A New Beginning

In 2004, I got my first taste of blogging.  It was a brand new world and I was ready to attack the market and tell people everything and everything I thought about hunting.

How I started blogging

I had spent the better part of my life in Washington, DC running a business and decided on a whim one weekend in Idaho to invest in an outfitting business.  I came home after a week of spring bear hunting and while I did not get a bear on that trip, I got the opportunity to invest in an outfitting business.  It was a new adventure for me.  I was excited about it and I knew then that the way in which we would grow was absolutely through using this new medium of the internet.

I started down the path of paying attention to details and my first project was our website.  I poured over every word, every page and made it as perfect as I could.  I had been hearing these rumblings about bloggers and so I started a blog on the blogger platform and finally found the right person to link it into our website.  I started out writing a post a week and quickly rounded up to 3 posts a week.  My spelling and grammar was weak, it still can be on certain days but I worked past it and produced valuable content for each and every one of our hunters and even those who did not hunt with us.

That first 1/2 year, we booked 20 hunters just off the internet and through our blog and website.  The second year, we booked close to 55 hunters and the third year I sold my portion of the business during spring bear season.  I lost my father that year and I knew it was the right decision for me to sell my portion of the business.  I bought HuntingLife.com, the very next day.  I loved to write and I needed an outlet.  This year, we are going to hit our 10th anniversary in full-time production with HuntingLife.com and we have over 18,000 articles posted on our website.  In 2016, we bought HuntingInsider.com and we are growing that website to be an interview website to share the stories of hunters across the world.

Why HuntingBusinessMarketing.com?

I’ve known almost all of the great bloggers in the outdoor and hunting world and many of them are great friends that I get to see at least once a year at one of the shows we all attend.  In the beginning many of us were all members of the Outdoor Bloggers Summit and we all wanted to see blogging grow.  Over the last 10 years, I have spent 1000’s of hours on the phone with executives in the hunting market.  I have worked on social campaigns, SEO campaigns, blogging campaigns, influencer campaigns, advertising campaigns and Adword campaigns for clients.  Digital Marketing has been growing each and every single year and this year at SHOT and ATA all I heard about was how far digital marketing is growing.

I bought this website from Dayne in December and today we took over the website.  We have a plan and we will share it as we grow.  The most important thing we are going to do with Huntingbusinessmarketing.com is to spread value to our readers and fans.  We are not here to sell you digital marketing, yes we and I can help you create campaigns or put you in touch with the right people to build your campaigns.  We are going to teach, pontificate and create dialogue all about what is happening in blogging, social media marketing, search engine optimization, digital marketing and all things growth.

Questions:  Drop them in the comments!!!

 

 

$22.9 Billion Spent on Hunting Each Year

The graphic says it all…

22 Billion Dollars Hunting

A big thanks to Sarah of Sarah Lynn Design for creating the image. She took my crazy idea and made it a reality. Without designers, marketers would be lost. 🙂

Update: Here is the reference…

From Hunting Industry Stats:

$22.9 Billion+ – Hunting expenditures (2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation Page 13 Paragraph 8)

Sportspersons spent a total of $76.6 billion in 2006—$42.2 billion on fi shing, $22.9 billion on hunting, and $11.6 billion on items used for both hunting and fi shing. Wildlife watchers spent $45.7 billion on their activities around the home and on trips away from home.

Thanks for checking it out.

15+ Hunting Companies Connecting With Bloggers

Quality hunting companies have shown eagerness to connect with bloggers

The Sportsman Channel

After writing How to Connect with Bloggers, I realized that it might be valuable to list hunting companies I’ve come across that have shown a willingness to reach out and connect with bloggers for mutual benefit.

Although there are instances of great relationships amongst bloggers and hunting businesses, it still seems like there is a disconnect existing between the two sets of passionate folks.

As Ben of Ben G. Outdoors said in the comments, “I’m not sure why some [companies] don’t respond [to blogger outreach], but I feel they are missing free marketing.”

Ben is exactly right.

Hunting Companies Need to Reach Out and Respond

It’s amazing that some companies will ignore emails from bloggers that are eager to write about them and their company.

Who turns down free, positive press?

Some companies even pay top dollar for the kind of media write-ups bloggers actively engage in.

In my experience, there are a number of quality companies that are willing to connect and engage with bloggers. These companies aren’t looking at the connection as a one-way street either. They are willing to offer value to bloggers (in various forms).

Bloggers Need to Reach Out and Respond

Even the content and ideas a company can provide seems like something bloggers should be willing to accept. Access to companies and people in the hunting industry that are seen as authorities in the hunting world should get bloggers excited.

There is value in a relationship for both bloggers and hunting companies. With little effort on both sides there can be value served to the audiences of both parties and each can grow over time as they share content and media.

Let’s take a look at companies willing to connect with bloggers…

Hunting Companies

Bowhunting.com

Website: Bowhunting.com

I like writing about Bowhunting.com. They are a unique retailer in the way they acquire sales through trust and authority by blogging, creating video, and sharing other content. They have written to thank me in the past for blogging about them. Even a simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way.

The Sportsman Channel

Website: The Sportsman Channel

Michelle is a member of HBM and is actively seeking out interaction with bloggers.

Sportsmen of North America

Website: Sportsmen of North America

It’s been a little while, but I received an email from a staff member here and we tried to work out a connection.

Outdoors International

Website: Outdoors International

Cory is very active in the blogging community and other social sharing sites with outdoor folks.

Native Hunt

Website: Native Hunt

Michael has been active with commenting on my blog for awhile. He love the interaction and working with hunting bloggers.

Dry Creek Goose Camp

Website: Dry Creek Goose Camp

Rick is taking big advantage of commenting on blogs and connecting on Twitter.

New Archery Products

Website: New Archery Products

These guys have started a blog and are willing to link to reviews bloggers are doing with their products. It’s showing an open mind to partnerships.

