Friday, April 10. 2009
Well its been almost six months since I was here and it feels like only yesterday. Just like slipping into a favourite pair of jeans.
I now have a marketing blog up and running at:
you can click here to visit the adrian g stewart marketing blog.
I will be calling back from time to time with news from the alpaca industry and my usual blend of humor and education.
See you around
Thursday, September 11. 2008
My good friends at Pucara have sent out a very impressive little publication this week detailing their herdsires.
The brochure lists 13 quality herdsires, I have to assume Big Al is not superstitious!
Most are Snowmass animals and the name alone tells you these will all be exceptional quality.
Big Al floating on his pond with Dolly. What you need to know is that pool float is 8 feet long.
Some of the studs are co-owned or campaigned with Tim & Anita Beaumont of Beachwood Creek Farm. Ohio [email protected]
My day on the farm ended on a real high note when I received a phone call from a total stranger who had found a long lost colleague by searching the internet and finding him on my alpaca blog. Dr Nate Gale who was director of the Los Angeles Zoo is a neighbor and friend of ours and came by for the annual alpaca shearing last year.
Dr Gale former director of the Los Angeles Zoo watching the shearing at Mulberry Alpacas.
Wednesday, June 4. 2008
Our friends Al Cousill and Jude Andersen had a great show at the Alpaca Nationals in Sandy Utah.
Following on from winning the Reserve Light Suri Herdsire of the Year at the 2008 Futurity their full Accoyo boy, Pucara Kahuna, had great success at the 2008 AOBA Nationals.
He took first, second and third in Suri Bred and Owned male.
Kahuna at 10 years of age
They also took First in Bred and Owned female and followed that with first in the Alpaca Breeders Best Three category. Followed by another combination Kahuna progeny won the Get of Sire.
Al and Jude were thrilled when Kahuna offspring also won the White male Championship and the Reserve in the females.
2008 Yearling Show String
Several of the ribbon winning Pucara Kahuna cria are now for sale including the champions. We also have half shares available of the Kahuna male yearlings that excelled in the show ring in 2007 and 2008.
So for all you suri breeders out there get your check books out load up your females and head up to Pucara for some top flight genetics.
Well done Al and Jude...
Saturday, May 24. 2008
We have now started using the new Destron microchips in our alpacas which also display the temperature of the alpaca as well as the serial number which is very neat. The downside is that they have the new 15 digit serial number and that really does take some writing down particularly in heat of battle.....
Anyway as I was working through one of the drawers in the office I noticed we still had a good number of the old style chips and so I offered them on the SOJAA website. And within 24 hours all 20 of the old style chips had gone to a new alpaca home. The new owner was delighted with getting microchips at $2.50 and I was happy with $50. Win win as they say....
The alpaca fleeces from shearing are still sat in the barn and I can't decide whether I should donate them to AFCNA (the national fibre cooperative), sell them on eBay as I did last year or advertise them on the Yahoo fleece group of which I am now a member. Its mainly sheep fleeces but I do see the occasional alpaca fleece.
I used eBay last year and to be honest after packing the darn things up and shipping them off it really didn't feel like it was worth all the time and effort of taking pictures and loading them onto eBay in the first place.
Last week I advised one of my clients to use a mini mill in Northern California to process some of their alpaca fibre and was shocked (pleasantly) to discover that the Mini Mill is so busy they have stopped taking on new customers...now if that isn't a sign of the times in terms of alpaca fleece processing then I don't know what is.
Tuesday, March 25. 2008
Welcome to this the penultimate blog entry on the creation of highly effective alpaca marketing websites. So far we have covered; creating an identity for your farm, title tags, content, links, images, website URL, blogs and yesterday I talked about usability.
Today I want to talk about e-mail and mailing lists:
The easiest way to start this is to always ask yourself who, what, where, when and how?
Who are you going to send your mailshot to?
What are you going to ask them to do?
Where on the web will they go?
When are you going to do it?
How will you get them to do what you ask?
There are of course many answers to these questions and not just one correct answer. So play around and see what happens.
You can be direct and say "Come look at the alpacas I have for sale." Those people who click through will only be the ones who really want to look at your alpacas.
Or you can be less direct and say "Would you like to win a book about alpacas? - Then visit my website and enter the competition." The way I do this is to then to ask people to answer a simple question about one of the alpacas that I have for sale. Of all the people who enter one lucky winner is picked at random.
