Archive for the ‘fondue’ Category

We’re BAAACK!!!

October 21, 2008

We’ve been busy the past 6 months growing and expanding our online marketplace at terrakeramik.com and although we continue to be busy (especially with the holiday season only a few weeks away), we are excited to share with you some of the things we’re doing on this blog. We’ll be posting in the next few days, so check back! Thanks.

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New York Times “A Little Nostalgia, a Long Fork and Lots of Cheese”

January 25, 2008

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Photo Copyright by The New York Times, Evan Sung for The New York Times.

The New York Times article “A Little Nostalgia, a Long Fork and Lots of Cheese” attempts to over-simplify an already simple and fun dish: the cheese fondue. We ask why? The NYT writer mentions that she consulted with Terrance Brennan, the chef at Artisanal, where fondue is on the menu year-round, about the choice of fondue pots (the writer’s mother apparently re-deployed her fondue pot as a planter). Brennan is quoted “You can use any pot for fondue, as long as you eat it fast enough, before it gets cold and hard.” NOT! We recommend you check out our guide to fondue sets. If you are serious about cheese and dessert fondues, we offer probably the best fondue set on the market, comprised of a fondue pot and matching plates, stainless steel burner and forks. Handcrafted in Switzerland and tested by Swiss fondue gourmands, the fondue set qualifies as professional equipment. In addition to being handcrafted, the fondue pots and plates are eco-friendly.

Terra Keramik Fondue Pot Terra Keramik Fondue Pot

Terra Keramik handcrafted, eco-friendly fondue set

The NYT writer continues with her advice “When the cheese started to cool and congeal, which took a good 30 minutes, all I did was stick it back on the stove, stirring until runny.” NOT! [Hint: you may need to add a little white wine and lemon juice]. Consult both our cooking and serving tips and our Swiss cheese fondue recipe. Or try our chocolate fondue recipe for a sweet dessert alternative.

To view the articles, you may need to sign up for a FREE New York Times online account (you don’t need to be a subscriber).

Update: search or “pay to play”

October 10, 2007

We posted on December 17, 2006 (6 weeks after we launched our online marketplace) that to drive customers to our site and create brand and product awareness, we wanted to be included in the major search engines and to advertise both online and offline. However, because Google did not rank us (at that time) in the top 1000 results for several of our keywords, including espresso cups, cappuccino cups and fondue pots, we decided to participate in “sponsored search”. We were aware that sponsored search is expensive and our early experience indicated sponsored search resulted in primarily low quality visits. So we asked the question: “Should we be patient and wait until we move up in the Google search results, or do we continue to spend on the Google Adwords program knowing that it doesn’t bring quality visits, product sales or even long-term customer relationships?”

We’re pleased to provide an update. The two screenshots below show that as of today, Google organic search ranks our website in the top 15 results (middle of page 2) for espresso cups (2,350,000 results) and top 20 results (bottom half of page 2) for cappuccino cups (1,940,000 results). For fondue pots (1,580,000 results), we rank in the top 90 results (bottom of page 9).

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To achieve this impressive keyword ranking on Google, we have continued to improve the search friendliness of our website as per the earlier post and we have been very patient. We worked and waited almost 12 months!

To improve the site, we have focused especially on page layout using Divs rather than tables (whenever possible – obviously for tabular data, tables make perfect sense) and ensuring that the site uses valid HTML and is CSS compliant. For example, it does matter where your content with keywords is on the page. If you use CSS and have column layouts, the search engines read left to right and top to bottom and give more weighting to content that appears on the top left vs. the bottom right. Also, the search engines cannot read images so you should use alt tags that contain keywords. HTML validation and CSS standards do impact on search rankings, i.e. it is important to understand that search bots that crawl your site are “blind” and do not visualize your site but instead “read” your HTML markup. Bad HTML or unecessary or messy code will negatively impact your ranking. Good HTML like using tags for titles will help Google boost the importance of the title (useful if the title contains your keywords). Using Div tags to lay out your pages rather than tables will help the search bot “read” your page faster because there is less “clutter”, which will also improve your ranking.

You can find advice and tools that should help you to structure your site at googlerankings.com. Also read Google’s FAQ for webmasters and Google’s Webmaster blog with great advice and news about coming features.

The key (pardon the pun) now is to maintain those search rankings. Our competitors can view our keyword rank and keyword usage using a variety of online tools. We are redesigning our navigation to use a pure CSS based navigation bar, instead of the current navigation bar based on HTML tables, javascript and jpg image files (although we do use alt tags). We’ll post about that later.

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Fondue

February 7, 2007

Here’s our suggestion for a Valentine’s Day surprise:

A chocolate fondue served in probably the best fondue set on the market, comprised of a handcrafted fondue pot and matching plates, stainless steel burner and forks. Tested by Swiss fondue gourmands, this set qualifies as professional equipment.  To make you look like an expert, we’ll provide the recipe and cooking tips.  Enjoy!

