Why Going Niche is Good for SEO

 

Most of us have probably had the experience of seeing either glazed, uncomprehending stares or looks of outright contempt when we mentioned the word “SEO.” As today’s guest post author Shannon O’Donnell explains, not only is SEO not a bad word, there’s a very important component of SEO that has nothing to do with manipulating search results and everything to do with content.


Introducing myself to new people in a business context is often tricky, because I never know which of my many hats to start with when someone asks me what I do for a living. Like many who attend TBEX, I am a travel blogger/writer/photographer but those are just single aspects of what I do … and they’re not even the most lucrative. I wrote a book. Again though, that’s not where I make the money that allows me to travel. No, the thing I hesitate to say is that I am an SEO and marketing consultant.

It’s not that I am ashamed of my work; I work hard and my clients all come away from a consult with dozens of ideas on how to make their sites better. The reason I hesitate is because of that one flash of incredulity that sparks in someone’s eyes when they hear the word SEO. Years ago, the word SEO equated in most cases to spammy link building, keyword stuffing, and poor quality sites. In the past several years, however, I think SEO has become a much more positive term, but it’s still not where it should be.

I’d like to start by noting that SEO is not a dirty word. In fact, without hesitation I can say that every single site on the internet benefits from someone at the ground level on the site having either natural SEO knowledge (which comes from those with a good head for marketing and a solid web designer), or having hired an SEO person to make sure the site is best optimized for its topic.

In our world, we all have the same topic: travel. That makes it tough to easily see how we are different from our peers and the other travel bloggers. Each blog is different, however, and within the broad travel topic are niches. And it’s within the niches that I want to focus, because this is where I see the most growth potential for both new and established travel bloggers. All bloggers should look to their specialized knowledge and then run with that niche knowledge.

At TBEX Europe this year in Girona, Spain, the SEO talk focused on a broad overview of each of the major SEO aspects. My co-presenter, Matt Kepnes, covered how to build strong backlinks and on-site optimization like having your headers, titles, and the meta data correctly optimized—these are all essential parts of taking care of your site in the long-term. This is the core basics of good SEO and many aspects are easy fixes, use your SEO plugin, and build natural backlinks. Beyond that though, let’s talk about an area people only vaguely connect to good SEO: great content. Content that makes your brand and your site shine for your unique specialized knowledge and that narrowly points to the topics and keywords you naturally talk about on your site.

What’s Your Niche, Specialized Knowledge?

As the travel blogger space crowds with more bloggers, more personalities, and more noise, it’s those bloggers who have differentiated themselves who are beyond the competition in many ways. If every travel blogger out there was looking to place first for the keyword “travel blog,” it would be a long and fruitless race … and everyone would be missing one of the core points of SEO:

SEO is not about choosing the most popular keywords, it’s about choosing the keywords that best describe what your site offers.

We’re not all alike, and many of our sites offer a specialized version of travel—this is where we as bloggers are able to really allow our sites to shine, and if they’re shining then there is a good chance Google and the search engines are paying attention, too. What about your style of travel, of photography, or even your travel philosophy makes you stand out from others? Are you a hula hooping travel blogger, connecting to the hula hoop communities all over the world? Or perhaps you’re a BMX biker and you travel with your bike in and out of countries and to festivals, events, and races all over the world. Your blog is different! You have specialized knowledge in both of these instances that someone else might need, even if they are not duplicating your trip.

This is what I mean by niche: what are you doing, thinking, learning about travel for which you can become a go-to source on the internet? Why would another blogger recommend your site and not their own? How is your information and story different?

How Can You Showcase Specialized Knowledge?

Your niche is important, because it then translates into what you should be writing about. If you have figured out some problem or obstacle to travel, or researched a certain topic or destination in a way you think others might enjoy, write about it. But then, take it a step further and build yourself cornerstone content around your niche.

Cornerstone content is one part of SEO every new and established blogger should have on their site. If you’re not sure what I mean by this term, Chris Garrett has a really great free e-book on the topic called Killer Flagship Content and I recommend you start right there with your brainstorming session.

The main idea behind cornerstone content is something that will last, something that is thorough, well researched, and very specific. Become the “go-to” person in the travel industry for your knowledge. In my earlier example, if you are the BMX biker, this could mean creating a page on your site that details out every single piece of knowledge you need to travel with a bike—carry-on requirements, whether you can bring your bike into every country, what the major BMX bike festivals are, and whether there bike laws in other countries a traveler should know about, etc. The idea is, if you had to do the research chances are someone else will too, and if they are searching in Google “how to travel with a bike” you want to make sure Google knows that you are an expert on that topic.

And how does Google know? Because you have an entire page full of resources and so full of information it’s a piece cornerstone of your site—you’re the guy who travels with a bike. If you as a site are that identifiable in the community, there is a good chance that you the search engines will notice it too.

It’s worth noting that none of this required search engine manipulation. Instead it’s using your knowledge to create cornerstone resources on your site, pages that become pillars of information on that topic. If you have a niche page like that, then you likely have it full of valuable keywords too. And that is good SEO. When you have pages about your niche, content and information about your specialized topic, then you are telling Google and the search engines “hey, this is what my site is about, so if you’d please send some people my way, that’d be great.”

