It can be intimidating to figure out how to set up and design a website for your winery. But having an online presence, and especially a website, is more important than ever. With the rise of e-commerce, DTC wine sales, and social media-focused branding, it’s vital that you create and maintain a modern, fresh website for your winery. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about how to set up your winery’s website, including an introduction to SEO basics and wine industry specific tips.
Table of Contents
- How to Set Up a Wine Website from Scratch
- An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization
- Convert New Visitors
How to Set Up a Wine Website from Scratch
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to explain the steps to set up a wine website from the very beginning. If you’ve already completed any of these steps, feel free to skip ahead to what’s applicable to you and your business.
Purchase Domain Name
In order to create a business website, you need a domain name. A domain name simply refers to the actual web address of the website you’re creating (e.g. goekos.com). There are a number of ways to purchase a domain name, including directly through your website hosting plan (see below). But to ensure that your domain name is easily transferable if you ever change website hosts, you should purchase your domain name through a third-party website such as Namecheap or GoDaddy. We recommend Namecheap for their affordable prices and commitment to privacy and security.
You can use the search engine built into most third-party domain name purchasing websites to research whether your preferred domain name is available for purchase. Don’t be surprised if the domain you’re looking for isn’t available. The proliferation of businesses with an online presence means that many desirable domain names have already been purchased. What makes a domain name desirable?
- It’s short. This is increasingly difficult as short domain names are few and far between.
- It’s memorable. Don’t make your customers guess at your website domain every time they want to visit your site.
- It’s accurate. The closer you can match your domain to your business’s name, the better.
- It has a .com top-level domain. A top-level domain (TLD) is the final portion of a web address, such as .com or .gov. In part due to the increasing scarcity of domain names, domain authorities have expanded the available TLDs. They range from the standard expected .org to unusual ones like .xyz or even .wine. These options can be a good choice for some businesses, but they’re best avoided for most. Though things are changing, most internet users still expect the standard .com ending for websites, which can cause problems for companies with unusual web addresses. For this reason alone, it’s a good idea to hold back on fancy endings for the time being.
- It fits within your budget. Domain names range anywhere from a couple of dollars per year to thousands of dollars. If you have the budget for it, there’s nothing wrong with paying more for a domain that better fits your brand. In fact, it’s probably a great investment. But if you don’t have a budget for it, rest assured that you should still be able to find something that fits.
Once you’ve picked out your domain, you can go ahead and purchase it. Make sure you set it up to auto-renew each year and sign up for domain privacy protection.
Now that you’ve purchased your website domain, you’re ready to move on to the next step: purchasing and setting up website hosting.
Purchase & Set Up Website Hosting
In order to operate your website, you need to purchase a hosting plan. A website host takes care of much of the back-end technical support needed for your website. They also provide the physical server infrastructure for your website — still very necessary despite the “cloud”.
There are many options for website hosting. Often the third-party website you purchase your domain from will offer some kind of hosting. It’s best to go with a company that specializes in hosting rather than one that offers it as an add-on service. And though cost is an important component to decision-making, it’s less important than quality here. A second-rate host could cost you far more in business disruption in the long run. It’s well worth the money to pay for a reliable, trustworthy host that can handle your website’s traffic without slowdown and provide high-quality email service as well.
We recommend SiteGround, which is known for their reliability and excellent customer service.
Once you’ve chosen your web host and signed up for the relevant hosting plan, it’s time to install your new domain on this host. If you just purchased your domain, the process is pretty simple. Go into your account settings with your domain name provider and find the section for servers. Then go to your hosting account and find the corresponding server addresses. You may have to hunt for this — check tutorials on how to transfer a domain to your host. The host server addresses should look something like this:
Once you find them, copy and paste them into the server sections on your domain name provider. This will “point” your domain name to your host, and after about 24 hours, you’ll be able to access your website.
If you already have a domain name and are looking to transfer to a new host, that process is similar but not identical. Check for instructions with your current and new hosting providers on how to safely transfer your domain to your new account.
This all sounds far more complicated than it truly is, but if you find yourself overwhelmed, a web design team can help you through this step.
