A huge email list mistake

A huge email list mistake

Thanks for Listening!

Hey there, thanks for joining me again this week. So it’s digital marketing week here on the Small Farm Nation podcast. Digital marketing, or online marketing, is when we cover websites, social media, email marketing and so on.

And this week we’re talking list building.  Now, list building is just the phrase used to describe the practice of building your email list. That’s the “list” we’re talking about.

And today I want to cover a critical mistake—a huge mistake that almost everyone makes. Not just farmers, but I’d say over 90% of ALL businesses. And I don’t want you to continue making that mistake, so we’re gonna set you on the right path today.

Because, as you no doubt know why now, building a thriving, engaged list of email subscribers is hugely important to the success of your business.


Like, way more important than getting followers on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter and elsewhere. Because, in my view, the purpose of those social platforms is primarily to just funnel people into your email list.

That way you can drive them back to your site—the property that YOU own. That’s where you’re going to create brand loyalty and drive sales, not on social platforms.

So, to understand this big mistake you’re likely making let’s walk through the most common approaches to list building.

Now, the good news is that most people have an email capture form on their websites.

I say “most people” but I just did a search, for fun, on CSA farm in a particular city. And I clicked on four farm websites. Three of them had NO visible way to sign-up for an email, and the one that did had a text line that said “join our email list.” A text line that was impossible to see unless you read every word on the page.

So then I clicked on the fifth, then the sixth search results. And neither of them displayed an email capture form! What the heck! How do these farms expect to market to potential customers if they don’t even ASK for their email address?

Please tell me that you have a HIGHLY VISIBLE email capture form on your site.

In most cases in the farming community, the email capture form simply says, “sign up for our newsletter” or something like that.

And that’s a big problem in itself, because signing up for a newsletter isn’t much of an incentive to the visitor. It might have worked—oh—in 1999. But it’s not much of a reason to sign up today when we all have overflowing inboxes. Basically each of these sites committed many of the 12 Fatal Flaws of Farm Websites I talked about last month.

But that’s not the big mistake I want to focus on today.

The mistake, and the opportunity, I want to concentrate on today is what happens AFTER someone signs up for your list.

Because here’s what normally happens. And it’s exactly what happened when I signed up for the one email list opportunity on the search results I just mentioned.

The form simply said, “Subscribe. Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates.”

bad opt-in form

So I entered an email address. And once I did the form was replaced with two simple words: “thank you!”

bad opt-in form


I wasn’t redirected anywhere. And, of course, my email address wasn’t verified because I just entered a@b.com as an email address. So, as a site visitor, I simply see that message and continue on my way, likely to another site.

So, what should have happened?

I should have been directed to a “Thank You” page. And to see an example of exactly how this should work, go to smallfarmnation.com/habits and download my free guide, the 7 Marketing Traits of Highly Successful Farms. When you sign up you’ll immediately be taken to a thank you page. Check it out for yourself at smallfarmnation.com/habits

Now, let me tell you why this thank you page is so important. And listen up here.

This “Thank You” page is the ONLY time that you are 100% guaranteed your new subscriber will see your message. It is the ONLY time. This is your ONLY opportunity to be absolutely certain you are communicating with this new subscriber, this new potential customer who has shared his or her email address with you.


Because many people who sign-up never even see your confirmation emails, or your follow-up emails. That’s for any number of reasons.

Often it’s simply because Gmail or their email service provider puts your message in a promotional or SPAM folder. So, let’s say you use Mailchimp and you’ve set up an auto-responder to email new subscribers to confirm their email address. If that confirmation email goes into a promotional or junk folder, the subscriber never sees it.

And the person quickly forgets about you.

Now, let’s compare this to what happens when you create a proper thank you page.

What happens after they submit the form is that they are directed to a thank you page on YOUR website. So you still have them there. Then, on that thank you page, you can start a conversation with them.

Again, this is the only message from you that you can be 100% certain the new subscriber sees. Because they’re directed here when they sign up.

So, what should be on the thank you page? That’s up to you, of course. And again, you can see what I do by just going to smallfarmnation.com/habits and grabbing my guide, the 7 Marketing Traits of Highly Successful Farms.

