Small Farm Website Case Study
This case study explores how Rough & Ready Farm is going digital.
Building Rough & Ready Farm’s website was a lot of fun. Their mission is to grow and provide local, sustainable, and healthy food to families in the farm’s surrounding hometown of Longmont, Colorado.
The Rough & Ready Farm (RRF) is named after the condition of the farm’s all-important irrigation water ditch. Rough & ready not only describes the ditch but also the farmers using it to work their 10 acres. A partnership between Laura Q. and Dave T. – two experienced farmers – makes for a complimentary rough & ready farmer duo.
When I first spoke with them about their website they were deciding what CMS (Content Management System) to use. They had heard of WordPress and Wix and SquareSpace but did not have experience with any platform.
In fact, we had a conference call with a Wix advocate that got semi-heated between me and that person.
I am a strong WordPress advocate because it is Open Source and I will happily debate a Wix or Squarespace advocate on that point.
However, Laura Q. the farmer on the conference call, is not at all familiar with Open Source so she did not really understand the value of it. So I needed a better way of explaining it.
This case study will defend and showcase the benefits and opportunities of using WordPress to build websites.
“We didn’t have a website but we knew we needed one. It was hard to move confidently forward without direct guidance – I’m not super techy. But Mike and his team made it crystal clear they had our best interests in mind.”
How can you decide which car will win the race? See below for answer and how it relates to website platforms.
Here is a quick analogy to consider when choosing the right website service provider:
Imagine you are a race-car driver and are presented with several new cars to choose from for an upcoming important race. How would you decide which race-car to use?
Would you just quickly pick the shiniest and coolest looking one? Or maybe the one with the plushest interior?
Or would you open the hood and take a look at the engine?
Yes you should examine the engine carefully because that is what is going to win the race!
Even if that race-car has a bad paint job and uncomfortable interior it will still win because it’s better where it counts.
WordPress may not have the best metaphorical paint job or interior but its engine is the best. Part of that reason is the army of devoted open source developers working on it.
An amazing statistic to consider is that approximately 33% of all websites and 40% of accredited university websites use WordPress.
Why? Because it works well, is always and improving, and is free (Open Source).
So start your engines and let’s get this case study going!
The Challenges: Building The eCommerce Site, Driving & Converting Traffic, Developing The Content Strategy, SEO For Optimized Ranking
The Rough & Ready Farm website homepage
Building The eCommerce Site
2021 marks Rough & Ready Farm’s inaugural year selling CSA shares, so the customer offers needed to be created. They decided on two offers; a Spring CSA and a Summer CSA – each 12 weeks long. Customers can further choose between weekly or biweekly delivery/pickup of their share.
As a CSA farm they pre-sell produce shares ahead of the growing season. This revenue infusion is a valuable resource for them, helping to de-risk the operation and hedge against unpredictable agriculture challenges (weather, pests, etc.).
One interesting development was a natural cross-selling partnership that blossomed with two other local farms – a flower farm and a micro-greens farm. Customers can choose to add those complimentary farms’ products to their cart while checking out. Keep reading to find out more details.
Driving & Converting Traffic
New websites can start driving traffic immediately from a variety of sources. Get creative but also use tried and true sources like word-of-mouth and paid ads.
When using paid ads be careful. If you don’t know what you’re doing it is easy to spend money and get no return. Considerable planning and work is required for a successful paid ads campaign.
Sending traffic from both online and offline efforts is the best way to start testing sources. However, converting traffic once it arrives is an entirely different ball of wax.
Converting traffic is a sales job, so using a combination of live agents and relentless followup can be very effective. Keep reading to find out the exact Live Chat plugin and app we use to get the all the heavy lifting done (they offer a free plan too!).
I love helping customers and I’m good at it. The live chat feature on the website that connects to my phone is brilliant. I can answer questions and close sales – and even set operating hours, outside of which we take a message.
Developing the Content Strategy
To begin creating Rough & Ready Farm’s content strategy we first brainstormed with the farmers about what their customers are like. This crucial step results in a list of keywords to begin researching. Keywords like ‘csa farm near me’ or ‘locally grown food’ are two examples.
Using a tool like UberSuggest or SEM Rush we start researching each of the keywords, looking for opportunities.
What does an opportunity in keyword research look like?
A keyword opportunity will have 3 traits:
- Decent monthly search volume
- Low competition
- High intent
Decent monthly search volume depends on what ‘decent’ means to you in the context of the website. For Rough & Ready Farm decent means at least a few hundred searches per month.
Once we identify the keyword opportunities we then build authoritative content around them. This involves publishing one or two pieces of long-form cornerstone content for the one or two most important keywords.
Then publish supporting posts for the mid-tier keywords, being sure to two-way link to the cornerstone content. For example, a post like ‘My Top 3 Tomato Growing Tips’ can link back to a cornerstone article ‘Rough & Ready Farm’s Operation This Year’.
