How to use travel blogging and blog marketing for your travel-related business (agency, hotel, restaurant, activities, other)? Is it profitable to work with travel bloggers? All the data here are directly from insiders in travel blogging.
How to use blog marketing in the Marketing Mix and evaluate travel bloggers? What are the critical points for that evaluation? This post will present all the information on how a business can use blog marketing through travel bloggers to gain awareness, leads, and -eventually- conversions to sales.
This information is an outcome of our dual role. For the last 15 years, we have provided digital marketing services, SEO, and e-commerce services. Apart from these, we built a business unit that includes a travel blog (around four years ago). All of that provides us with the necessary insights (the good, the bad, and the ugly) into how this market works, and that adds to our hospitality marketing experience.
What you read is equally helpful for OTA’s and DMOs, but also individual travel and tourism-related businesses or any business in any sector. The same principles and concepts apply to any blog marketing scope.
To better understand how to use all the data, you first need to understand and define what a professional travel blogger is (or isn’t). That framework separates the amateurs from the professionals, and you want to deal with professionals.
What is Travel Blogging and a Travel Blogger?
A professional travel blogger that can help you with your blog marketing actions is a person (or a couple) that travels and then writes about their travel experience. That blogger takes photos, writes content, shoots videos, and shares them in his network. His network – depending on how seriously he/she takes their role- consists of his social media and blog, plus all other blog networks or/and associations he/she actively participates in.
That is usually its profession and main business that puts food on the table, so to speak. It can also be a hobby for some, but professional blogger does that because they like it and for a living. Most bloggers start such a blog by aiming to turn it into a viable business; along the way, they (must) acquire a large amount of supplementary knowledge. They get that knowledge through reading, searching, testing, and paying for courses and tools.
At least, that is what those who are serious about their business does. It is a profession where someone must monitor their market and many things about technology, ranking, marketing, etc.
They apply everything they learn to their blog marketing actions, which creates value (traffic and money) for them and their paying clients. That knowledge is a must-have for them, and all need to learn a lot about Content Marketing. Of course, not everyone does that.
90% of them usually love the topic(s) they write about. Another 10% may be the ones who write about things without having hands-on experience but only for creating money from affiliate links. The latter may have never traveled at all (regarding travel bloggers). Our topic is for the 90%, but that 10% may have some extra value for a business too. It all depends on a good data analysis and what each blogger can provide as value.
Those who take their business seriously are the ones whom you -the business- needs to work with.
To extend this, travel is not the only market where blog marketing is applicable. There are many niche markets, such as food and recipes, financial, banking, insurance, credit cards, health, wellness, and outdoors. There are several niches inside Travel, like points and rewards blogs, travel by train/cruise blogs, luxury-specific blogs, etc.
Blogs are a big part of the global content creation and digital marketing ecosystem.
That is why many businesses have their own blogs (apart from working with bloggers). Creating SEO content and well-researched content helps with ranking in search engines. Backlinks also matter for ranking and all that comes through blogs and content sites.
As such, blog marketing is not a trend or a hobby, or a byproduct of marketing. It is essential for the marketing mix.
Anyway, the main goal of a blogger is to increase its targeted audience and thus increase readership on its website. Through that, a travel blogger -and any blogger- make money in many different ways.
What is not Travel Blogging?
A blogger is not someone who only sustains/feeds an Instagram account, no matter how successful that may be.
He/she may not be a professional journalist. Most of the time, he/she is not. The same stands if he/she is a professional writer. He may not be, though he/she aspires to become a great one.
A blogger depicts his experience in their own words. He/she may not be a pro photographer, but through the process and constant tests and learning, they get better (or even great) at taking perfect photos. Bloggers want to be better at taking videos and photos as that is part of their deliverables to their audience/clients.
Not all the content you read in their blog is their own. They work/cooperate with other bloggers for links, content exchange, and cross-promotion actions or 3-way links.
Professional travel bloggers will not (usually) ask for barter accommodation (or other services) in high season periods. They recognize what is proper when a business tries to sell more.
