5 years ago

Online travel content – now is the time to take it REALLY seriously. With bloggers. Please

NB: This is a guest article by Martin MacDonald, director of inbound marketing at Expedia Affiliate Network.

I’ll admit it: I’ve got an axe to grind. A big and rather shiny axe, one that has been resting against the cupboard called Lazy Travel Marketing for quite a while.

For those of you that don’t know me, my history is pretty much all organic SEO – I’ve worked in some of the toughest most competitive industries there are, from online gaming to entertainment, and now find myself in travel.

What’s bothering me is that things have moved on.

Really, they have – up until about a year ago I would have told anyone that you could get away with having distinctly average content, as long as it was propped up with a large amount of links, irrespective of the quality of each individual one.

It is fair to say that a lot of companies have got away with employing strategies, tactics, or even search agencies that simply depended on a volume of links and little else to rank in organic search.

Heck, a large percentage of every major industry relied on that strategy to rank well, leaving those with great content but limited link-building budgets at the bottom of the pile.

What happened?

Well, things have changed.

The Panda updates this year really hit sites that depended on “less than magnificent” content. It really hit sites that depended on content sourced from affiliate networks or merchants – if that content also appeared on hundreds (if not thousands) of other websites.

The Penguin updates that followed hit sites that had been buying links for volume, rather than those that earned quality links.

Don’t get me wrong… Both of those things are actually really good for search quality, and ultimately user experience. Its not Google’s responsibility to give you or your site free traffic, it IS their responsibility to algorithmically serve the best possible results.

Put it this way, as soon as people don’t trust their rankings, Google are dead. Consumer behaviour is fickle, and it wouldn’t take long for them to lose the one thing that has built the behemoth that we all know and mostly love.

The thing that I have an axe to grind with though is people and companies who just don’t accept that things haven’t changed.

As an industry (web marketers, not travel) we need to get real.

The old way doesn’t work any more and those of us that have concentrated on building brands, creating content that adds to the user experience, and above all else, thinking about our websites visitors first and foremost, are now in the game!

Too many of us are still stuck in the past, with no real idea how to get out of the current situation.

Wise-up and move on

The funny thing is though – it doesn’t need to be this way. We are incredibly lucky to work in an industry that people are passionate about. There are literally tens of thousands of people who write about travel for both pleasure and as a profession.

As an industry (again, web marketers) we still haven’t caught on though that there is a huge movement of these individuals who would love the opportunity to get their stuff on big travel retail sites – so WHY aren’t we dealing with them?

You could make lots of arguments for this.

Primarily I guess because its hard to scale contact with potentially thousands of writers if you are a major point of sale online, but then you’re going to have to source it somewhere and lets face it: people who are passionate about travel ARE the people we should as an industry be dealing with.

I know I cant change perceptions overnight, but unless you start really thinking about this stuff, and your business depends in any way on organic search, then your days are numbered.

With the speed that Google are updating the algo these days I don’t see sites that only have syndicated content lasting another year.

With this in mind, I implore those of you that are responsible for developing online content to engage with travel bloggers.

I’m lucky enough to live in London, where there is quite a good community already, but you can find one in your local area on sites like Meetup.com – if one doesn’t exist you could just start your own as well.

There are other larger established communities as well, for instance with TraveBlogExchange. Now I’m not saying that you should hijack these communities, but they exist, so you should be active in them if you want to engage with the right people.

Another way you could do it, is along the same lines as a beta test that I’ve launched this week EAN, where I’m testing the waters on a project to connect bloggers directly with a few of our partners to provide them content.

Over the coming weeks and months I will follow up on this article to let you know how it goes, but for now you can check out what I’ve started here.

Anyway, I guess that’s enough grinding of axes for now, but I would love to hear your comments here on Tnooz, or you can get in touch with me directly on Twitter on @searchmartin.

NB: This is a guest article by Martin MacDonald, director of inbound marketing at Expedia Affiliate Network. Follow him on Twitter.

NB2: Travel writer image via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries.



