It is hard to believe that in May 2012 The Good Web Guide (GWG) will be twelve years old. Many of us who have spent the last decade online have been using it as one of our resources to find well edited, interesting, intelligent content. It is the thinking reader’s Google shortlist.
The GWG website used to exist in print form as well, but the books were no longer published after 2005. After working for the business for seven years, Arabella Dymoke took over the company in March 2007, buying out the other partners. There are now four writers who work on the editorial team, and they work from home, connected on Skype. The GWG team browse through hundreds of websites every month, looking to select the few that are beautifully designed, delivering good content, information and imagery as well as engaging with their audience.
If you are looking for good food and wine offerings on the GWG then be warned, you may well spend a great deal more time than you bargained for within its portals: from cookery schools to street food awards, young up-and-coming foodies, kitchen gardens, top gourmet travel destinations, recipes and wine recommendations from professional connoisseurs, there are news, views and research that will lead you from one click to another. The site attracts 3000 unique visitors every day, and a Newsletter is sent out by e-mail each week informing readers of new special offers, new Blogs and new websites that have joined the guide.
I recently interviewed Arabella to find out the history behind the creation of the website. She told me how proud she was of the fact that the GWG had given so many new websites a foothold online:
“When new, really great websites are created we can help with Search Engine Optimisation because we write about them on the day of launch. We have thousands of journalists on our newsletter database, and as a result they are made instantly aware of any newcomers and are able to feature them in national press or magazines if they want to. It shines a light on a website that might otherwise not be ranked by Google or be picked up by other media until much later, by which time the novelty factor has gone,” she explained.
The membership fee to join the website costs £150 a year. The full page editorial is written for the member website and the latter is given an opportunity to run special offers and promotions from the GWG site, which are then disseminated using social media like Facebook and Twitter. There is also advertising on the website and part of the space is sold on an aggregate basis by Handpicked Media, a social media agency and a collective of independent websites and Blogs.
“Money does not buy you access into the GWG,” Arabella avers, “entry is only by selection, because we need to keep the quality of the companies on the site very high. We do a great deal of research around the history of the company to make sure that they fit our criteria. The GWG website therefore reflects a very carefully edited selection of everything that is out there in cyberspace.”
One of the way in which the GWG website differs from other guides is that it features “Guest Editors” who write about their own favourite websites. From celebrities, to industry experts and writers, readers get to sneak a peek at their “little black online book”. I have found many new and interesting websites through these recommendations. In particular I enjoyed reading about the choices of Simon Berry, Chairman of St. James’s wine merchants Berry Brothers and Rudd, Sheila Dillon, the presenter of the Radio 4 Food Programme and Dan Lepard, master baker and author of “The Handmade Loaf” and “Short and Sweet”.
Arabella has worked long and hard to keep the website an important destination for all web browsers, but the luxury, elite search market is big and competitive. Like many entrepreneurs, her business takes up so much of her time, and being online means she can never truly switch off – it is a 24 hour, 7 days a week global market place. Her first love is writing, and she believes that good editorial and attention to detail is highly important to attract and retain a loyal audience. She is also a very keen home cook and locavore, knowing the regional Lincolnshire producers and food artisans that deliver excellent quality and service. The food, drink and lifestyle sections of the GWG carry her imprint.
The highlight of the year for the team for the last three years has been “The Good Web Guide Awards”, held at The Royal Institution in Mayfair. Across twelve different categories, ranging from music, home interiors, food and drink, retail, crowd funding, social platforms and website tool providers, a panel of experts analyses a shortlist of 24 websites (among them The Foodie Bugle!) to decide which one should win the coveted award. There is also a People’s Choice website, chosen by supporters and fans on social media.
Arabella believes that by creating a special occasion which celebrates and showcases the very best that the web has to offer, everyone is a winner:
“The awards are an invaluable opportunity to meet world class experts, industry peers, people from PR, the media and the online world. I have found during my twelve years at the GWG that people are very keen to help one another, and the award night brings together the very best spirit of what we are trying to achieve.”
I do remember being immensely inspired by this year’s award speech given by Jo Malone, the entrepreneur who set up the eponymous fragrance business which was eventually sold to Estee Lauder. She has recently set up a new line of perfumes, called Jo Loves (www.joloves.com), and told us all how crucial creating an excellent website was in today’s recessionary economy. Jo believes that SMEs should not actually stand for “Small and Medium Enterprises” but rather “Seriously Motivated Entrepreneurs” who “have the power to turn this country around very quickly”. Their ability to employ “one more person, then another person, and then another” is going to be the dynamic power behind Britain’s resurgence and renewed prosperity.
Equally inspiring is Arabella’s drive and commitment to her brand. She is very open about what matters most. Her experience has led her to believe that high quality, professional and seamless photography is of vital importance when creating a new website, as are a good, fast search engine, good archive retrieval, interactive commentary and all social media channels.
In the current economic environment only a foolish business owner would not heed the advice of these exemplary business leaders. If you are looking to set up a new business or need to create a new website then www.thegoodwebguide.co.uk is the first port of call for inspiration. Learn how the very best companies have done it, and if you think you have what it takes to be part of this special platform, then let the team know. You can follow them on Twitter @thegoodwebguide or Like them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thegoodwebguide.