And if it’s a strong resource, and on a good topic, then it will help people and Google will send people to it. Once you have those resource pages up, there are more SEO ways to support it (linking to it in your author bios in guest posts is the easiest way), but that is the start. That gets you on your way toward having a specific site, in a specific travel niche keyword.

This is the easy beginnings of strong SEO for your travel blog and hopefully it’s not even painful to write, but instead a bit of fun to create such a useful piece of pillar content for your site.

[stextbox id=”info” caption=”Now it’s your turn!”]What’s your specialized knowledge? And if you have a cornerstone page, leave it in the comments so we can all have a look at the page![/stextbox]


Author Bio: Shannon O’Donnell is a travel writer, speaker, and SEO marketing consultant who lives mostly on the road, and occasionally in Florida. Her travel stories and photography are recorded on her travel blog A Little Adrift, she published her first book, The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook in October 2012, and she can be found on Twitter @ShannonRTW

iRig Review: Options for Portable Podcasting

 

We’ve heard repeatedly that things like audo (and video) components are increasingly important to a blog’s success these days. For bloggers who are put off by the need to buy or carry extra equipment, however, getting started with podcasting may seem a little daunting. If that sounds like you, or even if you’re already an avid podcaster who wants to make your show more mobile, this guest post by Chris Christensen about a new bit of portable recording gear may be of interest.


Starting with the early days of podcasting back in 2004 there has been a desire to take the whole show on the road, or even into the air. Adam Curry, the “Podfather”, is also an airplane pilot and would take a portable recorder up in his plane to record episodes of his show “The Daily Source Code”. Other early podcasters would also take a recorder out into the streets to create what became known as a “soundseeing” tours. Of course, this is not anything that radio had not done decades earlier, but podcasting was putting the tool of portable audio in the hands of of thousands of new audio creators.

The portable recorder of choice back in 2004 might have been an iRiver MP3 player or an Edirol portable recorder. Later devices like the Zoom H2 would also become popular. All had two things in common – awkward user interfaces and the need to carry yet another gadget.

With the ubiquitous nature of smartphones like the iPhone, these specialty recorders are being eclipsed by solutions built around the gadget that many of us are already carrying. iRig has released a series of 3 microphones that work with an app on your iPhone to create a portable recording studio. IK Multimedia was kind enough to send me these three solutions to review.

iRig portable recording gear – photo by Chris Christensen

The smallest of these microphones is the iRig Mic Cast ($39.99). This small microphone plus into the mic jack on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and provides a better microphone than the built-in microphone for recording sound. The iRig Mic Cast is a definite improvement over the built-in microphone but the differences are not as obvious as one of the other two solutions. But what this solution may lack in audio quality it makes up for in its small size. This is a microphone that is small enough to always have with you. It is small enough to fit in the change pocket of a pair of blue jeans. The big problem you could have with this mic is remembering where you put it. The iRig Mic Cast also comes with a simple stand so that you could use it to record a class, and interview or a recital. You can plug in your earbuds into the Mic Cast to monitor the recording levels.

The big brother, and possibly my favorite of the iRig products, is the iRig Mic ($59.99). Like the iRig Mic Cast, the iRig Mic will record audio from an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad and it also provides the ability to plug in your ear buds so that you can monitor the sound levels. But the iRig Mic looks like a standard studio microphone. Add a microphone flag with the name of your podcast and you are ready to hit the streets doing “man on the street” interviews. Combine it with the video capabilities of an iPhone and you are ready to make that a video report. Like the iRig Mic Cast it plugs into the mini jack at the top of your old iPhone or the bottom of your iPhone 5. It provides a fuller, richer sound to its little brother, but this is a microphone that you will have to throw in your backpack or briefcase. It is not pocket sized.

For serious audiophiles, the 3rd solution from iRig is the iRig Pre ($39.99) which is not a microphone but a pre-amp that let’s you plug in an industry standard XLR microphone into an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. I see this as a better option for the budding musical performer who wants to record that new song on the tour bus. The iRig Pre can provide 48V of phantom power for condenser microphones and is powered by a 9V battery. The manufacturer promises 30 hours of life off one battery, or only 10 hours if you are using it to provide phantom power. (If you think phantom power is something that you only get around Halloween, then this is not the right solution for you.) I have not had a chance to compare the sound quality of this solution as I don’t have an XLR microphone lying around.

With all 3 microphone solutions, IK Multimedia provides free recording applications like iRig Recorder and this is the only part of the solution that I thought needed some work. The user interface of the application looked like something designed by a hardware engineer rather than a UI designer. I also ran into some problems getting the iRig Mic to work reliably with the built-in app, but did not seem to have the same problems with some of my favorite audio recording apps like Audioboo or Voice Memos. So while the hardware is one of the better audio solutions I have seen for the iPhone, for now I would recommend looking around at other software solutions.

The only danger I see with the iRig is that I may spend time sitting in my room talking (or singing) to my iPhone just like I did when someone made the mistake of giving me a tape recorder as a child. Perhaps that’s all part of the journey of becoming a podcaster.


