Eagle-eyed readers of this blog have probably noticed that I’ve got a bit of a…let’s say thing for fishing. I mean, I’ve probably mentioned it in just about every post I’ve written (so far) and, it’s there’s a pretty good chance I’m out exploring a stretch of water right now.
As a result of this… let’s keep calling it a thing… that I have for fishing, I end up spending a lot of time on the websites for fishing companies, especially lodges. As in any industry, when you spend enough time on a lot of different websites, you start to see a pattern of mistakes that creep up again and again and again.
These mistakes aren’t often the result of people doing anything wrong, but they’re still issues that could (and probably do) costs these companies business. And, while some of these things might seem a little on the nitpicky side, they’re actually things that really matter and can make a difference in everything from conversions to SEO ranking.
So, if you’ve got a fishing industry website, set your rod down for a moment (I know, I know. That’s a tall order, but trust me) and have a read.
- It’s out of date
This is a pretty big one that I see all the time. I’m not talking about websites that are maybe one or two years out of date, I’m talking websites that are somewhere in the neighbourhood of a decade old, if not longer. They look like this:
The problem with this is that the first thing people are going to do is wonder if you’re still in business.
Even if you’ve been updating things like prices and adding the occasional photo of your most recent season, a website that hasn’t had a series design update in awhile makes it seem like you’re no longer in the game.
This is something that happens when you’re in a comfortable place. You probably have a good enough client base that you don’t see the need to spend the time and money required to get a new site off the ground, and that’s fine. For a while.
But, what happens when your clientele hits the age where they can’t make the trip any more?
What happens when those people aren’t replaced by a new group of people?
This is where an older website costs you business. I’ve been in this position quite a few times. I hit a website for a lodge or fishing camp, I’m kind of liking what they do, but I can’t tell if they’re even open any more (this is evening assuming I don’t bounce as soon as I see the older page).
Updating your website, with a new look and new content fixes all those problems for you. It doesn’t need to be the fanciest website out there, but it has to look current enough that people aren’t left wondering if you’re still in business.
- Professional design, DIY writing
Right up there with the too old website, is the one that you wrote yourself.
This is another one of those things I see all the time. The website looks great. Clear branding, easy navigation, the pictures are fantastic, there’s even a strong social media presence, but that copy, though? Yeesh!
For reasons I’ll never really understand, so many people feel like spending a decent amount of money on design is okay, but when it comes to words they go cheap (to be fair, this isn’t exclusive to the fishing industry. Not by a long shot).
This creates a complicated experience because you’ve got a space that looks great, but reads like it was written by a 5 year-old. It get especially complicated because people devalue words and don’t think it matters at all.
Except that it does.
From a copywriting perspective, bad copy costs you business. In the right hands, copy can transform people who are casual browsers of your site into paid customers. If you put a little money into hiring a copywriter who practices conversion copywriting techniques AND someone who works in your industry, your website is going to be that much better as a result.
Why, you ask?
Well, because just like the design thing, you might be doing alright in terms of repeat clients and customers right now, but a poorly written site is going to affect your ability to convert new customers.
People are particular about how they spend their money and fishing trips are often something that people save and budget for. A website that is full is typos or doesn’t read very well doesn’t exactly inspire confidence when someone is looking to spend their hard-earned money.
- You don’t share enough
When I hit the website for a fishing lodge, one of the main things I’m looking at is information about the water you operate on.
I don’t need to know all the hotspots on a lake and where you’re going to catch the lunkers(that’s not something I’d expect you to give away for free. Plus, we all know what happens when you do that).
But the names of a few bodies of water and maybe even some tips about where to look for fish at certain times of years (are they deep, shallow, in the tributaries, off the points) go a long way.
Sharing information about where you operate really helps someone narrow down their choices.
Tell me what kind of fish I can target. Share a bit of information about the lake (heck, even link to a government site containing technical data). Let’s see some pictures. Some testimonials. Anything at all that helps me get an understanding of what staying with you is going to be like makes all the difference in the world.