But here are some ideas for your thank you page:

  1. Start by thanking them for subscribing. It is a “thank you” page, after all. On my pages I start with “Thanks! Your FREE DOWNLOAD is on its way to your mailbox!” That way they remember to check their inbox. Now after that heading on the thank you page, I write, “Here’s what to do next…”
  2. And what I recommend you list then, as your first point, is to ask the person to check their inbox. If you offered a lead magnet let them know you emailed it to them. And to encourage them to check every corner of their inbox, including promotional tabs and junk folders. Ask them to move your message to their “primary” folder and to add your email address to their “safe senders” list. All this is very important so that they’ll receive your follow-up messages.
  3. Second, if you have testimonials, you may want to display them on this page. But if you do, I’d put them near the bottom after this next point.
  4. Call them to action. There are a number of things you can do here. First and most simple is to direct them to your social pages. Just say “follow us on Facebook,” with a link to your Facebook page, and repeat that for any platforms you want to invite them to. You could also display your top blog posts or web pages and invite them to click those to deepen their relationship with you. But another call-to-action could be to make an offer. This could be a coupon for your physical or online farm store, or call them to sign-up for your CSA. Or something else.

The point is that you now have their attention, on your thank you page. And they clearly are interested in a relationship with you, because they signed up for your list. In addition to having testimonials on the page you could display a video. Of course this could include testimonials, but it should be a high quality video of you welcoming them into a relationship with you. Show them who you are, what you’re all about and how you hope to make their lives better. Just don’t miss this hugely important opportunity to thank them, tell them what to expect next and CALL THEM TO ACTION. The call to action could be:

  • Register for an upcoming event.
  • Join your CSA or delivery club.
  • A promotion, such as to visit you at the farmers market and bring “this” coupon.
  • Ask them to complete a survey so you can gather market research.
  • Share buttons (and an incentive) to share your sign-up form with others.
  • Offer an introductory product.
  • Add links to your most popular content or the content you want to share. This could be blog posts, but could also be pages such as frequently asked questions.

Do not be afraid to call your visitor to action. I know this doesn’t “sound good” or, perhaps, not even politically correct. But we all want to be told what to do on some level. We may not agree, of course, but as humans, we’re looking for clarity and direction. It’s your job to give it. Tell the visitor what you want them to do. Here’s what I mean…I want you to go to smallfarmnation.com/habits and download my free guide, the 7 Marketing Traits of Highly Successful Farms. Then you can see what a well-designed thank you page looks like. There. I called you to action. Now clearly you don’t have to act, and most of you won’t. But as marketers (and if you own a business, you’re a marketer) it’s our job to call our supporters to act. So if you’re making this mistake with your email list of not having a well-designed thank you page, and I’m 95% sure you are, you now know what to do and how to fix it. And when you do, you’ll not only start your relationship off with your new subscriber professionally, but you won’t blow the opportunity to make sure they actually get to read your messages.

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Thanks for listening. Until next time!

Website Platform Comparison

Website Platform Comparison

Thanks for Listening!

Hey there, thanks for joining me again this week. So it’s online marketing week here on the Small Farm Nation podcast. And this week we’re talking websites, or, more specifically, what website design tool you should use.

And we have plenty of options, right? There’s lots of website builders out there—you know, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy, WordPress.com and open-source WordPress (wordpress.org).

I know you’re looking for what’s the best builder for you, so let’s get right to it by addressing what is the best website building tool. And in this episode, I’ll focus on Wix, Squarespace and WordPress.

Of course, there are other solutions, such as Weebly, GoDaddy and, if you need e-commerce, Shopify, Volusion and others. 

Oh…and there’s FarmPress, the FREE, hosted solution you get when you join the Small Farm Nation Academy.

But many farmers are concerned with one of these three—WordPress, Wix and Squarespace— and, honestly, I can’t think of many scenarios where one of these wouldn’t be the best choice for every farm business (other than FarmPress , of course).

So the question I often hear is, which is the best. And what do folks mean when they say the best…who decides that?

Well, of course, the market broadly decides the best solution, right? But it’s up to us…to you…to pick the solution that’s right for you.

So, what does the market have to say?

WordPress Market ShareWell, it’s no contest, is it. I mean, WordPress has about 60% market share of the CMS or content management systems out there, and pretty much all the big brands use WordPress to some degree.

That list includes the NY Times, CNN, Forbes—hell, even the Walking Dead website uses WordPress.

That said, Wix, Squarespace and Shopify have all made minor gains in the last year, owing to their huge ad spends on commercials and elsewhere. I mean, you can’t watch ANY youtube video these days without some celebrity telling you how great Wix is.

So they’re buying customers with huge ad spends, which is something WordPress can’t do, since it’s free open source software.

