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:

Travel content strategy & marketing resources

A content strategy revolves around two key components: an understanding of your audience & their needs and a map of how your content/channels are mapped to those needs at each stage of the purchase decision.

To help with both we’ve developed the following templates. You can save and edit these templates as needed.

Audience persona mapping template

buyer persona template for travel content marketing

Access the template here. Click File > Make A Copy and save to edit and create your own buyer persona template.

Campaign planning template

editorial planning template for travel content marketing

Access the template here.

Need help implementing these? Give us a shout any time!

The anatomy of an optimised tour itinerary page

The itinerary page is the most important part of a tour operator’s website. This is the end point for the entire customer journey to purchase; the moment of truth when customers either decide to “Enquiry Now” or bail out and head to a competitor’s site instead.

Considering the investments made just getting people to this final hurdle, the quality of the page is of paramount importance. What happens on this page will make or break the months and years of marketing efforts that brought someone to this point.

For this reason it’s essential that you pay extra attention to the design and testing of these pages to optimise their performance – a process known as conversion rate optimisation (CRO).

In our own CRO experiments for travel brands of all shapes and sizes we’ve identified a number of core elements that run across all high performing itinerary pages.

[Note that here we’re only looking at design elements and on-page features – there are numerous other factors to CRO such as load speed, mobile UX, the quality of your content and messaging, and of course the quality and competitiveness of the product offering itself.]

All other things being equal, every successful itinerary page we’ve seen includes the following page elements:

tour itinerary landing page conversion rate optimisation

Main contact info in the header: Putting your phone and email details up here is a no-brainer, especially for your mobile and tablet visitors. Using a click-to-call HTML tag allows a frictionless conversion point for mobile visitors.

A bold headline that hammers home the USP: This is the biggest and most emotionally-charged purchase decision that many consumers will make all year. It’s also takes just milliseconds for visitors to get the first impressions from your page. That makes grabbing (and keeping) their attention with a short and emotionally compelling introduction absolutely essential.

A descriptive, unambiguous subtitle: Immediately after the strong first impression it’s important to follow up with a crystal clear summary of what’s on offer: the tour destinations, experience, number of days and, critically, the price. For this first “headline” price, typically the lowest per-person rate is listed without any extras or inclusions, i.e. the lowest possible rate that can be accurately listed. The “From only…$” format works fine for this.

Main content blocks: These vary according to the nature of the tour/experience but generally consumers would expect to see a brief overview followed by more detailed information on the itinerary, accommodations, additional services, etc. Towards the end after the product and offering has been laid out, the detailed pricing is broken out, including variables for accommodation tiers, occupancy, etc.

[NB. It has become fashionable to organise these blocks into tabs to minimise page depth and scrolling and help keep important elements like contact forms higher up the page. The tradeoff is in requiring visitors to click to view content. Good design and copy are needed to reduce friction whatever layout is used.]

A sidebar sitting alongside the main product content is the main driver of conversions (and ultimately revenue) from the page. Given that Western languages scan from left to right it’s logical to place the main product information to the left and the intended action/outcome to the right.

The sidebar is focused around a booking or reservations form, which should always be cushioned by social proof features to reduce anxiety and instil confidence and reassurance in the brand: testimonials, a guarantee, a 5* Trip Advisor icon, reviews, etc.

Beneath the contact form should be a “soft conversion”, i.e. a pathway for visitors who aren’t ready to take the plunge. This could be navigating to similar tours, share/email the page to a friend, download trip notes/brochure, etc.

[NB. A fixed sidebar that scrolls down the page with the user is an effective way of keeping the main conversion point within view at all times. It’s also important to check your responsive CSS doesn’t simply hide the sidebar on narrower screens.]

At the end of the page is a second booking form, with more fields for necessary information. Below this form is space for accreditations, memberships, consumer protection logos and anything else that is likely to provide extra reassurance.

Perfecting an itinerary landing page is part science, part art. There’s no substitute for a compelling offer and powerful content, but that must be reinforced with a page design that is empirically tested and continually optimised. After all, you’re spending time and money getting people to these pages, it’s important to know they’re working.