Is Travel Blogging and Blog Marketing Merely A Trend?
All the historical data clearly show that it is not just a trend. The creation and distribution of content are continuous and not a trend. That is what travel bloggers or any blogger do. They are in the “content” business.
Check that on your own. Perform a Google search using something like “best things to do in [X-location]” (replace the X-location with any city you like). Most of the results are from content sites and blogs. The same stands if you search with short or long-tail keywords. That would be enough to prove the power of content sites and travel blogs (along with doing good SEO) but read along for more examples you may haven’t thought of.
Bloggers are a massive channel for awareness, leads, and sales for any size of business (from small to colossal ones). Big businesses (i.e., Amazon, Booking) sustain dedicated websites for affiliate marketing, which is done through blogs and blog marketing of others. Such sites provide bloggers with tools, ideas, links, insights, and any data available. The bloggers have a reason and the medium (and commissions) to send traffic to these businesses like Amazon or any other.
Big or medium businesses do that because they make money from that. Even small businesses do that. They help bloggers to make money, and bloggers help them make money. The concept has been there for decades already. That is the way businesses use bloggers as a significant win-win channel.
On top of all the businesses, other businesses provide bloggers with extra tools to present even more businesses in their blogs. You may know them from affiliate marketing, where they also bridge the gap between publishers (bloggers) and advertisers (i.e., CJ.com, Linkwise, Avantlink, Mediavine, etc.). The whole affiliate marketing is based on content and bloggers, which is just one thing that bloggers do.
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As promised, here are more examples from businesses that use blogs to get awareness, leads, and sales:
- Amazon: They have worked with bloggers for decades for all their different niches
- Booking: They do the same for hotel, car, and services reservations
- GetYourGuide: They do the same for tours and activities
- Viator, TripAdvisor: Same as above
- Almost all Outdoor Gear and Experiences Companies do the same. Examples: REICoop, Patagonia, G-Adventures, and tons more
- Banks, Credit Cards, Health and Travel Insurance services, Coupons, and Money-Back services
- Food, Recipes, and cooking-related gear
- Health, Wellness
Hundreds of thousands of businesses in all kinds of markets use and work with bloggers in many ways, even for product/service reviews or sponsoring their trips and activities.
For your Travel Blog business, we receive lots of requests. Every day from, companies and outreach agencies, we see how much they want to get into professional blogs.
That doesn’t mean such businesses stop their Adwords/PPC or Social Media marketing actions. They do all that, and those who can even create content for their blog.
So, the blog marketing mechanism is not a trend or something “new.” It is another channel for online marketing.
How to Evaluate Travel Bloggers?
That is an excellent question, and every business is entitled to have an answer.
The actual question relates to how a business can evaluate different travel bloggers to decide how to use each of them according to their profile. As you see, we say “how to use” and not “if to use.” That is because each blogger has a value range they can provide unless they started their travel blogging four months ago. A business can take (and respectively pay for) different things from each, at different prices.
That is why the existence of “evaluators” of bloggers or blog groups and networks exists. We do that for our clients and provide them with the necessary data for cooperation schemes.
In the following, you will also see a debunking of several myths regarding travel blogging. Let’s start with the evaluation framework.
Evaluate Blog Traffic Metrics and Audience
If you Google around, you will notice that many marketing articles suggest that you ask for the so-called Media Kit of a blogger. In general, that stands right. However, the numbers you usually see in that Kit don’t reveal the necessary information. In such kits, you will usually see:
- Their Quarter or Yearly website traffic
- The number of followers per their Social Media channel
- Which are their most popular posts
- Why they created their blog
- Some basic demographics
- Other businesses that hired them or sponsored them
Do you need all these? Yes, you do.
Are these data values to make decisions or pay money to any blogger? They are not. They can be pretty misleading.
Why that, you may ask? Here is the answer.
A blogger usually writes about a range of topics under the main subject (i.e., Travel) or a niche in the main topic (i.e., about a specific location).