Choose & Download a CMS
After you’ve pointed your new domain to your host, it’s time to pick a content management system, or CMS. A CMS allows you to easily edit and add content to your website. Crucially, it is user-friendly and generally requires no understanding of coding, so it can be used by anyone on your team.
Carefully consider which CMS you want to use on your website, because your marketing team will eventually become intimately familiar with the program’s benefits and drawbacks as they interact with and update the website. WordPress is by far the best CMS in terms of ease of use. Anyone with basic digital skills can learn how to use it, and it also allows you to create a truly elegant website.
If you prefer not to use WordPress as your CMS, there are others available.
Design Your Website
As tempting as it may be to design your own website when you have an easy-to-use CMS like WordPress, it’s important that you let a professional handle this part. You can keep a web designer on staff, work with a freelance designer, or even hire an external design agency to take care of it. There are options for every budget and website project. Even with tools like WordPress, creating a professional-looking website takes a lot of time and a strong understanding of design concepts.
That’s especially true when it comes to a wine website, which should closely match your existing branding and imagery. Use your existing logo, packaging, taproom design, and any other branded material to brainstorm ideas for your website. If those don’t match each other, this could be a good time for an entire brand image overhaul. Having a good-looking website is too important to do it halfway.
However you design your website, make sure that your design is mobile-friendly. 54% of all web traffic comes from smartphones alone. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re turning away many potential customers. Consumers’ threshold for poorly formatted websites is quite low.
Create Your Content
A website isn’t complete without some content to make it look current and appealing. Here are a few types of content that can help drive web traffic and make sales.
- Events schedule. If your winery runs events in your area or online, this is a great place to share information about them! Consider featuring upcoming events in a feature on the sidebar of your website or embedding an event calendar for visitors to look over. For more important events, your designer can install a temporary pop-up or sticky banner to add a little extra promotion.
- Tasting room hours and location. Do you have a tasting room? If you do, your customers will expect to see information about its hours and location on your website. This information is commonly found on a wine website’s about page or embedded in the page footer.
- Tour information. Tours can be a great way to build brand loyalty and give customers a behind-the-scenes peek at winery operations. Share details about tours on your website to encourage visitors.
- Restaurant or food information. If you sell food in your taproom or have a restaurant on-site at your winery, feature menus and other information about them on your website.
- Ecommerce information. Do you sell your wines online? Use your website to promote any wines you have for sale. Whether you use an external vendor or offer wine for sale directly through your website, you’ll want to feature this information prominently for visitors to see.
- Wine club information. Likewise, if you run a monthly wine club, feature that information as well as where website visitors can join or purchase.
- About page. The hallmark of any business website, you’ll also want to create an about page to tell your website visitors about your brand. Ideally, some of the visitors to your website will be people who found your winery organically or through advertising. A prominent about page is your chance to clearly convey your business’s values and what makes you special.
- Wines you produce. You can see your wine website as an extended sales catalog for the wines you offer. Even if you don’t sell your wine online right now, anyone on your website will likely be looking for more details about your wine. Don’t just give a generic overview of the types of wine you produce — this is your chance to go in-depth about each wine to a degree that few promotional opportunities offer.
- Contact information. This could include the physical address for your winery, a phone number, or an email address where people can reach out for more information. (Note: If you want to set yourself up for success with tracking marketing efforts in the future, we recommend a contact form rather than an email address.)
An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization
Business websites serve two main purposes:
- They “convert” visitors to your website; essentially, they guide someone from being interested in your brand to actually purchasing your wine, subscribing to your newsletter, visiting your winery, contacting you to learn more, etc.
- They attract people who would not otherwise be familiar with your brand to your website so they can learn more about what you do.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Search engine optimization, also known as SEO, refers to the practice of optimizing a website to bring more traffic from search engines. SEO is an incredibly complex and constantly changing topic, made more tricky because the major search engines (namely, Google) carefully guard the details of exactly how their algorithm decides which websites to rank in each search. When it comes to goals for your website, SEO is all about attracting new visitors and potential customers.
