Google AuthorRank Will Place A New Premium On Blogger “Influence”

 

Today’s guest post is by Matthew Barker, managing partner of HitRiddle Travel. Do you have something valuable to share with the TBEX community? We’re looking for guest bloggers – drop us a line.


A quick glance at the schedule of September’s TBEX conference in Girona is enough to see how seriously the travel blogging community is taking its role within the wider industry ecosystem. There is clearly plenty of appetite among the community for partnerships with the industry and, from my perspective as a web marketer working with numerous major travel brands, I can say there is huge interest coming from the other direction too.

Quite how those partnerships should take shape is still being determined, and I am working with several bloggers right now to help drive that process forward. One of the key areas of interest for my clients is the idea of blogger influence. This is particularly timely given the current buzz surrounding a recent Google initiative known as “AuthorRank.”

AuthorRank (AR) is a way for Google to determine the relative authority of an individual author, as opposed to the authority of a webpage. Search marketing has traditionally been concerned with improving the authority of webpages (often referred to as PageRank) but with AuthorRank we can start to think of the “ranking power” of individuals themselves.

You’ve probably already noticed Google’s new attention to authors in the search results:

The theory goes that Google could start to display authoritative writers more prominently in the search results, in the same way that it currently saves the top spots for the most authoritative webpages.

The technology behind AuthorRank dates back to a patent registered several years ago but it is only recently that Google has introduced a digital identity system to allow the attribution of specific pieces of content to individual authors: Google+ profiles.

By connecting your Google+ profile to the content that you publish across the web on multiple sites, you can now claim authorship of your work and allow Google to tie it all together into one single portfolio. The process of setting this up, either on your own site or on others, is very straightforward and full instructions are provided.

It is widely expected that Google will start to algorithmically analyze the “quality” of individual authors’ portfolios and use that analysis to create a picture of your personal authority. Although nothing is yet confirmed, it is assumed that the algorithm will include some or all of the following:

  • The average authority (PageRank) of all the sites that you are published on.
  • The volume of social interactions generated by your content.
  • Your degree of activity on Google+, particularly the number of circles you are added to and your volume of participation.
  • The number of comments, shares, links, etc. generated by your content.
  • External sources of authority such as a Wikipedia page or frequent coverage & citations in other authoritative online media.
  • Among many other factors…

Although it is still early days and AuthorRank is yet to be officially included in Google’s main ranking algorithm, this represents a potentially seismic shift for the world of search marketing, and something that could present many opportunities for creative bloggers and content creators.

What Does It Mean For Travel Bloggers?

Although the industry will quickly recognize and adopt this emerging technology, it is already clear that most brands will find it hard to build up their own AuthorRank in comparison to professional and semi-professional content creators who are able to devote much more time to writing and audience building.

This means that authoritative bloggers could find themselves with an attractive new service for well-paying clients. Online travel companies will covet your contributions to their site because of the added value that your personal authority can contribute to their brand and search rankings.

As a result, commissioning high quality content from influential and authoritative bloggers will become increasingly important to brands’ online marketing efforts, particularly because this kind of work will be more closely related to the bottom line – the all important Return on Investment (ROI).

The Bigger Picture

As someone who owns a travel marketing agency as well as a keen (but bad) travel writer, I am very excited by the potential for a much more constructive relationship between the travel industry and the blogging community.

For too long that relationship has been defined by crude, SEO-centric “monetization strategies” such as paid text links and sponsored posts that only cheapen your publication by extracting value while offering nothing of value to your audience.

But now we can look to a new type of genuine partnership where brands, who must increasingly see themselves as travel publications in their own right, will want to invest in your authority & audience and will pay good money to content creators who can make a meaningful contribution to their brand and marketing goals.

My company is talking to travel brands right now who are quickly waking up to this new reality. We are building entire campaigns around this new partnership model and we hope to see it flourish to the benefit of everyone involved.

Getting Started

If this all sounds like an attractive prospect for you and your blog, the following pointers might help you prepare and get an early start:

Register with Google Authorship: Connect all the content you want included on your online “portfolio.” Use this tool to check your content is properly verified. If it is, your name & profile picture will start to appear next to your content in the search results. You should also contact the editors of any other sites you’ve been published on and ask them to add the necessary links. But if you have old content that you’re not proud of, don’t connect it.

Focus on quality: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the quality of your output is paramount. Defining the word “quality” is tricky but loosely put you need to identify what your particular audience wants and then relentlessly strive to deliver it as well as is humanly possible. Don’t cut corners. Avoid space-filler content and articles that are thin and low on detail.

Pay attention to ROI: Marketers need to justify every penny spent to their clients and demonstrate how it has paid off. Look at your author stats in Google Webmaster Tools to prove how your verified content can improve Impressions and Click Through Rates. Be specific about your audience demographics and engagement rates.