How about you? Drop us a line if you’d like to check and optimise your own tour page performance.

email marketing newsletter best practice travel content marketing with I&I Travel Media

How to easily and quickly curate an email magazine that people will read & click

It can take time, effort and cold hard cash to persuade people to subscribe to your email list. So as those addresses gradually accumulate, each one representing a direct line to your potential customers, the idea of drip feeding promotional messages straight to their inboxes to help drive leads and sales can be very tempting indeed.

email marketing best practices travel content marketing with i&I travel media

Does your monthly email look like this? [Click to enlarge]

So tempting in fact, that this is exactly what everyone else has been doing for years, forcing up the filters (both technical and psychological) against ‘sales-y’ emails. It’s no longer just spam that’s getting filtered out – anything that’s overly promotional or even vaguely irrelevant will at best be ignored, and at worst be met with the ‘junk’ button and a swift unsubscribe.

That’s not to say that offers and promotions shouldn’t be sent to your email list, just that they’d better be damn compelling if you want them to gain any traction.

But aside from margin-busting promotions, that email list you’ve been diligently building year after year could still be one of your greatest marketing assets – if you adapt with the times and send out what your audiences want to read as opposed to what you want to send them.

I’ve written before about converting the plain-old ‘company email’ into a ‘lifestyle magazine’ that truly engages your audience. Forget about cramming all your company news and 5% discounts into a monthly newsletter that no-one will read. Instead curate a magazine of top-notch content from around the web, the news, stories, features and tidbits that speak specifically to your own audience.

It doesn’t even have to be exclusively travel content. Think about your markets; family travellers, premium/luxury, honeymoons and couples, backpackers and gap-years… no-one knows your audience better than you. Think about what they actually want to read, find it, and send it to them.

Woh woh,” you’re saying. “Why should I go to the effort of emailing MY list with links to other sites? How is that going to bring me any sales?Here’s why: because they don’t expect it. What they expect is sales and offers and your latest blog articles about new hotel openings. And instead what you send them should blow their socks off.

If you’re one of the thousands of travel brands sending out promo company-newsletter-style emails here’s a quick experiment I want you to do. Go on, I’ll wait. Log into your Google Analytics account, click through to your traffic sources and check how many conversions your email sent in the last few months.

Oh hey you’re back. Now you see my point?

Now imagine if yours was the one email they read all the way through every single month, the one they actually look forward to receiving. It doesn’t matter if it’s not filled with links to your site – when they are ready to make their next travel purchase there’s a much higher chance they’ll come straight to you.

And the clincher: it’s not even hard to do.

Set up a magazine style email template: With a system like Mailchimp (our preferred platform but others are similar) it’s as easy as dragging and dropping text and image boxes into place. You can code your own (or ask us to help) but you don’t need to:

email marketing newsletter best practice travel content marketing with I&I Travel Media

Transforming a “company newsletter” into a “lifestyle magazine” [Click to enlarge]

Start identifying good content: Check in on Outbounding.org from time to time and see what people are sharing and discussing. Use Twitter to follow the publications and writers your audiences are interested in and see who’s sharing what.

Tweet + save: Tweet the content you like whenever you find it and use this IFTTT recipe to automatically save the links to a Google doc:

IFTTT Recipe: Save tweeted links to google sheets connects twitter to google-drive

Now it’s just a case of pulling the best of your Tweeted links into your newsletter every month and sending it out to a happy audience.

Bonus tip, tap the echo chamber: Whenever you Tweet a link be sure to include the author & publisher handle to earn a few retweets. You can do the same each newsletter: Tweet the link and mention the authors included for a second bout of re-sharing and maybe a few extra subscribers.

Still unconvinced?

If you’re still not sure, check out lesson #1 of our Content Marketing Workshop. We worked through this exact same process with a real life client and the results speak for themselves.

Find out how to do it yourself here!

retargeting ads unlock content marketing ROI - I&I Travel Media

Using retargeting ads to unlock content marketing ROI

Content marketing is, by definition, an indirect approach to revenue generation. In fact, so the theory goes, the more indirect the better.

But although it’s true that content created to delight and inform, not to sell and promote is usually more effective at engaging audiences, the inescapable question is: when and how does that translate into bookings and revenue?

There are various approaches to converting casual audiences into paying customers, but perhaps the most direct and measurable is via retargeting ads, a subset of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising that allows you to show ads tailored to people who have previously visited pages on your site and engaged with your content.