Author bio: Chris Christensen is the host of the Amateur Traveler, a popular online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog. By day he works at PayNearMe.com where they create products to help people without credit or debit cards pay for things. Chris was formerly the Director of Engineering for TripAdvisor’s New Initiatives group, the EVP Engineering at LiveWorld which runs online communities like those for eBay, HBO, and American Express, and a Software Manager at Apple, Momenta (pen computing) and HP.

How to Make a Living Helping Others Travel

 

If you could live in the country you love the most, work on a flexible schedule, and make a living talking about the place you adore, would that be appealing? As today’s guest post author Madeline Jhawar of Italy Beyond the Obvious tells us, if that sounds good to you then you might consider a future as a travel consultant.


Over the past four years working as an Italy trip planner, I’ve created hundreds of travel days for clients, with a 90% “delighted” client track record. I also get pretty regular requests from people asking about becoming a travel consultant, because they want to do it, too.

My advice? Go for it! It’s a lot of fun, there is plenty of work for everyone, and it’s the most flexible job ever: it doesn’t matter what time zone you’re in, just that you are available to your clients; and once you get rolling, you can accept as many or as few clients as you want. I always ramp up to accommodate spring and autumn trips, and I’ve taken months off at a time: last year we took our kids to India for the month of November; the year before that, we sold a house and moved 3,000 miles, my full-time project for about 8 weeks.

The people I’ve coached about becoming a travel consultant are usually thinking about a significant career change, one that would affect their income and their families. They want to know:

  • Can I make a living?
  • How can I be successful?

I am happy to share what has worked for me.

Can I make a living as a travel consultant?

You can make a living, if you approach this as a business and not as a hobby.

I have a business background and worked in corporate operations for almost a decade before starting Italy Beyond the Obvious (my travel consulting business), but I’d been planning trips to Italy for family and friends for years for free – and the hobby-to-business mental transition was challenging. People knew me as the go-to person they could ask for free Italy information, since I’d been enthusiastically giving it out for years, and I had to start explaining that I was now charging for time and expertise in this area. These days, if anyone asks my advice about Italy that would take me time to research and reply, my standard response is that I would love to help and then I ask whether I should put together a proposal for consulting services.

Apart from the mental shift, treating it like a business means you need to give several things careful consideration:

  • Think about who, specifically, your customers are, and how you are going to find them. You need to start thinking about this right away, and keep it at the front of your mind while you’re thinking about your products and your pricing. Are your clients going to be budget travelers? Honeymooners? High-end luxury travelers? Gay 40-60-something couples? Brainstorm points that describe your clients and another page with ideas on how to reach them. This is not an if-you-build-it-they-will-come type of job.

 

  • Define your product. For example, you could: give overall itinerary advice via email or phone/Skype; sell/recommend day trips or classes; book hotels, guides and restaurants; create a written itinerary; provide on-trip support; and more – including any combination of those things. I have three products – Coaching, Gold Itinerary Planning, and Platinum Itinerary Planning. The high-end Platinum Itinerary Planning is soup-to-nuts, with bells and whistles, and was created to serve a type of client I know very well from my days as a Butterfield & Robinson guide (here’s a sample of a Platinum Itinerary). The Coaching is my fun, quick, lower-end service I can offer to people who just want good tips and then can take it from there. And the Gold Itinerary Planning is my in-between. Start thinking about what you are going to offer, what it includes, and what it doesn’t include. Then…

 

  • Figure out how long it takes you to create your product. You need to include all time spent here, starting with the amount of time it takes to answer a potential client’s first email all the way through creating their final invoice. You’ll likely end up with an average time rather than an absolute time it takes you to create your product, and that’s fine.

 

  • Decide how you are going to make money, AKA your business model. You could charge your clients very little or nothing, and make money from commissions you earn from booking hotels and tours (if that’s your product). You could book everything for your clients (with or without commissions) and send them one final invoice that includes everything on the trip, which you mark up 15%. You could charge for your time per-hour, as a consultant. You could charge for your product, which you might create once and sell once, or you might create once and sell many times. There are travel consultants who earn money each of these ways. I chose to charge by product (my coaching service and itineraries), for several reasons: I didn’t want to keep track of my hours and I didn’t want to work from commissions – I want to tell my clients I’m recommending the best solution for them, not the best solution based only upon my portfolio of commission-earning options.

 

  • Decide what to charge. Here you need to do the math. You could, of course, start with a market analysis, look at what the competition is charging, and spend a lot of time deciding what the “right” price is. I didn’t do very much of that, but I asked myself one question: how much do I need to charge in order for this to be worth my time?

So, if you figure out how much you can charge and how many customers you can handle, you can figure out how much you’ll earn. Now subtract expenses. Can you make a living? If not, maybe you need to think about a different business model, or figure out a way to work more efficiently so you can create more products in the time you have.

But wait, there’s more, so keep reading…

Continue reading How to Make a Living Helping Others Travel

With Honors: Graduating from My First TBEX

 

When today’s guest blogger, Atreyee Gupta of Bespoke Traveler, first offered the “TBEX is like school” analogy, we were intrigued. Was that a good thing? A bad thing? As it turns out, Atreyee found her first TBEX experience in Keystone to be a little of both – although the biggest lesson didn’t occur to her until after she’d returned home.