How does search engine optimization work?
Search engine optimization works by taking what we know about what search engines look for on a website and applying it to our web content to attract more traffic. Because of how secretive search engine algorithms are, SEO involves a lot of guesses about what is attracting visitors to your website. But if you already have some information about the people who purchase your wine or visit your website thanks to customer surveys or website analytics, that will help your team make more educated decisions. There are also some pillars of SEO that we do know with relative certainty, and your design and content teams should prioritize these for your website.
Why is SEO important?
SEO is important because it controls how much traffic your website receives from search engines. A website with poor SEO and bad web design is unlikely to get traffic from search, no matter how perfectly their site matches what a visitor is searching for.
Not all businesses rely on traffic from Google or other search engines in order to make sales, and that’s a good thing! But even if you don’t sell wine online, you want anyone who searches for your winery to be able to find you, even if they don’t have your exact web address.
What can you do to optimize your website for search?
There are two main ways you can engage with SEO:
- You can change your current website content to better fit what search engines are looking for OR
- You can research what people are currently searching for and create content based on that information.
Keyword research is the second option. Essentially, your team uses keyword search tools to find what people are searching for in your industry right now. Then you use this information to better title your blogs, add new content, and plan marketing strategy.
Anyone can conduct basic keyword research with free tools like Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner. But as with website design, keyword research (and SEO more generally) is complex and important, so it’s generally best left to the experts. If you have a marketing person on staff, chances are they have the experience to conduct some keyword research. There are plenty of free and low-cost SEO education tools out there as well as high-quality paid keyword research programs you can purchase. But if you prefer not to go that route, a freelance marketing consultant who specializes in SEO or a marketing agency can help you do more detailed research.
Create Robust Website Content
Web copy is the backbone of a website’s SEO strategy. On the most fundamental level, your website copy should contain plenty of the relevant keywords that you found. Your goal is to create web content that accurately describes what your business has to offer, so that search engines direct traffic to your site when someone searches for something that matches well. Because this is a relatively limited scope for your content, you can expand to include other topics that your ideal customer would be interested in.
Creating and updating a blog section of your website is a great way to build out relevant content to attract new customers. Search engines want to see consistent uploads of high-quality, relevant, new content. You can repurpose this blog content for an email newsletter, another useful way to increase sales.
Improve Website Functionality and Design
In addition to the other factors we’ve mentioned, search engines also evaluate the functionality and design of your website when deciding whether to promote your content. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, that’s a strike against you. The same with difficult-to-use, clunky, or outdated web design, another reason to work with a pro web designer. Search engines might even have issues with websites that use color in some way other than a traditional black text on white/cream background because of issues with readability and accessibility. Anything you can do to make your site easy to read and user friendly will likely work in your favor when it comes to SEO, too.
WordPress Tools for Understanding SEO
If you can’t afford to work with an external SEO consultant, never fear. There are plenty of tools compatible with WordPress that can help you navigate the basics. You can download plugins, which are essentially CMS add-ons, that provide SEO insights. One popular plugin is Yoast SEO, which can evaluate headline quality, suggest optimizations for text, and build some of the back-end information necessary for good SEO. Yoast, like many similar plugins, offers free and paid plans.
As we alluded to in the previous point, your website needs certain key SEO factors built into its design. Make sure whoever is building your website knows that SEO is a priority for you. Likewise, your marketing team should make a point to build out cornerstone content to boost your website’s profile.
Convert New Visitors
It can be all too easy to focus too much on driving new traffic to your website with tools like SEO, and not enough on actually putting that traffic to good use! Increasing website traffic is great, but without a plan to convert your visitors to paying customers, more web traffic won’t actually do you much good. Work closely with your marketing team to develop a clear sales funnel for visitors to your website. Usually this involves using a lead magnet such as a free download to collect email addresses from site visitors. Once you have an email list, you can contact customers directly to boost sales and engagement.
Read our post on turning winery website traffic into sales »
Creating a website for your winery can be confusing and overwhelming. But if you follow these steps and keep up your marketing game, you’ll be on the right track to make an effective web presence.