Trophy Score

Website: Trophy Score

Review: Trophy Score Business Review

Chip (a blogger himself) reached out to me about his innovative scoring software.

TNT Outdoor Explosion

Website: TNT Outdoor Explosion

I saw that Todd Cast of TNT Outdoor Explosion did an interview – Interview with Todd Cast, host of TNT Outdoor Explosion – with Mark at Wired to Hunt. Interviews are a great way for bloggers and outdoor businesses to connect.

Heartland Bowhunter

Website: Heartland Bowhunter

More from Mark at Wired to Hunt. Interview with New Member of Heartland Bowhunter, Matt White and Introducing Our New Wired to Hunt Contributor Matt White.

Stedi-Stock

Website: Stedi-Stock

Kevin at Hunting Life has a great series of interviews and podcasts. Here is The Hunting Life – Steadi-Stock.

Pheasant Phun

Website: Pheasant Phun

Dave is very involved with bloggers. He’s a great guy to know.

Team Huntress

Website: Team Huntress

Review: Sponsorship Case Study | Team Huntress

Jane is active on Twitter and always willing to share content with bloggers.

Wildlife Callers

Website: Wildlife Callers

Mark and Marc are building a great site and company by blogging and sharing content with bloggers. They also work on guest posting.

Camofire

Website: Camofire

Review: Successful Hunting Business Highlight | Camofire

Kendall has a unique business and comments on lots of blogs including HBM. This business is great to write about due to its unique nature.

Companies added by readers

Dream Pursuit

Website: Dream Pursuit

Short Bio: A non-profit organization providing hunting and fishing adventures for children and young adults.

Africa Hunting

Website: African Hunting

Short Bio: Your source for all things hunting in Africa.

Ghillie Suit Source

Website: Ghillie Suit Source

Short Bio: The name says it all.

Fish Creek Spinners

Website: Fish Creek Spinners

Short Bio: Trout, salmon and other fish species lures and spinners.

Land and Game

Website: Land and Game

Short Bio: The best selection of market value property in the industry. Period.

Bear Archery

Website: Bear Archery

Short Bio: Hunting and Archery Products.

Warrior Outdoors

Website: Warrior Outdoors

Short Bio: In relentless pursuit of the moment of truth.

My Buck Story

Website: My Buck Story

Short Bio: Share your stories from the field.

Marauder Outdoors

Website: Marauder Outdoors

Short Bio: West Virginia Hunting Adventures

Camo Vision

Website: Camo Vision

Short Bio: Camo eye wear to keep you covered.

Magnet Gun Caddy

Website: Magnet Gun Caddy

Short Bio: Easy place to store your gun.

Speedy Sharp

Website: Speedy Sharp

Short Bio: Quick, universal knife sharpener.

Hunting Life

Website: Hunting Life

Short Bio: A great resource for hunters on the Web. Directories for bloggers and hunting companies. Also a source of the latest conservation news.

Share Hunting Companies

If you are aware of other companies that are willing to connect with bloggers, please share them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

If your company is willing to connect with bloggers, please share in the comments…and pay attention for the next post.

I’ll keep adding to the list as I come across more as well. 🙂

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How to Connect with Bloggers

Your business has content, bloggers need topics

A Rose in Hand

An interesting thought was brought up in the Hunting Business Marketing Forum about connecting with bloggers. I started responding to the question in the forum, but felt that the topic was big enough to promote to a full blog post on the main blog.

Connecting With Bloggers

In another forum post, Generating Buzz, Mark of Wired to Hunt discussed a job he had with a marketing agency where he would help to connect businesses and bloggers by using the content the business would create and organize so it was valuable to bloggers.

Mark discusses that he would create a list of bloggers that were active and willing to accept relevant information from companies. These bloggers were then prioritized by traffic, quality of content, interaction of readers in the comments, among other criteria. From there the organization would craft the content so the bloggers could then use it for their blog posts.

It’s important to note that Mark says that each blogger received a unique email that was personalized. The communication was honest and up front in goal.

I think connecting with bloggers really begins by becoming involved in the online communities where your targeted bloggers are spending time.

A reason Twitter has become popular is because it allowed folks to connect with people and businesses they looked up to and wanted to connect with. Businesses can seek out connections with prominent bloggers in their niches and bloggers can seek out businesses that may have potentially useful information that can lead to quality blog posts.

Starting Relationships With Bloggers

As mentioned above, starting the relationships can start with a simple direct message or email that is personalized. The communication can originate from the blogger or the business.

A common experience some have is that after a few messages back and forth the blogger and the business contact lose interest with each and the relationship dies. This may happen because the blogger and the business didn’t find any common ground for a relationship where they share content and work with each other to produce blog posts for their target audience. It could happen because there just wasn’t a relevant way to connect the goals of each party.

It’s important to remember that not all bloggers will take content and turn it into blog post gold. Early on in your efforts this will be even less likely. The truth is that it will take one or two bloggers here and there over time that consistently take content and share it with their audience. Slowly, over time others will join in and eventually a critical mass will be tuning in to your stream of communication to absorb the content you’re sharing about your company.

Maintaining Relationships With Bloggers

Since it was mentioned that business and blogger relationships are often lost or that one of the parties loses interest over time I thought I’d brainstorm a few ideas to keep the conversation active as the life of the relationship ages.

Here are a few I can think off the top of my head:

  • Newsletter
  • Email Thread
  • Forum
  • Google Spreadsheet
  • HARO (Help A Reporter Out) for Hunting – HAHBO (Help a Hunting Blogger Out)

All of these are ways to keep the conversation active with your friends and followers. Not all of the bloggers you form relationships with will become actively involved with your brand by picking up your stories, but a few will become dedicated and over time those dedicated few will grow an audience around the content you’re sharing on the communication channel you’ve created for them.

The reality of interacting with bloggers is that you (the business) will have to take most of the initiative to continue the relationship where your provide ideas for blog posts to bloggers. Some will take the content and run with it and create amazing, unique content while others will ignore it. Some will need you to keep feeding them content while working to improve the content by making it more appealing to their interest.