So, the market overwhelmingly says WordPress is the preferred choice. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right for you. Let’s dive in and compare WordPress to Wix and Squarepace to help you decide what is right for you.

First, let’s start with what the fundamental differences are between WordPress, Wix and Squarespace, because, fundamentally, they can each be used to build an effective website.

The main difference is that Wix and Squarespace are online, fully-featured and self-contained tools. You don’t need a hosting account or even a domain. Just visit their sites, sign up for an account, and immediately start building your website using their visual design tools.

Of course, both Wix and Squarespace are for-profit companies, whereas the WordPress we commonly hear about is not a company at all.  It is a free, open source software package that needs to be installed on a web server before you can use it.

You’ll also need a domain, which you may get at GoDaddy or elsewhere. Then you’ll need to set up a hosting account at BlueHost, SiteGround, HostGator or elsewhere.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll have to install WordPress on their server before you can pick out a theme, install plugins and begin creating your site.

So there are definitely more steps involved and more moving pieces with a WordPress site than there are at Wix or Squarespace.

But let’s dive deeper and look at each in more detail.

And we’ll start with WordPress. Now, when I say WordPress, I’m referring to wordpress.org, the OPEN Source software you install at a hosting account.

I’m not referring to wordpress.com which is NOT the same thing. Basically, wordpress.com is a hosted solution similar to Wix, Weebly and Squarespace, so I’m not reviewing it in this episode.

Okay, WordPress is an all-in-one package of website software. Think of it this way; similarly to how MacOS or Windows runs your laptop, WordPress runs your website. It sits in the background and makes sure that you can easily configure your website, add plugins, edit and publish your content.

Now, WordPress can only be installed on a web server. The easiest way of getting access to a web server is buying web server space from a hosting company, such as Siteground or Bluehost. The prices for that start at around $5 a month.

Depending on the hosting company you choose, you might have to install WordPress on the server yourself, but most hosts, like Siteground, give you access to a simple 1-click WordPress install.

After installing WordPress you also need to install a WordPress theme and some plugins – this is how you obtain a custom design for your website and some additional functionality. There are thousands of themes and plugins available on the web, both free and paid.

Now, to take full advantage of what WordPress offers, some website building skills are required – since the plugin and theme setup can get a bit complicated at times.

You may have already found that out if you use WordPress. But…that’s what a lot of the Small Farm Nation Academy is about…helping you navigate this stuff.

And besides, just because site skills are helpful doesn’t mean you have to do it. With WordPress’ popularity, it’s easy to find help for CSS and other customization on Fiverr.

Depending on how much you want to adjust, you might even have to write custom code or build custom design elements – this is where hiring a designer or developer might come into the picture. But, since WordPress is far and away the most popular platform, development help on Fiverr and elsewhere is easy to find.

WordPress itself is completely free and open source. Basically, software-wise, you can get all the components you need to build your website for free. What isn’t free, though, is your domain name and web hosting. The former is usually $10 a year, and the latter, as I mentioned above, usually starts at $5 a month. 

And WordPress is definitely state-of-the-art software. It has all the website management features you might need. It’s currently being used by nearly 30% of the entire internet. That’s why technical help isn’t hard to find, and there’s a virtually endless number of plugins to really customize the site the way you want.

Now, since WordPress isn’t a company, there’s no support per se. So while you do get access to a dedicated WordPress community, there’s no single entity that provides customer support by default. Though, as I’ve said it’s easy to find WordPress developers around the globe.

So, what about cost?

Well, WordPress itself will cost you zilch. Nada.

But, you need a domain name…a URL, and that may cost you up to $15 bucks a year. But that’s a wash, really, because you’re gonna want to buy a domain whether you use WordPress, Wix, Squarespace or any other solution. Trust me—you want to own your own domain name.

Then, you need a hosting account, which will set you back at least five bucks a month, or another $60 bucks a year. So the minimum you’ll be paying for a WordPress site is about $75 a year.

Now, there are tons of free themes for WordPress, but many people go for a premium theme. Those will set you back another $50-$200.

So this gives you a sense of the minimum cost you can pay for a WordPress site.

So, why would you NOT want to use wordpress?

  • Well, WordPress can be a challenge for novices to customize the theme they choose. It’s like learning any new skill…like how to butcher a chicken or prepare a seedbed. You gotta learn the skill.
  • And WordPress requires more learning and hands on, at least at first, then other CMS alternatives.
  • Another reason to avoid WordPress is if you’re “put off” by having to set-up a hosting account. If the thought of setting up an account at a hosting provider overwhelms you, then avoid WordPress, cause that’s what you’ll have to do.
  • Finally, if you need a “pretty” website up and running today…and I mean, TODAY, then WordPress isn’t the answer unless you know what you’re doing.