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  1. Rick Calvert

    Fantastic conversation starter Martin. Well done. Thanks to you and Mathew for the kind words about TBEX.

    We have three simple goals.

    1.Educate bloggers on how to be successful professionals.
    2. Educate the industry about the fundamental shift that social, local, mobile and content marketing are making in their business.
    3. Connecting the two with each other to facilitate a winning business relationship for all involved.

    Bloggers certainly want to work with the industry. Everyday there are more travel industry brands and DMO’s that want to work with bloggers.

    To those who think they know the appropriate level of compensation for bloggers is now or what it will become in the future I offer a favorite analogy of mine.

    Blogging and other forms of social media (podcasting, Web Video etc) have democratized all forms of content and have created the same dynamic that has existed in the music business forever.

    Think of bloggers like musicians who want to be rock stars. There is a pyramid. Anyone can start a blog the same way anyone can pick up a guitar and an amplifier and start making noise.

    Most will never be successful, most will quit before they ever develop any talent or skill. But many others start moving their way up the pyramid. They become dedicated hobbyists maybe earning some free stuff along the way. KInd of like playing for free beer at parties on the weekends for garage bands.

    Others move up further and make some part time living while keeping their day job.
    Others create a job for themselves. The aren’t getting rich but they are earning a living. They are professionals but not what you would call famous. Las Vegas is full of working musicians who fit this example and make a decent living without much recognition.

    Then you have the rockstars. People fawn all over them, they have groupies and make lots of money. Many might even feel their compensation is undeserved and their skill is questionable. (sound familiar?)

    The industry will be full of one hit wonders, great talents who never make it big and real greats who sta at the top for many years past their prime; think The Rolling Stones.

    So are their unprofessional bloggers? Of course and there always will be. There will always be bloggers willing to write for exposure and help in “getting famous”, but as they build their career they will demand real pay while new bloggers come along and take their place at the bottom of the pyramid.

    How was that for a ramble 8).

    • Martin MacDonald

      An absolutely great ramble, and I couldn’t agree with you more!

      In context of you’re analogy – what Im trying to build here is the ladder up the side of the pyramid to allow the lower or mid tier bloggers to work their way up to the “rockstar” status 🙂


  2. pam

    Martin, forgive me if I’m being somewhat obtuse, but I’m confused about what you’re proposing.

    Are you a matchmaker between “serious” travel writers and companies that want to pay to publish that work or are you connecting bloggers seeking exposure with companies that want free content? If you’re staying out of the financial piece, what’s your role?

    And what, exactly, is the relationship you’re proposing that indicates companies are taking travel content seriously? Bloggers are currently content fodder for a couple of different — uh — relationships and I’m not sure that any of them indicate a seriousness about quality travel content, rather, they are a trade of resources for brand marketing.

    I’m seeing lots of “We’ll fund your trip, you talk about our brand” but not as much “We’re serious about the information we present to our readers, we’ll pay you to produce great stuff for our website.”

    • Martin MacDonald

      Hi Pam,

      to clarify a bit on your questions: Im not a matchmaker right now at all, Im looking at how we could scale a system whereby quality authors can get matched with those wanting quality content.

      Some background on “companies taking travel content seriously”, one of my main tasks is to work with managed partners (ie. large travel retail sites) on fixing their online marketing. The one consistent issue they all have is a lack of content. I’ve lost count of the amount of times that I’ve told these companies this year that they need to take this seriously.

      The objective here also isnt one of “we’ll fund your trip if you write about us”, its more “if you’ve been there and are good at writing, we would love you to write for us”.

      Hope that clears things up a little, sorry if it wasnt clear!


      • pam

        I’m still foggy on implementation.

        Most folks (and I say most because there are indeed some exceptions) who will enter into this for exposure are of the “you get what you pay for” variety of content creators. Most quality writers (again with the “most”) are going to expect compensation for writing for a company that wants to run quality content.