And most importantly, grow your influence: This is where you can really come into your own as a travel blogger. Nurture your audience and carve out your authority to become a bona fide influencer in your chosen niche. Marketers and brands are hungry to partner with advocates that can demonstrate clear influence over specific audiences, so make this your #1 priority. Use your expertise to get quoted by other journalists & bloggers (registering with HARO is a good start), guest post on authoritative, relevant sites (connected to Google Authorship of course!) and methodically curate other content that your audience might find useful.

There is huge opportunity and appetite out there for creative, authoritative travel bloggers and I’m very excited to be involved. Good luck and safe travels!

Three Ways for Bloggers to Get More Out of Social Media

 

For most of us, being on social media goes hand in hand with blogging. Even if it’s not a conscious marketing effort, chatting with friends on Twitter and Facebook or posting photos of food in jars to Pinterest is fun. That fun can easily translate from “Oh, I’m going to check Facebook for ten minutes” to “Holy wow, where did the last three hours go?!?” if you’re not careful. And I’m guessing you’ve got more important things to do on your blog (or, y’know, your laundry) with those three hours, right?

Now, assuming you’re using social media to help promote your blog, you can’t just quit using it altogether. What you can do is get disciplined about the time spent on social media, utilize some of the great tools available now that make social media work more effectively for you, and – overall – approach social media with the right attitude.

1. Dig Into the Numbers

One of the keys to effectively using social media is knowing what your audience responds to most. But when your audience gets beyond Mom and Uncle Frank, it’s a bit harder to talk to each of them. The good news is that with tools like Facebook Insights, SocialBro, Pinerly, and Google Analytics (among many, many others) your community is talking to you whether they know it or not. Learning to interpret what the numbers are telling you isn’t always easy (I’m so averse to numbers in general that I still contend Google Analytics looks like binary code to me most of the time), but with such a rich source of information on your community at your disposal, you’d be crazy not to at least try to read those tea leaves.

2. Scheduling (Not Automation)

Some of the most useful new social media tools I’ve seen in the last year or so are the ones that allow you to schedule updates in advance so you don’t feel compelled to check Twitter every 19 seconds. I’m an enormous fan of Buffer; I hear HootSuite now has an “auto-scheduler” function that may be similar, and most Twitter clients allow for manual advance scheduling. Scheduling gives you the ability to plan out the next few days of your social media posts in one go. You’ll still check back in regularly to get into the conversation, but you no longer need to babysit your social media accounts. While I’m a big fan of scheduling, however, I happen to think automation is absolutely the wrong way to go. If you read something you genuinely like and think your audience will also like, by all means add that to your schedule. But to sign up for a service that auto-tweets stuff to your accounts without you even knowing it? That’s not cool, man. Turning your community over to auto-pilot is, to my mind, the beginning of a slippery slope toward treating your community like numbers instead of people. And that’s never a good thing.

3. Be a Resource

Being on social media requires being social – otherwise, I’d contend, you might as well not bother. That means striking a balance between the “megaphone” end of the spectrum and the “wallflower” end. CNN is a news resource, right? They’re allowed to be more of a megaphone because, well, they’re CNN. You are not CNN. Don’t be the guy at the party who dominates every conversation without really adding anything to it. In addition to making time on a regular basis to actually reply to people, being a resource also means posting things that are relevant to your community no matter where it comes from. That generates goodwill among other bloggers whose links you’re promoting, and it also makes you a resource to whom your community will turn when they’re looking for information – which is the real value.

Also? Patience, Grasshopper

I’m not quite at the age when I’m repeating myself out of sheer forgetfulness, but I find myself repeating one particular phrase over and over lately – “there is no magic pill.” I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that everyone who gets onto social media in order to build up their blog audience wants the numbers to increase exponentially from now until the end of time. This is not going to happen. Building community (and therefore traffic numbers) on social media is a slow process, like building community is anywhere else. There are things you can do to get from zero to 60 more quickly and efficiently, but I die a little inside every time I hear about people wanting to buy Twitter or Facebook followers. (Please, just … no.) You can’t expect instant miracles from your social media efforts, but you can expect a return on your genuine investment.

Oh, and hey, you’re following us on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, right? Good.

[stextbox id=”info” caption=”What do you think?”]How do you make the most of the time you spend on social media? What tools or methods work best for you? Share in the comments below![/stextbox]

Creative Commons photo by dougww on Flickr

Best Budget-Friendly Restaurants in Girona

 

When I put out the call recently for guest bloggers on the TBEX blog, Isabel Leyva contacted me almost immediately offering to send in a post with tips for conference attendees that were heading to Girona. What makes her the right person for the job? She’s from Girona! Here are Isabel’s picks for budget eats in her city.