These are the main reasons I’d say someone may want to avoid WordPress.

Now, why SHOULD you consider choosing WordPress?

  • Well, it is hands down the most flexible tool on this list! Way more so than Wix and Squarespace. No question about it.
  • I mean, the sole fact of it being open source means that anyone can build a plugin or a theme that will extend the platform’s native functionality. And a lot of people do just that.
  • For example, the official directory of plugins at WordPress.org lists more than 52,000 plugins as of now. 
  • What this means is if you need any feature at all, there’s a high likelihood that someone has already built a plugin that makes it available. And what’s more, that plugin is probably free because most are.
  • Remember, WordPress is the most popular tool – with nearly 30% of all websites using WordPress – which is perhaps the main evidence of its versatility. 
  • Another reason to use WordPress is if you’re on a tight budget. Even though you have to pay for the domain name and hosting, a basic WordPress site is still the most affordable solution on this list.
  • You should also choose WordPress if you want to have full control of your website – this includes not having to deal with anyone limiting the way you manage your website, the designs you use, or the features you have on your website.
  • With Squarespace and Wix—or even those custom farm website solutions on the market—you have NO control over what features they add OR take away from you.
  • Use WordPress if not having access to a dedicated customer support isn’t a problem for you. Now, you’ll get customer support with your web host, and I can tell you that SiteGround’s support is fantastic. but they may not be able to help you outside of hosting-related issues. Then again, many members rely on the forum in Small Farm Nation Academy to get help with their sites, and we’re happy to provide it. So that’s another option.
  • Now, even if you don’t sell online today, you may want to in the future. WooCommerce is a free plugin that allows you to create an online store. If you need help customizing the look and functionality, there are lots of people on Fiverr and elsewhere who can do the work for you, pretty cheaply.
  • Finally, if you want to ever add online courses to teach your farm skills, you’ll want to be on WordPress.

Ok, so that’s WordPress.

Now, let’s look at Wix.

Wix is a one-stop, fully-featured and self-contained website building tool. It lets you build a fully-operational website or e-commerce store from scratch. It not only acts as the operating system of your website – like WordPress – but also as the web server that houses the software.

Wix hosts your website, so you don’t have to set up your own hosting account. You get it all in one place – from Wix.com. If you don’t want to pay for a custom domain name, you also get a free subdomain that you can use. This is going to be something like your-username.wix.com.

Wix works out of the box and lets you start building your website right after you sign up for a Wix.com account. Though I’ve fooled around with Wix and I’m not sure it’s quite as easy and intuitive as everyone thinks. Because no matter how intuitive and simple a piece of technology is, there’s always that moment of “what am I looking at and what do I do now?”

You’ll have that reaction with Wix just as you will with Squarespace, Shopify, and WordPress. Personally, I find WordPress builders like Divi and Thrive to be FAR more intuitive and easier than those on Wix, but that’s just me.

Wix Gives you access to more than 500 website designs. That’s probably too many, but there are some really good designs.

And there are no coding or website development skills required to use Wix.

Wix does offer a plan that’s free, but it has limitations. There are also paid plans, spanning from $5 to $25 a month.

But, Wix does offer a pretty complete package needed to launch a functional website or online store. And there’s nothing that you need to get or install on top of what you get at wix.com.

Since it’s a business, they offer solid 24/7 support. This means that whatever problem you might have, the Wix.com guys are there to solve it for you.

Now, can you get Wix for free? Yes…but don’t do it, because you’ll have a wix branded URL and Wix branding on your web pages.

If you think that’s okay you may want to watch some of the lessons in the branding module of Small Farm Nation Academy. Because growing your farm is about building YOUR brand, not Wix’s.

So you’ll want a premium plan. I recommend you go for the Unlimited plan at 14 bucks a month, unless you need the ecommerce plan. So, all in, you’re looking at about $168 a year. More than WordPress, but you may find the convenience worth it.

So, why would you want to avoid Wix?

