facebook instant articles for travel content marketing?

What effect will Instant Articles and AMP have on travel content marketing?

Moves from the web’s two biggest giants to shake up mobile publishing have been causing waves among mainstream publishers.

Two features, Facebook’s Instant Articles and Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) were launched last year, ostensibly to improve speed and overall experience for mobile users.

The initiatives are part of a broader shift in the tectonics of digital publishing, among a backdrop of debate around mobile speed and UX, ad blocking, the open web vs walled gardens, and other heady themes.

But while regular publishers grapple with the implications, could there be new opportunities opening up for content marketing too?

Instant Articles

Instant Articles is a way for publishers to post their content directly onto Facebook itself, allowing mobile users to load and read articles instantly without having the leave the Facebook app.

facebook instant articles for travel content marketing?

Instant Articles in the wild (Source


The company claims this makes the reading experience up to 10 times faster than the mobile web, making users more likely to engage with content and, of course, keep them inside Facebook’s walled garden.

Originally released for just a handful of major publishers, the platform is scheduled for general availability on April 12, meaning anyone, including travel businesses, will be able to publish their own Instant Articles.

The nuts and bolts are relatively straightforward. All content must already exist on your own site. From there it’s formatted into an HTML markup and submitted either manually or via an RSS feed.

Importantly, Facebook has accommodated publishers’ needs by allowing 3rd party ads, analytics and audience tracking.

As far as the mobile user is concerned nothing much has changed – you still share, comment and ‘Like’ links as normal, only if an article is available in the Instant format, that is the version that will be displayed to users on the mobile app.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

The clunkier sounding Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is Google’s response to Instant. It works in a similar way – publishers provide a stripped down, mobile-friendly version of existing content that can be loaded much faster by users on a mobile device:

google accelerated mobile pages for travel content marketing

AMP pages in the wild (Source

Unlike Instant you don’t need to physically submit your content to Google, the search engine will crawl your AMP links and cache the content so it can be displayed instantly to mobile users.

As with Facebook’s platform, publishers retain their ads and analytics.

So what does it all mean?

The implications of all this for regular publishers and news orgs are complex. While the mainstream has already jumped in at the deep end, others are justifiably skeptical over giving up even more control and ownership to two already gargantuan platforms.

But for travel companies it could be an easier decision. If Instant and AMP make it easier to get your content in front of mobile users, it must be a no-brainer?

Firstly, it’s worth noting that these features are currently aimed at top tier news organisations and other mainstream publishers. Most AMP pages you’ll see ‘in the wild’ are breaking news and current events from well known sources.

That said, there is already talk of potential applications beyond news publishers. If AMP pages start displaying for a wider range of search queries, such as blog posts, long tail keywords, or even e-commerce and product pages, it might make sense for brands to jump on board.

For sites using WordPress there are already plugins out there to generate AMP and Instant Article versions of your content. The popular Yoast WP plugin announced they’ll be supporting AMP markup in the near future.

Secondly, don’t expect either features to provide a direct boost to your mobile visibility. Both Facebook and Google have explicitly stated that having content available as an AMP page or Instant Article won’t bring preferable treatment in the rankings or Newsfeed.

On the other hand, the AMP carousel does tend to appear high in Google’s mobile results, and in theory a Facebook post that loads faster should get better engagement rates, both of which mean there could be an indirect benefit to adopting these new standards.

Finally, although brands are constantly being told to act like publishers, they’re fundamentally different in that eyeballs alone are not enough – we’re looking for an action and conversion too. This means thinking creatively about how to get readers clicking off from the AMP/Instant Article and onto your site.

The jury is still out on all the above. A sensible position for brand publishers might be to wait and see how it all shakes out over the coming months, but be prepared to adopt quickly if they turn out to be an obvious win.

travel massive what is brand publishing and why do content creators care

What is brand publishing and why should content creators care?

Bloggers working with travel organisations is nothing new. But as the marketing landscape evolves and travel companies start to think and act like publishers, we’re finding exciting new opportunities for content creators and audience builders to work with their industry partners.

Travel businesses have a huge need for insights and data on the audiences they’re trying to reach, can independent publishers and bloggers move beyond the sponsored content model and start to provide a new level of value? It will require a higher degree of maturity to our relationships but the opportunities are vast!

See the slides from our talk at TravelMassive Manchester, Dec 9 2015 here:

content and search retargeting - matthew barker

Are you doing content marketing or just chucking spaghetti at the wall?

Content fever continues to spread, with travel companies pumping out articles and ebooks, hosting blog trips, posting photos to Instagram and building their email lists, but to what end?