When I first began blogging about my immersive travel experiences, I was not aware there was such a profession as a travel blogger. While sharing personal stories of discovering art, architecture, and history abroad, I found fellow adventurers writing their own fascinating travel accounts which compelled me to chat with these digital nomads.

When I heard about the Travel Blogger Exchange (TBEX) Conference from one of them, I was excited about the opportunity to meet some of my fellow virtual travel companions face to face, make new friends, and spend a weekend discussing our mutual passion for travel. I was just as excited for my first visit to Keystone, Colorado where the conference would be assembled.

However, upon arriving at the meeting site, I found myself suddenly whipped back into high school with 800 other students all writing about similar experiences, all climbing the same ladder, all hoping for the same goal. I felt like the new transfer kid who had registered into a “Fame” school for travel aficionados and who had forgotten to tie her shoelaces on the first day.

Even though I had communicated with quite a few bloggers online, I did not recognize any of these faces, and I was overcome by the thought of my current “sink-or-swim” situation. How could I possibly survive the next four days, never mind graduate with the rest of the class?

How TBEX was like my school days


Just like the first day of school, the TBEX conference began with formal registration and a prescribed schedule of classes. To teach the classes there was a roster of talented speakers who fulfilled the role of lecturing professors. The student body consisted of a diverse collection of bloggers, writers, photographers, and tourism professionals who by their personalities and behaviors satisfied every school attendance list.

Besides classes, there were a suite of extracurricular activities to participate in from approved icebreakers to evening parties. My next few days in Keystone continually reminded me of school days: hurrying down corridors hunting for the next class, furious note taking while staring at slide presentations, and a hectic schedule of events.

Between the pressure of capturing information during sessions and socializing with everyone afterwards, I had my plate full. Although there weren’t any homework assignments, pop quizzes, or final exams at TBEX, the responsibilities of attending seminars and quickly developing relationships with both lecturers and fellow bloggers at the TBEX conference felt just as overwhelming as successfully passing classes and making friends at school.

How TBEX was NOT like my school days


Choosing which classes to attend at TBEX Keystone turned out to be extremely important. Unlike my school experience, this was the only time teachers were educating me about real world applications. A course on turning a hobby into a business offered insights into various methods for making a profit for my company. In several seminars, I was fortunate enough to hear personal stories of the speakers’ battles to obtain sponsors and project funding. One lecturer’s insights into the statistics of current social media sites helped me understand how to use these sites to better interact with customers.

While learning algebra theory and the history of nineteenth century writers in school had provided me with information, there were never real life applications to which I could apply these classroom lessons. At the TBEX conference, however, practical guidance was being offered not only by the lecturers but also by my fellow bloggers. With years of experience as travelers, writers, and photographers, TBEX attendees were providing me with vocational advice, technical expertise, and practical know-how. My only regret was that there wasn’t two of me so that I could attend every session.

The Most Important Lesson I Learned


There was one lesson from TBEX that I learned not in the classroom, but only once I returned home. While reminiscing about all the events I attended, the many different people I met, and the overwhelming support I received, I was left to evaluate the entire weekend with the strictness of hindsight.

Attending TBEX didn’t exponentially grow my readers or customer base and didn’t provide me with instant access to a sponsor. Instead, it filled me with ideas, concepts, and goals I might never have thought of on my own. This was something my long years in school had never helped me to do.

Through the conference I connected genuinely with a handful of fellow writers, bloggers, and travel professionals who I fostered new plans and expanded my experimental ideas. Learning from the speakers and conversing with fellow attendees stimulated me.

Ever since attending my first TBEX event, I feel more energized about my passion, more enthusiastic about my direction, and more…inspired! Inspiration is what every school should provide its pupils, and it’s the best lesson I could have learned as a TBEX alumni.

all photos by Dave Cynkin


Author bio: Atreyee Gupta is cofounder of Bespoke Traveler, a curated travel publication which produces digital books and journals to inspire travelers to cultivate relationships with their destinations. As managing editor of the Bespoke Traveler website and journals, Atreyee plans, develops, and edits the company’s online content as well as its product offerings. Atreyee’s travel stories can be found through Bespoke Traveler’s e-books and blog.

Memory Card Best Practices: 15 Things You Should Already Be Doing

 

Digital cameras have made photography so easy that we sometimes forget that things can still go pear-shaped if we’re not treating our equipment carefully. In today’s guest post from Kim Olson, we learn how to properly care for our memory cards so that we don’t have to face the pit-in-the-stomach feeling of losing all our photos.


Card Error! Those are two words you never want to see on your camera. And when you do, you’ll probably feel a bit of panic.

Like it or not, memory cards do fail and there’s a decent chance you’ll encounter a card error now and again. The good news is there are quite a few things you can do to help make sure it doesn’t happen often.

1. Format instead of Erase

Simply erasing, or deleting, images on your memory cards doesn’t fully clear the cards of leftover data.

Instead, it’s better to get in the habit of formatting your cards. Formatting is a more complete way of clearing old files from your card and can reduce the risk of data corruption.

A word of caution, though. Formatting is typically irreversible, so always be sure all of your images are backed up before doing this.

