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…

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Sorting the Bloggers from the Blaggers at WTM


The “EX” in TBEX covers many bases – an exchange of ideas, knowledge, and (when we get together at conferences) business cards.  Increasingly that exchange is growing to include exchanges with destinations and  travel industry representatives. And that latter exchange is something we want to keep improving upon.

Next month, TBEX’s CEO, Rick Calvert, is headed to London for the World Travel Market trade show where, among other activities, he’ll be speaking on a panel at the WTM Social Travel Market on the topic of  “How to sort the bloggers from the blaggers.” This session is geared toward travel companies and PR representatives who want to work with travel bloggers, but who might not know how to tell whether they’ve got the best bloggers for their particular clients.

As we heard during a session at TBEX in Girona, quantifying the “value” of a blogger is tricky (if not impossible), so what is the travel industry to do? Rick and his co-panelist, Ayngelina Brogan (of Bacon is Magic), will attempt to sort some of this out for WTM attendees, giving suggestions and recommendations for how to find the right blogger for the right project.

Here’s the official session description:

By now, every PR and travel company has its own list of favoured bloggers. But there is no centralised list, no directory of the good – and the poor – bloggers. There was a stab at Tbex in Girona recently to quantify the value of a blogger – and semantic algorithms are on their way. Meanwhile, it’s the Wild West out there, so enter two speakers to help clarify things. Ayngelina is part of a team who have created the Professional Travel Bloggers Association, while Rick runs Blogworld out of North America and, a year ago, bought The Travel Bloggers’ Exchange (TBEX). They’ll tell you what it takes, and what 2013 holds in terms of sorting the blaggers from the bloggers.

This is, of course, a much bigger discussion than just an hour-long chat at WTM.

Some of you may remember discussions about an independent vetting process for bloggers and a sort of blogger code of conduct at previous editions of TBEX, and the subsequent creation of TBEX Connect.

It seems like there’s a desire to have a quick-fix directory where connections can be made based on quantifiable criteria as well as qualitative research.  But has that concept reached critical mass yet? Does a directory run the risk of short cutting the due diligence that needs to be done by both sides?  Or is it maybe that the perfect system hasn’t yet been put forward?

What do you think?
What do you want to hear Rick and Ayngelina address during their WTM panel? Share in the comments below!

If you’ll be attending the WTM Social Travel Market, Rick and Ayngelina’s session, “How to sort the bloggers from the blaggers,” is in the South Gallery, Rooms 23-26 from 2:30-3:30 on Wednesday, November 7. The discussion will be moderated by Steve Keenan.

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 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.

So You Want to be a Speaker at TBEX 13: Tips, Procedures & Information


Toronto skyline

Next week we’ll be opening up the speaker submissions for TBEX 2013 in Toronto. We get tons of speakers submissions and even more emails about wanting to be a speaker at one of our events. Unfortunately, far too many of these ideas and submissions are the wrong fit for our audience. Sometimes we have been able to take the germ of an idea, have further discussion, and turn it into a great submission. Other times we can’t.

We want to introduce new speakers and new topics to our TBEX attendees. To help you with the submission process, to let you know what we expect of our speakers, and to give you information on what we’re looking for, we’ve prepared this list tips and information. Fair warning, it’s a lengthy list. That’s because we take our obligation to provide a quality program seriously. If you’re serious about being a speaker at TBEX, reading, understanding and following these guidelines will serve you well.

Here’s the best advice I can give you on how to be selected as a speaker for TBEX Toronto.

The call for speakers for TBEX Toronto is now open. Here’s the submission form to use, after you read the rest of this post!

Choose Your Topic Carefully

Make your topic narrow. All too often we see topics so broad that the information about it could fill several shelves at the library. Attendees universally complain about sessions with too broad of a focus. Instead, zero in on one or two aspects of the topic and see if that makes for a more manageable focus. Sessions are slotted for one hour, which should include about 10-15 minutes for questions and answers, and without a laser-like focus you won’t be able to send attendees home with useful information.

Attendees don’t really care about you, what you’ve done, or how important the topic is to you. They care about what’s in it for them, about what they can take away and use on their own blog or in their own business. Make sure you provide them with a valuable answer to the question “what’s in it for me?” Just because it’s your pet topic doesn’t mean everyone else will care, so make sure you’ve thought about it from the attendee perspective.

If your topic is all about your product, your website, or you, it’s probably not the right topic for a session. Our focus is strongly on education and we have a no selling from the platform policy. If you have a product to sell we’re excited for you, and we’ll gladly quote you a rate for a marketplace table. This applies to bloggers as well as industry representatives.