Eating great dishes for a small amount of money is really easy in Spain. Girona is an expensive city if you compare it with other Spanish cities, but on the other hand food and creativity is extraordinary, because we have great cooks.

All restaurants do a special menu during lunch, with the same quality for less euros – this is a great way to go to a good restaurant. For example, you can go to a seafood restaurant with two dishes, dessert, and a drink for around 16€. But these lunch prices are only available from Monday to Friday.

If you want to go to dinner and not spend too much, we have good options that are very popular among young people. All options cost around 10-15€, but of course, it depends on what you ask for. Here are four budget-friendly restaurants in Girona you should try.

Konig

Konig has the best patatas bravas in Girona, great salads, tasty American sandwiches, and great fast service. It has different locations along the city, but the best one is near Sant Fèlix Cathedral. It has a great open terrace and the views are really nice. Usually is very crowded, so is better go outside of the rush hours.

Tip: I always ask for patatas bravas, and a Chicago sandwich or Elisabetta salad – a dilemma to decide!

Konig – Calderers 6

Le Bistrot

One of the oldest restaurants in Girona, Le Bistrot has an exceptional location – the Sant Domenec Stairs. It is one of the most popular Girona spots that appears in a lot of films and advertisements – as well as almost all the travelers guides. The restaurant has a different way of presenting dishes. Dishes that usually restaurants serve on a plate, they offer it on a pagès bread, a tipical bread from Catalonia.

Tip: Escalivada is my favourite one.

Le Bistrot – Pujada Sant Domènec, 4

Zampanzar

Basque tapas are very famous in the north of Spain. Very close to Le Bistrot we can find Zampanzar, that offers some of the best tapas in Girona. Located at Plaça del Vi, you can eat them standing up or seated while you drink txakolí. Also ask for pulpo a la gallega or chocos, tapas from the south of Spain that they cook very well.

Tip: The salt cod basque tapa is to die for!

Zampanzar – Carrer Cort Reial, 10-12

El Cau del Llop

If we talk about the most popular Catalan foods, pà amb tomaquet (bread with tomato) is the main one. In one of the last Girona historical neighborhoods to be renovated, inside an old house we find El Cau del Llop, which offers typical Catalan cold meat (such as jamón, fuet, botifarra) on pà amb tomaquet. Also, during winter, the restaurant has a wood oven where they cook great meat, and the whole atmosphere makes you feel really comfortable.

Tip: Ask for toasted bread with garlic and tomato, it’s really delicious. Be sure that you don’t have to kiss anyone after that!

El Cau del Llop – Carrer de Sacsimort, 5

Isabel Leyva is an accountant and adventurer who is passionate about social media. Her blog, La 5th con Bleecker St., is where she shares her love for New York with her Spanish readers. Her blog won the Mujer It award in 2011, given by the Spanish magazine Mujer Hoy, for the best Leisure time and Actuality blog.

photo by leoglenn_g

4 Tips to Keeping a Travel Blog Going While Traveling

 

One of the ironies of being a travel blogger is that the time when it’s hardest to keep up with the blog is when you’re actually, y’know, traveling. When we stay put for awhile, either at home or whatever we call a homebase, we can edit photos, decipher notes, write blog posts, respond to emails, and tweet our little hearts out. When we’re traveling, most of those things are more challenging – if not downright impossible.

If your blog is primarily about travel and you travel on a regular basis, you need to come up with a system for making sure your blog still looks alive even when you’re not checking it every day. And really, even if your blog is only partly about your travels, keeping the blog lively while you’re jetsetting (so your readers don’t go wandering off in search of newer and shinier things) is still a good idea.

Here are four tips to help make sure your blog doesn’t gather cobwebs while you’re on the move.

1. Remember paper?

 


Take a step back in time with me, kids, to an era when travel blogs were written by hand. With pens. On paper. I know, right? Nevermind that they weren’t actually called blogs then – the point is that the absence of WiFi and electricity doesn’t keep you from writing.

Make sure you always have a small notebook you can carry with you wherever you go (oh HAI, yummy Moleskines) and a pen you genuinely like (seriously, if you don’t like the way it writes, you won’t enjoy using it). Get them out on long bus or train rides, or while you’re sitting in a restaurant or public square. Take notes on what you’re seeing, smelling, eating, doing – on everything. Write down stuff even if you think you’ll remember it later (I promise you won’t). Describe things in detail in your notes as much as you can, and at the very least jot down quick snippets that will trigger memories later on.

Turning those notes into blog posts later will be a (relative) piece of cake compared to what it would be like if you had to recreate everything from your inadequate memory banks.