  • Well, here’s a big one—a huge one. If you change your theme design in Wix, you lose ALL your content. I mean—what? Imagine that? Here’s what Wix says right on their support site as of November 2018: Currently, it is not possible to apply a different template to a Wix site that you already created. That is, once you create a site and add content, you cannot then apply a different template to that site.“ I mean come on! That is so 1999. But it’s the way it is…so you better get your design right the first time. Moving on.
  • Also, the online store cost is pricey compared to doing it in WordPress. But, it’s not when compared to Squarespace or Shopify, because they both cost money too. It’s just that the WordPress e-commerce solution, WooCommerce, is free. Just something to be aware of.
  • And, even though Wix gives you lots of templates to start with and makes it easy to get going quickly, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to create a good design.
  • I’ve talked about this problem before, where the DIY site builders make it easy to throw content and images up, but not necessarily create a website that’s effective. I mean, just because you have a hammer doesn’t mean you can build a house. Wix gives you the hammer, but you’ll need discipline to not get seduced by all the dragging and dropping, and instead start with a clear plan, and stick to it. 
  • Finally, what happens if you do decide to move platforms. Maybe you want to move to Squarespace or WordPress. What happens to your data, designs and content?
  • With Wix – there is no way to export your data.  It’s a bit like having all your furniture bolted to your house. If you move – you can’t bring anything with you.
  • In the worst case scenario, you’d have to scrape and/or manually copy paste your data to your new site. But either way, Wix does not make it easy to leave.

So then, why choose Wix?

  • Well, go with Wix if you want to build a website for free. Because it’s the only option for that.
  • Or, use Wix if you want to build an e-commerce store easily, without having to deal with external plugins or difficult setups. Wix has an e-commerce module integrated right out the gate.
  • Use Wix if you’re not very website-savvy and you’d prefer not have to deal with servers, hosting, and domain names. It’ll save you a lot of headaches.
  • Consider using Wix if you don’t mind not being in full control of your website. You’ll be limited to whatever features Wix allows you to have, which may be enough for you. But if they’re not, you won’t be able to customize the site as you can with WordPress.
  • Finally, use Wix if you want to access to customer support that will be able to help you out in case of anything. You can even speak with someone on the phone!

Now, let’s turn our attention to Squarespace.

Similar to Wix, Squarespace is a one-stop website building tool. It’s all available online and lets you create your own functional website or e-commerce store from scratch.

No third-party web servers are needed. Everything you need you get after signing up at squarespace.com.

And no technical setup or software installation is required. Right after opening an account at Squarespace.com you can get started working on your website.

Of course, Squarespace offers you dozens of very nicely designed templates to choose from. Even though that’s a lot less than what Wix gives you, the designs at Squarespace are very attractive, and they are also all optimized for mobile and tablet viewing.

Of course, when you replace the images in the templates with your images, the template will immediately NOT look so good, unless you have access to top-notch photography and really know what you’re doing. I’ve seen lots of farmers butcher their Squarespace designs with out-of-focus, poor photography.

If you’re a technophobe, the good news is you don’t need to know how to deal with php, CSS or html to simply use Squarespace. Just like Wix, Squarespace gives you the complete package needed to launch a fully operational website with. You don’t need anything else than what’s already given to you at Squarespace.com.

You get access to 24/7 support, but that doesn’t mean the can help you with design. They’ll just help with how to use Squarespace or anything not working properly.

In terms of cost, Squarespace offers plans from $12 to $40 a month, but the personal plan is limited in number of pages, so you’ll probably opt for the Business plan at $18.

For online stores, you’ll want the $40 a month plan, unless you want your customers to check out on Squarespace’s branded site rather than yours. I think that’s a ridiculous thing they’re doing, charging you an extra $14 a month just so folks can check out on YOUR site, but…whatever.

Anyway, when you add it all up you’re looking at anywhere from $216 to $480 a year on Squarespace.

So, why would you not use Squarespace?

  • Well, for starters, it’s the most expensive of the three options we’re covering in this episode. Granted, it’s not a ton of money for a “real” business, but is it worth the extra money? Not to me. 
  • With Squarespace you can export your data…but you’ll lose the design, of course, since it’s a Squarespace theme you were renting. And that theme is only available on Squarespace hosted sites.
  • Now there are many reasons you may want to move a site. For instance, perhaps you grow displeased with Squarespace’s hosting speed. The only way to move to another host is to leave Squarespace.
  • On the other hand, if you had a WordPress site on Bluehost or HostGator and were unhappy with their hosting speed, you could easily move your entire site—data AND design—to another host, such as Siteground.
  • Another problem with Squarespace is actually the same as their main selling benefit—their beautiful designs. You see, the Squarespace template are gorgeous, but as I’ve said before, it’s really hard for most people to create a site that looks remotely as good as their templates do.
  • And while Squarespace certainly has excellent online support, you’re not gonna get someone on the phone. And, let me tell you, sometimes it really helps to talk to someone, as I’ve had to do countless times with hosting providers. It’s a relatively minor issue until you have an urgent site problem…then you’ll see how important it is to be able to reach someone. I can always get someone on the phone quickly at Siteground if I have a hosting or WordPress problem.
  • Another big problem is this. At least Wix has an app marketplace that has some free add-ons.  And WordPress….well, there’s over 50,000 plugins, almost all free.
  • But you won’t find one free plugin you can use with Squarespace, so you’re stuck with the limitations of the box they stick you in.