        And there are already places that writers can bid for jobs –Elance, oDesk, and you can search on “travel” right now. A travel company could use those, right? Plus, I’m not convinced that bloggers are the silver bullet — just having been to a place does not qualify a person to write about it. Nor does having blogged about it. Finding the right person for your writing project is more sophisticated than getting a blogger who says “I’ve been to Hanoi.” I HAVE been to Hanoi, and I would not take a contract writing service content about that destination, though I might be qualified to write something inspirational and atmospheric.

        I’m a writer, I write about travel (among other things), I produce “quaity content” when contracted to do so. and some of it is service and destination focused. I’m genuinely interested in what you’re talking about and I’d like to know how you see it playing out. I could see something like this being benefical, but I don’t understand what it IS exactly.

  3. Mark Hodson

    Excellent comments!

    As someone who’s worked on both sides, I would point to a fundamental cultural divide between writers and web marketers. SEOs (rightly) want to scale everything. Originally, they come from a programming background where automation is king, so scaling is in their DNA.

    Early attempts to scale content creation now look ludicrous (remember article spinning?). There are currently lots of blog posts about how to scale blogger outreach. A lot of those are pretty daft too.

    Writers, on the other hand, don’t scale. They work on a granular level. You wouldn’t expect a good writer to offer a bulk discount. Getting the right words in the right order takes time. It’s a craft, like carpentry.

    I actually think Martin is on the right track here (and I totally concur with his advice for Tom). It’s easy for writers to knock SEOs, but there’s a clear need to put writers (many of whom aren’t getting enough work) in touch with travel companies (many of whom don’t have enough decent web content), whether that’s in the form of a market place, a third-party intermediary or something else.

    If EAN can do that, good for them. Though I suspect the solution will come from the editorial side. Writers: there’s a great business opportunity here if you want to snap it up!

    P.S. @Kevin – where do you find these stock images of “travel writers”?! (Though not quite as hilarious as the one that illustrated Stuart’s piece…)

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @mark – i am currently looking for one of an intrepid blogger using their laptop during a scuba dive. Surely one exists??!?! 🙂

  4. Tony Page

    Ha! Having content written by people who’ve actually been to a place, now there’s a radical idea!

    But moving on, one problem I foresee with the integration of the present “travel blogging community” into providing content for mainstream travel websites is the limitations of their current market appeal. Most travel bloggers see their blogging as an integral part of their lifestyle, which is in general completely different from the majority of those buying travel products offered by the travel industry.

    Of course, if you are specifically marketing to the younger market that forms the backbone of the travel blogging audience (Stuart’s Travelfish is a successful example) then it goes without saying that the potential is there, but how many travel bloggers would be able to produce something relevant to say, the cruise or river cruise sector that would resonate with that market segment?

    Travel bloggers naturally want earn a living from their endeavours, but no matter how entitled you may feel, the harsh truth is that artificially high Alexa rankings and a frequent rate of Twitter/Facebook postings don’t necessarily mean the mainstream travel industry is going to pay you a living wage to write the same stuff for them. ROI is the name of the game.

    The analogy with fashion bloggers is attractive (to travel bloggers) but deceptive for two main reasons: firstly, the nature of the products being marketed is completely different, and secondly, the major fashion bloggers have serious numbers of eyeballs hitting their sites. To my knowledge (and please correct me if I’m wrong) few travel bloggers get even 50K unique visitors each month (Gary Arndt is probably one of the most successful, but he’s a rarity) and most a lot – a lot – less.

    To compensate for a lack of eyeballs and pageviews, it’s currently fashionable for travel bloggers to talk of “influencing”. The concept has validity, but of course the real question is who are you influencing and how do we put a value on it? Matthew puts the case for interaction with bloggers eloquently but the truth is when he talks about “their authority, their audience engagement, their influence & reach, their ability to inspire other travellers” we need to tie down some figures and properly evaluate how these travel bloggers can play a part in the travel industry, not just a particular sector.

    The real problem for smaller website operators is the same Catch 22 encountered by smaller circulation magazines in print: the economics of the business make it impossible to pay for better content, but you need better content to increase the circulation.