I really like this appproach. Firstly its fun and I like the idea that our alpaca farm is asssociated with enjoyment. Secondly, all the people who visit the site have to look at the alpacas for sale in order to answer the quiz question - this is of course my real goal -
I am sure you will have great ideas of your own, as I say there really are many ways to do this and not just one correct answer.
The best source of email addresses for this is the AOBA sales lead campaign. These sales leads are generated by AOBA and then have to be purchased by the AOBA membership. The leads come out each month and you should contact them as soon as possible. Over time you will build up a significant list of leads, otherwise known as people who are interested in buying alpacas. Any that reply to you directly MUST be tracked individually the remainder should be contacted at regular intervals say once each quarter. You can always break your master list down into three parts and contact one part every month. This helps spread out the work of following up on replies and creates a good monthly cycle to your marketing activities.
If you don't want to buy the AOBA sales leads then you need to generate your own leads. You can do this by having a newsletter sign up page on your website and keeping a visitors book on your stand when you attend shows or go to exhibitions. It will take much longer but you wont be sharing your leads with other ranches. which is of course what happens when you take the AOBA leads.
These aren't the only two options your affiliate may generate mailings lists or you can rent or buy mailing lists.
As with many things in life "you pays your money and you takes your choice..."
Monday, March 24. 2008
Don't Forget the Humans
This is so important, it probably should be higher up on the list to be honest. On the other hand it should be so obvious it probably shouldn't even be on the list at all!
There's an art to designing a site that is friendly to both Google crawlers and the people you ultimately want to buy alpacas. Without people, what's the point? So first design for them, and then tweak to please the spiders, not the other way around. Jakob Nielsen is a web usability guru you'll want to check out. He's been telling people how to make user friendly websites since the this whole web thing got started.
As an illustration ask yourself; How difficult is it to perform a search on Google?
Jakob is not talking about the challenge of formulating a good query, interpreting the results, or revising your search strategy to reap better results. Those are all very complicated research skills, and few people excel at them.
He is talking only about the very first step in searching the Web: Getting to your favorite search engine so that you can run a search there.
Would you say this is easy or difficult? Think a bit before reading on.
**** think about it ****
If you thought it's easy to get to Google, think again. In Jakob Nielsen's current round of web usability research, only 76% of users who expressed a desire to run a Google search were successful. In other words, 1/4 of users who wanted to use Google couldn't do so. (Instead, they either completely failed to get to any search engine or ended up running their query on a different search engine — usually whatever type-in field happened to be at hand.)
Jakob Nielsen doubts that any Web designer would be incapable of running a Google search and I have to agree with him. So, the fact that 1/4 of users can't do it is a striking demonstration that you can't rely on your own experience if you want to reach a broader audience. Remember this when designing your web alpaca marketing site and when reviewing the work of others. If in doubt use unsuspecting friends and family to test out what you have produced, you will be shocked by the number of times what was obvious to you was not at all intuitive for your audience.
Next time you are sat in an alpaca meeting take a look around and it requires no imagination to believe that 1 in 4 of the people in the room don't know-how to use Google well enough to look for your adorable alpacas...... so bear this in mind when you build your web alpaca web site.
Sunday, March 23. 2008
Start a Blog
A great way to establish yourself as someone who knows about alpacas is to start a blog about your farm or some aspect of the alpaca industry you're involved with. Maintaining a blog means another entry point with regularly updated content that eventually with some authority helps pull up the main site via targeted links to the site, or specific pages within the site. It's not a spam blog, which will be zapped eventually, if there's useful content on it and legitimate linking.
My blog is one of several alpaca blogs and fairly popular but by no means perfect and I do tend to wander around the subject matter and sadly I have had to suspend comments due to the massive amount of spam mail I was receiving in the comments section of my blog.
There are packages around to help you do this such as Wordpress and I use one called Serendipity.
Surf around the web and look at some alpaca blogs. A blog doesn't have to be daily or even weekly so do it as often as it feels good. I post everyday out of habit but as a result the quality of my postings can vary considerably. Its a bit like the news channels running 24 hours...they have to find content all day to fill up the airwaves.
Saturday, March 22. 2008
The website name or URL as it is known in the trade is pretty important.
The importance of the URL is often debated, but one argument seems to make more sense than the others. Search engines don't like too many parameters in the URL (easy to confuse the spiders with & and ?) and people can't read those long URLs and tell what they mean at a glance either. The people aspect here is especially important, because they're the ones clicking and they need to understand where a link will take them in the blink of an eye.
Therefore: keywords in the URL are a good idea and the best keyword is - alpacas - hence my own choice of URL which is www.mulberryalpacas.com .