Gaining permission to share your content with bloggers is the important part of the business-blogger equation. Forming relationships that are mutually beneficial is the way to find success with connecting with bloggers.

Summary

Connecting with bloggers is something most businesses want to be able to do, but sometimes don’t know how or don’t have the resources needed to connect and maintain relationships.

It takes time to first connect with bloggers – a few messages back and forth to get familiar with each other. After this initial conversation it takes even more effort on the part of the business to keep up the flow of communication while providing appealing content and topics of discussion for the blogger to take and use as inspiration for their own content.

It’s a process that builds over time, but when a business can commit and understand the importance of the blogging community there can be real benefit to both of the parties involved.

What are your thoughts on connecting with bloggers?

Businesses: What relationships do you have with bloggers?

Bloggers: What relationships do you have with businesses?

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Image courtesy of Hamed Saber

The Redesigned Outdoor Channel Website

Taking video to a new level of engagement

The New Outdoor Channel Website

Recently, I was watching videos on the Bulls and Beavers You Tube channel and I came across one with Todd Birkholz of The Outdoor Channel. Chris Burget of Bulls and Beavers is doing a quick interview with Todd as he presents The Outdoor Channel with a Best of the Best Award from Bulls and Beavers.

Toward the end of the video, Todd mentions the newly redesigned Website and how the wonderful content makes the online world one of the best of the best for hunters using the Web. The video as Todd describes is now available extensively on the new site (over 130 show pages with 50 state pages) so visitors can increase the value they receive from The Outdoor Channel. It’s a great strategy for The Outdoor Channel to improve their customers’ experience while increasing traffic and advertising revenue.

Let’s take a closer look at the newly redesigned site…

Online Video

The Outdoor Channel has always had some of the best video content available on their television channel so it makes sense that they highlight video content on their Website.

The presentation of the video player on the site is unique to The Outdoor Channel. The players sits on the right side of the page while there is a promotional area to the left that displays a rotating presentation of other channels. It’s a good setup to present the video content the visitors have chosen to view while cross promoting the other content on the site.

The full screen option has a clever design as well showcasing the other video content at the bottom of the screen for a brief second before it collapses so the viewer can view a true full screen of the video they’ve chosen.

An important aspect of the site to note is that there is some text content on each page to attract search engines. While search engines are getting better at crawling video and imagery on sites, they still need text to be able to determine what a site and page are about so they can return relevant results to their users.

Having detailed descriptions is a crucial element to have on your site if you’re going to utilize video.

Personalities and Branding

Outdoor Channel Personalities

The Outdoor Channel Personalities page is an example of a great way to organize content on a site.

Fans connect with and seek content from their favorite personalities and providing them with a way to access their favorites within a few clicks enhances user experience while increasing loyalty.

Once a visitor clicks on their favorite personality (or perhaps one they are curious about) they are taken to a page dedicated to personality. The pages are full of great bios, descriptions and of course great video clips.

Greg Miller In Pursuit

On each personality page, fans can connect with their favorite outdoor folks on Facebook or write comments on the Outdoor Channel page.

Each show on the channel has its own page on the site. This gives fans of individual shows access to exclusive content they can’t find anywhere else. There are video clips, photos, and other content to keep fans occupied while spending time on the site.

Greg Miller In Pursuit Show Page

Community

With My Outdoor Channel, The Outdoor Channel has allowed their audience to build user generated content around the passions users share for the outdoors as well as for the content on The Outdoor Channel TV channel and the Website.

My Outdoor TV

I’m a big fan of hunting pictures, so the my outdoor channel photo gallery is wonderful to see.

My Outdoor Channel is a lot like MySpace and other social networking sites in that it allows users to keep profiles, find friends, post videos and photos, write blogs, and interact in other ways that connect people around their passion for the outdoors and The Outdoor Channel.

Monetizing Online Content

As with their TV strategy, it appears The Outdoor Channel is utilizing sponsorships and advertising to generate income from their site.

As the site continues adding video clips and more features that increase viewings and page views, they’ll see an increase in revenue as brands look to connect with their target audience that is viewing content on The Outdoor Channel.

Also available on the site are DVDs of popular shows on The Outdoor Channel. This is a strategy that seems to make sense as fans of the personalities and shows look to have hard, physical copies of their favorites at home for their viewing anytime they want.

Outdoor Channel DVDs

The Outdoor Channel DVDs

Possible Future Strategies

Entire Show Videos

Since The Outdoor Channel is focusing on ad revenue for their site, it’s important to increase the metrics that advertisers look for when determining where to spend their money. Advertisers are looking for branding opportunities and direct sales conversions for the companies.

From what I can see right now, it appears there are only clips of shows and videos on the site. This leaves viewers to subscribe to satellite or cable to view the entire shows on the television channel when the shows are scheduled (or on DVR at their viewing pleasures…which allows people to skip commercials).

It seems like it would be beneficial for The Outdoor Channel to test showing entire show videos on their site. They could break the videos up into segments to allow for advertising videos in between segments. There are other creative ways to implement successful and relevant advertising into clips and entire show videos as well.

Since viewers may not be able to see their favorites shows on TV each week they may be missing out and advertisers on the TV channel may be missing out on impressions. By allowing viewers to see shows on the site, The Outdoor Channel could increase traffic to the site while providing value to their customers giving visitors reason to repeatedly visit the site while increasing time on the site and traffic.

Blogging

As a way to increase the text content on the site, The Outdoor Channel has the resources to put together an awesome blog for their followers.

Staff members could highlight videos on the site and write about what’s happening with the content on the site and the video on the TV channel. People like Todd could write about updates to the site’s features.

I like what the staff is doing with the CMT Blog. This could be a potential model to follow.

