Lessons Learnt from Becoming a Travel Blog Owner
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Lessons Learnt from Becoming a Travel Blog Owner

Estimated reading time: 13 minutes

Around nine months ago I made the decision to set up my own personal travel blog. I’d ran a few different online marketing related blogs in the past and decided that I would be able to transfer my knowledge and experience of this over to my new blog.

Having a background in digital marketing, SEO in particular, I spend a lot of my day connecting with other blog owners and it wasn’t until I owned a non-marketing related blog that I had a few realisations.

Thailand photo

Not All Bloggers are the Same

One thing that I’ve noticed about the way I was conducting outreach over the past couple of years is the generic approach that I was taking. I don’t think I’m the only SEO who’s fallen for this trap and it’s only when I’ve been on the receiving end of link requests that this really came to light.

Every day I read a new article about the ‘best ways to get a good response from outreach’. These are often based on research or experience and describe the best ways to get results from contacting bloggers. In general, the points covered are:

  • E-mail subject titles.
  • Using a bloggers name.
  • Creating a good email template.
  • Finding blogs that accept guest posts.

The one thing that never seems to be covered is the fact that all blogs are different; hence they will be more receptive to certain things. Their audiences will largely dictate what is and what isn’t acceptable on the blog, thus restricting the blog owner to certain methods of monetization.

All blog owners are different and respond to different things – even with my background in SEO, I find myself despising the generic emails that I receive from SEO agencies trying to partner up with my travel blog.

It’s these interactions that got me thinking about my own approach to link building.

Lessons from the Travel Niche

I’ve learnt a lot of lessons from running my blog within the travel niche. One thing that I learnt from an early stage is that it’s a LOT different to the other niches that I’ve worked within. Here’s a few things I’ve learnt:

  • Travel bloggers, in general, don’t editorially link to other travel blog articles in the same way that marketing bloggers will.
  • Most travel bloggers rely on generating income from their blog to keep it going.
  • Travel bloggers often don’t have a consistent internet connection so responses to email, etc isn’t always instant.
  • Travel bloggers talk to each other regularly, so if you burn bridges with one, you may burn bridges with many.
  • There’s a huge focus on genuine content. If there’s a website that is being perceived to be run for just SEO reasons, it’s likely that it will be ousted.
  • Travel bloggers aren’t always the most technically minded when it comes to web, but they aren’t idiots when it comes to marketing.
  • If there’s one thing that travel bloggers hate, it’s being undervalued.
  • Their blogs are often personal diaries of their travel experiences; therefore running a ‘guest post’ on their site isn’t always feasible.

Let me just go over a few of these points in a little more detail…

Earning Editorial Links

One good long-term strategy for many blogs is to get their articles organically mentioned within related articles on other blogs. This was going to be a big part of my initial content marketing strategy for my travel blog.

The idea I had was that if I wrote some awesome posts on the experiences that I had travelling, as well as some specific review-style posts related to certain activities, hotels, hostels, etc. then over time I could bring in some organic mentions. This could be when other travel bloggers are looking for a reference of somewhere that they’ve mentioned in their article or when talking about other people’s experiences similar to theirs.

How I was wrong…

I found that unlike many other blog niches, travel bloggers seem very reluctant to link to other travel blogs editorially.

Many travel bloggers make a good proportion of their income from selling links on their sites within advertorials, ‘guest posts’, reviews or other articles. With this in mind, it feels like it’s become ingrained within most travel bloggers that linking editorially is like giving away something for free.

Another thing to realise is that – and I found this myself when writing my own travel articles – most of a travel blogger’s content stems around their own experiences, therefore they don’t want to reference another person’s experience because the value to their readers comes from their own experiences.

Blog Income can be a Huge Part of Their Income

A lot of backpacking-style bloggers will often make a large portion of their overall money from their blog. This doesn’t always have to be a huge figure because backpacking will generally consist of ‘living within your means’.

During my time travelling through Thailand, I met quite a lot of bloggers, one of which was Chris Stevens. Chris runs the Backpacker Banter travel blog and consistently writes great content. I asked Chris a few questions related to how he makes income on his blog and how companies/agencies interact with him:

[sws_grey_box box_size=""]Q. How much of your total income would you say comes from your travel blog?

