Through my web design work for farms and farmers markets, I look at a lot of websites. Below are my answers to some of the questions I hear most often.
Can’t I just use my Facebook page as my website?
Please don’t. In the food industry credibility is essential. Businesses without a website look less credible. Also, there are many people, young and old, who don’t use Facebook.
Social media is incredible for connecting with customers and prospects. From there, you can point them to your website where they can join your email list. If Facebook for some reason decided to ban your account or charge you for every post, you would still be able to reach your customers through your email list.
If a Facebook page is all you can manage right now, make sure you update the About section, include accurate contact information and post frequently. If someone visits your page and sees you haven’t posted anything in a year, they’re likely to think you went out of business.
Aren’t websites expensive?
Every business needs a website. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a bundle on it. There is a wide range of professional web designers with varying fees and abilities. There are also low-cost ways of putting up a website yourself. I like Wix because of their nice looking templates and drag and drop tools (prices start at $156/year). Wix is very easy to use. (This is not a paid ad!) There’s also SquareSpace, Wordpress, Weebly and many others. Each one has a free version that is supported by advertising and various paid versions that are advertising free.
How often do I need to update my website?
At the very least, you need to update your website as often as it takes to keep the information accurate. If your farmers market or farm store hours change for example, you would want to update that information on your website.
The next level would be to update your site when your product offerings change. For a produce farmer during growing season, this could be weekly. One way to do this without actually logging on to your website is to have your Instagram or Facebook feed roll over to your website. That way updates to your social media add fresh information to your website.
Try to visit your site regularly and view it like a customer might. Is everything accurate and easy to read?
Adding a blog or news update section of your website is another step that can help your customers learn more about you and your business. It has the added benefit of helping your website rank higher in search engines. How often you post to it depends on your available time and capacity.
What do I need to put on my website?
Your site does not need to be fancy. It does need to include some key information. Below are some basics that I recommend. Once you have the basics set, take a look at the list of ideas for next steps. These may spark thoughts about what else you want to include on your site.
Location of farm – include your farm address if you want people to come to your farm (farm stand/ farm store/ tours). If you don’t want people coming to your farm uninvited, share your locality and state
Directions/parking tips if needed
Growing practices and certifications
Where to find your products (farmers markets, stores, restaurants)
Mailing list sign up
Social media links
As applicable: CSA details and sign up Farm stand / Farm store / Pick your own hours and details Wholesale customer information
Ideas for Next Steps
Frequently Asked Questions – what questions do you hear most from customers?
Employment – Open jobs – Internships
Online store – Market pre-orders
Class and event details
Memberships (farming organizations, chambers of commerce, etc)
What’s growing - What to expect by season
Tour information – individual, group or school tours
History of farm or property
Volunteer Sign Up
Blog – Farm News
Press – In the News
Health or environmental benefits of what and how you grow
Why you are different?
What are you known for?
Farmers Market Websites
Days and hours the market is open
Location – full address – not just “next to the post office”
Any needed directions & parking details
Current vendor list
Mailing list sign up
Food access program/SNAP details
How to become a vendor
Social media links
Ideas for Next Steps
Vendors at market this week
Volunteer sign up
Friends of the market info
What’s in season / Seasonal produce calendar
Recipes, cooking tips
Healthy eating info
Gift certificate info
Children’s program details
Frequently Asked Questions
Memberships (market organizations, chambers of commerce, etc.)
Online store for market merchandise (t-shirts, bags etc)
Blog - Market News
How do I get more people to visit my website?
Once you have your website up, let people know about it:
Include it in your email signature
Include it in your newsletter to customers
Add it to your social media pages
Notify partners and customers
Get listed on websites for your member organizations
Add it to your listings on farm and farmers market directory sites
Include it on your business cards and promotional items
Create a Google My Business listing
Advertise on social media (promoted posts)
Start a blog and post content that’s useful to your customers
Work on improving your ranking in search engines. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a big topic that deserves its own post(s) but here are some quick tips:
Keep your site up-to-date
Post useful content (blog, news, recipes)
Identify relevant keywords that describe your business and products
Include those keywords in your blog posts and website content
Add your keywords to the file names of relevant photos on your site. For example, on a photo of your orchard in Virginia: instead of using “image401.jpg,” rename it “apple-orchard-virginia.jpg”
Let me know if you have other questions related to websites and I will do my best to answer them.
About Mary Delicate
Since 2009 Mary has used her marketing, research and web design skills to promote local food in Virginia. She creates websites, newsletters, blog posts and social media all to spread the word about local farms and farmers markets. www.marydelicate.com