CMT Blog

There is potentially room to have the TV stars write posts and provide updates on their shows and what they’re seeing in the hunting world. Even if it was once a month or so, the content would add up and visitors would love it and keep coming to the site for updates.

Search engines love text content that is updated frequently and a blog seems like a perfect addition to the site.

The more content and page son the site would only increase page views, which means stronger metrics to entice relevant advertisers.

Summary

The Outdoor Channel’s new site is wonderful. There is a ton of great video content on the site for visitors to view and interact with. The way the content is displayed makes it easy for visitors to take in the video content and to share the content with their hunting buddies.

What are your thoughts on the newly redesigned Outdoor Channel Website?

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Archery Report | Business Review

With a solid, consistent focus, Archery Report is seeing strong growth

I came across a blog post from New Archery Products today in my RSS feed and stopped by the NAP Blog to read about their Quiktune Sizzor arrow rest. Check out the post The Sleeper for a great product review of the arrow rest. NAP does a great job of using high quality photos in their posts. The photos make for a better experience for visitors and although they don’t post often, I find myself always checking for the latest from NAP.

Quiktune Sizzor

At the bottom of the post, NAP left a link to another review for the Sizzor, Review: NAP Quicktune Sizzor Rest. The URL in the link was interesting so I followed it.

Archery Report

Archery Report

Archery Report is a blog and Website operated by Michael Larsen.

The report covers news views and reviews of all things affecting the world of archery. From reading a few of the posts, it is obvious that Michael has a healthy (probably depends who you ask) 🙂 obsession with archery. See 300 days to 300 for some insight. I love the passion.

I became more intrigued with Archery Report after checking out the stats on Compete (a habit of mine). It looks like the site was launched in July of 2009 and the pace of growth has been strong every since.

Michael discusses new archery products, news affecting the archery industry, and technique for shooting effectively. It’s quite the extensive archive of information if you’re an archery enthusiast.

Michael provides his own thoughts on news articles, which is something readers often seek from bloggers. News publications simply report the news, but one of the most sought after elements of the news is interpretation so bloggers can grow their audience by providing insight into the daily happenings in niches.

Also found on the site are extensive product reviews. Michael lays out tons of content including insight and photographs to create some of the best reviews I’ve read. For example, Hoyt Maxxis 31 and 35 Review and Spotlight.

The strategy for posting on Archery Report is effective and the growth in traffic proves that archers are connecting with the site and with Michael.

Consistency

Consistently adding new posts and staying consistent with focus are two extremely important elements of successful blogs.

Too often (including myself) bloggers will struggle to keep adding new content to their blogs. As you develop a following, it’s important to continually feed new and interesting content to visitors. When they become hooked on your writing they’ll continue coming back repeatedly (even many times a day) if you provide them with content.

Search engines realize the important of consistency with post frequency as well. They realize how important frequent posting is to readers and reward sites that post quality content often with high authority in the search rankings.

For new blogs, it’s best to default at a high frequency (5-7 times a week or even more than once daily), but don’t forget to test different variations. Find out what your audience wants and provide the appropriate amount of content.

Quality and quantity are both important.

Effective Writing Style

After reading a few of Michael’s posts it’s safe to say that he has a unique voice in the outdoor industry and in the blogosphere. He has a technical side to his descriptions, but he has a way of describing situations like tuning with simplicity that makes it easy to understand.

Personally, I like the way he organizes his posts, especially his reviews. He uses headings, images, video, bulleted lists, summaries/conclusions, and other tools well. It makes for great reading when authors take the time to organize things so their readers can scan articles and dive deeper into the content when they choose.

SEO

Highlighted on the Archery Report Advertise page are a few statistics including some impressive search rankings. The site is ranking for relevant terms. Terms like 2010 bows, archery reviews, and 2010 bow reviews are competitive and have a good amount of traffic. It’s impressive that the site is ranking ahead of well-known archery sites for these terms.

It’s proof that Michael’s writing style, the site’s popularity, and the site’s technical layout make for a winning SEO combination.

Monetizing Archery Report

From my review, it appears that Archery Report is going about monetizing in the traditional ways: affiliate program and ads.

These are two viable options. I explained another option for bloggers in Profit from Your Blog.

For his book reviews, Michael is using an affiliate program to link to the books on Barnes & Nobles – a strong strategy that can be very effective if the reviews are valuable and plentiful.

Also on the site is the opportunity for advertising. It’s a strong possibility that with continued traffic growth that Archery Report will gain some advertising clients that will provide fixed revenue each month.

A final interesting aspect of Archery Report is the opportunity for hunting product manufacturers to send Michael their products for review. Michael provides the benefits to having Archery Report Review Your Product.

If this program gains enough traction, Michael could begin charging for the reviews as a way to provide further revenue.

Summary

Archery Report is an excellent example of a start-up blog that can see successful growth right from the beginning with the right formula of focus, consistency, writing style, and monetizing.

As the site sees more quality content regarding archery, I suspect it will continue to build its audience and become a strong player in the online archery world.

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Finding Successful Patterns

Have you ever wondered what analysis successful folks do to reach the heights they do?

Lots of hard work, some talent, and usually a successful formula are involved in the process.

For example, Will Smith made the comment that he and his manager sat down in the early nineties and compiled the most financially successful movies of all time. The two then pulled out the similarities each of the top ten movies had…

From the AALBC Will Smith Interview

I’m a student of the patterns of the universe. If I can figure out how something is seemingly risky, but I have the numbers on my side, I get really comfortable taking a leap. When I first came to Hollywood, I said to my manager, James Lassiter, I want to be the biggest movie star in the world! He said, Okay, we should probably figure out what they do, and plot a course. So, he went and got the top ten movies of all time. We watched them to try to figure out what were the patterns. And ten out of ten of them were special effects movies. Nine out of ten were special effects movies with creatures. And eight out of ten were special effects movies with creatures and a love story. So, Independence Day was not really a hard call to make when you look at the numbers. Therefore, I Am Legend, in concept, is not a hard call to make.