However, from all the posts on their blog, not all are successful in traffic, visibility, and ranking. Each of their posts doesn’t have the same value. The reasons are multiple, but that is not something that you -the client- are interested in.
You want to find out for which topics or subtopics his/her blog is popular and -very importantly- their seasonality.
As you understand, in that manner, the “general statistics” of a media kit become very vague. You want to know the details.
The same stands for their Social Media followers and/or likes. The “Like” does not translate to Website Traffic. That is proven. Someone may have 1000 likes on a post on their Facebook page and only 2 or 3 visits from that post to their blog post.
You -the business- need to know and ask for details. If a blogger denies providing details, then don’t waste more time.
You need to ask them to send you specific traffic reports for specific periods and topics.
Are all bloggers equal? No, they are not. From some, it will be best to get a backlink, from others to create content, while others may be eligible to be invited for a press/blog/FAM trip.
Knowing a specific date will drive your decision, giving you more chances for increased value.
So, each blog is evaluated separately.
Evaluation with SEO Tools
One of the solutions for businesses is to adopt, pay monthly fees and learn to use 3rd party tools that allow finding data for other websites. Of course, they need to learn to “translate” the data they see into business decisions.
In that way, they can do the research on their own.
All these 3rd party tools provide you with data but not all of the data. To get all the data, the business must have access to each blog’s Google Analytics (GA) and Google Search Console (GSC). Rarely a blog or any website you don’t own provides that.
However, with such tools, a business can see which topics a blog ranks high in Google and their backlink profile. Knowing for which things a blog rank is significant. These tools provide all their good metrics under their Paid/Premium subscriptions. Free ones provide generic useless information that is misleading.
Are the Blog Aesthetics Important?
There is a case here. How can someone evaluate the aesthetics of a blog and if it looks “great” or not? Many blogs “out there” may look like they are made “in a night” with a cheap/free theme, and they are tremendously successful. Many of such are in the USA, Europe, and Asia. But, when you look at their numbers and ranking, they are jaw-dropping, and they charge “an arm and a leg” for mentioning you to their audience.
When you visit a luxury blog, you expect that “elevated” thin-font, clean design. There are many such. Do they have the traffic, audience, and rankings you need? Great! But check first.
Always check the data, not just if things “look” professional.
Keep the following rule in mind. You are looking for your target audience’s likes, not what you prefer. The same stands when you design your own website.
What a Travel Blogger Can Do For a Business?
More or less, all travel bloggers can -at least- provide the following:
- Sponsored Posts
- Guest Posts
- Activities, product, and services reviews
- Press Trips
- Running/Hosting Competitions and Giveaways
- Content Creation (even for your website)
- Social Media Distribution and/or Campaigns
- Mail and Newsletters Marketing
- Brand Ambassadorship
All these can be combined with all your business’s other marketing actions, like Adwords, Social Campaigns, Extended Content Marketing, and SEO. With good planning, you will have a cumulative result.
How to Work with Bloggers?
The range of the deliverables differs depending on what can be done at a destination or for a single business. Each organization/business, after identifying its goals, has to sit down and discuss the following with any blogger:
- The action plan
- The deliverables
- How to measure milestones, success, and the reporting
- Implementation of backlinks and if they are do follow/no follow or marked as sponsored
- The blogger fees and what is included in that fee
- A separate agreement on intellectual rights, the range, and length of use per content type (both for the client and the blogger)
- An agreement on where, when, and how the deliverables will be distributed
A business needs to make sure that generated content must be SEO and published as such following correct SEO rules. When everything is done in the best possible way, the business (and the blog) are led to a win-win concept.
Note that not all bloggers know how to make SEO content the best way possible.
Finally, it is essential to agree on what happens with a “Negative Experience.” Serious bloggers include such disclaimers. That means how to handle a case where the delivered experience (towards the blogger) is done in such a wrong way that the latter has to decide what to write about that. Each blogger has their own ethical framework, and all professional bloggers mention that they are entitled to their own opinion.
A big mistake different businesses make is the following. They see bloggers as “hired pens.” They don’t deal with them as they would with their clients. That is not correct. Bloggers must be confronted as clients and receive the same level of professionalism from the business.