You should be able to create a URL that includes your farm name and the word - alpacas - without having to buy anything.
The piece that comes after the name is called the top level domain and by far the most popular is .com but there are others such as .biz .net .org and so forth in fact there are hundreds so if you want to check them all out go here.
On balance I would use .com if at all posible because that is what people type as a default...... if you are a .net you might just miss out on some traffic when people forget and type .com.
Having said all of that if you are a cooperative (See the Rochdale Principles) then go for .coop
So you could even create a web site www.alpaca-fiber.coop if you wanted to......
Friday, March 21. 2008
Today I wanted to talk (and show) about the images you put onto your alpaca website or blog. And I must start this entry with a caveat, just as the cobblers children never have any shoes my own website is not perfect when it comes to images. I have two excuses; firstly what I now know I didn't know when I built the web site and secondly there over 1000 images on the site so any re-labelling exercise would be substantial. Do as I say not as I do!
Now that digital cameras are readily available and affordable it is within everyone's ability to snap some pictures of their alpacas. Why pictures? Well if a picture is worth a thousand words. Then a (good) picture of an alpaca is probably the difference between selling and not selling one of your animals.
Having snapped the picture and loaded it onto your PC you now have the opportunity to improve and enhance that picture still further...and most of us need that opportunity. In fact this is the stage where professionals spend most of their time and effort.
You may well have heard about a software package called Photo Shop but to my mind that software is way beyond what is required by most alpaca farmers. Your digital camera may well have come with a software disk and if this does everything you need then that's great. If not I recommend an inexpensive and easy to use package called ACD See. The Pro version is $129 and money well spent. Here is an example of why:
As you can see I have removed what I call the visual distractions, the houses, fences other alpacas and so forth, then cropped the photo so that the alpaca occupies the full picture. This took me about 15 minutes or so from beginning to end, time well spent. In fact I actually enjoy doing this stuff now I know the software and what it can do.
The final piece is that every alpaca image on your web site has Alt Text associated with it and you need to make sure every image on your site is correctly labelled so a clear and unique description is required.
For example calling every image - alpaca - or labelling them - 34562.jpg - is no good.
What you need is - Flossy a friendly alpaca - or something similar. The word alpaca needs to be in there and ithe decsription must be unique.
Thursday, March 20. 2008
Welcome to this the fourth in a series of blog articles on how to build a world class alpaca web site or enhance your existing alpaca website. As the webmaster of a new alpaca site, there are several things you must do. First, you need to create a genuinely useful website filled with equally useful and informative alpaca releated content. You need to ready yourself to add fresh content on a frequent basis, in order to retain existing site visitors and to attract the search engine spiders. You also need to start building links – a good link profile takes time to develop so it is essential that you start as soon as possible.
Or more specifically, back-links, links to your alpaca web site from outside sources. Links are your letters of recommendation. If no-body's recommending you, or the recommendations seem phony, then it won't work. Authority (high quality) links are weighted most heavily, of course, so try to get industry-related authority sites to link to your site. I know its not easy ...but I am sure your mother told you that the things in life that are worth having are never easy.
Authority (high quality) links are by nature more difficult to get, so you'll have to start somewhere else unless you already have the brand recognition you need from square one. Some people propose "link-swaps" to each other and it used to be common place to buy and sell links. But as Google demonstrated last Fall, you can't buy Google's admiration that way. In fact, you'll get punished. So, get as many links as you can from alpaca industry peers the good old-fashioned way – by promoting. Submit links to respected directories like DMOZ and Yahoo, as well. A word of caution, a large burst of low-quality, irrelevant, or bad-neighborhood links, though, can do a lot more harm than good; so keep things natural.
Avoid Any Dubious Link Building Practice
If you see a link building opportunity that looks dodgy, ignore it. At best you will waste your time, but at worst your site could be penalized and you may never be able to recover. If it looks too good to be true... well you know the rest.
I think tomorrow we will talk about design, but that depends on what you my readers want to hear about. So unless I hear otherwise it will be the whole aspect of designing alpaca marketing websites that human beings enjoy visiting.
Follow these to pervious Alpacas Marketing articles:
Marketing Alpacas Getting Started
Marketing Alpacas on the Web Title Tags
Marketing Alpacas on the Web Great Content
Wednesday, March 19. 2008
Okay here is the third article in this series about creating a highly effective alpaca marketing website.