    On the internet, we try to get round this by better SEO/marketing and guest posting or trying to get decent articles for, let’s face it, derisive amounts. Bigger operators don’t have this excuse but for us smaller guys, it’s an uphill slog to create enough quality content to remain competitive and earn a crust ourselves!

  5. Stuart McD

    Yeah perhaps. I do agree with Andy though that a marketplace will probably result in rates actually falling. As I’ve written about elsewhere I’m concerned with how travel “content” gets handled and could see an obvious outcome of the above not being engaging quality content, but rather content that is only “good enough” to avoid mandatory shagging by some random black and white animal being the norm. Longtail search content can take forever and a day to pay for itself and I just don’t see businesses for whom content is really just window shopping enroute to an add click making the long term investment someone like Tom has. Afterall, they have billboards to pay for. Perhaps I’m wrong though.

  6. Stuart McD

    What this is really about isn’t giving “exposure” to bloggers, rather it is about creating serp exposure for the big travel websites – any exposure for the writers is incidental.

    • Matthew Barker

      It’s not necessarily *quite* so cynical Stuart… Many brands are pretty well attuned to the idea of pooling community & audience. What works for the brand can also work for the blogger, and if it’s done properly the arrangement is mutually beneficial. Emphasis on “IF”

    • Martin MacDonald

      Hi Stuart,

      Naturally, its about creating serp exposure for big websites – otherwise there would be no demand for better content.

      That being said, there has to exist a middle ground where writers benefit from exposure/money, and brands benefit from great content.

      Thats perhaps a utopian view, but Im confident we can get there.


  7. Andy Jarosz

    From a writer’s perspective, a marketplace is never likely to be a good place to sell your wares for a good price. Buyers come to markets to get low prices (and then haggle them down if they can) and with plenty of people offering their services for less than nothing in this field a market is no place for anyone trying to make a decent living from their work.

    Writing, content, or whatever you wish to call it should not be a commodity to be traded at the lowest price. Thankfully there are enough people out there prepared to pay a good rate to writers who they respect, have taken the time to contact directly and with whom they’ve built a relationship. I am fairly sure that this won’t change anytime soon for the reasons Martin mentions. Is an intermediary required to make these initial connections? I’m not convinced….

    • Matthew Barker

      +1 Andy. Commissioning need to be based on human relationships, just like it is in the offline world.

      I agree that intermediaries (like me) aren’t necessary for the commissioning process, especially with larger brands who have content editors in-house and can spend time building relationships with writers for themselves. The value we add to the equation is in building a strategy around the content itself and ensuring that the investment produces a tangible return. When my company commissions content from our writers, we don’t just slap a markup on their rate, we only charge for our strategic and management involvement which translates quality journalism into an effective marketing tool.

    • Martin MacDonald

      Hi Andy,

      I totally agree with you – and *most* marketplaces are designed to make commodity acquisition cheaper. Apart from p2p auction models (for instance, eBay, although arguably their sheer scale has worked against vendors pricing).

      Let me put it to you this way though – lets say 500 writers sign up to a platform, and 10,000 travel retail sites. Demand far outstrips supply. Prices go up.

      I think that makes sense, but as mentioned quite a few times, this is right now just a concept that Im keen to explore fully!


  8. Matthew Barker

    This is good stuff, and very encouraging to hear it coming from EAN. We have also been spending a lot of time in this area over the last year or so. I see enormous opportunity for the industry, in no small part because as you say, we are incredibly fortunate to have this vast community of hugely committed and enthusiastic bloggers that is eager to play a larger role in the travel ecosystem.

    There is no longer any doubt that the role of “content” has grown enormously, but I think people are still trying to figure out exactly what that means. Brands are still happy to invest big money in SEO, PPC and other activities because there is an established strategy behind these efforts and a clear line from the point of investment to ultimate return.

    Throwing money at “content” will not work in the same way that throwing money at link building used to work. Because things are changing at such a fundamental level (and very quickly), it seems that a lot of brands, are waiting for the strategy & approaches to catch up with the new reality. These are the things that will help marketers make reasonable decisions on the details: who they want to commission, at what volume, at what rate, for what purpose.