2. Take. Pictures. Of. Everything.

 


Of course you want to capture the views you’re seeing and the foods you’re eating with the prowess of a National Geographic photographer, but that’s not the only thing your camera is good for. In fact, I’d argue that for most of us (the ones who are mediocre amateur photographers at best – and who also suffer from a serious case of laziness), the cameras we tote around are more useful as note-taking tools.

The plaque on the side of an historic building in the old town center? Sure, you could get out that Moleskine you’re carrying around and write down details for later reference… Or you could just snap a quick photo of the doggone thing and read it later. I regularly get quick photos of signs declaring entry hours/ticket prices, historic plaques, road signs, etc. If you’re pressed for space on your camera’s memory card, make time later in the day to write down details from those photos and then delete the files.

Again, like point #1 above, this tip helps make the post-writing process much faster when you eventually have time for it, because you don’t have to go hunting down all the information you need.

3. Short Updates > No Updates

 


This isn’t about the fact that your blog posts don’t need to be novellas (although that’s true, too) – this is about using other non-blog tools to keep your readers engaged during your trip, without you needing to sit down at a keyboard for a half-hour entering something into WordPress. In particular, I’m talking about Twitter.

Posting quick updates to Twitter while you’re actually traveling is an excellent way to let your readers know you’re still alive (hi Mom!), you’re doing/seeing/eating wonderful things, and you’ll have plenty to share with them in greater detail later. Let your readers know ahead of time that you’ll be posting updates to Twitter (but not the blog) during your trip, and invite them to follow along. Make sure your Twitter feed shows up on your blog, so even those who aren’t Twitter-holics can check in when they visit your site. And Twitter has “ShortCodes” for you to send updates via SMS from all over the globe, if you’ve got a local SIM card, so you don’t even need to be at your computer to send updates throughout your trip (here’s the growing list of Twitter’s supported mobile carriers around the world and their ShortCodes).

The same kinds of short updates and photos can be posted to your blog’s Facebook page, too, when you have WiFi. It’s all about letting your readers know you’re still thinking of them – without feeling like you’re a slave to them.

4. Advance Publishing is Your Friend

 


This is the part where you get to use the awesome notes you’ve been gathering (#1 above) and the images you’ve captured (#2 above) to write a whole bunch of posts. Because you’ve taken good notes and have some of your research taken care of thanks to your photos, you can take advantage of long travel days or even stay-put days with no WiFi to get quite a bit of writing done. And because you don’t want to inundate your readers with seven posts in 24 hours, you also get to take advantage of the advance publishing feature.

Sure, write seven posts during that long train ride if you can – but spread out the publication of those posts over the next week or two. That way your readers get a steady trickle of lengthier updates (combined with the shorter in-the-moment updates from #3 above), but you don’t need to be chained to your laptop in order to deliver them. If your readers are accustomed to getting something new every single day about what you did that very day, you’ll have to learn to let go of that schedule – and as long as you let them know what’s going on, they’ll be fine. The promise of great tales of adventure when you do get back to posting regularly (combined with quick updates via Twitter or Facebook) should keep your readership intact and hungry for more.

Having said all of that…

 


Here’s the thing. Yes, I’m going to advocate that travel bloggers keep up their blogs (to an extent) when they travel. It’s what we do, after all. It’s why we have blogs. But y’know what? I’m also going to tell you to step away from the computer now and then.

Being able to travel is an incredible privilege, and if you’re presented with the choice between having an actual travel experience or sitting at your laptop travel blogging, I sincerely hope you’ll choose the former. You can always make time later to write about your adventures – but it’s impossible to write about something you haven’t experienced in the first place.

Turn off the laptop, put down the smartphone, and enjoy the moment. Your blog posts, when you get back to them, will be richer for it.

(But don’t forget the Moleskine. Just in case.)

[stextbox id=”info” caption=”What do you think?”]What tools do you employ to keep your blog going when you travel? What’s your favorite tip for bloggers who ask how you manage blogging while on the road? Share in the comments below![/stextbox]

Photo credits, top to bottom: San Sharma, garryknight, whatleydude, Ben30, jbhthescots (all via flickr)

Five Foodie Reasons To Visit Girona

 

Today we have a guest post from travel blogger Matt Long.  Matt was a speaker at TBEX 2012 on the topic of social media.  He will be a speaker again at TBEX Europe in Girona, Spain.

Photo Stream-962

So you signed up for TBEX EU in Girona for the great speakers, interesting sessions and the chance to meet colleagues from around the world, right? What you didn’t know is that you will have the chance to try some of the best food in the world during your visit to Spain’s Costa Brava. There are countless amazing dishes and culinary treasures in and around Girona, from the super high end to the simplest of meals. After my visit to the region though these five are the ones I remember the most.

