This is the second article in my pre Blog World Expo series about blogging and the travel industry.
Yesterday I talked about travel writing vs travel blogging. Today I’m just going to talk about blogging. In particular, why travel blogging is different from blogging in other niches. I’m also going to be talking about blogging from the perspective of an independent blogger, not a newspaper that has blog or a corporate blog.
Most bloggers have read or are familiar with many of the blogging advice sites. The problem with most of them is that the information they provide is very generic and often comes from the perspective of someone who is in a very different niche than travel. Because their niche is different, the advice they give is often incomplete. Too many people in the travel niche follow the advice they give without giving thought to how their circumstances might be different and how that advice might have to be modified.
What I’d like to do in this article is spell out some of the ways in which the travel niche is unique and what you as a travel blogger should be aware of when managing your travel blog.
The potential audience for travel is enormous. Most people go on vacation and a large number of people engage in business travel. Travel is the #1 thing which people spend money on online (flight, hotel and car reservations). There are television channels devoted to travel, magazines and most every major newspaper in the world has a section at least once a week devoted to travel. Travel is big business.
You’d think that would be great news for travel blogs, right?
Yet, if you look what makes up the top 100 blogs, you will not find any sites devoted to travel. Zero. Nada. Gadling.com, which is owned AOL comes in at #219. Intelligent Travel, which is owned by National Geographic, comes in at #21,651. WorldHum.com, owned by the Travel Channel, comes in at #7,393. My blog is ranked at #20,860. Most of the top 100 consists of politics, technology, and entertainment. (Technorati ranks should be taken with a huge grain of salt, but I’m just using them for comparative purposes).
So what is the deal? Why does travel perform so poorly online when it does so well in traditional media?
Not much new happens in the world of travel. Not compared to what the popular blogs cover. There are always new things happening in technology, sports, gossip and politics. Look at the travel section of any newspaper and the article about Tahiti could easily have been written 10 years ago. Things just don’t change so there isn’t as much of an incentive for readers to follow a blog.
When people are searching for something travel related, they are usually searching for something specific. They want to book a flight, find out visa requirements, or something related to an upcoming trip. Plopping down on the couch and watching the Travel Channel is a different experience from taking the time to follow a blog. I can say from first hand experience the most people who find my site weren’t looking for it. They discover it by accident and then decide to follow. I get emails and tweets all the time from people who say, “Wow. I just found your site and what you are doing is so cool!” They weren’t looking for me, they just stumbled across me. I take that into consideration when marketing. I don’t try to be where people are looking because they aren’t looking. I try to be where people will find me by accident.
The biggest thing which really makes this niche difficult is all the big players travel blogs have to compete against. People look at a site like Problogger.net and marvel at Darren’s success. Indeed, his blog is successful, but that is because there are no blogging television channels he has to compete with. There are no magazine or major newspapers with blogging or internet marketing sections. Most of the people who have done well in this niche have no competition whatsoever from established media outlets. The only competition they have for mind share and in Google searches are with other independent bloggers.
In the world of travel, there are a bunch of huge names which suck up all the oxygen. They aren’t organized as blogs per se, but they still get indexed in Google all the same. Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Conde Nast, Fodor’s, the Travel Channel, and Frommers are all huge travel related media institutions that are online. On top of that throw in big internet players like AOL, BBC, CNN, MSNBC, About.com and Yahoo, and on top of that toss in the big travel portals like Trip Advisor, Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz and Kayak. Mix in the travel section of every major newspaper in the world, then finally add in the smaller online travel companies like Uptake and BootsNAll.
How do you think a travel blog is going to do against all of that when people are searching in Google? That isn’t even considering the fact that Google basically whitelists big media sites like National Geographic, CNN, and Conde Nast so they never have to worry about search engine optimization like most bloggers do. The deck is massively, massively stacked against the little guy in this business. An identical article on a travel blog will not be ranked as high as the exact same article in Lonely Planet, all things being equal.
Most of the people who are considered A-List bloggers are there because they are in niches which have no competition from large media outlets. (Technology, internet marketing, blogging, mommy blogging, making money online, etc)
Another unique thing about the travel niche is how totally different sites are grouped together. My site is pretty much a travelogue. A site like Chris Elliot’s is devoted to travel consumer affairs. The Cranky Flier deals with aviation. There are blogs dedicated to lost cost backpacking, travel gadgets, luxury travel, specific destinations, frequent flier programs, hotels, cruses, family travel, travel for women, and more. There isn’t a whole lot of overlap between them, but they are all get lumped together. Travel is a really big category.
The take away from all of this if you are a travel blogger is to not just blindly accept blogging wisdom without thinking about how it applies to you. Some advice is universal and some is not. Understand what you are up against. You have to be creative and really hustle to compete with the big boys.