Text or Content
The order of what is known as the Big Three (Tags, Links and Text) is a topic of much debate, but really they work as parts of the whole; you can think of each one as a leg on the stool, each one is essential and no one leg is more important than the other two. You probably understand that the text, or content as it gets called, needs to be quality, however that is defined, it should also be rich in the keywords you are targeting to drive search traffic.
That doesn't mean just throwing the keywords in there like confetti at a wedding, though. Keyword use and keyword variation should be natural and not overstuffed. For the text part of the page, focus on working in the relevant words and phrases you want people to find you for. Such as: alpacas for sale in southern Oregon.
John Merrell runs one of the most visited alpaca web sites and he will always put content / text at the top of his list for web site importance. John's view is that you can play around with links and blogs all you like but at the end of the day in the long haul content will win. Perhaps the best example of this is the web site for North West Alpacas which is stuffed full of relevant, interesting and useful content.
Remember Google cannot see or read images so you must label them using whats called the Alt Text. The Alt text appears when you scroll your mouse over an image and a small sentence or phrase opens up ideally describing the image. Any text on top of an image is also invisible to Google. With this in mind think very carefully about making images the links from a web page, much better to use relevant text. That makes it much easier for the web spiders to follow. The spiders are programmes sent out by Google and the other search engines to read your web site and index the content (pages). Being spidered does not however mean your content is instantly indexed there is often a delay between being spidered and the indexing and then the update of the various Google databases around the world.
Tomorrow we will be looking at links in more detail as that is the third leg of our SEO stool.
Here are the two previous Alpacas Marketing articles
Marketing Alpacas - Getting Started
Marketing Alpacas on the Web - Title Tags
Tuesday, March 18. 2008
Firstly a snippet of alpaca industry news...2008 AOBA National Conference registration is open! So you can join north American alpaca breeders in Sandy, Utah for the AOBA National Conference. May 21- 25 2008, the theme this year will be
"Everything You Want To Know About Alpacas".
According to AOBA the conference promises to be an exciting time with the national halter show, national fleece show, fiber arts, auction, vendors, annual gala banquet with Bob Eubanks and a broad range of educational seminars.......sadly the educational seminars have yet to be decided………so how do we know it will be a broad range? We just trust!
Well back to the real world and the second in my series on marketing alpacas........ in particular the creation of a business busting alpaca marketing web site.
You might recall that I said yesterday that having a farm name with the word alpacas in there is pretty much the only way to go. Therefore you need to be thinking about something on the lines of say Mulberrry Alpacas Because for your web site you want a URL or web address that also has the word alpacas in there...every little helps. For example www.mulberryalpacas.com
Getting great rankings isn't a manipulation game—Google absolutely hates that game and will punish you for it if they get a whiff of it—which is perhaps what the dark element of the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) world sells. Good, in-bounds SEO is made up of smart, user-and-search-engine friendly techniques. Think of SEO as a performance-enhancing drug—one that won't get you kicked out of the Tour de France.
That being said, there are tons of things webmasters can do to help their sites perform better in search, in this series of articles we can't cover everything. However what follows is what I regard as the top strategies for better search engine—and by "search engine" I really mean "Google" – ranking. So lets get cracking...
1. Title tags
Listed by some as one of the Big Three (tags, links, and text), I'm putting title tags at the top. The words in the title tag appear in the link that pops up in the search result. This is where you tell the search engine (and the would-be visitor) as succinctly as possible what needs to be known: company or publication name; relevant, targeted keyword or keyword phrase taken from the text of the page. Each page should have a title tag as Google ranks each page individually, not the site in its entirety.
Here is the Mulberry Alpacas home page title tag:
Alpaca Farm - alpaca breeding and alpacas for sale on alpaca farm in Oregon.
What could be easier.....Marketing Alpacas #3 will be here tomorrow.
I couldn't resist....... this little bear is so adorable I had to show you his picture.
Polar bear cub Flocke playing with her keeper at a zoo in Germany. Flocke was rejected by her mother when she was one month old and is now brought up by her zoo minders
Yesterdays artice on marketing alpacas.
Marketing Alpacas - Getting Started
Saturday, January 5. 2008
In England we always keep our ears open to hear the first cuckoo of spring, a sure sign that all is well in the world. In the North American world of Alpacas the first sure sign of spring is when Snowmass Alpacas send out their auction catalogue.
This years catalogue is as impressive as ever and is available as a PDF from the Snowmass Alpacas web site.
Anyone is welcome to attend this high class event which is held annually down in sunny Arizona.