That is RRF’s basic content strategy. Once a piece of content is posted keep updating it regularly. These efforts will pay off in better search rankings.
Keyword rank tracking is also essential for monitoring progress on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Check out SERP Fox for a simple keyword rank tracking.
SEO for Optimized Ranking
SEO is the practice of creating content, and complying with search engine standards, to rank highly for valuable search terms. A quick way to start optimizing your website’s search results is to use an SEO plugin, assuming you are running a WordPress site. Several are available, to download and install one:
- Log in to your website admin area
- Hover over ‘Plugins’
- Click on ‘Add New’
- Search for ‘SEO’
I recommend using Yoast or RankMath. RRF is using Yoast. One of the reasons why is because they use helpful colored dots to indicate areas of improvement for posts and pages.
The Solutions: Customize A Template Site, Online & Offline Marketing, Complimentary Farm Partnerships, Using The Yoast SEO Plugin
Customize A Template Site
To save time and money Rough & Ready Farm opted to start with a website template. This approach saves time and money by providing an initial starting structure. What remains to be done is customizing the graphics, colors, and text. This method gets the site live quickly.
Online & Offline Marketing
Working together we created a multi-pronged strategy to drive traffic and sales. Online and offline strategies are being used, and include:
- Flyers with QR codes posted in local businesses
- Large banner marketing at farmer’s market booth
- Facebook page
- Google Ads
- Live Chat
- Email Followup
Live Chat is a convenient option to provide site visitors, and will increase conversions. To accomplish this we use a plugin and web app called Tidio. We highly recommend checking it out. Also be sure to spend time courting customers on social media.
Spending time on the Facebook pages of our farm partners and friends generated a great return. While just spending time on our own page resulted in lower performance. That is the main takeaway for Facebook marketing.
The Google Ads campaign is relatively new and there is not a lot of data on it yet, but so far it looks good. We are doing keyword research currently to help with relevant content creation.
Search results ranking optimization is being done with technical on-page improvements and less technical off-page tactics like backlinking.
Using Canva we created flyers with QR codes on them. They will be used in local businesses and at their Boulder County Farmer’s Market booth.
At the booth will also be a large banner with CSA info printed on it.
Complimentary Farm Partnerships
One of the great aspects of the farming community is the variety of farmers. Rough & Ready Farm began looking for farms with complimentary products to partner with. These types of complimentary products are called ‘cross-sells’.
A cross-sell is a complimentary product, like bag of chips to go with a sandwich. In the case of Rough & Ready Farm there are many complimentary products from fresh cheeses and meats to artisanal breads and beyond.
RRF got immediate positive responses from several neighboring farms. Keep reading to find out which farms were chosen.
Use The Yoast SEO Plugin
Using a plugin like Yoast is very powerful because you are leveraging the entire development team at Yoast. They are constantly improving it and providing more value. There are free and paid versions of the plugin, and it’s very affordable for what you get.
Yoast helps you write better content by suggesting keywords, synonyms, and links. They also grade posts and pages using a color-coded system to help focus on problem areas.
It was promising to see the quick progress on the website and online store. I was expecting it to take a lot longer, it was a pleasant and encouraging surprise.
The Results: Quick Site Publication, Traffic & Sales Growth, Two Farm Partnerships, Optimized Search Engine Results
Quick Site & Store Publication
For a full breakdown of the site build check out our post on it. In summary, using the website template method it took 2 weeks to get a finalized first version of the site done. This includes the online store with 2 products, each with 4 variations.
Getting the site up quickly is essential with farming, because it is a time-sensitive endeavor.
Site visitor stats are positive during Month 1 of 2021.
Traffic & Sales Growth
Mostly through word-of-mouth traffic began growing quickly. The live-chat feature proved useful for answering questions, which in turn helped us optimize the website.
Within a few weeks Rough & Ready Farm started making their first online sales. A portion of the revenue was reinvested in a Google Ads campaign.
Two Farm Partnerships
Elevated Petals and Farmette Flowers partnered with RRF to provide local micro-greens and flowers, respectively. When a visitor checks out from RRF they will have the option to add those products.
Beyond cross-selling products, all three farms will be cross-promoting each other as well. Both on platforms like Instagram and their own blogs, and in person while selling.
Optimized Search Engine Results
Optimizing the website’s structured data for search engine friendliness resulted in a top 3 ranking very quickly. Structured data communicates aspects of a site to a search engine and follows the Schema.org standards.
For example, additional information about the website is displayed in the search results like links to pages.
Much like a living plant, the Rough & Ready Farm website started as a seed of an idea. With care and attention it developed a form and function that serves the farm.
Website sales naturally create a customer book of business the farm can re-market to and stay connected with. Additionally, it creates long-term value and equity for the farm should they ever want to sell it. Watching out for our clients’ interests is how we keep them and ourselves in business.
Our stance is that clients are paying us for the protection, care, and guidance we provide them. Purchasing our website services begins with us having a discussion about working together.
Contact us or schedule a call to get started.