Search Engine Optimization for Farms

Getting your website listed on search engines (most commonly Google) allows prospective and current customers to find your site quickly. They may be searching your farm name or typing a series of keywords that trigger your website to come up as a suggestion to your search. Either way, it is important to make sure that your website has a strong online presence.

The art and science of getting listed on search engines is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and it has spawned an entire industry. There are thousands of consultants out there who you can pay, just to get you ranked higher on a search engine, like Google. Fortunately, this is not necessary for the vast majority of farmers. This article will present a commonsense approach to getting your farm website "seen" and suggest tasks you can complete yourself, without an expensive consultant.

For starters, Small Farm Central has already optimized our websites so that Google can easily find the site, identify keywords, and index the pages. While this is an important start, the rest of the work of SEO is up to you as a farmer since it is a matter of building a reputation for your site on the web. Don't worry, it’s not complicated. There are just a few principles to keep in mind:

SEO Principles

  • You do not have direct control of what Google lists or what results it returns for search terms.
  • Google will find your site and your content over time, but it is a good idea to submit your site to Google when you first release it.
  • Google and other search engines value your site higher if other websites link to it, because it is an implicit ‘vote’ for your site. (*Hint*: this is the key to the way Google ranks results.)
  • Identify keywords that you want searchers to use to find your site and optimize your site by including those keywords in your content, including writing pages that directly serve those keywords.

Google ranks websites largely by the reputation of the site. For example, the website of "New York Times" will have a better SEO reputation than a small town newspaper in North Dakota. Google determines a site's reputation by looking at the number (and quality) of links to a particular website. Therefore, one of the key things that you can do is develop links to your website from other websites. This is good for your search engine reputation, but it will also get people to find your site as they browse the Internet.

In the normal course of doing business, links will be created into your site through press articles, organizations you are involved in, customers talking about your farm, or through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. However, you can also create your own links into your site by creating or updating profiles that you have on farm databases like LocalHarvest, RealTime Farms, or one of the many regional listing services out there. It does not matter that you technically created these links by creating a profile on one of these sites: all Google sees is a link from an outside site into your site.

So you can start by creating some of these profiles when you launch your site and then keep encouraging people to link to you over time. Most importantly, keep talking about your farm both online and in person! Your search engine reputation will increase organically over time.

Keywords

It is important to realize that you are not trying to trick search engines into showing your pages. The search engine only has one goal: to provide the best content for the searcher in relation to the keywords that the searcher types. Your goal is for your website to show up when someone types in a relevant key phrase.

To do this, create a list of 5-10 key phrases that you want to use to optimize your site. For example: “chickens Ohio” or “Chicago CSA”. If your reach is more local than national, don’t worry about optimizing for the general term, “chickens” because if you are in Ohio, you don’t care if someone in British Columbia searches for “chickens” and finds your site. That will not generate business for you, so localizing your search terms can help.

Once you have your list of key phrases, it is time to optimize your site for those words. One key place where you can put several keywords onto every page of your site is the <title> tag. This is the text that shows on the tab of your browser as the title of the page, but is not visible on the actual text of the page. With Small Farm Central sites, the <title> tag of the site is always created in this format: “ Farm Name | Farm Tagline”. These both can be edited in your Control Panel under: Administrate > Account > Account Settings. Your farm tagline is a great place to put some of your important keywords.

You will also want to create pages that respond to some of these keywords. If “chickens Ohio” is important to you, maybe you will want to create a page entitled “Challenges of Raising Chickens in Ohio”. This will give Google a very specific page to link people to when they search “chickens Ohio”.

In conclusion, create links into your site and optimize your site for your favored key phrases: it's just that easy. As with anything else, you can go a lot deeper into this and learn more about SEO. However, these simple tips will be enough to get your site ranked and noticed on Google.

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