    I was in a meeting yesterday with an account director at one of the largest travel marketing firms in the States and was amazed that they haven’t even begun to explore the full potential of blogger and influencer outreach in their campaigns. Far too happy to focus on what works rather than take any gambles with untested and unproven tactics.

    That’s why it’s great to see EAN starting to bang the drum.

    We have been developing a number of blogger and influencer outreach projects over the last year. I have spent a lot of time at TBEX events and building relationships with some amazingly talented individuals, and harnessing their talents to support clients’ search & social marketing goals. We are now able to demonstrate in clear terms what ROI looks like in this kind of content work, and how it is achieved. The main point is that “content” is not the only asset that bloggers can bring to the table. We’re also looking at their authority, their audience engagement, their influence & reach, their ability to inspire other travellers.

    The wonderful thing is that now a lot of those factors are starting to have a significant impact on organic search outcomes. An active blogger can bring their own audiences to your site, they can inspire social engagement and interactions with your content, in the near future their AuthorRank could directly boost your site’s SERP positions (https://www.tnooz.com/2012/09/27/how-to/google-authorrank-promises-major-changes-for-travel-search/)

    These are the things that must be measured and quantified before “content” and blogger outreach becomes mainstream. By doing this, and by making a clear ROI statement, we’re finally able to charge & pay fair rates for this kind of work.

    Oh. And the other big caveat: all this has to happen without cheapening or damaging what makes good bloggers good bloggers in the first place. Editorial independence, quality of output, audience engagement, etc. This relationship has to evolve in an appropriate way, and through genuine partnership, otherwise we’re all just shooting ourselves in the feet.

    Exciting times for all.

    • Martin MacDonald

      Hi Matthew,

      thanks for your kind words, and Im 100% in agreement 🙂

      The one thing that I would like to add though, especially around SEO budgets, is that in the next 12-24 months a large % of that will be diverted into content production, I can pretty much guarantee that!


  9. Holidays Please

    I think as the article points out, the very nature of travel should lend itself to great content being written. However I also think it’s its Achilles’ heel. Because travel is more interesting to read about than other industries I think it makes us lazy. We often write things that are “nice” with a nice picture and they generally pass muster with the reader.

    However I think a lot more writers need to throw away the “tried and tested” and start to write pieces that are completely different. Articles that are controversial, argumentative, drop dead funny, weird etc.. are the sorts of things that I think as an industry we need to focus on. After all no matter how well written a visit to a particular hotel is there is someone else who has probably written about it before albeit with a slightly different slant.

    Anon – Holidaysplease

    • Martin MacDonald

      Great comment, totally agree: the unique content that individuals can create is far superior to the generic destination descriptions that permeate the industry. Thats exactly the kind of thinking that I want to evangelise!

  10. Tom Brosnahan

    In 2002 I “got real,” as Martin admonishes. I took my experience as a guidebook author, learned some HTML, and put my travel knowledge (content, if you will) online as TurkeyTravelPlanner.com.

    The website now receives nearly 5 million UVs annually, from 235 countries, produces revenue in six figures, and consistently appears on the first page of many SERPs. I do it all myself. I never paid a penny for SEO.

    My question: who needs SEO experts to tell us “content is king”? In fact, who needs companies and big websites to act as middlemen and keep most of the money, just like guidebook publishers?

    If a writer knows what s/he is talking about, and the topic is of interest, the Internet audience is there, waiting for a direct connection. The money can be there too, and I’m not talking about $5 or $10, or even £250, but tens—even hundreds— of thousands.

    • Martin MacDonald

      Hey Tom,

      thanks for the comment, and of course I totally agree with you: you’ve invested a large amount of time and effort into building a great site with great content, and you have been rewarded for it!

      Thats not the whole story though, I dont want to come over all “Content is all thats needed” – Google spiders are a fickle beast, and you still should build sites that are designed to both allow efficient crawling and maximise known factors to encourage rankings as highly as possible.

