In these uncertain times, creating new revenue streams can be a great way to sure up your farm's income. Jonathan Birch is Creative Director at Glass Digital, an SEO and digital marketing agency. In this article, he shares three techniques you can use to market your diversified farm projects in the digital sphere.
Even just a few years ago, the last thing most people would expect to find on the average British farm would be a boutique hotel, or herds of exotic livestock like llamas and alpacas for hire. But, with high energy costs, low food prices, and Brexit all taking their toll on the industry, that's exactly what many modern farmers are offering, with figures from Defra showing that two in three farms have now diversified into non-agricultural business projects.
Clearly, diversification is the new normal for the majority of British farms. But, if you're expanding your operations into new and unfamiliar projects, you might be wondering how you're going to successfully market them — especially if you don't have much experience outside traditional farming techniques.
Fortunately, in the digital age, there are now more ways than ever to market your diversification project online. Here, I'll share three strategies you can use to get the word out, from creating a good ecommerce site, to using onsite optimisation to drive online traffic.
Create a separate website for your diversification project…
Whatever your farm diversification project, it's a good idea to set up a website that's separate to the one you use for your primary farming operations. After all, it's likely that you'll be targeting a completely different audience, so it only makes sense to create a different site to allow you to do this as effectively as possible.
If you'll be selling produce or other products through your website, then you'll want to set up a good ecommerce site so your customers can place orders online. This should have a clear, well-organised navigation menu, and any essential information — like delivery, returns, and contact details — should be easy to find from any page. And, naturally, it should look great too, with plenty of professional-quality photographs and branding that will appeal to your target demographic. If you run a tourist operation — like a hotel, holiday lets, or farm experiences — then make sure your site has an online booking system in place so guests can book directly through your website.
…and optimise it for your key terms
Once you've got a great website up and running, you can start optimising it to help drive sales. The aim of search engine optimisation (or SEO) is to get your website to rank highly on the search engine results page (SERP) for the keywords that are most relevant to your products or services, drawing organic traffic to your site. While it’s not an exact science, and it can take some time before you see results, SEO can be a very powerful tool for driving sales. So, you'll certainly want to devote a good chunk of your marketing budget to onsite optimisation.
This is usually done by optimising onsite content to include the right words or phrases. For example, if you sell organic produce, you might aim to rank highly for 'organic veg box delivery service'. Or, if you've diversified into tourism or run a business that depends on local custom — like a café or farm shop — then you may want to focus on local search terms, as your target customers are more likely to search using location-specific keywords. For instance, if you run holiday lets, a campsite, or agritourism experiences, then you're probably going to see the most benefit by targeting keywords like 'holiday cottages in [area]', or 'farm days in [county]'.
The simplest way to do this is to use lots of location-specific language in your onsite content, as this will help search engines like Google work out where you're located. Many local search keywords can be quite competitive so, for the best results, you'll want to use a professional SEO tool, like SEMrush, to discover the most popular keywords. Or, you could pay a professional SEO service to do this research and write your onsite copy for you.
Get listed online
If your aim is to attract local customers or tourists, then you'll definitely want to get listed on as many online directories and review platforms as possible. Signing up to sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp is a simple but effective way to spread the word about your business. Just be extra careful to make sure that your contact details are correct across all platforms.
Additionally, you'll also want to create and complete a Google My Business listing for your farm project if you haven't already. Doing this will allow searchers to quickly and easily access key information about your business right there on the SERP, like your location, opening hours, and even reviews. It will also ensure your business appears on Google Maps, which can be especially helpful for potential customers when you're located out in a rural area.
Filling out your My Business profile can benefit your site's SEO even further, too, as it will make your enterprise look more credible to search engines, boosting your rankings for those key search terms. For best results, be thorough when filling out your profile and include as much detail about your business as possible.
Whether you're diversifying into holiday lets, farm experience days, or even making and selling more artisanal products in a farm shop, there are plenty of tactics you can use to promote your new products and services online. Try using some of the strategies I've outlined here, and you should be on track to increase organic traffic to your site.