You can pull these patterns out of just about any situation. Here are two examples:

1) Headlines and Lists (#5)

2) Viral Videos

It’s smart for anyone to pull patterns and successful formulas out of situations as a way to decipher what makes others successful. Now, it’s important to remember that Will Smith is not successful simply because he figured out the pattern for Hollywood blockbusters. Will Smith is successful because he works hard at his chosen craft and he puts his stamp on a successful formula for big, money making movies.

You can emulate Will Smith’s smart strategy to find your own success in the hunting industry. Let’s take a look at some examples that hopefully will paint a better picture of finding successful patterns

The Top Hunting Blog Posts

Last spring I worked on a series of posts where I dug into a few reasons why some of the top posts written by hunting bloggers were successful: Reviews of Remarkable Blog Posts.

A few things that stood out about the successful posts included:

  • Unique, but seemingly familiar topics
  • Short(ish) titles
  • Useful (don’t discount this) tips
  • Genuine and consistent voice
  • Personal stories
  • Detail (can decrease comments and interaction)
  • Knowledge seeking questions (can increase comments and interaction)

Most of the hunting bloggers that contributed to the series used some of their most trafficked posts. It was interesting to dissect each one while trying to figure out the patterns that made each successful.

While there is certainly more than one way to write a hunting blog post, there are a few patterns to follow to ensure that the online hunting community takes interest.

The Top Hunting Companies

Taking a quick look at a few of the top hunting companies, it’s useful to pull out a few patterns. I’ve picked a few companies that are my favorites so there is subjectivity in the list, but the success appears to be there at least for the present time.

Consumer Hunting Businesses

There are tons of others that qualify, but let’s look at these for now. Please share your thoughts in the comments on others.

Patterns

  • Trust (not built overnight)
  • Operationally efficient
  • Industry leading innovation
  • Respect for tradition
  • Update existing products

Obviously there is more to operating a successful company that this short list, but each of the successful companies mentioned above have been around for many years and have been leaders in their respective niches in the hunting industry. A couple have gone through rough patches (Gander Mountain), but the brands are trusted and well-respected by customers and competitors.

One interesting thing is that each of these companies is profitable in large part because of their operations and efficiency. For new players to take over, the new guys will have to find other aspects of the business model to be better at because it’ll be near impossible to beat these companies on operations.

The Top Selling Hunting Products

Companies will put the most emphasis on the products that have sold the best in the past or that they expect to sell the best in the future. Knowing this we can look at a few of the products that have been around for some time and are still finding their way to the front of the marketing initiatives.

Top Hunting Products

  • Remington 870 (over 10 million sold)
  • Stormy Kromer Hat
  • Tink’s® #69 Doe-In-Rut® Buck Lure
  • Winchester® USA Centerfire 44 Rem Mag Handgun Ammunition
  • Gander Mountain Basic 15′ Ladder Treestand

Patterns

  • Simple design
  • Practical solution to common problem
  • Brand authority

The products above are simple in design, but practical in use. They were innovative when initially introduced and they still serve the customer the best for the problem each solves. Until something comes along to replace them customers are satisfied with purchasing the products they trust to get the job done.

Country Songs

Here’s a fun one for the country music fans (and I know there are a few reading the blog).

I initially thought of gathering some number one songs from the charts in the past 50 years or so, but then I thought it would make more sense to find the songs that may or may not have reached the pinnacle of the charts, but most importantly still get played on the radio regularly.

Top Country Songs

  • Queen of My Double Wide Trailer Singer: Sammy Kershaw Writer: Dennis Linde Chart Peak: #7
  • Life’s a Dance Singer: John Michael Montgomery Writers: Allen Shamblin, Steve Seskin Chart Peak: #4
  • Amarillo By Morning Singer: George Strait Writers: Paul Fraser, Terry Stafford Chart Peak: #4
  • Every Once and a While Band: Blackhawk Writers: Mark Bright, Tim DuBois, John Hurley Chart Peak: #2
  • Maybe It Was Memphis Singer: Pam Tillis Writers: Paul Worley, Ed Seay Chart Peak: #3

For the man who has over 50 number one hits, it’s quite the interesting bit of trivia that one of George Strait’s most lasting songs is a song that peaked at #4.

And for a band like Blackhawk, a multi-platinum selling band in the ’90s, to have never had a number one hit is quite amazing. They have so many memorable songs it was hard to pick only one. (They did have Canadian Country Music numbers ones).

And Pam Tills, one of my all time favorite artists let alone female artists. The first song of hers I can remember was Maybe It Was Memphis and it’s still the one I hear today on the radio the most. Just a great tune with passion in the vocals.

Patterns

  • Catchy, Sing-along melodies and hooks
  • Unique vocals, memorable voices
  • Familiar, but seemingly not cliched lyrics
  • Emotional, sincere vocal styling

The patterns for successful songwriter and singing seem obvious once you dissect the endearing songs, but it’s still difficult to sit down and pour out the emotion it takes to write a quality song.

When I say that the vocal styling is emotional and sincere it doesn’t mean that it has to be sad. Emotion takes lots of forms and the best songs seem to be the most sincere. When the artists can put themselves into a place emotionally, mentally that connects with the song and with the listener – that’s when the magic happens.

Emotion can come from a fun place as well. Dennis Linde had to be cracking up when he wrote most of his songs (Bubba Shot the Jukebox, It Sure Is Monday, John Deere Green, Queen of My Double Wide Trailer) and that fun emotion connected with fans.

Your Spin on Things

Before closing this post I think it’s important to emphasize that no matter what patterns you pick up on in your profession, it’s important to remember that hard work and effort are still necessary for success. It’s difficult to copy exactly what others are doing. Success reaches this way will be difficult to sustain. By taking patterns from the success of others and putting unique style and voice to the process you’ll create your own little niche in the industry.