1. Pa Amb Tomaquet – When I first saw this at breakfast I thought someone had made a mistake. I’m used to a variation of this bread and tomato small dish with or before dinner and lunch, but a morning equivalent was new to me. The perfect tomaquet should include: Olive oil, fresh bread, ripe tomatoes and salt. Then you cut the tomato in half and rub the cut side into the bread until it is well moistened with pulp. Drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle some salt and your perfect Pa Amb Tomaquet has been created. At first it’s a little strange to enjoy the tomaquet with your breakfast, but by the end of the week you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

2. Seafood – While I personally may not be a big fan of seafood, I know that this culinary treat is what brings thousands of people to the Costa Brava every year. In and around Girona you will be presented with a sumptuous variety of watery treasures, from gigantic prawns to savory fish stews and everything in between. For the best Catalan experience, head towards a local fish shack for a home made feast featuring the popular dish Catxoflino. It’s a simple assemblage of langoustines, sausage or meatballs, mushrooms, onion and of course olive oil, but like any classic dish the magic of it rests with the individual flair added by the chef. When our group enjoyed this classic meal the chef was especially inspired and the table was soon in seafood ecstasy. Whatever you try though, it’s guaranteed to be fresh and delicious.

DSC_0438

3. Aioli If there’s one thing I learned in Girona, it’s that what I used to think of as aioli is merely flavored mayonnaise. In Spain they take their aioli (spelled “allioli” in Catalan) seriously, very seriously, and there’s a very particular and labor-intensive way of producing this spicy condiment. Garlic cloves are crushed using a mortar and pestle and gradually, over the span of thirty minutes or more, olive oil is added until the perfect thick aioli is created. For the novice, you should be careful when sampling this delicacy – a little bit goes a long way. The garlic condiment is spicy and adds a definite kick to just about any dish, from meats and cheese to seafood and it’s even a great snack on its own with fresh bread.

Photo Stream-963 4. Charcuterie – Spain is famous for its fine meats, especially the rich variety of hams. Years are spent cultivating the perfect ham, which is then thinly sliced and assembled in a heap of meaty grandeur. But ham isn’t the only form of charcuterie in Girona; you’ll find a carnivorous panoply of sausages, thin sliced meats and mystery portions that may be unknown, but are nonetheless delicious. With a little bread, tomatoes and olive oil this makes the perfect start to any meal.

DSC_0505

5. The Porrón – You can’t visit Girona without trying some of the delicious wines found in this part of Spain. Wine is enjoyed at almost every meal, throughout the day and for no particular reason. Wine consumption is just a part of normal life, and indeed has been turned into an art form. One of the more unique ways of enjoying and sharing wine is through the porrón. A porrón (“porró” in Catalan) is a traditional Catalan glass wine pitcher and resembles a cross between a wine bottle and watering can. This unique vessel originated in the middle ages and was used when there weren’t enough glasses for the guests. Because, you see, this strange little glass tankard is meant to enjoy wine without your lips touching the bottle in any way. I wasn’t sure what to make of the odd serving vessel when I first saw it, and was completely taken aback when someone lifted it up and poured the red liquid into their gullets. The trick, it seemed, was to hold the porrón far enough away so that wine doesn’t cover one’s chest but close enough so that, you know, you can drink it. You may not become a porrón drinking expert during your time in Girona, but it’s a lot of fun trying.

Photo credits:  Courtesy of the author

Author Bio:  A luxury adventure traveler at heart, Matt Long shares his adventures with more than 16,000 Twitter followers and runs one of the top travel blogs, LandLopers.com. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Matt is a Lonely Planet Featured Blogger and has been featured on many other web sites and publications including BBC Travel, CNN GO, Huffington Post and National Geographic Intelligent Travel. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

How to Travel From Barcelona to Girona for TBEX Europe

 

There are many ways to get to Costa Brava for TBEX Europe, whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile.  Or bus.  Here’s a brief overview to help you make your plans:

By Plane

Terminal 1 at Barcelona Airport BCNMost travelers coming from North America, or anywhere else not on the continent, will likely arrive at El Prat de Llobregat Airport (BCN) in Barcelona.  The airport has two terminals, and generally speaking Terminal 1 (the larger terminal, in photo at right) is home to major international and domestic carriers, while Terminal 2 is home to EasyJet and many of the smaller carriers and seasonal operations.

The airport is located eight miles southwest of the city.  If you’re planning on a stay in Barcelona before or after your time at TBEX, you can catch the Aerobus into the city.  The bus departs on a frequent schedule from each terminal stop (right outside the arrival lobby) and takes about 30 minutes to get into the city center.  The price is approximately $7.25 one way, $11.25 round trip (price estimated based on current Euro/Dollar exchange rate).  A taxi into the Barcelona City Center will run approximately $37.

You can also opt to fly into Girona-Costa Brava Airport (GRO).  Ryanair flies into this airport as well as other carriers and charters offering seasonal service.