2. Format in Camera

Without getting into the technical details, the general consensus is that you should always format your memory card in your camera and not on your computer.

If you use your computer to format your cards, there’s a chance your camera may not be able to read the file structure properly.

3. Format New Cards Before Using

When you buy a new memory card, it’s always good to reformat in your camera before using it. This ensures the card is ready for that particular camera.

4. Format Cards Before Using In Other Cameras

While you could encounter some issues using the same memory card in different cameras, it’s normally not a problem so long as you format the card in the new camera before using it.

5. Don’t Delete Photographs in Your Camera

From what I’ve read, if you delete a single image or multiple images in your camera as you’re out shooting, there’s a higher likelihood that you may have issues with data corruption. You’re much better off waiting to delete images once you’ve downloaded them to your computer.

6. Use Name-Brand Memory Cards

Memory card prices have come down considerably in the last few years and in general, it doesn’t cost a lot more to get name-brand cards.

When your memories are at stake, it’s a good idea to stick with brands that are trusted and recommended. They’re more reliable and tend to have fewer problems.

7. Use Lower-Capacity Cards

Just because they make gigantic memory cards (32gb is crazy big), doesn’t mean you have to use them. And in fact I don’t recommend it.

Let’s say you go on an amazing safari and you brought along just one 16gb card. Sure, that card will fit most, if not all, of your images on it. But what happens if that card fails? What if you lose it? Everything’s gone.

In general, it’s a good idea to have at least 2-3 cards, and I typically recommend either 4gb or 8gb cards depending on how large your images are. I shoot in RAW mainly so I tend to prefer 8gb cards.

8. Don’t Shoot Over the Card’s Capacity

Always be aware of how many images you have left on your memory card so that you don’t go over that number. If you do, the card may have trouble trying to write the data to the card since the card is already full.

9. Don’t Touch Your Camera While It’s Writing or Reading

If you’re downloading images or if you just finished shooting a bunch of images in burst mode, be sure to let the camera finish its task of writing to the card or reading from it before you turn it off or remove the card.

10. Turn off the Camera When Removing a Card

Always turn off your camera before you change memory cards. And I mentioned above, be sure to wait until it has finished writing all the data to the card.

11. Don’t Reuse Cards If You’ve Had Any Problems With It

If you ever have any problems with a memory card, throw it away once you’ve downloaded the images from it. It’s much better to just get rid of it rather than risk the chance of it failing on you in the future.

12. Memory Cards are Not Suitable Backups

I was really surprised to learn that some people use their memory cards just one time, and then when it’s full, keep it as a backup of their images. There’s a much better way.

First of all, memory cards are meant to be reused. And secondly, they’re not ideal for long-term storage.

The best thing is to have at least two copies of all of your images, and I think a combination of hard-drive and online backups is ideal for most people.

13. Properly Remove Your Card From Your Computer

Whether you’re on a Mac or a PC, there’s a proper way to eject, or safely remove, your card from your computer. This ensures you aren’t unplugging your card while any data is being accessed and helps prevent any corruption from occurring.

14. Copy, Don’t Move, Your Images

When downloading your images from your memory card to your computer, do a “copy” instead of a “move.” This ensures that if, during this transfer, any weird interruption occurs (like a power outage or your camera battery dies), you’ll still be able to access the images later.

15. Watch the Camera’s Battery Level

If you connect your camera directly to your computer to download your images, be sure you have enough juice in your camera’s battery to fully complete the download. You wouldn’t want your camera to die mid-transfer.

To Sum Up

There are never any guarantees that you’ll never encounter a corrupted image, but if you follow these guidelines, you’re far less likely to have any problems with your images.

Happy shooting!

memory card photograph by Kim Olson and may not be used without permission


Kim Olson is a travel writer + photographer at KimOlsonPhoto.com where she writes about traveling, simple living and finding creative ways to spend time on the things that matter most. You can also find Kim on Facebook or Twitter.

4 Important (But Easy) Camera Settings You May Not Know How to Use

 

Since many of us are all-purpose writers and photographers on our blogs, it’s a good idea to make sure we’re learning as much as we can about photography as well as writing skills. In today’s guest post from Kim Olson, we’re reminded that some of the most dramatic improvements to our photography can come from the simplest camera settings. Hooray!


Ever read your camera’s manual? Probably not.

I think I’m in the minority of people who actually read those things, and that’s ok. Because for the most part, it’s got a bunch of stuff that most of us don’t really need to know.

But there are a few basic features that a lot of people seem to miss or don’t know how to fully take advantage of.

Whether you’re a point-and-shoot or DSLR camera user, you should be sure you know about and use these key settings.

1. Image Quality

Pretty much every camera has a setting that allows you to choose how large your images are. Some even go as far as letting you choose the image type (RAW or JPEG).

When you first get your camera – or even after you’ve owned it for a while – make sure to set your camera to take the highest quality images available.

The main reason you’ll want to select this setting is that it gives you the most flexibility down the road. If you fall in love with one of your images and want to make a large print out of it, you’ll absolutely need the largest file size possible.

Remember, you can always downsize your images later, but you can never make your images larger after the fact.