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The Best Hunting Picture Galleries

Hunters view thousands of hunting pictures on the Web…every day

The competition for the attention of hunters is heating up online and some folks are using quality hunting picture galleries to attract attention away from the competition.

My personal favorites tend to be the galleries that are easy on the eyes, easy to navigate and the ones that have the best photos of trophy game. My favorite type of hunting is bowhunting for whitetails so I always love seeing great photos related to this hunting niche.

Here are the best hunting picture galleries…

Field & Stream

Site: Field & Stream

Gallery: Field & Stream Photos

Overview

The Field & Stream Photo Gallery is one of the most popular galleries on the Web. F&S has the best selection of lists and collections of hunting pictures on the Web. People love lists and that includes hunters. The F&S ‘Best of’ collections make for great photo viewing. To increase involvement with their target audience, the team at F&S also encourage users to submit their best photos. F&S then takes the time to highlight the user photos in ways that make the users the stars. This is a great way to highlight the success of others and give them a vested interest in the gallery. I also like the mix of professional photos as well.

For more see Critique of the Field and Stream Photo Gallery

Petersen’s Hunting

Site: Petersen’s Hunting

Gallery: Petersen’s Hunting Trophy Room

Overview

The Petersen’s Hunting gallery is entirely user-submitted. On the photo gallery home page visitors have the option to view the highlighted photos, the most recent photos, the most popular photos, and users can view photos by collection and category. Giving visitors options when it comes to viewing segments of your photo gallery is important. Some visitors will want to search for specific types of photos. To satisfy these visitors you’ll want to offer a way to search the photos. Other visitors will want to discover new photos that meet their interests. This is where the categories are helpful (ex: I like whitetails. I can click on the whitetail section).

Duck’s Unlimited

Site: Duck’s Unlimited

Gallery: Duck’s Unlimited Photo Gallery

Widget: Duck’s Unlimited Member Photo of the Day Widget

Overview

Ducks Unlimited is a gallery I’ve only recently discovered and I’m glad I did. The user photos in this gallery are spectacular. DU members are allowed to submit photos and it’s apparent that some of the members are professional photographers. And that makes for some inspirational and breath-taking photographs of wildlife (ducks and waterfowl).

Something that sets the DU gallery apart from some of the others is their embeddable widget. Check it out and if you want to see the daily photos on your Website or blog you can. Widgets are great for increasing your audience and search engines love the links they create back to the site.

Bowhunting.com

Site: Bowhunting.com

Gallery: Bowhunting.com Photos

Overview

It’s no secret that Bowhunting.com is one of my favorite hunting sites. I’ve written about them and included them in collections before (5 Hidden Treasures on the Web, The Top 50 Blog Posts of 2009, 25 Tips from 25 Hunting Industry Leaders). The team at Bowhunting.com are experts at hunting and sharing their insight and knowledge through their videos, photos, and blog posts. There is a great mix of trail cam photos, harvest trophies, and general photography for hunting product reviews and more. The photo gallery is easy to navigate and the photos are of high quality.

Bowhunting.com is one of the galleries that offers visitors the opportunity to comment on individual photos. Something Field & Stream doesn’t have yet (you can comment on the entire collection or gallery only). Some also offer visitors the chance to rate photos like Ducks Unlimited and others.

Buckmasters

Site: Buckmasters

Gallery: Buckmasters Trophy Gallery

Overview

The Buckmasters Trophy Gallery is not the best of the bunch, but they have a ton of great user photographs due to the company’s popularity. I’m not sure if it was just me, but this gallery took awhile to load and the auto-play music was a bit annoying (not the music, but the fact that it was playing automatically. See more Video on Your Website). It’s a cumbersome gallery, but it has good photos and it’s a well known brand.

Lone Wolf

Site: Lone Wolf Portable Treestands

Gallery: Lone Wolf Trophy Gallery

Overview

Lone Wolf is a bit of a sleeper in this collection. I’m a huge fan of the design of the Lone Wolf site so it’s no surprise that I’d like their photo gallery. I also think it’s important to show that hunting product manufacturers can have successful photo galleries (as well as any hunting industry company). Users submit photos and while some aren’t the best the scrolling is easy and the thumbnail setup is simple.

CamoSpace

Site: CamoSpace

Gallery: CamoSpace Gallery

Overview

CamoSpace seems to be one of the few social networking hunting sites that has actually had some success. They have partnered with some big companies and some big folks that are famous for more than just hunting (Luke Bryan – great music). It’s a formula that has worked for growing the membership on the site. The photo gallery is 100% user-submitted. That format can lead to some noise (see the trucks), but there are still a ton of photos in the gallery and many of them are great…even if they are a little difficult to find.

ESPN Outdoors Hunting

Site: ESPN Outdoors Hunting

Gallery: Hunting Photo Galleries

Overview

It isn’t the prettiest and it isn’t the easiest to use, but ESPN makes the list because the brand is huge and the hunting shows on the channel are popular. Plus I loved the shows on ESPN Outdoors on Saturday morning when I was growing up.

Big Grass Outfitters

Site: Big Grass Outfitters

Gallery: Big Grass Outfitters Trophy Gallery

Overview

It’s important for outfitters to have galleries as part of their informational sites. Potential customers want visual proof of success. And past customers can be the best referral service when they push their friends to go on the site and view their photos.

Heartland Lodge

Site: Heartland Lodge

Gallery: Heartland Lodge Photo Gallery

Overview

One of the best looking sites in the hunting industry, Heartland Lodge makes great use of a photo gallery to show their potential customers the wonders they have to offer. I love that they use existing technology in Picasa to power their photo gallery. Remember that you don’t always have to work hard to develop your own style of gallery. Use galleries that already exist.

The categories in the gallery are great, but the titles of each photo are another story…

Gander Mountain

Site: Gander Mountain

Gallery: Gander Mountain Braggin’ Board

Overview

I grew up near a Gander Mountain (no Cabela’s nearby and I didn’t use the Web at the time) and I loved checking out the physical cork braggin’ board in store. Customers were always putting their trophies on the board and I loved looking at them all. Those Polaroids were great. With this gallery, Gander Mountain has brought that experience to the Web.

