With Halloween around the corner, I caught up with one of our customers, the husband and wife team behind Pumpkinlady.com. If you haven't been to their website, it offers a range of pumpkin carving stencils and accessories for the holiday season. The website has gained a lot of popularity over the last few years. Lisa Berberette (aka, The Pumpkin Lady) has been featured on Good Morning America and the Home Shopping Network, not to mention she's carved pumpkins for Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart. I sat down with Jack Berberette (aka, The Pumpkin Hubby) to talk about their business and what it's like to run a seasonal website.
CF: How long have you been running the website pumpkinlady.com?
JB: This is our 15th season! In 1998 we noticed that there really weren't a lot downloadable carving patterns on the web, so Lisa created a bunch of patterns and I designed the site as a place for people to grab some cool freebies. We had no idea that the site would take off the way it did.
CF: What are some of the perks of running a seasonal website? What are some of the challenges?
JB: Running a seasonal site is cool in that it's easy to focus on a particular niche and we can relax a bit outside of the busy season. The downside is that we only have a three month income window. We're in the process now of working on a non-seasonal specific line of artwork that will hopefully fill in the nine month gap.
CF: Is there anything you do to prepare your website for the busy holiday season?
JB: Over the years, more and more pumpkin carving sites have popped up. Now competition is a good thing, but it does present search engine ranking challenges (this past year even more so with Google's algorithm change). So, in March I started researching Google "ranking rules" and how we fit in compared to our competitors....from there I started making measured tweaks to optimize SEO.
Aside from search engine ranking, running a high volume, seasonal Wordpress site has presented some interesting challenges. I am constantly looking for ways to reduce CPU usage, database calls and bandwidth. From custom code tweaks in the e-commerce backend, optimizing caching to CDN, there is quite a bit to prepare for each year. But I'm a nerd and like that sort of thing.
CF: What advice would you give to other small businesses running a seasonal site?
JB: Content generation for a seasonal site is easy, creating a great visitor experience is the challenge. Seasonal sites, by their very nature, are highly competitive. "Big Box" sites have huge budgets to hone in on that market. So, to set yourself apart, make sure that your visitors feel that they are the single most important thing that has ever happened to your business. It doesn't matter if they don't purchase anything, only spend a buck or place a huge order...the customer wants to know that you care about them and their experience they had on your site. If you can convey this type of conviction, you will definitely have an edge over the world of auto-responders and canned replies.
CF: Any tips or tricks you'd like to share on using CloudFlare?
JB: Yes...don't ever stop using it, and if you aren't using CloudFlare, start right now! As far as tips go, I pretty much use the default
settings as I have found that these work best with our site and its plugins. I do recommend activating the Google Analytics settings.
In his own words...
Without a doubt, the single most significant performance and security enhancement our site has ever experienced has been the incredible impact CloudFlare has made. In just the past 30 days, CloudFlare has saved our site from over 21 million requests and over 200GB of bandwidth. Knowing that CloudFlare has my back with great support, resource savings and enhanced site security makes my job as a site owner so much easier. If you aren't using this incredible service, then you are missing out on something great.
~ Jack Berberette (www.pumpkinlady.com)