Are you committed to TBEX or committed only to speaking? Do you believe in what we’re trying to do to provide learning and networking opportunities for travel bloggers or are you looking for a free trip to somewhere fun. We select topics and speakers who can held educate our attendees both in their sessions and through networking over the course of our entire event. Preference is given to speakers who are available and who plan to attend the full event, not just speak and leave.

Co-presentations, with each speaker taking a portion of a topic, are generally better received than solo ones. While you may be a subject matter expert, ask yourself if including co-presenters might give the topic a more well rounded coverage.

Presentations should not always be about presenters agreeing with one another, so don’t be afraid to get differing opinions and viewpoints in a session. It gives the attendees more to relate to and think about.

Most sessions should be targeted toward an intermediate skill level, although a few beginner and advanced sessions will be included. Most of our attendees consider themselves at an intermediate skill level, but we also need to provide content to attract beginners to TBEX and to keep and challenge the advanced bloggers. In submitting your proposal, give us an honest appraisal of the skill level you are aiming at. We are looking for some advanced sessions for Toronto – those geared to bloggers who’ve been at it for awhile, who are established and successful. These sessions should focus on advanced, in depth discussions that can provide a different way of looking at the status quo, that challenge long-held beliefs, and that create the rumblings of a philosophical discussion that can revolutionize travel blogging.

You should be able to provide a brief description of what your session is about. If it takes too long to explain it, chances are that you need to go back and re-think the focus.

Pay attention to writing about the takeaways an attendee will get from your session. This is the most important part of the conference for attendees, so spend some time thinking about what message and information you want to convey. If these aren’t specific, go back to the drawing board. Keep in mind that attendees will be evaluating your session on how you lived up to your promise of the takeaways – your session needs to deliver what you say it will.

But wait, there’s more, so keep reading

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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 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 and what I think it would be for 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.

Have You Followed Up?


Today’s guest post is from Amy Moore, a speaker at TBEX Europe on the topic of How to Pitch.  If you’ve ever returned home from a conference with lots of business cards, but no idea what to do, you’ll want to pay close attention to Amy’s suggested follow ups.

Amy MooreLet this article be your reminder to follow up with contacts you made during TBEX in Costa Brava, if you haven’t already.  Following up is a crucial part of networking, and it is the biggest point of failure for many travel bloggers.

Why Follow Up is Necessary

Think back to how many conversations you had at TBEX.  I am willing to bet you had close to a hundred, if not more.   Every person you had a conversation with had as many connections as you did.  If it was an industry rep, think about what they do for a living.  They might have already been to another convention and had another hundred conversations since then.  While not every social exchange warrants follow up, you can see why a conversation you had could be easily forgotten without it.

Steps to Take Now

First, follow up on any action items you have after the convention.  Make following up on any specific partnership ideas with industry reps or other bloggers your top priority.  Hammer out the specific details, and get started!  Since you already have specifics in mind, this is the least likely to fall off your radar.

Next on the priority list is to begin on any non-specific plans you discussed.  If you know you vaguely want to work with someone you met at TBEX, develop a pitch and begin to discuss possibilities.

Building Relationships

After you take care of immediate priorities, don’t forget to follow up with people you met and want to establish a long term relationship with.  These are the other bloggers or industry reps you met that don’t fall into the categories above.  Maybe you don’t know how, or if, you’ll ever work with them in the future.  But you had a great conversation with them or you really love what they are doing.  Focuses shift and priorities change.  A casual, but genuine, relationship you begin today may pay off years down the road.

This is a continual process, however.  One quick email saying “great to meet you!” does not make a relationship.  Did you have a conversation about something you are both interested in?  Periodically when you see news about it, drop them a line and include a link you think they will find interesting.  Did you see a press release about their company or do you see a project they are working on that you find interesting?  Drop them an email and say so.  Congratulate them when they grow.  While it is far from rocket science, building relationships can be crucial to your long term success.

TBEX Europe Survey is Out

Now that nearly everyone is back home from their extended travels in Europe post-TBEX, we’ve got our survey together and ready to hit your inbox.

We want to know what you think about TBEX Europe! From the parties to the keynotes. From the pre and post-conference day trips to the break out sessions. From the party at the castle to the extended stay hotel options. From the topics to the speakers to the venue, it’s all fair game as you give us your feedback on what worked, what didn’t, and what you’d like to see next year for TBEX Europe 13.

The survey is anonymous, although you have the option to leave contact information if you wish. You feedback is important to us, so please take the time to tell us what you think.

Check your email inbox- and your spam file, too, just in case.  If you don’t receive the survey please let us know.

Photo credit: SXC

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!