Okay, then, so when is Squarespace the right choice?

  • Well, mainly, the reasons to use Squarespace are exactly the same as the reasons to use Wix:
  • Use Squarespace if you want to build an e-commerce store with ease. You don’t need to deal with the technical aspects of the setup, though, if you’re main objective is an online store you should compare against Shopify.
  • Use Squarespace if you don’t have any coding or website building skills but still want to create a great-looking website on your own.
  • Turn to Squarespace if you don’t care for anything hosting- or server-related. You just want a website to work.
  • Use Squarespace if you’re not worried that you’re not in full control of your website.
  • You’re content with the design features that you’re given by Squarespace.
  • Finally, consider Squarespace if you value 24/7 access to customer support.

So, what’s the bottom line with all this? Ask yourself these questions.

Do you want to be in full control of your website and be able to add whatever you wish to it (be it themes, plugins, custom code, anything at all)? If the answer is “yes,” or “perhaps” then go with WordPress. That’s what I do and that’s what the large majority of people do.

However, if you prefer a solution that doesn’t require any coding or website building skills and simply lets you create your own website in an easy-to-grasp and beginner-friendly way, then go with either Wix or Squarespace.

As for me, I’ve created sites on Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, BigCommerce and Volusion and on WordPress. Today, every site I develop is on WordPress. I wouldn’t consider another platform for these 10 reasons:

  1. If I move from Wix, Weebly, Squarespace or Shopify, I’d lose my design, but if I moved my WordPress to another host, I wouldn’t lose anything.
  2. My copyrighted content can be used for free on SquareSpace. You heard that right, Squarespace’s license says, and I quote, “we may use in perpetuity, free of charge, any version of your site or any portion thereof, for the purpose of Squarespace marketing and promotion activities.” No thanks.
  3. Squarespace, Wix & Weebly can pull features at any time, without notice. So you build your site using certain features and they take them away. Ouch.
  4. I control the page builder on WordPress. I can use any drag and drop tool I want—Divi, Thrive Themes, Beaver Builder, whatever. With Squarespace, Wix, Weebly and GoDaddy, I have no choice other than the tools they give me.
  5. It’s challenging to be unique in a closed system like SquareSpace. All the sites look the same.
  6. WordPress is just much more SEO friendly than the other options, and has helpful plugins such as Yoast SEO to help with search engine optimization.
  7. WordPress has a superior blogging platform, and content marketing is hugely important if you want to drive traffic to your site without paying for advertising.
  8. WordPress allows for easy ecommerce and easy CSA sign-up and management with the help of plugins such as WooCommerce and Gravity Forms.
  9. WordPress offers an easy ability to add online courses and more if you want to add that. Who knows—you might.
  10. Finally, WordPress is an open source vs the isolationist platforms of Wix, Weebly and Squarespace. This means there are FAR more ideas, innovation and support going in the direction of WordPress.

Currently, WordPress has about 60% of the market. By comparison, neither Wix, Weebly or Squarespace has even 2%. Hands down, WordPress is the preferred platform.

But, as I’ve said, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. So here are my final recommendations for you.

  1. If your site will be very basic, go with Wix
  2. If you just must have that Squarespace template you like so much & have access to VERY high-resolution images, go ahead with SquareSpace
  3. If you’re serious about building your farm brand and business, go with WordPress and have it properly designed. You’ll have way more flexibility.

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12 Fatal Flaws of Most Websites

12 Fatal Flaws of Most Websites

Okay, so it’s Online Marketing week here on the Small Farm Nation podcast, and we’re gonna discuss the dirty dozen…the 12 Fatal Flaws of Most Farm Websites.

If you’d like to watch me do a video walkthrough of these sins on real farm websites, sign up for my 3-video training series over at Small Farm Nation Academy.

