By now, just about every small business owner, whether in a horse business or otherwise, knows that a website is pretty much a necessity. Not only will a properly optimized website help you climb the ladder of search engine results pages, but your would-be customers downright expect you to have one.
The truth is, nothing gives your company the chance to shine like a beautiful website chock full of great content. The good news for equipreneurs and equestrian professionals is that a few small tweaks can go a long way towards giving your horse website a serious boost.
Of course first and foremost, you should be sure to include the basics on your website. This includes information such as your business name, address, phone number, and e-mail address as well as information on your services. But standing out from the crowd is really what we’re after. Here are 5 creative upgrades you can make to your horse website that will help you do just that.
One of the most helpful, yet oftentimes most underutilized tools available to just about anyone with a website is a blog. Your blog, if you have one (if you don’t – tsk tsk – get one set up!) can be used for far more than just the occasional announcement, and it’s far easier than you might think to manage. Give your horse website a boost by using a blog as an opportunity to communicate more about your horse business as a brand. I believe that just about any bit of great content that doesn’t need it’s very own dedicated page on a site can – and should – be turned into a blog post. It’s a fantastic way to get more out of your website without cluttering the navigation or slowing down the user experience.
On this blog for RME Show Stables, head trainer Ryan Miller posts horse show results, introduces new team members, welcomes new horses to the training program, and much more. These posts give existing customers a place to see their hard work featured, and the nature of a blog makes it easy for those customers to then share the posts to their own social following. Would-be customers and window shoppers can better tell if the business is a good fit for them because blogs give them a window into the day-to-day world of a particular horse business. In Ryan’s case, every one of his sale and lease horses gets it’s own post as well, allowing him to display much more than the short blurbs normally found on sales pages. Bonus Tip: Use categories to organize your posts. In Ryan’s case, all posts about sales/lease horses are added to the “Sales” category and displayed on it’s own page which visitors can access from the main navigation.
Don’t let blogging intimidate you! As you can see on the example above, Ryan’s posts are short and sweet. Most blogging platforms can even accept posts via e-mail, so they can be made on the fly. I’ll be posting more on this in the weeks to come, so follow my “blogging basics” category closely for more tips.
First Impressions Matter
If you’re short on words, don’t be short on visuals. This is one area of a website that deserves some serious investment. That investment doesn’t have to be in dollars, but it does deserve some of your time. Visual content is the online equivalent of a first impression. Put your best foot forward! You don’t need to pay for professional photos, though that is always a great option if you want to be sure to get fabulous results. But try and go a little further than just a fuzzy old photo taken in bad light. These days, many cell phones feature fantastic cameras. Take advantage of this advanced technology, and shoot some photos of your facility. Lauren Mauldin over at one of my favorite horsey blogs has a whole category on equine photography featuring posts like this one on timing over fences. Check it out for some great tips on taking great horse photos!
Videos are a great addition to your website as well. Try using a widget to display your horse business’ YouTube Channel on a dedicated page by using a tool like TubePress that has free and low cost options available.
Bonus Alert: I’ll be offering subscribers some exclusive tips from an amazing professional horse show photographer in the very near future! Subscribe so you don’t miss it.
As you’ll quickly discover here at Big Bay Social, social media is a big deal. I mean, it’s in our name! I really believe social can make or break a business, especially one that is just getting started and working to build a solid reputation and make a name for itself (Hello! Big Bay Social again!) The thing is, I don’t just believe that social is key, I know it. I’ve seen what it can do for a business, and also how it can work against one if done incorrectly.
If you don’t already have the standard social media properties established for your business, that’s step one. In this blog post that I wrote for Phoenix, Arizona based digital marketing firm BizIQ, I discuss three easy steps you can take towards getting started on Facebook. Most of that advice applies to all of your social media properties – Be thorough, be beautiful, and above all, be present.
Once you’re set up with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – my three favorite properties for a growing business- you’re ready to sync these to your website. First and foremost, make sure to provide easy, visible links for your website visitors to follow. Your page header, footer, or side bar are three great places for these buttons to go. Right here on Big Bay Social, you’ll see a Facebook widget on the top of my side bar, making it easy for my visitors to like my Facebook page without even leaving the site. As a growing blog, I’m trying to focus on building my Facebook following (so click “like” for me right now!)
Using RME Show Stables’ site as an example again, you can see that they’ve also included a page featuring an application that displays their social media activity from several of their properties. Visitors can interact with their social content right from the website, and share from there as well. In short, make sure social media is properly integrated into your website in order to make it easier on your visitors to click “like” and “share”!
Put Your Horse Website to Work – Monetize!
It has never been easier to make your website work for you. Monetizing your site does not have to mean a complicated network of affiliates or ad displays. It can be as simple as setting up a basic shopping cart system on your site and offering a product or two. With some of today’s building platforms, this is as easy as clicking a button or installing a plugin.
Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to offer your customers the convenient option of making their board payments right on the website by using a simple PayPal button. Some barns also let students purchase lesson packages right on the site too – a great idea as we head into the holidays!
But why not take it one step further and make your students feel like members of an exclusive team by offering branded apparel for sale? From baseball caps, t-shirts, and polo shirts to insulated mugs, director’s chairs and more, branded apparel and products give your customers a way to feel like a part of something special and exclusive, while promoting your brand within your community each time they use one of your products. The best part is that this does not have to involve a huge investment on the front end. In fact, with the rise of drop ship printers like Cafepress that allow you to design, sell, and ship your products right from their website, you don’t even need to have an inventory on hand.
Pro tip: if you truly want to make any kind of money with this, you’ll want to consider investing in a small inventory of products, as drop shippers usually take a pretty big chunk of the sale price off of the top before you see a single penny.
One of my favorite examples of successful monetization is a barn that had a recommended dress code for students attending shows and clinics. They offered color coordinated, branded polo shirts for sale right on their website, and they even offered discount codes for students who purchased these products the week before a big show!
There are endless tweaks and upgrades that can take your website from run-of-the-mill to a community building, reputation enhancing power tool. I’ll be posting about my favorite ideas, and sharing examples of those enhancements in action frequently! Stay tuned.
Do you have a website, blog and/or social media accounts for your horse business? Share the links in the comments and help spread the love! I’ll check them out, give you a “like” or a follow. You never know, some of you may even wind up featured here on Big Bay Social!
Full disclosure: I train with Ryan Miller at RME Show Stables, and consulted on his website. I also work with BizIQ. I am not affiliated with any other brand or company mentioned in this post.