      A quick 5 minute check of your website points out a few really straightforward problems that if fixed will increase your rankings and your traffic (and hopefully therefore, your revenue)

      1) Your site is available on both the root and the www. subdomain – this spreads unnecessarily both the link and crawl equity, you should default to one or the other to prevent this strength dilution. As you’re using an apache based server thats just a quick line to your .htaccess file.

      2) You’ve done well sticking to SEO guidelines on the basics, ie. keeping below the right number of characters in meta descriptions (although there are a couple of dozen at 200+), but somehow the one you put on the homepage is longer than the rest, and looks spammy.
      Its largely irrelevant though because you currently dont have control over how the engines display your site as your meta description is being scraped from dmoz http://www.dmoz.org/search?q=turkeytravelplanner.com – you can fix this by using the meta noodp tag though so dont worry.

      3) There’s a few dozen broken pages on your site that are returning 404 codes, you should either re-instate those pages or remove the links pointing to them, for example:
      http://turkeytravelplanner.com/go/se/gantep/kmarash/index.html is linked to from
      http://turkeytravelplanner.com/go/Istanbul/hotels/4star/celal_sultan.html is linked to from

      4) You should really refresh your sitemap, it appears to be 4 years old, while Ive not done a side by side comparison Id bet there is a whole load of content that doesnt appear in it? Its not a barrier to indexation, but errors like that look buggy to googlebot and your better off just making sure its right, there are plenty of places online that you can do it from (alternatively I can send you one, Ive just ran it).

      these are just a really quick couple of things from having spent less than 10 minutes looking at your site, but are just to illustrate that there is absolutely a place for technical SEO.

      Its a real thing, it does exist and it really should be looked at.

      In your case, I’m massively impressed at the amount of time and effort that you have put in – its a perfect example of building great content can yield fantastic results – I guess my point is though that an understanding in web technology can help improve things further!


      • Tom Brosnahan

        I’m convinced. The answer to my question of “Who needs SEO experts” is, I guess, someone like me, who is not a real HTML/SEO jockey, but who could benefit from the expertise of someone who is.

        As a one-person company (writer, photographer, editor, webmaster, publisher, accountant), the question then is: how much is SEO worth, would it yield value-for-money to pay for it, and/or how much time should I spend on it myself (when I’d rather be writing new pages, which I know will yield new revenue)?

        My jaundiced view of SEO was born, no doubt, from all the absurdist flim-flam surrounding it: “Have [your domain] appear at the top of every SERP!” Like marketing cosmetics: the hawking of hope—which, as we can see from the cosmetics trade, is hugely profitable for the practitioners, though not perhaps as much for their clients.

        • Martin MacDonald

          The flim-flam surrounding our industry is one of our key difficulties to be honest..

          Being a long term practitioner of search marketing (since before the term SEO was coined), my pragmatic view is that its similar to the situation that “web design” was in 5-8 years ago.

          I built my first websites in 1995/1996, and then for a period in the early 2000’s it seemed that EVERYONE with a copy of frontpage was all of a sudden a webdesigner.

          Unfortunately, it feels a lot of the time that “everyone” is now an SEO 😉

        • Douglas Aurand

          I have to agree with you
          Instead of depending on “SEO Trick” to maximise traffic to a website, simply having good quality content that people want to see has placed and kept my site on Google’s First Results Page for several years for “albuquerque new mexico”
          It still needs a lot of work, but when only the Official City site, ABQ Convention Bureau site, Wikipedia page for Albuquerque and sometimes the local newspaper’s site are the only results getting listed ahead of my site, I think I’m on the right track
          Doug A

  11. Maxine Sheppard

    I’m intrigued by the assertion that content sourced from affiliate networks and merchants is ultimately ‘really good’ for user experience. How so? Genuine question.

    • Martin MacDonald

      Hi Maxine,

      sorry – thats not the point I was making, in the paragraph Im referring to Panda and Penguin being good for UX, and specifically using either duplicate or rehashed content is poor UX.