2. Zoom

I know this feature seems super elementary – and it is – but a surprising number of people don’t take advantage of it.

Too often, amateur photographers try to get everything into the photo at once, attempting to capture the entire scene. But doing this usually ends up in a cluttered image with no clear subject.

Instead, try using your zoom to “fill the frame.” This technique brings your subject closer to you and helps eliminate distracting elements that don’t add anything to the composition of your image.

These two photos were taken from the same spot. I used a wide-angle lens for one, while the other was shot with a telephoto. While the wide-angle shot isn’t necessarily bad, if I wanted the main focus to be the lighthouse, I think zooming in has a much greater effect.

3. Timer

I think most people mainly use the timer to take self-portraits or to include themselves in group portraits. But another handy, but less known, use is to prevent camera shake.

Say it’s getting dark and you want to capture a scene without bumping up the ISO (which results in a noisier image). Simply put your camera on a tripod or flat surface, turn on the timer and press the shutter.

By using the timer, the camera’s no longer taking the image when you’re pushing the shutter, which is normally the time when you’d cause the camera to be unsteady. Instead, the shutter is activated a few seconds later once your hands are off of the camera.

4. Flash

Your camera’s flash sometimes gets a bad rap. People often associate it with harsh lighting and people with red eyes. And usually they only think to use it at night.

But the flash is a versatile feature that comes in handy during the day, too. Knowing different scenarios when you can use it will usually result in better photos.

Here’s an example of an image taken during the day without flash. (Both photos are completely unedited, straight out of the camera so you can compare the raw results.)

Without a flash, the bench is kind of flat and dull, the background is washed out, and the highlights are too bright and you end up losing a lot of detail in the sky.

Once I turned on the flash, though, you can see more details in the foreground, the color of the sky becomes much richer, and the clouds are no longer washed out.

In Summary

It may surprise you how much you can improve your photographs by learning first how to use your camera’s features, and then pushing it even further beyond what’s normally done.

The best thing to do is to experiment with your camera. Try different settings in scenarios you wouldn’t normally think to use them and see how your photos turn out.

all photographs by Kim Olson and may not be used without permission


Kim Olson is a travel writer + photographer at KimOlsonPhoto.com where she writes about traveling, simple living and finding creative ways to spend time on the things that matter most. You can also find Kim on Facebook or Twitter.

Having a Blog Positioning Statement Could Make You A Better Storyteller

 

We’re all aware of how important it is to make our blogs stand out from the crowd, but we may not know how. Gary Bembridge‘s job as a global marketer for big brands like Unilver and Johnson & Johnson has led him to think about marketing his blog differently, and in this guest post he shares an exercise he thinks can help every blogger articulate what makes their blogs unique.


During TBEX in Girona one of the actions that a number of speakers proposed was for travel bloggers to focus more on storytelling, and in finding a distinctive voice as a writer. Since the conference I have been looking for practical ways to help bloggers like myself turn that aspiration into a reality. This article offers one approach that I think could help.

Have a blog positioning statement.

I believe if you start by generating a “blog positioning statement” you will:

  • Find it easier to find the angle to make every travel story you write unique, consistent and true to your expertise.
  • Find you can better position and communicate your blog to tourist boards and travel brands when looking for them to support and involve you in their activities.

Learn from how major companies position and market their brands.

I have been in brand marketing for over 30 years at major multi-nationals like Unilever and Johnson & Johnson. I believe that if travel bloggers used some of the tools that are used by major companies to guide their brand, it could help them ensure they have a very focused and distinctive blog in the cluttered travel blogging space. The “blog positioning statement” is one such tool.

Travel bloggers need to have a clear target that they are writing for. They need to offer their readers something that brings a clear proposition in the cluttered travel blogging environment. They also need to have a travel blog that is distinctive and unique from all the other travel blogs to ensure people keep coming back to devour their content.

These are all the same principles that major brands have to have to in order to succeed. They all have a “brand positioning statement” to help them identify and focus. I think travel bloggers should have one, too.

4 steps in generating your blog positioning statement

To get a blog positioning statement there are four things that you need to define for your blog. What you are about, who you are for, what you offer, and what makes you different.

To help illustrate each of these, I will give an example of what the massive anti-age brand Olay Regenerist is likely to be. Then I will give an example for my blog TipsForTravellers.com and what I think it would be for NomadicMatt.com. This site is usually listed as one of the top travel blogs based on a compilation of traffic scores.

Before you start on your blog, try it on blogs you admire.

Try and do the exercise for at least one of the travel blogs that you admire before doing it for your blog. You are likely to find that it is fairly easy to do the exercise for successful blogs. They have become successful by being very focused, and it will be clear what they are trying to do. You will also usually find that they will have expressed what they are about clearly in their “About” pages on their site, summarised it for their search engine results and often use it in a tagline for their blog.

Step 1: “I Am The Blog Of”

In no more than a handful of words describe what your blog is about. The fewer the better.

Imagine there is a room of 1000 people interested in travel. You have lost your voice, and all you are able to do is hold up a sign that says what your blog is about. The sign needs to be clear enough to attract the attention of everyone that will be interested in what you cover in your blog. It has to be so motivating that they will get up and follow you into another room to hear more about your content.

