I have been a Scotland travel blogger since 2013. The travel industry worldwide has changed considerably in that time as the race to embrace digital as the way to go has taken it in a very determined direction. Despite the obvious realisation that more needs to be done at local and national levels, however, I’m continually encountering confusion and trepidation around the area of travel blogging. Here’s my go at attempting to tackle some of my FAQs on being a Scotland travel blogger.
Travel bloggers are those very odd people that travel relentlessly for work purposes. They write about their experiences, they take photos and videos, they provide promotion and reviews for their readers and they are addictively passionate about their line of work. The new version of traditional travel writers and journalists to a degree, they are required at the top levels to be skilled with social media, search marketing (paid and organic) and industry knowledge. They often have academic and/or practical backgrounds in marketing, languages or photography but may also simply be hugely enamoured with the subject they write about.
Content A fairly obvious one. They will deliver high quality text and visual content for their own sites and platforms – and potentially client sites as well if this is agreed upon. This can help show businesses/destinations/activities in the strongest possible light.
Social A strong travel blogger simply has to bring a large and engaged social media following with them. By working with them you will have access to that following. As long as you have a clear connection with that following they are likely to have an interest in your brand/cause/business as it has been presented to them by a relevant, trusted and knowledgable source (the blogger).
Search Everyone wants to do well with the search engines as that allows them to bring in highly relevant visitors to their websites. One of the key ways of doing this is to work with bloggers who can – at least in part – help to pass the value of their websites on to your own. Search Engine Optimisation is a hugely complex area that has many, many requirements in order to be done right. But a backlink from a top blogger’s website (NB not every website’s links are of equal value, making your choice of blogger essential here) can be a huge digital asset and the more valuable backlinks you receive from other websites, the higher your own chance of doing well on the search engines.
Brand Leading bloggers understand branding and will have a recognisable style and approach to the work that they do. By sharing their brand with you, it’s a chance to tap into not just their audience but the brand image that they have created.
Knowledge and Experience In the case of Scotland travel bloggers, the best will know the industry well and will have worked with the biggest brands and organisations already. Having those contacts and the experience of knowing what works and what doesn’t makes them hugely valuable tools to boost your own marketing efforts.
Financials – this has to be the most common question we receive. Do we get paid? In a word the answer is yes – we have appetites, mortgages and bills the same as anyone else. The level of skill and promotional value that a good blogger can bring is more than most traditional media can aspire to so it only makes sense that this will require an investment. How much depends on the blogger’s rates, the time required from them and the circumstances of any project.
Personally I don’t necessarily always charge a fee and – in the case of charities and small business start ups for example – there’s always some flexibility for helping to highlight the right project/cause. The idea that labour intensive campaigns – primarily for partner organisation’s benefit, as is generally the case – could be done without any sort of reward though is disrespectful to the expertise of the professional that’s been approached.
Deliverables – as bloggers, this is a common pet peeve. We frequently receive vague approaches that do not stipulate what is really desired from working with us. The feeling we often get is that everyone wants to work with bloggers but don’t really know why. Approaching bloggers in advance with a clear idea and desired outcomes helps us know whether a. we can actually help you; b. what kind of investment we’ll require and c. how we can prove to you that your requirements were met afterwards.
Ethics – every blogger has their own business so will choose their own path but most bloggers, myself included, will only ever endorse destinations, brands or businesses that they see as genuinely good. If I have a terrible experience at a hotel, restaurant or destination I absolutely will not promote it. So there’s a slight element of risk there when working with us in that most serious bloggers will retain autonomy when it comes to what they write about on their own sites. To not do so would risk being disingenuous to our readers.
Relevance – the best bloggers, particularly niche bloggers, only want to review and experience things that are relevant and of likely interest to their readers. Being Scotland-focussed it’s fairly obvious that Scotland-themed projects are the ones for me. My leanings towards the outdoors, history and whisky are likely to be particularly interesting to me. It’s important to respect what a blogger is all about before approaching them. We are all generally inundated with proposals – unfortunately only a small percentage of these are of any actual relevance to our chosen areas of expertise.
I’m confused as to how this has even become a thing but apparently it has so here goes. Instagram is the trendy platform of the moment and brands are increasingly turning to it as a marketing tool. This is great as it’s a very useful supporting act to your overall marketing strategy and is particularly great for your branding work. I’m very active on it myself and you can follow me if you like.
However, due to its current inability to handle links Instagram has an almost negligible impact on your Search Marketing efforts. Unlike Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and most of the rest….Instagram is purely about social impact. It is, therefore, much more difficult to measure return on investment from an Instagram campaign compared with from visitors who have arrived on your site via Google. Liking nice pictures does not correspond to sales unfortunately.
In reality, the top bloggers already are Instagrammers so as a marketing consultant myself I would advise working with bloggers who are active on Instagram rather than focussing on a single platform that will struggle to prove ROI.
That’s largely up to you and your needs but ask some basic questions. Do you like their writing? Is their photography any good? Do they have some personality and a strong brand that could compliment yours? Does their blog feel like a business or a hobby?
I would always suggest working with those that have all of the above skills I’ve laid out and that you have a real connection with. Deomographics of audience are a consideration too. Those that do well on the likes of Instagram and Snapchat are likely to resonate more with a proportionally younger audience. Those that do a lot on YouTube and video platforms are likely to be very brand focussed. Twitter’s always been great for networks. And so on.
Social media remains a quick way of gauging how big an impact working with any particular travel blogger is likely to bring. Big followings are important but at least as important as that is whether their audience is constantly growing and also the level of engagement that bloggers receive. In the world where fake followers can be easily purchased using dodgy tools, it is now a stronger indicator to monitor their engagement. High engagement suggests that their audience is much more actively interested in them and that they are, therefore, stronger ‘influencers’ as people trust or value what they are saying. Having 100,000 followers is no use if none of them are actually listening (or are even real people).
Remember also that not every travel blogger will bring the same value – you generally get very different skills from blogger to blogger. The industry has become heavily saturated with hobbyist travel bloggers who tend to be passionate but likely bring limited value from a digital marketing perspective. Professional or semi-professional travel bloggers are those that spend a great deal of time monitoring the industry, have comprehensive digital and tourism skills and knowledge and will bust a gut to make sure their readers and partners benefit from the work that they do.
This was one of the reasons I helped start the Scotlanders – a Scotland travel bloggers collaboration. The idea behind this was to allow brands to work with several of the country’s top travel bloggers simultaneously. So if you’re a business looking at moving into this area for the first time, the increased reach and broader appeal of working with multiple bloggers may also be of interest. You can see the Scotlanders case studies as evidence of our impact on the campaigns that we’ve worked on.
If you’ve read the above and have identified what you are looking for from working with a blogger(s), start by simply dropping them a line. Lay out what you’re after and why you think they would be a good fit to work with you. It certainly helps to have a budget declared, a timeframe in mind and a clear strategy. Even if it is just the origins of an idea though, a good blogger will always be able to help guide you in the directions that will achieve success.
If you have any further questions about the way I work, what I look for and what I can bring just get in touch.