Greenwood Springs Plantation

Site: Greenwood Springs Plantation

Gallery: Greenwood Springs Plantation Photos

Overview

I came across this site toward the end of this post but I just had to include it. It’s a beautiful design and I love that they use Flickr for their photo gallery. The photos could be titled, tagged and included in Creative Commons on Flickr, but it’s a great use of a great photo gallery tool.

Elements of a Quality Gallery

As I browsed the Web in search of the best hunting galleries, I noted a few elements that should be standard on all folks considering a photo gallery for their site:

1) Multi-size Options

With image size, there is a battle between load time of the page and the quality and size of the image you want to load for your viewer’s viewing pleasure. Most sites offer an initial smaller version of images for scrolling and initial viewing, but offer visitors the option to zoom in or enlarge the photo, usually in some kind of pop-up. I think it’s a good compromise. Allow visitors the pleasure of a fast loading page with smaller images and if they have the capacity, they can zoom in or enlarge the photo.

2) Thumbnail Options

Something I’m in favor of when it comes to galleries are thumbnail viewing options. Popular photo gallery sites like Flickr (Flickr Hunting) offer thumbnail viewing so users can see multiple photos at once while being able to choose the ones they want to view in more detail.

3) Easy Scrolling

An important feature of galleries is the ability to scroll from photo to photo. Once a user has chosen a particular gallery to view they want to be able to scroll from photo to photo quickly and easily.

4) Proper Tagging and Titling

Giving the proper title and the appropriate tag to each photo in your gallery is important for your visitors so they understand what they’re viewing. Tagging and titling photos and galleries properly is also important for optimizing your gallery for search engines.

5) Sharing Abilities

Giving visitors the ability to share and bookmark the photos in a gallery is extremely important for the growth of your site’s traffic and audience. Build in the word of mouth aspects of a gallery and make sure the photos are worth talking about people will spread the word.

Bonus Element

Calls to action are important for any site that is aimed at selling something to visitors. With a bit of programming and planning, sites could take advantage of internal linking to sell relevant products to customers that are viewing the photos in galleries. For example, a company could ask users to submit the equipment used to harvest a trophy. List and link the equipment on the photo to the product pages and you have potential sales. A site like Gander Mountain could do this.

Your Favorite Hunting Picture Galleries

Did I miss your favorite gallery? Please share in the comments.

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You Are Defined By Your Success (despite your failures)

People reflect on your success and the failure you overcome

A hang-up with entrepreneurs and other adventurous individuals is often the fear of failure. Some strategies, tests, and new ideas are often thrown to the wayside due to what the perception would be if there were to be a failure in the attempt to improve a product, service, or process.

However, successful businesses and individuals are often defined and remembered for their successes, not for their failures.

By focusing on the fact that people will perceive you in the light of your success rather than failure, you can take down a common artificial barrier and focus on your next great success.

Selective Memory for Success

Family Success

I was thinking the other day about a few examples of people I believe to be successful business leaders. My uncle is one of those folks. He started a screen printing business over 35 years ago and the business is still going strong.

I’ve always enjoyed my uncle’s stories over the years. He’s willingly shared his life’s lessons over a campfire at his farm were family and close friends would gather to deer hunt each fall.

Occasionally he would bring up a few of his business blunders. In fact, he seemed to treat them as a nuisance to his business history. There was the adventure into cattle farming at the same hunting farm and a few other examples.

These business blunders, however, don’t spoil the successful career of a great businessman. Any failure he has had over his life is overshadowed by his success, those close to him see him for his success, and failures are simply taken with a laugh or brushed off as unimportant or simple speed bumps in his road to success.

Something I realize about my uncle is that the failures he’s had over his career seem to only bother him and I’m sure that some bother him more than others, but to hear him tell stories it seems like he is more focused on the successes he’s had.

And the people closest to him only focus on the success he’s had.

Success and Failure in Big Business

Most folks are familiar with the LL Bean story. The retail and catalog giant built a successful brand around the initial failure of the business (90 of the first 100 pairs of Maine Hunting Boots were returned due to defect). The founder promptly fixed the issue and returned quality boots back to the customers. This customer service and guarantee is what drives the loyalty at Bean today.

Most companies would falter under such failure, but LL Bean didn’t let it get to him and he continued on with his vision for success. Today people remember the initial failure, but they remember the failure in the light of the success it lead to – one of the largest and most successful companies in American history.

Aim for Success

The oldest cliché for career advice is to shoot for the highest level of success because even if you don’t reach your ultimate goal you’ll end up somewhere that is highly successful.

The worn-out clichés often reach the saturation point because they hold a level of truth and this one seems to fit that description.

The most successful people I know seem to understand that they will be defined by their success. The often don’t reach the level of success they set as goals for themselves because they set their sights so high, but their failures along the way aren’t seen as failures by others and their success in the eyes of others is the focus.

It seems that people often lose sight of the success they could have even if they often have failures in the beginning of their business careers.

A difficult, but artificial barrier people often face comes from family and friends. Early on in most ventures, people will ask you questions about how your business is going. People will phrase their questions like, “How are sales? Strong?” or perhaps, “Making any money yet?” It can be difficult to field those questions, but remember that you’ll ultimately be recognized for your ultimate success and while lots of folks will disregard you early on in your career they’ll be there to give you praise when you become successful over time.

Summary

Fear of losing respect and being judged by failure is a common artificial barrier that most people put up for themselves when contemplating a new business launch.

After reflecting on the success of business leaders around me I realized that they only focus on their failures as learning (and sometimes expensive) tools for future success. Sometimes poor investments in business are made and sometimes they’re costly. It’s a chance for people to correct their approach and focus on the things they really excel at.

Ultimately it seems that people reflect on the lives of others in a generally positive light. Success is often remembered no matter how much a person has in their lives. Failure is not often a focus when people discuss their lives.