Terra Keramik creates the fondue pot and plates using clean, simple designs and rich, saturated glazes in eight funky colors. Each piece is accented in platinum and hand-signed by the artist.  Triple fired for maximum durability. Lead-free and cadmium-free glazes for an absolute food-safe finish. Dishwasher safe. Handcrafted in Switzerland since 1984.

Catering to different user behavior

December 15, 2006

One of the key design objectives for the terrakeramik.com website was to provide several different ways for users to browse/search the site. Although at present our site is not large, it is important to recognize that different users will navigate a website in different ways and therefore the site should cater to different user behavior. Equally important is to make any page on the site easily and quickly accessible. We did that in several ways:

  • Horizontal navigation bar with two levels
  • Contextual links embedded in text
  • List related items in right side column – items are clickable
  • Integrate a site search engine above the navigation bar
  • Minimize number of clicks to reach any page (max. 3)
  • Optimize page load speeds
  • We are using several free “web statistics” tools to track and learn about user behavior to continuously improve the user experience (our site does not collect any personal information about users unless explicitly stated, e.g. to enable the shopping cart). One of these tools, Google Analytics, allows website owners to track and analyze how users enter, navigate and exit the site, what content they view, how long they spend on the site, whether they return, and if they transact on the site. Note: Google Analytics is absolutely free, and can be used with or without Google Adwords or any other marketing/advertising campaign. It does require you to copy and paste a code snippet on every page you wish to track. Goggle Analytics is a fantastic analytical tool, but our assessment is that it is a works-in-progress (Google doesn’t label it “beta” but probably should) and some of the stats deviate more than expected from Awstats and Webalizer.

    We also would like to explain our thoughts about site search. You may question site search for a small site, but we thought that if someone came to our site looking for red cappuccino cups or yellow dinner plates, they may be more inclined to type the search phrase into a search engine rather than using the navigation bar. Or they may be looking for a cheese fondue recipe or how to make a caffe latte, in which case they may again prefer to search. Our decision to incorporate site search was also based on implementation cost (license fee plus time to integrate and configure). We found Wrensoft’s Zoom search engine to be the answer. A free version (with no advertising) is available for small websites up to 50 pages. For larger websites, you can purchase either the standard version ($49) professional version ($99) or the enterprise version ($299). Zoom is easy to install, configure and maintain (ours was up and running in about 30 minutes) and runs on javascript, PHP, ASP or CGI. It is capable of full text searching of static and dynamic files (including PDF and Flash). And it supports foreign language search. You can modify the CSS and seamlessly integrate Zoom into your site (e.g., add to the navigation bar). The search algorithm is open and configurable for the experienced programmer. The search results page is configurable, and we included a quick shopping cart at the top of the search results page. Wrensoft has just released version 5.0 of Zoom. All in all a great package!

    Writing a business plan at 30,000 feet

    November 22, 2006

    Unfortunately, our family vacation came to an end and we boarded a return flight from Zurich, Switzerland to Newark, New Jersey.  Once the plane was at a safe cruising altitude (somewhere around 30,000 feet) and the kids were settled in, we started brainstorming about how to import and sell Terra Keramik’s handcrafted tableware in the US. We booted up our laptop and began drafting the outline of a business plan and crunching some “back of the envelope” numbers to explore whether or not the business could make sense.  This started a year-long journey to bring to market a unique product and create a new online marketplace.

    What started out as a family vacation…

    November 20, 2006

    Background

    In early November 2006, we launched www.terrakeramik.com to sell handcrafted tableware imported from Switzerland. The tableware features clean, simple designs and rich, saturated glazes in eight funky colors. Each piece is accented in platinum and hand-signed by the artist. While we offer a full line of beverageware and dinnerware, our focus is espresso cups, cappuccino cups, caffe mugs, tea mugs and teapots, and fondue sets.

    How did we start?

    In August 2005, we were on a family vacation in Switzerland and were enjoying a late morning cappuccino in an outdoor cafe (aptly named Cappuccino) in the city of Winterthur.  Looking across the street, we were immediately captivated by the array of shapes and colors of cups, plates, and bowls displayed in a large storefront window.  The sign above the shop read “Terra Keramik” and we were on our feet (no, we did not forget to pay for our cappuccinos) and hurried across the street to take a look.

    We entered Terra Keramik and were greeted by Felix Vogler, Founder and Creative Director with an offer to tour his studio, which was located adjacent to the store and separated by an open courtyard.  Talking with Felix and understanding his approach to design and creation led us to believe that we had discovered someone and something unique and special.  His creations were unlike anything we had seen in the US or anywhere else in our global travels.   As we left the store with a couple of brochures in our hands, the beginnings of a business idea started to emerge.