Now I’m going to stay away from the differences and site builders today you know WordPress versus Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy and all the others. I’ll cover that later.

Today. I just want to focus on a web design and what’s on the websites and how to design and copy hamstring farm businesses and position them poorly. Now I see this across a lot of farm Web sites yours may be an exception and that’s wonderful if it is. But they kind of fall into two categories.

The first thing I notice is that many many farm websites are old boxy designs that look like they were developed 20 years ago and they just haven’t changed which unfortunately is consistent with the image that a lot of customers have of farmers. And that’s not the image we want to portray because that’s not what the word is that our customers live in. They’re used to really nice websites that are clean and given the information they’re looking for.

The second thing I see with farm websites is that they may have a new design, they go to Squarespace and they find a template that they want. Or maybe even WordPress or whatever. Then they replace the beautiful photography on those sites with their own, either out-of-focus images, or pictures that don’t hold nearly as good. And then they don’t know how to customize a site and then the site just doesn’t look that good.

So I see a lot of these things across the site. Let me list these 12 and let’s see if you recognize some of these because these are what we want to avoid.

  1. Now the first and it’s very important is most websites are not designed for list building. This is bad. It makes it very easy for visitors to visit the site and leave without signing up for anything. Now if you wanna see me do a video walkthrough of examples of this just go to a smallfarmnationacademy.com and sign up for the video course and I’ll walk you through examples of the Dirty Dozen. But for now just try to visualize the example I’m going to take you through. So a typical site has a nice image from the farm a couple running back to back here with no space or section in between and then milk meat and eggs on grass so no SBO there because we don’t know where that’s located or whatever and no call to action. So look at all the space is taken up with nothing for you know the visitor to do so. There’s a good chance that they’re going to abandon the site and leave and go somewhere else.
  2. Secondly and equally important today, since more than 60 percent of people visit websites for mobile devices. And that number is just going to increase so we have to design for mobile. But most farm websites are not optimized for mobile viewing. If you look at them on a smartphone they’re unappealing and they’re difficult to read. We have to design websites today so they look good on computers with big monitors, laptops with smaller monitors, iPads or tablets with midsize monitors, and little bitty smartphones that have little bitty displays. We have to make sure everything looks good across all these devices.
  3. It’s unclear what the visitors should do. What action they should take. There are WAY too many options in the nav bar. You see this a lot. It’s not only that there are a lot of nav bar options, but also a lot of drop-down choices. I think we all think that we have a lot of content to share and therefore we’ve got to put all this up. And that’s kind of like an annual report or definitely an online brochure, but it doesn’t mean it helps the visitor to engage with you. And that’s what we want right we want to drive traffic to our sites. But then we want to make sure that the visitors know how to take the next step to introduce themselves to a sort of relationship.
  4. And related to that there’s too many pages and navigation options. And each one requires a click instead of a one page design you know which is what I’ve done in FarmPress. By the way, a one-page design doesn’t mean that your website has only one page. It really means that most of what you need on the NAV is on that one page. But when you click on blog post or those kind of things they take you to the secondary pages so they’re still there. But most nav bars show me a lot of options. That’s not necessarily bad, but if it’s my goal as the farm website owner is to get someone to sign up and not let them leave without caption their email address, this approach doesn’t do it. I want to make sure that I capture their email address and start a relationship before going further.
  5. Many websites are outdated with boxy designs and have distracting backgrounds. The backgrounds are often boring and about the farm, rather than about the customer. I mean you see a lot of these kind of designs where, I think we feel like we need to have something in the background so then we put it there but we want to stop doing that we want to think about the strategic purpose of every decision we make on a website why are we putting a color there why are we putting a background image there. Where are we trying to draw the eyes we’re trying to draw the eyes to a certain place to get the visitor to do a certain thing hopefully that thing is to sign up and start a relationship with us.
  6. This is my pet peeve you know off often about Squarespace. It has got nothing to do with Squarespace itself is…Squarespace sites are gorgeous. But they are designed specifically with incredible photography and that’s what makes them gorgeous. And then they get in the hands of regular people. Often farmers in this case who do not have access to those skills or those high-quality photographs. And then we create sites that just don’t look good. We also see a lot of sites that are creating and using carousels on their sites. You know they put image after image in slideshows because you know that was you know kind of a cool thing to do 10 years ago. But it wastes a lot of space and again it doesn’t draw the visitor into a relationship with us.