This is especially useful in a content marketing context: great content is effective at creating initial touch points with the target audience, but they’re usually top-funnel clicks from consumers who aren’t always ready to make a purchase.

content marketing in the travel customer journey to purchase

Retargeting is an easy way of keeping the brand in front of these people as they move along the customer journey, bringing them back to the site at just the right moment for a booking or other conversion:

retargeting ads unlock ROI from content marketing - I&I Travel Media

The mechanics are fairly simple: using either tracking cookies or your email database you can build audience lists defined by specific visitor behaviours, for example people who viewed your blog or other content assets but not your sales pages, people that abandoned the site at the booking form, etc.

You can then create ads tailored to these audience lists on a number of different retargeting platforms:

The Google Display Network has long-established retargeting capabilities (Google calls it remarketing), which lets you place banner ads on sites across the web. For even better precision you can also combine your retargeting lists with the network’s other targeting capabilities, such as location, interest, placement, and more. Display ads are often seen as the runt of the PPC litter but combined with retargeting they can come into their own as a powerful lead generator – particularly if the original content left a lasting impression on the user:

display retargeting ads for content marketing ROI - I&I Travel Media

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) allow you to target Google search ads to people who have previously engaged with your content and are therefore significantly more likely to convert. Search ads are already the king of the lead-gen channels, adding retargeting can make paid search even more powerful:

search retargeting for content marketing ROI - I&I Travel Media

Retargeting for search ads is especially attractive since paying for Adwords clicks can be a major drain on marketing budgets. RLSA offers two powerful refinements to regular Adwords PPC strategy:

  • You could choose to bid on keywords you don’t usually target just for people who have viewed content on your site. For instance you might reserve keywords with very high CPC for people who are already familiar with your brand and content.
  • Alternatively you could simply choose to increase the bids on your regular ads for people who have previously visited your site, to increase your chance that these extra qualified prospects will see and click your ads.

Finally, Facebook Custom Audiences offers a similar solution for showing News Feed ads to people who have visited your site, specific pages, or downloaded your content.

There are various other platforms that may be of use for certain campaigns, such as video retargeting lists for YouTube audiences, retargeting ads for Twitter, and services like Adroll for managing high volume programmatic campaigns across multiple networks.

These are powerful solutions (sometimes a little too powerful), and there is some risk that needs to be managed. Aggressive retargeting can lead to ad fatigue among your audience, which will hit campaign performance while negatively impacting your brand.

There’s also the risk of seeming  creepy – we’ve all noticed these ads ourselves while online: that weird sense that you’re being followed by some cruise operator ever since you read an article on winter sun destinations three weeks ago.

When a consumer gets to this point you’ve gone too far and you start doing more harm than good. It’s important to balance your campaign and keep it appropriate for the audience.

Effective retargeting

Stay unobtrusive: Cap the number of impressions and put a reasonable time limit on your ads. If they’re not clicking or converting after a week or so, chances are they’re not going to – know when to let people go.

Target placements: Google Display Network allows you to determine specific sites for your ads. Use this to exclude low quality categories (gambling & adult sites, mobile apps, etc) and your knowledge of the audience to target the sites they’re most active on, especially when in “purchase mode” for your product.

Custom Vs automated audiences: Both Facebook and Google offer “lookalike” tools to expand your audience to other users not in your actual retargeting list but based on similar affinity/interests. Tread carefully and be sure not to expand your audience list too wide – the wider it is, the less targeted it becomes and you start to lose all the benefits of retargeting.

This also defeats the object of using retargeting to reconnect with existing prospects and people who have engaged with your content.

Test, optimise and test again: Don’t just press play and sit back. Monitor and optimise your ad groups, the creatives, your messaging, your bids, the landing pages you’re sending traffic to, everything. Every saving you make can be reinvested into the campaign to produce more leads.

Continuity: Aim for coherence across your campaign. You want people to know they’re dealing with the same brand in each interaction from initial contact with your content, to clicking on your ads, to arriving at a landing page. This is important for conversion rates but it’s also critical for long term brand building and recognition.

Tread very carefully with mobile display partners: Both Facebook and Google will offer to show your ads on their various networks of 3rd party sites, including mobile sites and apps. Think carefully about spending money on low quality mobile clicks as your ads will appear in some very unusual (and not always useful) places and you can very easily burn through your budget on useless clicks.

How have your experiences been with these retargeting tools? Give us a shout for more information or advice.