Brands that blog well:

Virtually every travel brand on the web has a blog tucked away somewhere on their site, yet given how ubiquitous they’ve become it’s surprising how few live up to their full potential.

For digital brands that have little or no direct contact with their customers, a good blog offers an important opportunity to show some personality, demonstrate credibility and expertise, and provide content that is effective at capturing new audiences, generating revenue and creating ongoing relationships.  Although this is a cornerstone to successful content marketing, many travel brands still have big problems getting it right.

But is a great example of a travel brand that blogs well. The site publishes content from a stable of respected journalists including David WhitelyNikki BayleyAndy Jarosz, among others, writing destination content that is interesting, entertaining and often brilliant.  Contributors cover a variety of cultural and special-interest stories on destinations worldwide, from the favelas of Rio to wombat sanctuaries in Australia, all of which is highly targeted to the intended audience of round the world travellers.

This content tends to perform well on social media, thanks both to its notable quality and the cachet of its authors, acting as a significant driver for new visits to the site. A longer-term benefit of is a gradual growth in long-tail search queries from a constant accumulation of rich content.

And according to owner, Stuart Lodge, there are numerous other payoffs: “It increases our time on site and it reduces our bounce rate massively, both of which aid our SEO efforts. But more than that, it gives us authority: people like it. All those factors drive bookings which is the only ROI that matters.

“I’ve seen a lot of competitors, including some of the major players, that fill their sites with weak content. If I was a customer that would put me off. We know people are smarter than that. They want to read real travel content, not SEO farmed rubbish.”

It’s this reader-first attitude that invariably defines a good brand travel blog and unlocks much greater benefits (including from search) than content that is primarily written for SEO purposes.

Commissioning from professionals is the obvious first step to creating a reader-first blog, but so is trusting them to do their job. Although the temptation may be to work to pre-agreed titles or within a heavily structured editorial calendar, this may not always be for the best. Chances are that as a professional journalist they’re a better judge of editorial standards than you are. A more flexible approach is to simply agree on the destination(s) and then trust the author to file stories that work for the intended audience.

This allows them to produce stories while on press trips or assignments for other publications, resulting in fresh, detailed and lively stories.  It also allows them to write on subjects they’re interested and passionate about, again all contributing to the quality of the finished product.  Or, as contributor David Whitely explains:

“It’s about professional pride and wanting to keep the gig. From my perspective, it’s an admirably brave approach. But there’s a logic to it. I’m a better judge of what’s a good story than he is; I’m also there while he’s sat in an office. It also allows for the content to be genuinely distinctive rather than doing the usual prescriptive top tens and accounts of seeing the main sights.”

As demonstrates, the rewards for getting this right are too big to ignore. Make the step from generic to extraordinary now.

Converged media travel marketing funnel I&I travel media

Converged media and the travel marketing funnel [infographic]

The preeminence of “content” within digital marketing strategy is well established, at least in theory if not yet in widespread practice.

Many of the very principles of web marketing have been recast around the demand for quality content i.e. material that adds sufficient value to the end user, generates conversations & relationships, and ultimately drives consumer behaviour. This new orthodoxy is called content marketing and it has subsumed previously siloed practices & channels such as SEO, social media, email, etc into one singular and integrated whole.

Well that’s the theory anyway. As usual the devil is in the detail, particularly around the tricky issue of integration. Far too much of the current discussion has halted at the first step and still revolves around vague platitudes like “invest in quality content” and “avoid spammy links.” This might have been useful back in 2011 when the first Panda updates hit, but it’s over two years since then and there are still only a notable few travel brands that have truly adapted to the new landscape.

I created this graphic as an attempt to demonstrate how content, or converged media, can play a key role throughout the entire travel marketing funnel.  The purpose of this graphic is to sketch out how each digital channel interacts with each other, at what phase of the consumer purchase process, and how content can be tactically deployed within the wider inbound marketing strategy to maximise outcomes and ROI.

This is an ambitious (possibly over ambitious) task and each brand will have its own unique travel marketing funnel. This is by no means a blueprint and by and large, smaller brands will be less active further up the funnel. The intention here is just to demonstrate the potential of a forward thinking content strategy and how it could work in practice.

Converged media travel marketing funnel I&I travel media

Please feel free to embed this graphic onto your own blog or site, using the following code:
<p><center><img src=”” width=”670″> <br/>The role of converged media in the travel marketing funnel from <a href=””>I&I Travel Media</a></center></p>

Are you getting serious about the new search marketing?

Search Engine Watch published a great article this week written by Jeff Slipko, SEO strategy manager at Expedia, specifically relating to the travel industry, with some stark warnings about the changing landscape of search marketing, many of which dovetail with what we’ve been saying at I&I Travel Media for some time.

The article takes a broad view of all the recent and ongoing developments in SEO, including:

  • Google’s recent Penguin algorithm update which targeted link spam,
  • The previous Panda update which targeted on-site content quality,
  • The ever stronger competition posed by the major brands (Kayak, Expedia, Google flight & hotel search, etc),
  • The ever decreasing margins available from relying on PPC advertising.

Based on all of these long-term processes, Jeff argues that:

Looking at online marketing as just PPC and SEO isn’t enough anymore. In a post-Panda and Penguin landscape, sites need to be better than that.

Successful travel sites will look at online marketing as a holistic effort that includes as many pieces of inbound marketing as possible – SEO, content, social media, conversion, user experience, on-site merchandising, just to name a few.

And, because a picture always speaks a thousand words, SEW also gave us this handy graphic which encapsulates the idea of a broader approach to online marketing:

Image credit:

At I&I Travel Media we always like to see someone else banging the same drum as us, especially when what we’re saying has so much overlap. Here’s a passage from our recent ebook “A New Paradigm For Search Marketing In The Travel Industry

But times are changing. The most recent changes made in search engine and social media technology has signalled that the future of online marketing lies very much with the development and creative deployment of smart and innovative content. More than ever, it is content that will underpin success in search engine rankings, social media visibility and reach and brand development. The days of cheap content written for search engines are over, and online travel businesses of all shapes and sizes will need to consider investment in professional, quality content as important as their other online marketing channels.

So, the question is: are you getting serious about these real and rapid changes? Do you have a strategy in place? Are you ready to take advantage of the opportunities, or are you more likely to be caught off guard and get caught up in the risks?