Travel Rants editor Darren Cronian shares his tips for commercial travel bloggers.


Since I started blogging in 2005, I have visited a fair number of commercial travel blogs.


Travel companies are right to have a go at blogging – the worst it can do is win them a new audience, and the potential benefits are huge – but I have to say a lot of their blogs could be better.


They suffer mainly from a lack of personality, or an overly commercial focus. So here are my five tips to help you blog better…


 


Ask questions


User-generated content is like gold dust, so I am surprised that commercial blogs do not do more to encourage reader interaction.


Let’s take the Thomson holiday blog as an example.


It’s a nicely designed site with tons of content, links to their products and services, and regular updates.


But look closer: there are no comments, and that is primarily because the blogger is not asking questions.


Look at the post titled ‘Earworms’, which informs readers of a language-learning service on the Thomsonfly website.


There are a number of questions the blogger could have asked:



  • Do you speak any languages? 
  • Do you have any tips on learning other languages? 
  • Do English speakers really need to swot up on languages before travelling?

Any of these could have generated some discussion – and interaction is one of the key ways to get people coming back to your blog again and again.


 


Add images


If I visit a blog and see just text, I often can’t be bothered to read on.


Generally, people don’t like reading text on a screen. It’s taxing on the eyes, and it doesn’t have the physical stimulus you get from holding and turning pages.


That means colour and visual interest are vital. Without them, you risk allowing your readers to drift off and look for something more striking – and on the internet, something more striking is never more than a few clicks away.


And there’s another concern for commercial bloggers. If holidaymakers are going to be reading your posts – and particularly holidaymakers whose business you want to win – you need to inspire them.


Images work wonders when trying to tempt someone to book a holiday. You’d always use them in a brochure, so use them on your blog as well.


 


Write unique content


Keeping a blog updated can be a time consuming task, so it’s tempting to make the blog look active by reproducing travel news stories.


But why would anyone return to, let alone recommend or link to, a blog which just duplicates content from other sites?


Travel Rants has over 22,000 links pointing to it – which is more than many professional websites get, and is the kind of thing marketers will spend big bucks trying to achieve.


Crucially, many of the links to Travel Rants point to a specific post. That means readers have found something interesting they want to share.


Posts that don’t offer something original will not attract the same kind of interest, so don’t fool yourself that quantity is a substitute for quality.


 


Make your blog search engine-friendly


Can you imagine how soul destroying it is to write daily posts and not have anyone read your blog?


The truth is that most blogs start out that way. To make sure you start getting noticed, optimise your content so that search engines such as Yahoo and Google rate it highly.


This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Think about the title of your post. Does it include keywords that tell people what the post is about? Are they the kind of things people would search for?


Try to use relevant keywords in the post itself, especially in the first two paragraphs.


There are tons of other ways to make your blog search engine friendly, and plenty of guidance available online (search for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’). If you want some tips, drop me an email and I’ll try and spare some time to help you out.


 


The blog is a gateway


Finally, remember that your blog is a gateway into your company.  Think of it as a virtual reception desk for potential customers.


You can use it to build and promote your company’s brand, and show how knowledgeable and helpful you are.


A travel company that has done exactly this is Avis, which launched its We Try Harder blog in January 2007.


It has given travel consumers the chance to learn more about the business and read tips about renting a car. Consumers can ask questions and someone within the business will respond – building up that all-important relationship between brand and consumer.