John Alden, Owner of Mountain House Estate Talks About Your Wedding Vendor Website
I keep telling Elizabeth that she needs venue owners who have some SEO education. I’m going to tell you why.
I’m an OG, new to the wedding venue ownership business in 2015 after I purchased a property for other purposes that came with a newbie venue. As I’m not from the industry, I hired consultants – the top in our Northern California wine country area of 400+ venues.
A website was created by the first consultant using Square Space, and she incorporated a slide show from our styled shoot that got published. Produced little business.
I moved to a recommended SEO person who rebuilt the website in Wordpress after it was found that the slide show was being scored as drops by Google. Each slide was a drop.
New SEO guy, wife is a planner, has a Photobooth business, and does their SEO generating hundreds of event bookings annually. Charged me thousands of dollars each month. Our organic traffic improved, but I just couldn’t justify the expense. As I learned more about GMB, Keywords, etc., I realized he only knew a little more than I did.
I went to a chamber of commerce meeting in Healdsburg, CA where the top SEO company in Sonoma County spoke. I moved my website there, and they rebuilt the website again, doing a little SEO work. More thousands of dollars. Once they got everything set, the amount of interaction and work on my website was reduced to a maintenance level. Everything plateaued, except the monthly charge.
What I found is they were looking at SEO on a national basis. Trying to sell my product to the nation. I’m a local venue, and almost all my clients come from within 100 miles. Not a 100-mile radius – to my north is forest, to my west is the ocean – I have a narrow target to hit. I don’t care if a bride in Utah sees my venue in her results. Local SEO is all that matters to a local business.
I spoke with Alan Berg – someone we all know – telling him I needed a website and SEO. Mind you; I’m still learning at this point. I’m attending WMBA, sitting in on Jason Hennessy’s talks, etc. I learned about Ahrefs, semrush, Ubersuggest, and I found Spyfu.com.
Alan sent me to Brian Lawrence for a new website and Brian’s back room created the site. I started speaking directly with the back room – Elizabeth.
During this time I spent many hours going down a rabbit hole trying to understand SEO and all factors that go into it. Although Spyfu.com isn’t the best or most accurate tool, it gave me the foundation I needed. I use it to measure everything – it’s like using a tape measure to measure a table – it’s only so accurate. But if you measure other tables with the same tape measure you know which one is largest. If I want to measure it down to the hundredth of an inch, a tape measure is the wrong tool. Spyfu is the wrong tool for advanced work. But it will give you an education.
Working with Elizabeth directly, we both went through a learning curve. I’d see something new and ask her about it. Some of the tools she uses now are just several generations down the road from a conversation we had at one time.
People don’t understand SEO. Oh, they may know what the letters stand for, but that’s it. So I came up with a simple way to explain it. You ask google a question – “wedding venues near me”. Google knows where you live, your likes, and from it’s billions of answers, it gives you the best ones starting with the first best answer, and working down from there. The best answers are on page 1 – and people don’t look deeper.
How they find that answer for the person searching is based on the keywords – “wedding venue near me”, or “wedding venue”, or —- etc. Keywords matter – even if misspelled and not totally natural.
For instance – using Spyfu I found that calling our large indoor room a “great room” didn’t score nearly as well as “ballroom”. We changed everything to ballroom. Remember, my goal is eyes on my site and ballroom produced a lot more eyes.
My goal is inquiries from the website – organic, not paid. That only happens when the potential client sees the website. Google doesn’t deliver the prettiest website, the one with language by an poet, they deliver the highest value site with the right keywords. Use Spyfu and do keyword research – you’ll see.
The world of SEO is HUGE and the rabbit hole is big and deep. But you need to learn a little to know if what the person you hired is doing the job for you. Then turn them free to optimize, etc. Hell, I rarely talk about the website specifics with Elizabeth – she’s the pro. I truly don’t care about the website colors, which flowers are shown, etc, etc. I care about my website making me money. And that means first getting eyes on the site, then turning those eyes into inquiries.
The words on the website matter – to Google. Learn how to use a tape measure and let a pro worry about the SEO details.
Want to do an interesting experiment? Get into Spyfu and put your venue in, then the venues of your competitors – see what the tape measure reads. Now put in a super beautiful venue website – one someone paid $15K+ to create (we all get advertisements from companies that offer this service), and see how they score in Spyfu. Compare that to my site www.mountainhouseestate.com created and polished by Snowmad Digital.