  7. I see a lot of poor SEO practices and optimization so there’s not proper meta descriptions. The alt tags from images are missing. The H1 H2 tags H3 tags and terms of the paragraph structure is either missing or is used poorly. An example of that is an H2 tag might be “about us” when no one is going to search on “about us”. People don’t search on about us. They search on maybe a “farm in Toledo” or you know pastured pork in Kansas City or something like that. Maybe that should be the “about us.” You know, “About our Kansas City pastured pork”. So you see a lot of those kind of things and you see keywords that are not optimized or not chosen and so the practices are pretty poor across all the sides.
  8. Most farm websites are not optimized as a local business. There’s no NAP and there’s no name, address, phone on the website, which is really important because Google has made a commitment to local search results. There’s no embedded Google map on many websites. Most farms have not claimed their Yelp business. I’ve got Quick Win videos in the Small Farm Nation Academy for how you can claim your Yelp business and how you can claim it on Google as well. So check that out if you’re a member and haven’t already. But this is an opportunity when you’re creating your website to make sure you’re optimized to show up in local search results. And that’s really important because you know let’s face it. Farming for the most part is a local business. OK moving on.
  9. There’s difficult to read or poor topographic choices or most websites. Almost all farm websites, and not just farm but other websites too, have too small type. It’s like the old days when everything was in print. We kind of learned we should have a 10 or 12 point font size. That’s great for print but not on websites. I mean it’s moving up every year and the research shows that the popularity and readability increases as it goes up to at least 20 point. I tend to favor 20-24 point you know and you know at least 1.5 line spacing. But you see this across a lot of websites where the fonts are very hard to read and the text is very hard to read.
  10. You see a lot of copy-cat wording in the farming industry. “We’re sustainable,” we’re “beyond organic”. We are “pasture raised,” we are “non-GMO,” we hate Monsanto. I mean on and on. And I think customers get it. I think that that those phrases and that message is going to come through with your emotive images and with some of your branding choices that I cover in the branding course in the Academy. And you should use some of these but much of this language is defensive, too. I mean it’s like you’re we’re defending ourselves instead of painting a picture of what’s possible in the relationship for the customer. So I think there’s a lot of opportunities for farmers out there to differentiate themselves not by sounding like one another, but by talking more about their mission and their vision and what they hope to achieve with the customer and for the customer.
  11. I see a lot of not only social media links displayed on websites but external links. You know…links to Certified Naturally Grown, or “my local organic association,” or American Humane Society or American Grassfed or whatever. It may be whatever association you have. And we tend to put these up because we want to establish credibility in some cases, right? We want to show that we’re part of all these things. But when we put those up and give those a lot of visibility, we’re putting links to other sites and we’re encouraging people to leave. Once again, without giving us their email address. Now there is nothing at all wrong with putting your social media links. Of course you should put your Facebook and Twitter and other social media links. But what people often do is they put them front and center. Or they’re at the top of the site and are big and bold. Again you’re driving people away and you’re not capturing their e-mail address when they go to Twitter. Those social media links should be at the footer, most likely. People can find them but they’re not the most visible thing. We want to draw the eyes to the most actionable thing which is to get them to opt into your list.
  12. Finally the biggest sin I see, maybe you’re one of these, is farms that don’t even have a website. Instead, they have a Facebook page. And they are building a house on a rented land. They don’t own Facebook they don’t control who’s going to be able to see that in the future and whether or not any of your followers on Facebook or even the book to see what your posts are and you’re not you know. It’s much more difficult for you to create an email list that way, you can’t customize the site. That’s a bigger problem and I hope that you’re not doing that.

So why is it like this? Why if these are the sins that I’m seeing across all these sites? Why?

I mean I know from speaking with many farmers that they too are frustrated with their own websites. They don’t want it to be this way but they are like this because most people either create their own Web site using a do it yourself platform or they get stuck with a WordPress theme that they can’t figure out how to properly configure. I mean in a way this is the thing that’s bad about Squarespace, Wix, Weebly and all of them. Folks just start dragging and dropping.

But they never start with a plan a blueprint of what they want their site to accomplish and what they want it to look like.

I mean if you take this approach to building a house not thinking about how you wanted to use it what you wanted the rooms to be how are you going to use the house just start you know placing rooms atop one another. I mean that be crazy. That wouldn’t work. So let’s not do that with our websites. Let’s start with a blueprint.

And of course you know I’ve got one for you. I’ll have that coming up in a future episode and I’ll walk you through how to blueprint your farm’s website.

Thanks for Listening!

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