my content onto their servers or end my blog.  This cost me many hours of work and has had a very bad impact on the Google Page Rank and the traffic arriving to my blog.  Thanks for nothing, Blogger!


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Question: How did you overcome those challenges?

I began to realize from my emails and comments that many of my readers were winery owners and vineyard workers. I also noticed I was getting Google traffic from folks interested in learning more about the wine business in general. I regularly post links and articles concerning wine industry business practices, legal issues, financing and vineyard management. This helps make daily blogging easier. To increase the understanding of blogs and RSS feeds, I have contributed to a number of online articles about blogging for business. 

Question: What is your major source of content?

Our website customers provide the best information and see the cross-posting their events on Oklahoma Wine News, in addition to their own website, as a value added service we provide. Blog aggregators like BlogLines.com are also rich sources of topical content. Since many blogs have rather abstract names, the keyword search functions of services like technorati and bloglines are helpful as well. 

 
 

Question: Why would a customer or wine critic want to read your blog?

To be informed about upcoming wine festivals, vineyard training events, new local winery websites and new local wine business opportunities. you can get all of this from our blog without spending a cent or risking your personal information.

Wine critics can feel free to read my blog with the clear knowledge that we are not competitors. I write my blog from the perspective that taste is pretty subjective. This is why I don't rank, rate or rant about the quality of one wine as opposed to another. I judge people by meeting them and wines by drinking them and I recommend that policy to others as well.

Tasting most Oklahoma wines requires visiting the wineries that produce them, so I would hope that both critics and consumers of Oklahoma wines would want to read my blog to find out what Oklahoma wine country has to offer them! 

 
 

Question: How do you benefit from reading other small business blogs?

I get great ideas from a number of cool small business focused blogs...and sometimes they link to my blog! I learned about a very useful blogging tool called FeedBurner from the Research Buzz Blog.  

Question: What are your favorite blogs? Why?

JOHO The Blog - http://www.hyperorg.com/blogger/

Top notch blogging pioneer David Weinberger always makes me think.

Small Business Trends - http://smallbusinesses.blogspot.com/

This site's PowerBlog Reviews section examines other successful business weblogs in detail. Watch for terrific examples of using blogs to promote small businesses.

Another nice local blog I enjoy.

Blog Oklahoma - http://www.blogoklahoma.com/

This blog keeps tabs on the growing number of Oklahoma based blogs. It is an excellent source for potential link partners and regional information.

Blog Business World - http://www.blogbusinessworld.blogspot.com/

Wayne Hurlbert’s blog has been a useful site for helping me learn blogging since I started.

 

 
 

Question: What advice to have for others thinking about starting a small business blog? 

Effective websites have clear goals. Typically, websites seek to: send traffic to a traditional business, capture online product sales, or simply to deliver information quickly and cheaply. Decide what you are trying to do, before you begin.

Keeping a blog is a simple, inexpensive way to build a community of friends and colleagues. ANY business can benefit from that! Find multiple authors, so the quest for daily updates doesn't kill you. Make certain your small business blog is included in the blog directories. Allow...no pray, for comments. It means people read and care about what you write. Growth is slow but steady, so start today!

Use tools like Technorati to know who is referring traffic to your blog. Developing a long list of backlinks will go faster, if you pay attention to who is linking to you and then link back to their sites. Use your link building efforts to develop online alliances that lead to powerful strategic partnerships. There is a reason why almost every community in America has a Chamber of Commerce...they work!

40% of Americans dream of starting their own business, that means that a good many of your website's visitors are likely to be seeking information about how they can start a similar business. Old school tactics would have your jealously guard every business insight you come up with. The new way is to share your knowledge freely, then use it to build industry credibility and to draw in more traffic. - Thomas P. Jones

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