Because if I can’t find out any information like this, I’m probably going to pass. Most anglers, myself included, are often trying to target specific kinds of fish. If I’m looking for bass and you’re on a lake without bass, I want to know that. If someone needs to rent a boat and you don’t have boats to rent, they need to know that. The more information you can share about your lodge, the amenities you provide and the water you operate on, the better.
Like so many of the things I’ve talked about so far, this information instills confidence in potential customers.
Now, having said that, if you’re going to share information, make sure it’s accurate. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone advertise, say, huge fish on a lake that you know doesn’t have big fish.
- You don’t have a blog
This goes hand-in-hand with sharing information. Having a blog on your website is a great way to share information about the experience people will get at your lodge.
This is your direct link to your customers and let you show off not only how much you know about fishing, but how great the fishing is at your lodge.
I mean, think about it. Anglers are storytellers. It’s 90% of what we do. If we’re not fishing, we’re talking about fishing, bragging about the fish we caught, talking about the gear we used or talking about that one that got away.
If you don’t have a blog, you’re losing out on the chance to talk about that stuff and, more importantly, to establish yourself as an authority for your area. The best example I can give involves my parents. They run a fishing lodge up in Northern Ontario. They operate in an area where there are probably more fishing lodges than there are full-time residents. And, you know what, when they want to know about what’s happening up there in the off season, they check the website of a competitor. In fact, everyone does it.
That lodge has established themselves as the place to go for information about the conditions up there to the point where even those who are competing with them visit their blog for information.
That’s what you want to achieve with your blog. That’s why having a blog can help you grow your business.
- Terrible user experience (UX)
Some websites, no matter how up to date or current they may be, are just terrible to navigate. It’s a very common problem when I’m browsing through fishing lodge websites.
The information is there, but it’s hard to find (or it just isn’t there at all). Navigating through it is tricky to impossible. And, worse of all, it doesn’t load fast (or at all).
This is one of those things that kills people’s desire to learn more. If I have to dig to find out what your prices are, what amenities you offer, when you’re open or what your cabins are like, chances are I’m going to bounce from your site pretty darn quickly. Even the best lodge in the country isn’t going to attract many customers with terrible UX.
Your website needs to be easy for people to explore. Time is a precious commodity these days and if you’re wasting people’s time on your website, they’re not going to want to visit your lodge. Period.
Taking the time to invest in a good website from a UX point of view saves everyone time, energy and frustration.
- No mobile site
This is an extension of the UX one, but it’s important enough that it deserves it’s own point.
Your website needs to be something that is browsable on a mobile device. There are a couple of very important reasons for this.
The first is that most traffic comes from mobile devices these days. I do most of my casual browsing and research into places I’d like to fish from my phone in the evening. I’m usually parked on the couch watching Netflix, but it’s also something I’ll do when I’m out and waiting for an appointment or what have you. I’m not alone in this, either. A significant number of people browse from their phones or tablets. If your website doesn’t have a solid mobile experience, you’re going to lose business.
The other reason this is important is because Google is going to start ranking your site based on the mobile experience first. If you don’t have a mobile experience, or you don’t have a good one, your rankings are going to suffer. Since a lot of places rely on these rankings, this is also something that is going to cost you business.
Like the UX issue, this is something that a good designer can take care of for you (even if you’re a DIY designer, it’s not that hard to sort out. WordPress has a built-in mobile experience feature that does all the heavy lifting). If you’ve recently had your site re-done and you’re wondering about the mobile experience, at least from Google’s point-of-view, Google has a great tool that tells you where your weak spots are.
What you can do about these problems
There are basically two answers here. The first, for the UX and design issues is to hire a designer who really knows what they’re doing. These issues often clear right up with a pro touch.
Similarly, if your content is the problem, hire a writer. I’ll even go one step further and say hire a good writer who specializes in your industry.
Like having a good designer work on the look of your site, a good writer who knows your industry can turn your site into something that makes you money. Someone who understands how conversion copywriting works and can also help you tell the story that your clients wants to here is worth their weight in walleye.
I just happen to be one of those writers. If you run a fishing lodge or guide service, or even a store, and you’re looking to update your website, let’s talk. I can help you turn your website into something that makes you money and helps your business grow. Reach out today and let’s talk fishing.