We have the faint notion that “content” helps us sell to our audiences, but the actual mechanics behind that process can be less clear. Despite the content deluge, too few companies are doing this strategically and with little grasp on the bottom line value. Meanwhile many agencies and “experts” are happy to part them with their cash for “content” without any meaningful strategy. AKA:

chucking spaghetti at the wall content marketing strategy

Part of the problem is a disconnect between “content” and the rest of digital marketing strategy. Content is the engine that drives our marketing, it isn’t a standalone activity in its own right. The better the content, the more powerful the engine. But you still need to use it strategically to reach and engage the audience at the right time and place, and at some point you need to find ways of turning those new audiences into sales.

Here are three brief examples of how content can integrate with wider digital strategy to have a tangible impact on your bottom line:

Lowering paid search CPAs

If, like most travel companies, paid search (namely Google Adwords) is swallowing the lion’s share of your marketing budget, even a small improvement in campaign efficiency can have a massive impact on your returns.

The key to PPC success is ruthlessly optimising conversion rates while lowering the cost per acquisition (CPA), i.e. how much you spend to get a customer. When you’re spending several dollars per click at high volume, getting a handle on the CPA is critically important.

Smart content strategy can play an important role here. Engaging people with stand-out content first and then bringing them back to your site with targeted search ads gives you highly-engaged, pre-qualified audiences who are much more likely to convert than consumers coming in cold with no previous contact.

You can segment this audience and use search ads to re-capture them at the moment of purchase. With the analytics data indicating exactly how much more likely they are to convert, you can adjust your bid strategy to spend more on acquiring this traffic and still see lower CPAs thanks to much improved bounce and conversion rates.

GA SEPT Barker publisher pic1

Targeting paid search to people who’ve previously engaged with your content is a great way of using content to support bottom-line results.

Success will depend on the quality and nature of your content, and its relevance for the audience you’re trying to reach. You need to offer people extraordinary content that is perfectly suited to their needs at that stage in the journey to purchase.

But the content alone is not enough – coupling it with search retargeting opens the door to consistent and scalable returns.

Improving CLV with email

Regardless of how you’re bringing in the leads and sales, extending the value from each one is another critical, but often ignored, efficiency. Retaining prospects and customers is usually much cheaper than acquiring new ones and you already know that happy and engaged customers are more likely to repeat book and can be powerful evangelists for word-of-mouth referrals.

Email is a perfect channel for extending Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) but you’ve got to be smarter than simply blasting out company updates and your latest promotions. Recognise that email isn’t always great as a lead-gen tool, but that winning opt-in permission to access someone’s inbox gives you a huge opportunity to share relevant, valuable content and reinforce your brand’s credibility and authority.

A common mistake is to send the “company newsletter” format email: Aim to send what your audience wants to read, not what you want to tell them. You can even go as far as to curate an email magazine with content from other quality sources in addition to your own.

The goal is to use your email to establish your credibility and expertise. When they’re ready to make a repeat booking, or recommend a supplier to their friends, it’ll be your brand that comes to mind.

With the conversion path reports you’ll see email emerging as an assisting channel, kicking off conversion paths at the start of the journey to purchase:

GA SEPT Barker publisher pic2

Again – exemplary content is the vital first step. But it won’t suffice on its own. You need to understand where your email fits within the wider strategy in order to evaluate its true impact.

Converting PR & exposure into leads

In the widest sense, PR is any form of earned exposure: press coverage is the obvious example but social media visibility, blogger partnerships and “influencer marketing” all qualify as online PR.

Whereas in the past you could only guesstimate the value of PR via metrics such as ad value equivalent (AVE), these days robust analytics and attribution modelling allow you to trace high-funnel interactions from PR activity all the way down to leads and revenue.

But doing this requires an understanding of the journey to purchase, and what content and information your customers require at each stage. It’s reasonable to expect some leads from a PR engagement, but it’s also likely that much of the audience won’t be prepared to make a booking at the exact moment they’re reached.

By creating touchpoints and connections to maintain contact with these people as they move through the funnel you can bring more of them back to the site when they do become ready to part with their cash, thus improving your returns from the entire engagement.

This is all measurable in your Google Analytics reports, allowing you to see the actual $ value even from indirect and high-funnel PR engagements.

Email, retargeting and social are all obvious tools – which one you choose will depend on the nature of your target audience, where they’re active and the types of content they need to make a purchase decision.


