I enjoy a drink. I also enjoy digital marketing. It seemed almost inevitable the two would collide at some point.
Many Manchester bars have an online presence. Much like the bars in the area, some sites are great, some sites are bad and some sites are ugly. If the internet was a bar, the latter category of sites would probably be drinking alone in the corner and smelling of whisky.
Here's a run down of what a bar website needs in order to be an effective online tool.
Make the site easy to find
Searches for bars in Manchester often bring up results for third party sites such as ManchesterConfidential.com and ManchesterBars.com. The good bar websites cut out the middle man and are prominently displayed in a search for their name. This can be achieved in a number of ways:
- A listing on Google Local - This quickly brings up the crucial information – phone number, address, map. Searches for city bars Bluu and The Cornerhouse both result in listings on Google Maps. Very useful for the time-conscious user desperate for a sup.
- URL – Many bars include the term 'Manchester' in their URL. This is great for minimising the number of search results for other UK venues with identical names. The Woodstock in South Manchester takes this a step further and includes the phrase Didsbury in its URL.
- Basic SEO – The city centre bar Sam's Chop House includes all the major terms in its title tag: 'Sam's Chop House Restaurant Manchester'. Lovely search fodder for the Google spiders and good for ranking on a number of terms.
A simple layout is crucial for a bar website. In normal circumstances, a user is looking for a set amount of information: where the pub is, what it's like and what they can order for lunch. TV 21 has a simple and easy to understand navigation. Users can select from a number of options, giving them the maximum amount of information with the minimum degree of clicking. The online habitat of Castlefield bar Dukes 92 is also a great example of a navigation done right; simple and intuitive. Elsewhere, the Kro chain has a lovely map on its homepage which highlights the locations of its four Manchester bars.
Good websites should also try to be mobile phone friendly. Bars need to take into consideration the circumstances of some visitors. When users are accessing information via a mobile, do they want to be impressed by an image-led homepage which takes years to load? The best websites for mobile browsers accommodate the small handset screens - small blocks of text and sparse use of images. Additionally, many Manchester bars use flash on their websites. This makes them inaccessible to an iPhone user.
Keeping users coming back
M20, located in deepest Didsbury, is a lovely demonstration of how to keep users on a website. This tidy site offers users the chance to choose their perfect cocktail based on a series of irreverent questions. For example,'On holiday, are you a chilled out beach bum or an action-hungry pirate?'. The website then suggests a cocktail inspired by a user's responses. Helpfully, it also list the price of said cocktail if you fancy a trip to the actual bar.
Blogs are also a nice way to keep users returning to a site. Northern Quarter bar Walrus incorporates a blog into its website, giving staff the opportunity to talk about their recent experiences at the venue. It's a nice touch which gives added depth to the website.
Press reviews are a helpful addition to a site. They help add authority and may convince many users to pay a visit. Odd has a large selection of published reviews for curious punters.
Online design should have character
The design of a website reflects the character of the establishment. The look of a website creates an immediate impression. To this end, a trendy student haunt probably shouldn't look like a website for Dunder Mifflin.
The website for the Trof chain incorporates elements of its décor into the design. It injects some of the character and atmosphere of the venue into the site.
Honorary mentions also go to Walrus, Odd and The English Lounge (a traditional boozer in the city centre which is represented online by regal colours and swirling fonts).
Social networking is a great way to get a bar noticed. The Northern, one of the more recent bars in the Northern Quarter, runs an excellent Facebook campaign. The Northern group is regularly updated with news and events. It also includes a list of opening hours and has a well-attended discussion board. To add a little face to the brand, the director of the pub frequently answers user questions about the bar.
Other notable marketing campaigns include Simple Bar (Facebook) and Sweet Mandarin (Twitter).
Social marketing takes a reasonable amount of effort – a undernourished Facebook group page reflects badly on any establishment. A comment on the group page of one particular Manchester bar highlights these perils.
“Can we update this crappy page? Or delete it and start a new one?”
Many Manchester bars also offer regular emial newsletters. This is a simple way of keeping in touch with customers and letting them know about events and offers. Rain Bar and Simple Bar are just two examples of venues using this effective technique.