This airport is located a little over seven and a half miles southwest of Girona.  You can get into Girona on a Sagales bus.  They leave hourly, take about half an hour, and costs about $3.  A taxi into the city center will cost approximately $31.

By Train

If you are in coming into the area via train, you will most likely arrive at Santa Estació (Sants Station), the main rail station in Barcelona.  It’s located northwest of the city center in the Sants-Montjuic district.  It’s easily accessible from around the city and the airport, and this will be your departure spot for taking the train from Barcelona to Girona.  You can purchase tickets in advance online, at automated machines located in the station, or from a teller.  Windows 1-10 sell tickets for local trains.  If you have questions, there are information booths located by windows 1 and 21.  The train will cost approximately $9.50; there is a surcharge for using the teller booths.  The end stop on the route is Figueres, so look for that destination when locating your departure track or following the reader board.

If you’re starting your train journey at the airport (BCN), your train journey will be slightly different.  There is no direct drain from BCN to Girona and you’ll need to make a transfer.  You can make a transfer at Sants and then follow the recommendations above.  However, the Passeig de Gracia station (the second stop from the airport) is smaller and less crowded and may be less intimidating and confusing.   Other stations where you can make a transfer include El Clot-Aragó and Sant Andreu Comta.

Once you arrive at the Girona station you can take the #2 bus into the city center.  Cost is about $1.50.  It’s also walkable, and depending on how many bags you’re traveling shouldn’t take more than 20-30 minutes.

You can get information, ticket prices, and find the train schedule here.

By Bus

You can catch a bus from either of the BCN terminals that will take you to Girona.  Three buses a day run on this route so you will need to make sure your travel times match up.  The bus trip takes about an hour and half at a cost of approximately $27 one way, $49 round trip.  Information regarding the bus schedule from Terminal 1, general bus information, and online ticketing is available.

By Car

Rental cars are available in the usual locations – airports, near train stations, and in various city center locations.  Shop for competitive prices and consider booking in advance for deeper discounts.  Parking and driving in Girona may be difficult, as it is apt to be in many old, historic cities.  A few of the city hotels have parking places for their customers (check with yours); a couple of public parking options include Copa’s Parking , the Devesa area (near the park), and the Palau de Congressos.

Do you have any special tips for getting to Girona?  Please share them with the comments as we’ll be updating this information and creating a transportation page for easy reference.

Photo credit:  Airport photo via wikimedia commons, Aitor Agirregabiria photographer.

Travel Writing Not All Fun and Sun

 

Today’s guest post is from Susan McKee, a print and digital writer who is also a blogger.  She attended TBEX in Keystone.

I originally wrote this column for the “Freelance Writing” section of the April 2007 issue of The Quill (the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists). When I was at TBEX in Keystone last month, there were many discussions of ethics regarding bloggers vs. journalists – discussions that have continued in other places where travel writers gather. Seems to me that my commentary from back then is even more true now that online publications have (more or less) replaced the traditional travel markets of magazines and newspapers.

Strong ethics, research keys to success

As a professional travel writer, I occupy a place in the journalistic hierarchy somewhere just above pond scum. It’s tricky territory for a freelancer for two major reasons: press trips and poseurs.

Almost all newspapers and magazines still buying freelance will not pick up a writer’s expenses, and the rates they pay don’t come close to making up that shortfall. Freelancers are responsible for their own health insurance and other costs that are typically part of the benefits package for an employed journalist. Add in travel time and, as one writer put it, the profit margin shrivels like salted leeches in the sun.

If you don’t have a trust fund to underwrite your travel writing specialty, two solutions beckon: write only about your own hometown (yawn!) or take press trips.

Like many freelancers, I started out as a general assignment reporter for a major metropolitan daily back in the days when budgets were reasonably flush. If I had to travel somewhere for a story, the editor would approve expenses and send me on my way.

In a perfect world, editors and publishers would cover travel costs. However, it’s not a perfect world, and they don’t. I make a reasonable return combining trips hosted by PR companies and tourist boards with assignments for which my expenses are reimbursed by publications.

The major reason I accept media jaunts is logistics. I have limited time in a given destination, so I rely on the experts for scheduling. During my free time, I can revisit places I need to see more in depth. Occasionally I’ve used the press trips as scouting missions for later returns on my own nickel.

Of course, the risk I run is that the hosts will show me only what they want me to see, something I try to minimize through advance research.

The purists scoff that a writer can’t possibly be independent if traveling on someone else’s money. Yet, in my days as a newspaper staffer, freebies abounded.

Business writers were guests for lunch in corporate dining rooms. Entertainment writers were feted at Hollywood galas. Fashion editors bought designer clothing at “discount.” Automotive and electronics writers “tested” expensive equipment. And the sports guys – well, you know that life in the press box isn’t spartan.