There are countless other ways to unlock ROI from brand publishing – with smart content strategy you can identify the most appropriate solutions for the audience and with proper attribution modelling it’s easier to evaluate bottom-line outcomes, even with long and convoluted conversion paths.

Getting these two pieces in place is the essential first step before making any content investment.

This post first appeared here on Tnooz.

Why content marketing is its own worst enemy – and what to do about it

Although this deck is a couple years old and is nominally about B2B marketing, it’s still incredibly relevant to companies trying to connect with travel consumers:

The core question is simple: if, like every other brand, you’re now supposed to be a publisher – what does that mean for the volume of content your audiences are exposed to, and how easy will it be to reach them through the deluge of noise and competing information?

As the signal-to-noise ratio widens, what does that mean for audience fatigue and consumers’ ability (or willingness) to absorb and engage with the ever rising tide of branded content?

The answer is obvious – people will put up their barriers, tune out and switch off. And they’d be right to do so.

But smarter brands have already recognised new opportunity in this ever noisier landscape. You understand that while everyone else is locked in a race to the bottom churning out space-filler blog articles and yelling into the void on Facebook, you can differentiate your brand with stand-out content that truly serves its purpose: to reach, engage, and sell to your audience.

This is something Rand Fishkin recently addressed with his excellent video Why “Good Unique Content” Needs to Die:

The rise of content marketing over the last five, six years has meant that there’s just a lot more competition. This field is a lot more crowded than it used to be, with many people trying to get to a higher and higher quality bar.

Rand’s answer is that instead of toeing the old line about producing “good, unique content” we need to be striving for much, much better, or 10X content, i.e. “10 times better than anything I can find in the search results today.”

The lesson is that just being a “publisher” is no longer enough, when everyone else is being a publisher too.

You need to be striving for genuine excellence in your output, producing content that demonstrates the expertise and passion that makes your brand unique.

And you need to wrap that content inside a complete marketing strategy that not only builds and engages your audiences, but creates multiple opportunities to sell to them and deliver clear, consistent ROI.

Fortunately, this isn’t as tough as it sounds. If your company has an interesting story to tell, then you’re already halfway there. Give us a shout to explore your opportunities.

travel blogger outreach marketing case study

Case study: Blogger outreach that works

travel blogger outreach marketing case study

Not long ago I wrote a piece on influencer outreach exploring some of the most common hurdles to working with consumer influencers, and the problem of quantifying real impact on consumer purchase decisions (leads, bookings & revenue), as opposed to relying on indirect measures of audience engagement (followers, impressions, re-shares etc).

Although it certainly is possible for digital influencers to play an effective role in earned media strategies, getting it right is tricky and carries a lot of risk.

An example of a travel brand doing it well is G Adventures through their brand ambassador programme, Wanderers in Residence (WiR).

WiR is a partnership with some of the best-known travel bloggers including Gary Arndt, Daniel Noll & Audrey Scott, Jodi Ettenberg, Nellie Huang and, until fairly recently, Matt Kepnes.

The scheme is a classic example of converged media at work, bringing together owned and earned channels to generate a stream of content and exposure that is controlled by the brand, but distributed organically through this tight knit team of brand ambassadors to a wide audience across the web.

I connected with Sacha Mlynek, content marketing specialist at G Adventures, and Nellie Huang of Wild Junket, to get an insight on how the programme works.

MB: What types of roles do brand ambassadors play within G’s overall content strategy?

SM: Their work features prominently in our content strategy. They’re a voice for our brand and a connection to our consumer in one package. They produce a range of assets for use on our own platforms, including written stories, images, video etc, but at the same time they’re also advocating the G Adventures message on their own platforms, to their own audiences.

MB: What are the actual logistics of the programme – what does G provide and what does it get in return?

NH: The basic agreement is that G provides hosted trips plus expenses in return for contributions to their blog, The Looptail. They also offer some perks like free trips for giveaways and they run some paid advertising on my site.

SM: That’s in exchange for the actual content. In terms of the earned-exposure side of things, we’re more relaxed with that. They’re professional social media influencers, they know what works for their audiences and they know what we need. We don’t try to stipulate a pre-agreed volume of activity or anything like that. They are advocates for the brand and look for ways to converse about us in ways over and above a traditional post.

MB: What are the main benefits G sees from nurturing social media influencers as brand ambassadors?

SM: The benefits are huge. It’s a continuous opportunity for an organic connection with users. When you have great writers who produce excellent content and are able to distribute this widely across multiple channels, the chatter and connections you make is real and is very valuable.