Remember that a blogger writes and suggests your business to their audience. When they experience a sum of bad experiences, they cannot write that all things were “amazing” as that suggestion is not real, and their audience will kick back and debunk them for misleading them.
What is the Cost of working with Travel Bloggers?
Prices vary depending on the profile and the services of a blogger (ergo, the correct evaluation of each case), along with the range of the deliverables. Professional bloggers will usually offer the nominal “market price” as they know the prices in their market.
Most professional bloggers ask for a fee, regardless of the covered expenses (or they ask for a higher one with the expenses included). They ask that for a reason. It is a business, and they work.
All, of course, are subject to a -per-case- agreement, but a business must have in mind that they buy a service that comes with a cost like any other service.
The fee is influenced by the number of days you agree with the blogger. A barter concept is not a thing to exclude. Some bloggers may ask you (maybe they are in your location already) to cover their accommodation and dining, where they offer a post and a link in their blog. Depending on the case, that can provide a 10x return on your investment. So, evaluation is needed.
Don’t listen to such deals with a suspicious mind. There are “bad cases” where bloggers may ask for something but have far less value to give back. Just evaluate them properly.
We have clients who have paid influencers with, i.e., 5000 euros and got back 20x in sales. At the same time, we have clients who just paid 300 euros for a post, and they rank in the top 3 results in Google in the USA.
Everything depends on data evaluation.
Travel blogging is part of Content Marketing. It can start from 300 euros and extend to hundreds of thousands. It depends on the case and the opportunities.
Travelers and Outdoor Activities
Why do we mention that, you may ask? That is an example of niches in a market. You see, many businesses make the mistake of targeting those who choose destinations for their activities, with those who choose a destination for sightseeing, beaches, and -secondary- activities.
The ones who seek destinations with opportunities for hiking, trekking, sea kayaking, canyoning, and other soft or hard adventures seek different things in their vacations.
As such, a generic -travel blogger- may not be your target medium for your blog marketing. The best is to seek niche bloggers. The same stands for food, religious travel, etc.
Some bloggers are specialized and write only for Food and Culinary travel.
They have different audiences and may overlap with others for sightseeing and cultural topics.
Even activities have their sub-niches. Mountaineering is not the same as hiking.
A thorough evaluation is needed in relation to the client’s personas and what they seek.
How Difficult is the Job of Travel Blogging?
Let’s solve any misunderstandings about the work of a travel blogger.
A Travel Blogger that agrees on a small or big project invests lots of work and effort. That is why you compensate them after all. They have and acquire skills and pay for tools, so to be able to deliver the best possible result.
All that is time and money. They don’t just walk around shouting “Yolo” (You Only Live Once). The good thing is that travel bloggers enjoy their work a lot since it combines what they love with a money-earning job.
In that way, their paid trips are not a chore but pleasant work.
The bloggers’ work doesn’t stop when the daily schedule is done. They have to go to their room, open their laptops and cameras and evaluate and organize their content while seeing if the plan goes according to the agreed deliverables. Sometimes, they have to create content after their daily schedule, which means they work until late.
They respect their time, and they are not in your location just for a “complimentary” drink/dining option. They are there to give and take.
If they agreed on the barter concept, both parties agreed on that compensation model. A barter deal is another way to pay for something; it is not “for free” for either side. It comes with obligations but with rights as well.
That is why a barter deal must be mentioned in the agreement. It is “payment.”
What Happens Internationally with Travel Blogging?
All the things presented here come from our international hands-on experience, where travel blogging is a serious business.
Businesses work with outreach companies, blog associations, and networks. Multinational companies use and sponsor bloggers, in many cases, for several years in a row.
Niche blogs work better when a business falls under that concept.
Things work far better when a content marketing plan is in place, along with planning before any content goes public.
Good use and timing of the created content have a massive impact on awareness.
Never neglect the opportunity to get a backlink from a blog, even if you can’t arrange for the blogger to come to your location.