      • Maxine Sheppard

        Ah right, sorry. Had me confused there for a minute.

        On another note, one issue is that a lot of travel co.s simply don’t have anyone internally who can even differentiate between decent content and stuff that’s poorly written and researched. I can think of several occasions where I’ve been handed existing content that was supposed to have been ‘professionally’ produced and ended up having to completely re-write it.

        One solution is to work with a professional editor or travel journalist who can act as a middle person between the company and the writers. They will ensure everything is high quality, subbed, and fact-checked. On top of that, they will make sure there is a consistency of style and format across all sections. A site needing content for hundreds of destinations, using scores of different content providers will find this hard to achieve.

        In terms of ‘getting real’ about content we could do worse than look to fashion, which is way ahead of travel when it comes to working with writers. Hence sites like Asos hiring a whole team of fashion journalists to produce a magazine which (apparently) has a higher readership than Cosmo, and Net a Porter poaching the ex-editor of Harper’s Bazaar.

        • Martin MacDonald

          Thats an excellent point Maxine – and I totally agree!!

          You can programmatically look at content quality using the flesch-kincaid algo, and thats scalable to 100,000s of pieces of text in an hour or so, BUT NOTHING beats an actual human being that knows what they are doing.

          Problem is, its often not a possibility for these companies to employ someone in that position when their dev teams, marketing teams, customer support teams and so on are also crying out for headcount.

          It is frustrating though that people just dont take their “shop windows” seriously.

  12. Gary Arndt

    I will write for exposure.

    Unfortunately, unless you are a large media company, you are in no position to deliver it. Almost all companies who do SEO are in no position to deliver exposure.

    Having worked with the Today Show (US), Yahoo, The Atlantic, Outside Magazine and others, I have a good idea of what can actually drive traffic and what cant.

    Just being a big site doesn’t necessarily mean anything if the article isn’t positioned and promoted correctly.

  13. DonaldS

    Interesting piece.

    I’m going to be all “me, too” with my answer but… it’s really not difficult to find writers for just about any niche you want within travel. Twitter, Google+, professional networks like the ones you mention (plus TravMedia etc.) have made matching author to subject easier than ever. If you could come up with a piece you’d like, on just about any travel niche, you could have it commissioned by teatime today.

    However, if you want writers who are going to produce *valuable* content – content that’s more than just an expression of the marketing budget in 300 words – you’re going to have to pay them. It doesn’t matter what that writer calls her/himself – there are bloggers, writers, journalists, or whatever out there who, you rightly say, can produce good content. But the good ones are busy with work that pays. You’re going to have to pay too if you want to attract them.

  14. David Whitley

    There are two basic alternatives:

    1) Pay the going rate for quality content.
    2) Publish something that annoys enough writers that lots of them leave comments under the post.

    Nice one, Tnooz 🙂

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @david – and Martin gets a handy database of decent writers to talk to later on.

      Yayy – everyone wins!! 🙂

  15. Matthew Teller

    I’ll go further than David Whitley. I don’t want exposure. I’m even arrogant enough to think I don’t need it. I’ve done (and am doing) my own work, in my own way, to get the kind of profile – and work – that suits me.

    I want money. Pay me the going rate, and we can talk. Till then, sorry.

  16. Chris

    Concur with Stuart.

    The days are long past when travel bloggers will provide content for a link back and the promise of “I can make you famous”. To get good writing you’re pretty much going to have to pay for it.

    Comment Count Lottery: 105

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @chris – that’s a lofty prediction!!!

      The comment count lottery bit, obviously, not good writing getting paid for it bit 😉

  17. David Whitley

    Hi Martin. When you start paying people a reasonable rate to provide content, then we’ll believe you’re serious about it. If you are prepared to pay reasonable rates, then please get in touch – there are plenty of knowledgeable people out there itching to provide quality, original travel content. The problem is that the good ones aren’t stupid enough to do it for mere exposure.

