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Dover Canyon Winery: Small Business Blog of the Day

by Brian Brown (follow me on Twitter): September 26, 2006

Dover Canyon WineryWhat it is
Dover Canyon Winery is the blog for the winery of the same name written by Mary Baker, an "administrative partner" of the winery in Paso Robles, California. Mary discusses events related to the winery such as wine tastings and the state of the grapes, as well as tackling broader issues like cooking with wine, or a general discussion of tannins.

Favorite Post
Strangely, I was drawn to a post that has no mention of wine...Society Dogs and the Lime Green Bus:

"On Friday we had the pleasure of a visit from the 'Society Dog' Bus. Check out the cool lime green and purple bus, completely renovated to safely transport human and canine alike."

Dover Canyon Winery lableFurther Comments
What I like about the 'Society Dogs' post is that it highlights customers. This is so important to do with a business blog. One of the easiest and biggest mistakes to make when writing a blog is to write about you and your company. What you should really be doing is writing about your customers and their needs.

I really like the fact that the most recent posts talk about Mary's winery and get away from general discussions about wine like many of the older posts. A general discussion is fine for a blog that writes about an entire industry, but for a specific winery, the success of the blog depends on posts about the winery itself. The reason is that there are tons of wine blogs that carry these general discussions, but there is only one blog that will be talking about Dover Canyon. This means there is little reason for a reader to visit the blog for a general discussion of wine, yet a reader has every reason to visit if they are looking for information about Dover Canyon Winery.

Mary has a lot of things going on in her navigation sidebar including the basics like blog navigation, RSS feeds, and a search box, but she also includes things like multiple links to other sites, amazon links, a calendar, a reader poll, and site stats. While it's very busy, the design of this sidebar is attractive, so it doesn't bother me too much. Each section is clearly separated from the next and reads ok.

I would make the suggestion to eliminate some of these items. I would get rid of the calendar (they're useless as navigation tool) and group the archives-by-month with the archives-by-categories. I would eliminate the 'Recent Posts' section because anyone who has scrolled down that far has already seen most of them anyway. The RSS section is very busy and too far down the page. I would highly recommend that Mary sign up with FeedBurner (free), use one icon for the feed, and place it at the top of the page where it's easy to find.

Two items I really like are the reader poll (we mentioned these yesterday), and the "Most Popular Posts" section. In fact I like the second one so much, I think I'll add that section to PJ. [Update: I created a Typelist called "Top 10 Posts" tonight and it's now displayed on the left sidebar. I chose the posts based on traffic as reported by Sitemeter. This will have to be updated manually which will be a pain, but I think it's a nice addition.]

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Comments

Thank you, Brian! This is exactly the kind of feedback I need and appreciate. Your suggestions are excellent and I'll begin working on these changes right away. Clearly PJ will have to become part of my morning pj-and-coffee time!

No problem Mary. I LOVE IT when people ask me to review their blogs! It makes the job of finding a blog soooo much easier. It might take hours otherwise.

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