Tuesday, June 24, 2008

California Artisan Wine from My Cousin Frank Ashton: Downhill Winery

Our grandfather made wine for the family, lo these many years ago. He made "artisan wine" way before the term "artisan" became a buzzword. In fact, I've got an old photograph of "Pop" pressing grapes -- not with his feet, but in an old winepress. Sebastiano Runza made wine a part of everyday life because that was the way things were done in the Old Country. It's nice to know that feeling and tradition continue today, albeit in California, not in Sicily or Queens, NY.
    Frank (or perhaps he should be thought of as Franco) Ashton does not press the grapes with his feet, either. Quite the modern "artisan" wine maker, he marries the old and new in winemaking to craft vintage and blended wines that represent the finest grapes this side of Old Europe. He works closely with growers to ensure delivery of only the best grapes for winemaking.
    I can remember the good old days, when he was at Cal-Poly SLO. He had grown and harvested a field of fine carrots. I volunteered to help him at some fair or other, washing and peeling carrots for him while he pressed them into carrot juice, one glass at a time. I don't know if he hit his goal for sales, but he sure loved serving up the sweet drink to appreciative customers.
    He's come a long way from there. Go to Downhill Winery and you'll see what I mean about some of the finest California artisan winemaking.
Alla famiglia!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Finally! A Scranton Portal Website that Targets Profitable Local Search Traffic

I'd been examining the idea of doing a local business portal, but all the ones I saw didn't fit what I was planning to do in the local market. This was one of those times where it was either do-it-yourself or pay somebody too much for what you really don't want. Most local portal programs are pre-built with all kinds of things in mind, except one: targeting local traffic that's looking for profitable businesses and professions. I have yet to see anyone making portals for professionals, contractors and other local businesses that spend a ton of money on advertising to people with lots of money to spend. Further, these businesses and professionals spend major ad dollars with very little in the way of measurable results to show for it.
    The common lament from most businesses is, "50% of my ad budget is wasted. I just don't know which 50%! That's because Yellow Pages, billboards, radio & TV spots and the like are not trackable. Sure, you can put in a coupon on your YP ad, but how many dentists are willing to do that? Can you imagine a General Contractor offering a coupon? For what? A free ice crusher?
    Enter the Scranton professional and business portal for targeted local traffic. This portal doesn't have what all the others have -- tons of "feature rich" stuff that doesn't enhance the real value to users or the businesses they want to patronize. Instead, this portal has pre-built template pages that are keyword optimized for specific, profitable local niches where the only competition is business directories, YP listings and classified ads. These are laser-targeted niche pages with SEO techniques and methods that are usually reserved for highly competitive broad markets. In English, that means the pages show up near or at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages almost immediately as is, and will rise to the very top with just a bit of tweaking.
    Now comes the cool part. Those that wants to see what it's like to have that SPOT in the SERP's can see their own website show up there with a simple "call forwarding" change of code on my server (302 redirect -- temporary). It's that kind of result that "sells" the service. As soon as the business pays the extravagant rental fee I will charge, their own portal page will occupy that spot in the Search Results. I'll even throw in a free Google Local Listing to go with it!
    There will even be "metrics" for the performance of these landing pages as they are. Each one has a little poll the user can participate in -- which leaves a complete record in the server's stats for the site that SOMEBODY CLICKED A LINK ON THE PAGE -- and it wasn't me! When local businesses see that kind of measurable result, they rejoice -- or they ought to. Try getting that from a Sunday edition newspaper display ad!
    I'll even revamp their existing site (if they have one) so that they keep the good ranking in the search results. If they need a website, I have colleagues who do that sort of thing for me. The important part is my continuing support and maintenance of their sites' SEO -- Search Engine Optimization. I'm from the school of SEO that treats it as a blood sport!
    That whole Kevin Costner "If you build it, they will come" thing is wrong! In this case, "If you rent it, they will keep coming" is more like it!