A good journalist does not slant a story based on who paid for what.

Travel writing is devalued partly because everyone thinks they can just dash off “what I did on my summer vacation” and send it to the local paper.

I’m a journalist specializing in travel. I try to inform, entertain and educate my readers about some aspect of the wider world, accurately reflecting the destination or concept. Geography matters, so there’s information on land forms and weather. Weaving in history helps provide context for the present. Interviews with locals remind my readers that the human condition is universal.

As Mark Twain noted, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” Most of my readers will never get to the places I’ve seen except through my words. I owe them honesty, good research and good writing.

However, much of the travel writing out there is written by amateurs – heavy on travel cliches and breathless epiphanies but light on reporting and fact-checking. These writers often think “the trip” is payment enough. Journalists in other fields usually don’t have to worry about competing against hordes that are willing to do their jobs for free.

The well-established practice of “don’t ask, don’t tell” also creates problems. Most of the articles you read in newspapers and magazines can be traced back to sponsored travel. Every travel journalist I know has been on a press trip with a writer for a publication that forbids taking press trips. Editors don’t ask, and writers don’t tell.

I, for one, am tired of the subterfuge. Political reporters attend politicians’ cocktail parties. Theater reviewers sit in box seats. Travel writers sometimes get discounted plane tickets and hotel rooms, free meals and more souvenir coffee mugs than will fit in the kitchen cupboard.

Travel writing is not like being on vacation. It’s work any journalist would recognize, filled with reams of notes, countless digital photos and hours spent fact-checking every detail. Nothing replaces good old-fashioned reporting and editing – or a journalist’s ethics.

Photo credit:  SXC

Author bioSusan McKee is an independent scholar and freelance journalist specializing in history, culture and travel. Follow her on Twitter at @Susan_McKee

Does Everyone Knead an Editor?

Here’s another guest post from one of our speakers, Spud Hilton, who’ll be co-presenting at an ed session titled:  10 Step to Writing that Better Engages (and Keeps) Your Readers.

It’s part of the romance and attraction of blogging – being able to say what you want, when you want, how you want, without the pesky interference of others. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times:

“I don’t need an editor,” the line usually goes. “The readers are my editor.”

It’s an interesting perspective that gives insight into media and platforms that are so rich with the refreshing and unfettered voices of self-publishing.

It’s also a steaming load of crap.

Everyone needs an editor. Steinbeck needed an editor. Bill Bryson needs an editor. Francis Mayes needed, well, a story with a point (an editor should have told her that), and maybe if David Foster Wallace had had a better editor, he wouldn’t have been allowed to fabricate so much in his “nonfiction” stories.

There’s a gaping canyon of difference between feedback and editing, instructing, mentoring. Readers can stand on the sidelines and say what they like or don’t like, but they can’t tell you how to get better at what you do. And since (based on the TBEX slogan) we’ve identified ourselves as travel writers, it stands to reason we would want to get better at it. I pity the person who doesn’t want to continually improve at what they do. (Just so we’re clear, we’re not talking about grammar and punctuation. A good editor helps identify the strengths and weaknesses – in writing style, in logic, in voice, in structure, in clichés. A good editor tells you things you don’t want to hear, but that you should hear – which is why spouses, mothers, lifelong friends and anyone who owes you money make horrible editors.)

This is all a roundabout way of encouraging TBEX attendees to use this gathering as an opportunity to find a casual editor, someone you trust to look over your important posts and give honest criticism and advice – even when you don’t want to hear it. Seek out a fellow blogger whose work you admire and ask if they would be willing to look over the occasional post, or maybe be willing to swap critiques. (Keep in mind, many people are already too busy, or they edit for a living and can’t give it away, but with this many attendees you should be able to find someone who would appreciate trading editing.)

Yes, readers can be your editor. You just have to pick the right reader for the job.

For anyone who’s read this far: This post also serves as an invitation to a limited number of TBEX attendees to bring writing samples – posts, stories, articles (sorry, no poetry) – that I can look over and on which I can offer advice, criticism or praise. I’m offering this for the first 15 or so attendees who e-mail me at BadLatitudeTV@gmail.com with the word EDITOR in the subject line. Either include your writing in the e-mail, or bring your sample with you to TBEX.

Spud Hilton is the travel editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and writes the Bad Latitude travel blog at www.SFGate.com/badlatitude. He has been edited for 24 years.

Photo credit:  Courtesy of Spud Hilton

Speed Dating Appointments Tips

Have you been making appointments for the first TBEX Speed Dating event?  Speed Dating will be held on the Expo Floor on Sunday, June 17th, 10:15am – 12:15 pm.  You can learn more about it by logging into your account and setting up your profile on the TBEX website; we recommend you start with this overview here.  The sessions are one-on-one pre-set appointment that last eight minutes, then allow another two minutes for bloggers to get to their next appointment.