Well unless I’m surf coaching it’s 100% of my income! I do some freelance photography or surf instructing to top up the funds from time to time but I’m luckily enough to be able to get by on my blog alone at the moment :)

Q. What’s the main reason/motivation why you decided to start your blog?

Like many blogs it was started as a personal thing – but after conversations with some buddies who studied business and combining it with my photography degree, I soon found myself getting a heap of freebies through it. Later down the line and some solid networking contacts later I started making some cash too!

Q. How often do your get requests from companies/marketing agencies for you to link to their website (this could be guest posts, paid reviews, advertorials, etc)?

I spend a lot of time on email finalising deals and sorting ads – some people I approach and some approach me. There’s a lot of companies out there who constantly fish for free back links and who want to “offer me quality, unique content” but there’s always a few good ones in my inbox each morning!

Q. What advice would you give for companies that are looking to partner up with your blog?

Be aware that most travel bloggers know the worth of their blogs so don’t try and get freebies! But also don’t just blanket mail template me – I’ll happily negotiate with people who are more informal and chat a bit too, I’m all for building longer term relationships and campaigns so let’s have a chat and work out something that suits us both :)[/sws_grey_box]

[sws_twitter_follow name="BckPackerBanter" colorbutton="blue" textcolor="800080" linkcolor="800080" background="EEF9FD" backgroundwidth="320" bordercolor="C5DEEF" borderstyle="solid" showcounter="false" language="en" align="left" width="320px"] [/sws_twitter_follow]

Don’t Always Expect a Quick Response

Something that I learnt first-hand is that when you’re backpacking around, an internet connection isn’t something that you always have access to. Even when you do, it’s often a pretty slow one- especially when I was out in East Asia!

When you’re getting in touch with travel bloggers, don’t worry if you don’t get a response for a week, and to be honest, you should probably factor this into your outreach strategy.

Word Spreads Quickly

I had a very steep learning curve when it came to building relationships with other travel bloggers after I posted an article on Moz.

The article was focused around ‘how to build links to your blog’ and honed in on some of the experiences/success I had with my own blog. It also gave loads of actionable advice for travel bloggers to grow their organic search traffic – which I thought would be really appreciated by the travel blogger community… this wasn’t necessarily the case.

After spending a lot of time building relationships with the travel bloggers (whilst I was out travelling myself), I had done a few guest posts on other blogs and worked with a fair few of them on other activities.

When my article was published on Moz, it outlined how I build relationships with bloggers as a core part of my online strategy. As well as this, I mentioned how I managed to become a columnist for the WildJunket travel magazine online.

A few days after the article was published, I was informed about a huge thread within the ‘Global Bloggers Network’ Facebook group. The thread had attracted a lot of discussion from travel bloggers and there were a lot of negative comments about me – one of which said that I had ‘deceived’ the bloggers I built relationships with and that I had just made by blog for ‘SEO’ reasons – both of which are not true.

Global Bloggers Network Discussion

I felt a little hard done by because I thought the article would be a great resource for travel bloggers in particular. Having said this, I did receive a lot of positive feedback, but the perception from the travel bloggers was that I was doing something sneaky (mainly due to my links with SEO).

I had to spend a lot of time rebuilding bridges with the bloggers and in hindsight, I would have positioned the article a lot differently to cater for the views of the travel community.

It’s All About the Content

As mentioned by Chris Stevens in the interview above, travel bloggers are constantly getting emails from digital agencies offering “quality, unique content” that is the same old crap. I found that the emails I regularly receive to my travel blog (sometimes up to 10 a day) are often requests for links on my blog that offer no value to me and are usually completely irrelevant.

Here’s an example email I’ve received:

[sws_grey_box box_size=""] Greetings for the Day!!!

I got the reference of your Blog from Google. I landed on your website and had enjoy reading tremendously. I was wondering if I could write for your website?

Here are my ideas for topics I can write that your audience would be interested in:

Bringing Forth the Delicacies of South India
Top Places To Visit in Goa
A Guide to Maa Vaishno Devi Pilgrimage
Discovering the best beaches in Goa Coorg
Tourism Ensuring Perfect Stay for Visitors

**The Content would be very generic which will NOT have any advertisements or Business Promotion. Hoping for your Interest, and waiting for your favorable Response! [/sws_grey_box]

It just makes me wonder what use it is in sending out these emails? If the person sending the email can barely string a sentence together then it doesn’t leave me full of confidence about the quality of the content.

On top of this, I HATE it when people send over content ideas without speaking to me first – the only occasion when I will be ok with this is when there is one specific pitch, not a load of different ones with no context around them.