You only have room on the sign for at most 5 or 6 words. What would that sign say for your blog?

Here is the brand example:

  • Olay Regenerist is the brand of: High performance anti-age skincare.

The travel blog examples:

  • Tips For Travellers is the blog about: Luxurious travel experiences.
  • Nomadic Matt is the blog about: Travelling better, cheaper, longer.

Take a look at the examples above. I think they all do the following:

  • Clearly tell people what they will be getting if they come to the blog.
  • Are short and memorable.
  • Could be used as a sub-title for the blog as shorthand to summarise the whole blog.
Step 2: “I Am The Blog For”

In a sentence describe who your blog is for. Think attitudes and desires, not age, sex and other statistics.

Imagine you are now with the people that followed you into your room. If they were to describe themselves in a sentence, what do you think they would say? Who do you want them to be?

Brand example:

  • Olay Regenerist is for: Women who want visible anti-age improvements, without having to resort to procedures or surgery.

Blog examples:

  • Tips For Travellers is for: Travellers who have the budget to indulge in a luxurious travel experience, and are seeking inspiration and recommendations. They are interested in the hottest and must-see and do, rather than the unusual, off-the-beaten track and uncharted.
  • Nomadic Matt is for: Travellers nervous about travelling for the first time or taking that first big trip, and those heading somewhere who have absolutely no idea where to start.

Take a look at the examples above. I think they all do the following:

  • Describe what the target for your blog is thinking and wants from travelling.
  • They help the blogger to write for that desire, attitude and expectation, which is easier than writing to a factual demographic like men aged 18 to 24 from the USA.
  • Will help PR agencies and brands understand the type of audience and content you have and are seeking. Most brands target consumers based on attitudes as well as the demographics and so you talking their language too.
Step 3: “I Am Providing”

Describe in a sentence more detail about what your blog is providing to your readers. This is the scope of your blog and the content on it.

Brand example:

  • Olay provides: Dramatically younger looking skin without drastic measures.

Blog examples:

  • Tips For Travellers provides: Inspiration, advice and tips about luxurious travel experiences including destinations, transportation, accommodation, attractions and journeys that you can read, listen to or watch.
  • Nomadic Matt provides: The most up-to-date travel information, tips and advice designed to keep people motivated to travel and help them to travel cheaper, better, and longer.
Step 4: “I Am Different Because”

What do you do that no-one else does? What are you offering travellers that is unique?

It is important to be clear on how you are different from the many other blogs or information sources that travellers could turn to. The best way to get to the heart of what is unique about what you do is to try and describe it by starting your sentence with any of these phrases:

  • “Only I…”
  • “Unlike other travel blogs in my niche, I…”
  • “I am different from other travel blogs because…”

Brand example:

  • Olay Regenerist is different because: It is the only anti-age cream formulated with our exclusive amino-peptide complex.

Blog examples:

  • Tips For Travellers is different because: It draws on over 20 years of global travel experiences from the 2-3 times a month I have been visiting destinations all over the world (for my global marketing job and for vacations).
  • Nomadic Matt is different because: Gives information, advice and tips Matt learnt since starting his travels in 2006 on how to travel long term without a lot of money, without being tied down to a job, and without being rich.
Summary of the travel blog examples

Tips For Travellers is the blog about luxurious travel experiences for travellers who have the budget to indulge in a luxurious travel experience, and are seeking inspiration and recommendations. They are interested in the hottest and must-see and do, rather than the unusual, off-the-beaten track and uncharted. It provides travel inspiration, advice and tips on luxurious travel experiences including destinations, transportation, accommodation, attractions and journeys that you can read, listen to or watch, and is different because it draws on over 20 years of global travel experiences from the 2-3 times a month I have been visiting destinations all over the world (for my global marketing job and for vacations).

Nomadic Matt is the blog about travelling better, cheaper, longer for travellers nervous about travelling for the first time or taking that first big trip, and those heading somewhere and have absolutely no idea where to start. It provides the most up-to-date travel information, tips, advice designed to keep people motivated to travel and help them to travel cheaper, better, and longer, and is different because it has information, advice and tips Matt has learnt since starting his travels in 2006 on how to travel long term without a lot of money, without being tied down to a job and without being be rich.

Wrap-up and action

I believe that having a blog positioning statement will help you focus and ensure you can generate consistent and differentiated stories and content for your blog. It will also help you as you pitch your blog to partners. It works for brands in major companies, and is worth giving it a go.

If you try and develop a blog positioning, why not post it in the comments of this article to help other bloggers as they develop and work on theirs?


Gary Bembridge grew up in Zimbabwe, and has been London based since 1987. He has been travelling every month of every year for the last 20 years thanks to his job as a global marketer for Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and now a global brand consultant. He launched Tips For Travellers in 2005 with a podcast and blog to share learning on how to get the most out of every destination he has visited.

