10 key takeaways from Travel Babble

By Mark Hodson

Yesterday saw the birth of a new event in the online travel calendar. Travel Babble was a meeting of travel bloggers, marketing folk and SEOs (those clever people that make stuff appear higher in Google results).

The free event was held in Central London and organised by Fresh Egg, a digital agency based in Brighton that is clearly keen to stamp its mark on the travel sector.

Despite some problems with the venue – the sound was terrible and the air-con struggled to cope with the crowded room – there was a lot of useful and interesting content, and great networking opportunities. Oh, and a free bar.

It kicked off with a detailed talk about recent Google updates from Richard Brooks, the very knowledegable director of search at Fresh Egg. This was followed by a Q&A with a panel of some of the biggest players – and sharpest minds – in the UK travel SEO industry: Martin McDonald of Expedia, Mark Fleming of Kuoni, Sam Bird of Low Cost Holidays and Adriano Comegna of TUI, joined by Richard Brooks.

Rather than try to summarise the whole event, here are my 10 key takeaways.

1. The mantra of the moment is “quality content”. It’s what everybody is looking for (if you see a website soliciting guest posts you can assume they are struggling to create quality content of their own).

2. What is quality content? It’s the pages on your site with the highest share-view ratio (eg. the most Facebook Likes to views). You can carry out simple A/B testing by creating two pages and getting traffic to both from StumbleUpon, then seeing which has the highest share-view ratio. Nice simple tip there.

2. Pinterest is an essential tool for online travel marketers. If you want to see a company doing it well, take a look at the upmarket tour operator, Destinology. If you’re new to Pinterest, check out this excellent free ebook guide from Fresh Egg.

3. The panel agreed that there are too many generalist travel blogs and not enough specialists focussing on becoming experts in a niche. Both Mark and Sam said they would like to see more bloggers writing about holidays and – specifically – “value” holidays. (Apparently it’s not cool to use the word “cheap” even though everybody knows that’s what people search for).

4. The future of content is video, said Adriano. He believes this is partly because Google owns YouTube and Facebook is the dominant player in images. So Google will display more video results to funnel more visits to its own sites (at least I think that’s what he meant. If not, please leave a comment, Adriano).

5. You can find the best subjects for videos by looking at search results pages where Google already displays videos. It’s much easier to dominate these results rather than trying to persuade Google to display videos on results pages where it doesn’t currently show videos.

6. Should you upload your videos to YouTube or host them on your own site? Martin says the former will generate the most views, but from a strictly SEO point of view the latter is better – it will drive viewers to your site (and may also generate links). Don’t forget to create video sitemaps (or ask your techie person to do so).

7. Links from travel bloggers have a high value, and it’s not a problem that many travel bloggers seem to get links mainly from each other. Martin has agreed to fly to Spain to give a conference presentation in the hope of getting links from the travel bloggers present.

8. Fresh Egg spends a lot of time analysing the link profiles of websites that rank well on Google. The best way to compete with these sites is to replicate the attributes of their link profiles. For example, if they have 5% of links no-followed, you should aim for the same ratio. (This point was rather lost on the travel bloggers present who anyway spend a lot of time commenting on each other’s blogs, thus generating vast quantities of no-followed links).

9. People set up travel blogs because they are passionate about travel, not because they want to make money. SEOs are more passionate about making money so they don’t have travel blogs. Instead they have their own personal affiliate sites, but are very secretive about naming them.

10. Despite the hunger for “quality content”, companies are reluctant to spend money on recruiting writers and none of the panel volunteered to say what they would pay travel bloggers to write for their sites. (In fact, the going rate for good-quality corporate blogging is about £150 per page, with some companies paying much, much less than this.)

Thanks to Fresh Egg for putting on a great event. I look forward to the next one.

See the Tweets about Travel Babble.

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