This type of networking event is fairly standard at industry events, but we know that some attendees may not be familiar with the process.  Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of the session:

Do your research: Since you’ll know who you’re scheduled to meet with, do a little research on the person and/or destination.  Find out what common ground you might have and get some ideas on how it would be a good fit.  Even if it doesn’t seem like a good fit initially, you might be surprised once you dig a little deeper.  Sometimes the best connections take a bit of digging.

Focus on the relationship: In an eight-minute session it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to close a deal.  So spend time forming a relationship that you can follow up with later.  And even if there’s nothing that works right now, you never know when that can change.  Think of relationships for the long term rather than the immediate.

Business cards and media kits: Make sure that you’ll be remembered after the appointment is over with business cards and/or media kits.  But remember, most people don’t like a lot of paper to pack up to take home.  Think digital whenever possible.

Maximize your eight minutes: Know what you want to accomplish so you can use your time well, whether it’s making a connection, getting information, or making a pitch.  Remember that the other person will have goals for the meeting as well, so don’t monopolize the whole time.  The idea is to make a connection, plant a seed of an idea, and then move on.

Follow up: This is where the real works comes, whether it’s using the information to create your personalized database, following up for possible opportunities, or continuing the relationship in general.

Photo credit:  SXC

5 Things Not to Say About Your Business Cards at TBEX

Today’s guest post is by TBEX speaker Andy Hayes, who has some tips for those attending any of our networking sessions.

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When I attended my first “business networking” event, a local government-sponsored organization in Scotland about 5 years ago, I witnessed a lot of tomfoolery. When you put 25 newly minted business owners in a room, you’re bound to feel like you’re in a live action comedy skit.

Unfortunately, to this day I attend networking groups and “speed dating” events, only to find that people have not learned. Before you attend this year’s TBEX networking sessions, take a minute and think about the kind of impression you want to leave on your PR contacts as well as travel blogging colleagues, both new and old.

One thing that causes me to chuck more often than not is the topic of business cards. The following are 5 real, genuine incidents I’ve experienced in recent memory – most of them travel bloggers. No names are shamed, but take my advice and skip these snafus.

Yes, this really is my business card.

1. “Here, take one. I’m trying to get rid of them.

A travel blogger mentioned this to me at Blogworld in 2010, before mentioning it to the next four people I was standing next to. If she was “trying to get of them” so desperately, then remind me again why I would want one?

Your goal at TBEX is not to give out a certain number of cards. Your goal is to make connections and build relationships. Quality, not quantity folks.

2. “Sorry I just printed these last night.”

This was one of those awkward moments where I was sharing a networking appointment at an event with another travel journalist. It was a little embarrassing to see their lack of professionalism, which started with the whole business card thing, but carried through the entire appointment.

Forgot your cards? Ran out and had to buy extra? No problem. Don’t highlight it. Most people won’t notice.

Speaking of running out….

3. “Sorry, I don’t have a card.”

This happens to the best of us. You forget your cards, or you run out, or they are still in your luggage which has taken a detour to Keystone via Bogota. All you need to do is to grab a notebook and write up a few scraps of paper with your name/twitter handle/email/phone. Then you’ve transformed that into a “Sorry I’ve ran out of my cards, but here’s my information so we can stay in touch.”

It’s not the most professional substitute, but it shows potential connections that you mean business and won’t let a small glitch get in the way.

4. “______________________________”

I can’t tell you how many networking events I’ve been to where someone I never spoke to, who wasn’t a speaker or a sponsor, just handed me a card and walked off without saying anything. It’s weird, right?

At events like SXSW, I see people spraying their business cards everywhere. It’s such a waste, you might as well drop them in the recycling bin yourself.

I’m sure if you hand out enough cards to strangers, someone will call with some paying work. That is an awfully expensive way to go about finding work, though.

5. “Before we talk, can I see your business card?”

Yup, this happened last year at Blogworld in LA. It made me feel really icky, as if the quality of my entire being was going to be judged solely by my card alone. I might point out that at this point, just post-handshake, the travel blogger didn’t even know if I was a PR person or a blogger or a sponsor or random-person-from-street. Slightly aggressive move, right?

Maybe they were nervous. Or maybe they were a jerk. I’ll never know; I didn’t hear back from them afterwards, so I guess my card wasn’t good enough.

Over to you: what’s the weirdest/worst thing you’ve seen someone do with their business cards?

Andy Hayes is a published travel author, entrepreneur, and busy IT consultant. He blogs about Edinburgh, Scotland and value luxury travel. Connect with him before TBEX on his personal site, andyhayes.com or via Twitter, @andrewghayes.