9 Tips for Travel Bloggers with a Day Job

 

Today’s guest post is from Chris Christensen, speaker, blogger and podcaster.  He’ll be speaking on podcasting at TBEX Europe, but in his guest post today he talks about being a busy guy who also has a full time day job.  How does he balance it all and still keep his content fresh and engaging?  Even when he’s not traveling?  Here’s his story.

wall clockThe recent post on TBEX “4 Tips to Keeping A Travel Blog Going While Traveling” is not my problem. I have had a popular travel blog and podcast (Amateur Traveler) for over 7 years, but except for one 8 month break, I have had a full time job that entire time. What traveling I do, as well as what blogging and podcasting, has had to fit into nights, weekends and 3-4 weeks of vacation. For many bloggers, the end of their year long career break is the death of their travel blog, but that does not have to be the case. But, neither can your blog be unchanged.

Think like a Travel Editor

Make friends with a travel editor like Spud Hilton if you can and you will find that most of the time they are doing a normal commute to an office. I am not talking about the travel journalist who hasn’t been to his hometown since the Carter administration, but the guy who gets out the travel section every week or the travel magazine every month. How do they do it?

1) It’s not about your trip

One of the things that Spud will remind you about traditional travel writing is that the story is not about your trip but about the trip that the reader might take. So while the fun part about being a travel blogger or writer is the actual travel, any time you can provide a valuable service for the future traveler you can build a readership (or in my case a listening audience).  After starting the Amateur Traveler podcast I quickly learned that I was going to run out of travel stories since I was traveling about 4 weeks a year and publishing an episode about 48 weeks a year. The solution for me was interviews. Sometimes travel writers get on the phone and talk to someone about a destination. Of course the quality of your content can only be as good as the quality of your sources.

2) It does not always have to be your voice

The most popular style of travel blog is a single author blog. The closest analogy in traditional journalism would be a columnist. You always get the same style and sense of humor. You always know what you are going to get. But clearly, that is not the only model. Magazines and newspapers have for years been using multiple authors, some regular authors, and freelancers. They then use editors to maintain a consistent style or consistent quality standards. Purists will say that this is not a blog. Let them. But remember that there are dangers in this path. Getting other people to offer to give you “free” or affordable content is not so difficult as you might think. At Amateur Traveler I am probably pitched a dozen or two dozen articles a week. Most of these are crap. Some of these are crap that someone would actually pay me to put up on the site. Think like a travel editor. Don’t lose long term readers for short term gain. It is still your site. If you don’t like the article, don’t publish it.

Think Like a Road Warrior

Not all day jobs tie you to a desk. My last job as a Director of Engineering at TripAdvisor had a 2700 mile commute. It was not easy to get hired to manage a group remotely, but once I was, remote in San Jose looks pretty much like remote in Long Beach. My wife had a training class in Southern California and I tagged along. I still had to put in a full day’s work but in the evenings I was enjoying the nightlife and taking pictures for my blog. If your job is on an automobile assembly line they will probably not let you take work home, but if you are knowledge worker you might be able to negotiate some flexibility. My manager is working remotely next week from Maui.

If you travel for work, can you write about business travel? Can you leverage business travel to create content. You may have noticed more content from Boston on the Amateur Traveler over the last 2 years. TripAdvisor was paying for me to travel to Boston one week a month. Sometimes I was able to get out of the office in the evenings or stay an extra weekend. This gave me a great chance to explore a second home base.

Think Like a Hoarder

When you travel constantly you can write about what you saw today. When you travel less often save up and spread out your content. There is a shelf life for your content but most destinations don’t change so much in a year or two that you have to write all your posts now. But, you do have to either keep good notes or write your articles and schedule them. Think about an editorial calendar. When can you get the most leverage for your articles?

Think Like a Collaborator

So you don’t travel every week, but maybe if you created a site with 2 or 3 other reliable partners you could more easily create a steady stream of content. The dangers here are what you do with your spoils when things work well. How will you split up any revenue or opportunities. How will you deal with problems when things go poorly. Will there be a minimum number of posts that each person has to write? If things don’t work out, how will you dissolve your partnership? Who gets the URL? Decide those things in advance as much as possible.

Think Like a Teacher

You don’t have to take pictures of the Eiffel Tower every day to write about how people can take better pictures of the Eiffel Tower. You don’t need to pack your bag every day to teach a novice how to pack better. What skills have you picked up from travel that you could teach? Do you know how to book travel? Do you know how to learn a language? Do you know how to get a visa or renew a passport? All of these skills can be turned into useful articles, videos or podcasts.

Think Like a Local

Do you live someplace where people either do want to travel or should want to travel? Your local tourism board might be looking for someone just like you to help spread the word about your home town or about destinations that you can reach on a weekend excursion. I happen to live near San Francisco. You better bet that you can find pictures, walking tours, shopping advice and other information about the city by the bay on my site.

Think Like a Professional

Make a plan. Go through the categories in this article and come up with 3 blog post ideas for each. Then come up with your own categories. What did I miss?

Author bio: Chris Christensen is the host of the Amateur Traveler, a popular online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog. By day he works at PayNearMe.com where they create products to help people without credit or debit cards pay for things. Chris was formerly the Director of Engineering for TripAdvisor’s New Initiatives group, the EVP Engineering at LiveWorld which runs online communities like those for eBay, HBO, and American Express, and a Software Manager at Apple, Momenta (pen computing) and HP. 

Photo credit:  SXC