This understanding is a chance for folks to take down the artificial barrier of self-doubt and fear of failure and focus on the impact they’ll have over the long term.

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Critique of the Field and Stream Photo Gallery

Photo galleries are hugely popular with hunters

The Field & Stream Photo Gallery appears to be a huge success with their readers. Their site has been gaining traffic and readers over the past year at great rates. It’s wonderful to see a quality publication have such success with their online initiatives.

I’ve been a reader of Field & Stream for quite some time. I’ve learned much from their annual articles about whitetail deer hunting and still look forward to their expert reviews on the latest in hunting gear.

One of the reasons for the success of the Field & Stream Website I have to believe is their photo gallery. I subscribe to the Field & Stream Newsletter and it seems they are always including remarkable photographs from the outdoors. These photos are often reader-submitted, which is great.

Field & Stream is involving their readers in their publication and it bodes well for their future growth. I’m excited to see how they continue to evolve as a business with online focus while continuing to offer the best in outdoor-related content.

There are however a few critiques I have about their Website and some suggestions for ways they could expand even more…

Technical SEO

Taking a quick glance through the extensive Field & Stream Photo Gallery I can find a few things they could adjust with relatively little effort that will yield some positive results.

A quick rank check for the general term ‘hunting photos’ reveals that Field & Stream ranks about #25 on Google. This is not acceptable since F&S has one of (if not the) best hunting photo galleries on the Web. And to top off those results, F&S is ranking for with their Hunting page rather than their Hunting Photos page.

The first thing F&S can do is to utilize a strong URL for their hunting photos. Something like http://fieldandstream.com/hunting-photos would be perfect rather than the current http://www.fieldandstream.com/photos/editorial/1 . I would then redirect the current Hunting Photos page to the new one to keep any incoming links.

Click for sharper image

Next I would utilize proper title tags for the Hunting Photos page. I would use something like ‘Hunting Photos and User Submitted Hunting Photos Galleries’ or something similar that best fits F&S’s goals for their photo galleries.

F&S does utilize title tags on their hunting pageHunting: Hunting Blogs, Hunting Photos, Hunting Tips, and Hunting Articles from Field & Stream’. That is a lot of great content. To avoid cannibalism I would remove ‘Hunting Photos’ from this title tag so the hunting photos page is optimized and the search engines aren’t confused.

Click for sharper image

There are a few other things Field & Stream can do technically, but these are good changes to start.

Click for sharper image

Photo Gallery Design

It appears Field & Stream has had great success with their Slide Show Style photo gallery design.

Field & Stream organizes their photos (professional and user-submitted) into individual galleries that are setup like slide shows. For example, Field & Stream’s 50 Best Reader Bucks of 2009. Each time you click ‘next’ above the photos you’ll be taken to a new page. That’s a new page view for each photo, which means big traffic numbers for F&S.

The gallery as it’s currently setup is great for building page views and each page/photo has a new description to the right, which is great for the readers as they will want to learn about each new photo.

It would be a change for my own personal preference, but I would change the slide show format to a design that more resembles a blog post with photos and descriptions taking up fewer pages. This design would lead to potential issues with page load time and decreased page views, but the advantages would include the ability to see more than one photo at once.

It’s mostly a personal preference, but there are also technical advantages. Currently, each page in a photo gallery has the same title tag, which diminishes the value of the tag.

Field & Stream has certainly had success with their photo gallery in slide show format so there is no need to make drastic changes. The traffic and page views are there and users can certainly link to individual posts which will lead to link juice.

There are a few things that could be cleaned up though as I’ve mentioned to make the user experience more enjoyable while taking advantage of some SEO.

‘Best of’ Lists

My absolute favorite part about Field & Stream’s photo gallery is their use of ‘Best of’ lists.

Example: 25 Best Big Game Reader Photos of 2009

Web users love lists and they love looking through lists of remarkable photos. F&S takes the interaction up a notch by including reader photos in their showcases. It’s a great way to get readers more involved in the site.

F&S steps up the interaction by including leader boards for top users, ranked photos and ranked comments, and related photos.

I would continue doing posts like these while also listing the Most Viewed galleries along with Trending or Favorite galleries on the main photos page.

Build on the success of the ‘Best of’ lists and create even more lists that Web visitors love.

Photo Gallery Commenting

Getting back to the issue of the slide show style design for the photo galleries – the commenting on the slide shows is awkward.

Users can comment on the galleries as a whole, but it appears they cannot comment on individual photos. Users will highlight photos in their comments (Ex: What is up with photo #3?) because they don’t have the ability or can’t figure out how to comment on the particular photo they finding noteworthy.

It would be beneficial to user experience and SEO to allow users to comment on individual posts.

One Last Word: Duplicate Content

I just noticed that there is an Additional Info section on most galleries – right side of the page when you view galleries.

It looks like the information in this area does not change from page to page when clicking ‘next’ to view each photo.

This is a search engine no-no as search engines are always struggling with duplicate content. They want to know the page that the content is meant for and sites can be deducted ranking as a result of too much duplicate content.

Example: Moose in Canoe and Elk Hunt 2009 both have the same content in the Additional Info section.

Summary

Field & Stream has one of, if not the, best outdoor and hunting-related photo gallery on the Web today.

The increase in traffic in the past year is proof that the great folks at the outdoor publication are doing great things with their Website. They’re writing content that people love to read and they’re adding photos that people love to view and comment on.

With a few adjustments to the structure of the photo gallery I think Field & Stream could see increased results. They can improve their user experience with a few technical changes, which will lead to more incoming links while also adjusting a few things that will increase search engine traffic.

I look forward to see the Field & Stream Photo Gallery evolve and grow as outdoor enthusiasts continue interacting with the site.

PS – It looks like image title and tagging could be improved too. The exciting part is that there is huge potential for Field & Stream to improve their immense collection of photos.

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