Here’s another great example of outreach that has been conducted on myself…

[sws_grey_box box_size=""] Hello Matt,
Compliments to your team in maintaining such a useful resource for avid travellers. I have been following your site and i really enjoy the travel articles shared in your community. Being a travel lover,i would love to contribute my travel experiences on your website www.meltedstories.com as a regular contributor. Some ideas are shared below:-
EXPERIENCE THRILL OF BUNGEE JUMPING IN UTTARAKHAND
AFFORDABLE WOOLEN SHOPPING IN PUNJAB

Kindly let me know how can i proceed further?
I appreciate your time and hope to get reply from your side asap.[/sws_grey_box]

All I can say for this one is… “Why the hell would I want an article about ‘affordable woolen shopping in Pujab’?”

My advice: Actually read through the content on the blog that you’re targeting. Get to know what they write about and understand their audience.

If you notice a specific theme that you have the ability to write good quality content that fits in with the style and theme of the blog – start engaging with the blog owner first.

Travel Bloggers Aren’t Idiots

This really goes for any niche, but if you’re trying to build relationships with bloggers then it’s something that you better learn quickly. If you try and pull the wool over their eyes and try to ‘get something for nothing’, you’re not only going to fail, but you’re going to burn future bridges with the blogger.

Look at it this way – if a travel blogger is making all of their income from their blog, do you really think that they don’t understand the value of a link from it? Just because they don’t know what DA/PA is (which most bloggers will), it doesn’t mean that they will accept $20 as payment for a 12 month link…

The reason I say this is because of some of the audacious requests that I regularly receive. My personal favourite is ‘if you let us post on your site then we will share on of your articles to our social following’… Wow, doesn’t that just sound great?

The moral of the story; offer what is fair for both parties involved. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of cash, but if you’ve got a couple of hundred Twitter follower, a tweet isn’t going to get you far.

Give Me Relevance, Not Convenience

Like I mentioned above, most personal travel blogs illustrate the personal journeys of the blog owner themselves. This isn’t just within travel – just take a look at some food or mum blogs and you will often see a very personal touch to things.

If you think that a deciding factor for a blogger to post your content is that it’s ‘100% Copyscape approved’ then you’re sorely mistaken. In fact, I often ignore any emails that mention the term Copyscape altogether.

I recently read a fantastic article on the Moz blog by David Sottimano where he interviewed a sample of bloggers about outreach. David asked them who they would tend to accept guest posts from and had the following results:

Interview results

Credibility is something that I value more than anything. When someone gets in touch with me about posting on either my travel blog or Find My Blog Way, the first thing that I want to know is how they are relevant to my readers. Have they written for similar publications? Have they had many personal experiences related to my niche? Are they passionate about what they’re writing? These are all important questions for me.

My Advice: Anyone who’s looking to gain guest posting opportunities on a regular basis should start a blog themselves. Take a view from the other side of the email and understand what turns you off/on when it comes to outreach. I guarantee this will improve your techniques in the future.

TL;DR

  • Blogging from one niche to another is completely different, both in terms of the way that blog owners expect content and the way they like to form relationships.
  • Don’t undervalue bloggers!
  • If you start typing the word ‘Copyscape’ in your outreach, take a deep breath, delete the email and re-read this article.
  • Build long-term relationships instead of one-night stands – don’t be an outreach whore.
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About Matthew Barby

A UK based digital marketing consultant, Matt oversees digital strategy at Wyatt International. He is a columnist for many different SEO publications, a lecturer for the Digital Marketing Institute and speaks at events across the UK.

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6 Responses

Rohit Palit

Pretty epic post, Matt. :)

Matthew Barby

Thanks, Rohit – I actually wrote this during a train journey en route to a meeting! Had a moment of inspiration haha.

Megan Lloyd

I liked the way you have represented your resource.

Matthew Barby

Thanks, Megan :)

Jon_Wade

I am with you there. I get so much trash. If you think a travel blog is a crazy niche, try health! I write about fitness and diet, but get told so many times “your readers will love this article I have written about teeth whitening / xray machines / toenail clippers” etc. etc. etc…… Um, thanks, but no thanks.

I think have accepted about 3 guest posts in the last 2 years. Maybe I just have tough editorial rules.

Matthew Barby

Haha – I know the feeling! It’s better to be stricter with your editorial because, at the end of the day, it’s your brand image that will suffer if you’re promoting poor content.