Schedule of Events, Friday, February 22nd,
3:00 pm to 7:00 pm: Welcome, open pen alpaca viewing
5:00 pm: Cocktails & hors d’oeuvres & good conversations
Saturday, February 23rd
9:00 am to 12:00 pm: Open pen alpaca viewing
12:30 pm: Lunch
2:00 pm: The Making of Champions Private Selection Sale
The basic idea is that you show up and Don and Julie treat you to a wonderful time while Celebrity Sales separate you in the most pleasant way imaginable from your hard earned cash. On Sunday the happy punters get to go home with some decent Snowmass Genetics while Don and Julie head back to the ranch a few million dollars the richer. Now isn't that the American Alpaca dream?
Over the years Sonwmass have produced two really excellent brochures on fleece and these can be downloaded from the Snowmass Alpacas web site as PDF files:
Part 1 - 23 pages, written in 2003
Part 2 - 32 pages, written in 2005
Both brochures are well worth reading if you haven't already seen them.
Here on the alpaca farm the second snow storm is on its way and as I look out of the window and into the distance I can see that the pass over the Siskiyou Mountains into California must be closed as there are two solid lines of traffic stationary on the southbound carraigeway of I- 5. So much for spring!!
A quick check on the ODOT camera shows that the pass is actually still open but traffic is slow moving.
Friday, August 24. 2007
How many times have I seen that as the subject line on an e-mail in the last month or so?
Now what picture does it conjure up in your mind when you this kind of headline?
Alpaca Herd Dispersal
To my mind it is not a positive image. Now don't get me wrong there are many valid reasons for selling off your alpaca herd and doing something different. Because as those of us in the business realise alpaca breeding/ farming is not an easy life by any means its hard work and long hours...if you want to be successful that is.
So I can only assume that by using these words the sellers are trying to convey that there are bargains to be had.....now if they are bargains surely a few quiet words in the local AOBA alpaca affiliate network and they will be snapped up by some lucky local farmers......
My guess is that they are fairly run of the mill (a good old textile phrase) alpacas and nothing wrong with that. But are they any different to the other 10,000 run of the mill alpacas advertised on Alpacanation...? I doubt it.
Now the owners will no doubt think they are special in some way and to my way of thinking that is what they should be concentrating on...what makes them special.....not what makes them ordinary.
Well that's my thought!
and today I had an e-mail from Lazy J Alpacas which was entitled
NOT an alpaca herd dispersal
Wow, there sure have been a lot of "herd dispersal" deals and "going out of business" sales this year huh?
I'm not an economist or anything, but if the Alpaca industry as a whole keeps giving its money to those who have given up and are retiring and all that capital is leaving the industry never to return, isn't that a bad thing?
Why not help a new kid get started in this industry? My name is Jason Hughes and I'm 31 years old. I started Lazy J Alpacas in 2004 with my father Jim. I plan on being in this industry for the next 40 or 50 years...
If you're breeding for grey huacayas, this is the email you've been waiting for. Help a new operation get started at herd dispersal prices!
Click here to take the Mulberry Alpacas survey.
Adrian Stewart - click here to go to Mulberry Alpacas.
Click here to register for the Mulberry Alpacas Newsletter.
Click here to find out about National Alpaca Farm Day 2007.
Sunday, July 8. 2007
The weather is roasting here today so its a almost a pleasure to stay inside during the heat of the day and do some work on the website. We have several alpaca details to update as all the females have given birth now and are of course one year older than they were last year.
Apart from tidying up the website we also need to tidy up the database of contacts that we have. We have over the years accumulated a very broad list which we have built from a number of sources and has several thousand names and addresses in it. Clearly some of these e-mail addresses will now be dead ends and some of those who were interested in alpacas will no longer be interested in alpacas.
To tidy this up we have decided to use a survey and have designed a survey using a tool called Survey Monkey which is very easy to use and in its most basic form is also free...
If you want to take the Mulberry Alpacas survey simply click here.
You can only take the survey once so I am afraid its not possible to see all the questions in the survey because the first question directs you to an appropriate series of follow up questions.
Never fear though I will be sharing the results with you once we decide that the survey is closed.
All is quiet on the farm and later today I will be checking through the protocols we have for herd vaccinations to see where we are and what needs to be scheduled for later this month.
Now whatever happens don't forget that this Friday it is Friday the 13th and the release date for the latest Harry Potter Movie.....
Adrian Stewart - click here to go to Mulberry Alpacas.
Click here to register for the Mulberry Alpacas Newsletter.
Click here to find out about National Alpaca Farm Day 2007.
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