    • Martin MacDonald

      Hi David,

      I wont repeat too much from my first comment above, but the aim here is NOT for me to buy content, or to try and acquire free content, its to match up interested writers with companies that sorely need the stuff..

      I have no particular desire to get in the middle of transactions, but right now other than commodotised content or inhouse teams, Im not seeing much in the middle.

      Thats what Im looking at helping solve.


  18. Stuart

    To be honest Martin this statement is the rub

    “We are studying how payments could work in future as well, but that’s currently undecided”

    Raising profile (and offering follow – I assume – links) within a community is fine (and may work for some) but if you talk to decent writers and pro-bloggers, or follow travelllll.com or a few articles on Tnooz, they will say the same thing. They want fair pay for an article.

    Am sure they will share their opinions on the subject though. I predict *a lot of* comments.
    Good luck 🙂

    • Martin MacDonald

      Hi Stuart,

      Ive already fielded pretty much the same point over on the EAN blog, and I should really reiterate it here I guess!

      I’m totally with you on the fact that professional writers should, and deserve, to get paid for their efforts. My bugbear here is the whole concept that paying $5 or $10 for a destination guide is frankly, a very very poor show by most travel affiliates.

      In reality I’d be assuming that the cost should be between maybe a hundred and a few hundred pounds (GBP) for each of them, providing they were well written and by someone who has actually been to the location, of course depending on length, depth and other facets.

      What I’m NOT doing here though (or interested in doing) is creating an opaque marketplace that drives down prices.

      What I WOULD like to do is create a transparent “introduction” service where writers can get in direct contact with these travel sites.

      Furthermore, I(/we) really dont want to get in the middle of any payment gateway or act as intermediaries – its not core to what we do, but a large part of my job is advising travel retail sites how to market effectively online, and part of that is content generation.

      This test, is really to measure whether we could get enough bloggers to display an interest to start looking at putting something together as an ad-hoc side project. For now Im doing this myself using not much more than surveymonkey and excel!

      In the event that enough people display an interest, I will look at what would be required to build it out as a real marketplace – but even then, I would want to steer well clear of having anything to do with payment transactions.

      I believe there is always going to be more demand that writers for most of the destinations of interest, so if there were (and this is far from decided upon) going to be a bidding system of sorts, it would probably be to help keep the prices up thanks to scarcity of supply, rather than drive it down.

      So, to sum it up, I’m totally with you on this one – please dont misunderstand my intentions on this, I would always rather see great writers paired with great sites, and producing fantastic content.

      Otherwise I would just forget the whole idea and refer people to “content production agencies” based in the far east that churn out 100,000 descriptions for 25 cents a piece!


      • DonaldS

        This *is* an interesting idea. And I actually laughed at this:

        “someone who has actually been to the location”

        … as the minimum for a guide-style piece. Amd of course, yes, I concur. The *very minimum* that a guide-style piece should offer is an author who has actually been there.

        And, yes, you’re definitely in the right ballpark with “a few hundred pounds” for this kind of piece too.

      • Stuart

        Thanks for getting back Martin.

        I couldn’t agree more. Pay peanuts get monkeys. In fact you get poor monkeys. Who are a bit hungry. Sometimes famished. I wrote on Tnooz a few weeks ago on the going rates for good writers/bloggers for new (and somewhat shy) travcos.

        I think the same rates could apply to affiliates..


        Raising standards, post Panda, by introducing writers to affiliates (who are important in the travel eco-system) is a good idea. Moving away from GM ridden mass produced farmed SEO-ridden shite is a very good idea. Being and listening to the last 2 Brighton SEO conferences, that is kind of happening anyway.

        Recommending fair and transparent minimum rates for writers that write for Expedia affiliates is an even better idea (Think Equity minimum rate for travel writers). Could even go further with that one. Maybe reward affiliates who pay more or sign up to a high quality content scheme (You could call it the Lodge Scheme).

        Anyway good luck. Hopefully good will triumph over mediocre, but I’ve been disappointed before

        Cheers Stuart 🙂

        ps Since Gary jumped in am upping to 88 comments


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