Building a Great Website to Optimize Puppy Sales
by Barbara Fawver
Purina ProPlan Staff Writer
Puppy sales have slowed universally compared to the high demand breeders experienced during COVID-19 when families were homebound and looking for a cute, cuddly companion. However, digital-savvy breeders may not notice the changing market.
An expert digital strategist, Matt Stelter, a lifetime breeder and founder of the Better Breeder Institute, offers an insider’s perspective on how to grow the demand of your puppies while cultivating ideal puppy customers. In short, he says, an optimized website allows you to effectively promote your breeding program and generate puppy inquiries 365 days a year.
“The COVID puppy surge is long gone, and dog breeders will need to step up their game if they are going to attract the best puppy buyers,” Stelter says. “The goal is to find buyers who value the quality of your puppies and who get on your reservation list before you have puppies available. If you properly manage your pet puppy sales, they can become a cornerstone of your breeding program.”
Stelter recently shared digital marketing strategies to help recession-proof puppy sales. Describing a website as “owned digital real estate,” he told attendees at the AKC Breeder Symposium in October in Columbus, Ohio, that a website has the power to be a breeder’s No. 1 greatest puppy acquisition tool. His knowledge of how to achieve internet marketing success comes from 20-plus years experience developing digital campaigns for national brands and corporate retail clients.
“An optimized website can attract more puppy inquiries than all other types of digital marketing channels combined, including directories, marketplaces, and social media,” he says. “A quality, optimized website is an investment in owned digital real estate, and its value will appreciate in value
and performance over time.”
Stelter and his wife, Anita, breed Rough Collies under the Wyndlair kennel prefix. Their eye-catching website (WyndlairCollies.com) promotes their breeding program, a combined 60 years in the breed, with an easy-to-navigate, mobile-friendly design. A delightful puppy page features their children with adorable Collie puppies and includes information about pricing, reservations, puppy care, lifetime health guarantee, and transportation options.
“Our site has earned over a quarter million visitors. We receive hundreds of inquiries each year and earn three times the going rate for Collie puppies,” Stelter says. “At this point, our website is the only marketing strategy we use. It has transformed the entire economics of our breeding program.”
An effective website is one that convinces Google, the No. 1 search engine, that it has the expertise, authority and trustworthiness (eAT) required to rank at the top of the search results. The higher Google ranks a breeder’s website for searches, relative to the breed of dog and location, plays a vital role in where buyers will ultimately purchase their puppies.
“Almost one-third of all clicks on Google go to the site in the first position, and over half of all clicks go to the top three positions,” Stelter says. “If a website does not rank in the top 10 positions, essentially the first page of Google results, then it will likely never be seen.
Stelter developed a pyramid-shaped framework for breeders to represent the key elements of an optimized website that symbiotically creates a powerful digital marketing engine for a breeding program. These essential parts are Design, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and Content. When used together, they can potentially boost a website’s ranking on Google.
A website’s design, its overall look, layout, and structure, must be viewable on any device from a desktop computer to an iPad and smartphone, though more people today use smartphones than any other device to visit websites. A modern, compelling design should attractively portray dogs and a breeding program while providing a positive user experience. Visitors should be able to navigate the site easily, find what they are looking for, and enjoy the experience.
SEO uses keywords in specific places on the website to be most relevant to the search inquiries that puppy buyers type into Google. Dog breeders should use keywords centered around their breed and geographic location. SEO involves technical and creative expertise to optimize the placement of desired keywords in both on-page and off-page locations to improve search engine rankings and site traffic. Links to and from a website send Google powerful signals about the site’s value, relevance, and authority.
Website content includes information, stories, and imagery that tell visitors about a breeder, their dogs, and their breeding program. Sharing information online about your puppy-buying procedures makes it easier than answering the same questions repeatedly with each inquiry. Websites that contain the right content educate visitors and also endear breeders to visitors. Most importantly, website content should be developed and structured using modern SEO best practices to enable Google to index it.
“A quality website is a time and money investment into your own digital real estate,” Stelter says. “It is
the No. 1 puppy acquisition tool. Nothing else comes close. Done properly, it can transform the economics of your breeding program and provide the needed cash flow to invest back into your breeding program.”