MB: Do you know how this activity connects with G’s consumers at different stages of the customer journey? Do you find it’s mostly beneficial at the top of the funnel in terms of inspiring audiences or is it equally effective in driving actual conversions lower down the funnel?

SM: The sales funnel for booking adventure travel is special as it involves inspiration at multiple levels. At the top, we’re connecting with these very broad audiences at an educational level – showing what experiences are out there and what they can do with their vacation time, getting the G brand out there is almost an indirect benefit of that.

Once a customer gets closer to booking a trip we start to reach them on our owned channels, they’re coming to our blog and reading the Wanderers’ trip reports. But we’re still inspiring them with all this real-life content, we’re still challenging them to think about what they’re looking to get out of travel.

MB: Nellie, how does this all benefit your own audience? What feedback do you hear?

NH: My followers are largely in the age group of 25-45, young professionals who have money to spend and are seeking adventure in unusual parts of the world. This overlaps perfectly with G Adventures’ audience, so it’s a natural fit.

Sharing my personal experiences of travelling with G gives my audience a sense that they’re getting an in-depth, first hand review of what it’s like to travel with G, from someone they know and trust. We see plenty of interest whenever we organize giveaways and I get a lot of queries on my blog from travelers who are interested in the trips I’ve covered.

MB: Can you shine any light on how conversion rates are driven or assisted by this activity?

SM: The Wanderers offer content to two readerships — ours and theirs. This affords an opportunity to bring in new viewers that we might not otherwise have access to. We don’t segment traffic generated from their social activity but we obviously have a handle on referrals from their domains. In this case, the assisted conversions ratio exceeds that of most other referrals by a considerable margin.

Analysis & takeaways

For many travel brands the biggest takeaway is probably “well, lucky G Adventures” – not many firms have the budget or internal resources to manage a campaign of this scale. But that’s not to say there aren’t any transferable lessons here for others:

Manage costs (and risk): Influencer engagements don’t need to be open-ended, expensive campaigns involving comped travel, expenses, prizes etc. There are plenty more modest ways of partnering with consumer influencers, from having them promote a one-off contest to commissioning a single contribution to your blog or ebook. The action is irrelevant, it’s the desired outcome that matters.

Align audiences: WiR is a perfect overlap between G’s target market and the bloggers’ own audiences but brands in other segments might find more effective influencers outside the travel arena, for instance with family & parenting blogs, experience/activity-specific authorities, high-end lifestyle publications, and other non-travel verticals where building relationships with influencers can be much easier.

Respect & cherish independence: Typical arrangements, especially short-term deals, see marketers trying to micromanage engagements, from controlling the messaging right down to specifying the timing of each tweet, insisting on hashtags, and so on. This is just the same as paying a shill: influencers worth their salt won’t do it and even if they do, their audiences will quickly see through it and switch off.

It’s much more effective to respect their independence, allowing them free reign to connect with their audiences as they see fit. If it’s a relationship based on mutual respect and trust they’ll already have an interest in serving your needs as well as their audience’s.

Ethics & disclosure: It’s also important, for both ethical and practical reasons, to properly disclose the nature of the relationship in the content that is produced. In the long run audiences will appreciate your honesty and maintain trust in your brand.

Monitor outcomes: If you’re engaging influencers to help drive conversions it’s critical to segment and track your traffic and goals, and use assisted conversion reports to understand how each activity is contributing to the bottom line. See here for more details.

UPDATE some additional thoughts after an interesting follow-up discussion on Outbounding:

Calculating ROI: We didn’t get into any specific numbers on outcomes and ROI reporting as it’s pretty sensitive data but as the reactions in the Outbounding discussion show, there are considerable questions around the returns from work like this, and how they are calculated.

Returns from outreach campaigns have two main components: sales generated by direct clicks from the bloggers’ sites or social media activity (“last touch” conversions) and sales which are closed by one of G’s owned channels but instigated or assisted by the bloggers’ activity (“first touch” and “assisted” conversions).

Although we didn’t get into the details for this interview, I’d suspect the later outweigh the former by a considerable margin.  Blogger and other influencer outreach campaigns tend to be most effective at bringing qualified and engaged prospects in at the top of the funnel, and giving the brand multiple opportunities to connect and sell to them as the audience becomes more purchase-intent.

Conversion attribution models that take into account first touch and assisted conversions allow you to put a dollar value to those interactions and calculate with a reasonable degree of accuracy the bottom-line returns from top-funnel outreach and promotion.

For more info this article goes into some more detail on the process of segmenting and understanding multi-channel conversion paths.