Seven Rewards to Keep Your Blog Readers Coming Back for More


“Can I ask for some volunteers?”

I’m usually a stand-in-the-shadows kind of gal, but when touring the Old Jameson Distillery as part of the TBEX Dublin experience, my hand shot up. I had heard that volunteers got the chance to taste more whiskey, and I wasn’t about to turn that down. Our guide handed eight volunteers, including myself, weird-looking cardboard sticks, and away we went on our tour.

whiskey tasting at Jameson

About an hour later, I was sitting with my fellow volunteers at a special table doing a taste-test comparison of whiskies while everyone else looked on. It was a cool experience in and of itself, but at the end, they surprised us with a little certificate, naming us official taste-testers for Jameson. The weird-looking cardboard sticks were actually for rolling our documents and taking them home.

That certificate took what…three or four cents to print? But it elevated my experience at Jameson to a much higher level. It’s a memento that I will show my friends and keep forever. Jameson did something small to reward me, and in exchange, I feel compelled to tell others about my experience, which promotes their brand and encourages others to go on their tour to be rewarded as well.

You can achieve this same effect on your blog with little rewards for your blog readers. They don’t have to cost much money. In fact, they can even be free to you in some cases. That “something special” will help you turn readers into fans and fans into advocates. Here are some of the best ways to reward your readers:

Reward #1: Bring blog readers special discounts and freebies.

If you’re writing an post about some awesome curry you had at this little restaurant in Idaho of all places, you’re going to surprise your readers with your content alone. If you give them a discount code at the end of the post that they can redeem when in town so they can try the food for themselves, you’re going to surprise and delight them! When you’re writing a post, it’s very easy to reach out to destinations and companies to ask for some kind of freebie or coupon for your readers. Many are happy to oblige, since it means more promotion for what they’re doing. The worst you can get is a “no” and at best, that first communication turns a sponsorship deal.

Reward #2: Host contests.

Remember, the majority of your blog readers are probably not travel bloggers who get to have the same experiences you get for free. They’re pinching pennies to make a trip to Tanzania or a hike in Hawaii possible. When you’re invited on trips, consider making a giveaway prize one of your negotiation points with the destinations or company.

Reward #3: Respond to comments.

Your readers, especially the core members of your community, come to your blog because they admire you. You are a kind-of, sort-of a celebrity in their world. Responding to comments gives them a little piece of you that is extremely personal. It’s a way to reward blog readers at zero cost to you, other than your time. You can also take the time to actually answer emails. My personal opinion is that if you don’t have time to answer all the emails you get, you’re probably at the point where you should consider hiring a VA (read more about that here).

Reward #4: Create a loyalty program.

Reward your readers using a points system or badges for interacting with the community. You don’t even have to give real prizes. Readers love to display the fact that they have a high number of points or have a badge identifying them as a veteran member of your community. It encourages readers to come back again and again, in addition to making them feel good.

Reward #5: Ask some blog readers to become comment moderators.

This does involve working closely with a few readers and ensuring that you really trust them. But by giving your most loyal and active readers a higher status, you’re acknowledging them—and that’s something that most people really want.

Reward #6: Create contributor opportunities for your community.

Chances are that most of your readers travel as well. Allow them to contribute to your site through a guest post. Reward them with a profile/bio on your site, and even consider some compensation if the post and your budget justifies it. (As an added bonus, allowing guest posts can also make YOU a better blogger.)

Reward #7: Share readers’ posts.

Not all of your readers will also be bloggers, but when you do have a reader who is a blogger, acknowledge them on social networks. Share one of their posts or retweet a link. It might not be possible to spend all day sharing links from every single reader, but you can take the time to acknowledge a few people every day. You can also just say a simple “thank you” to people who share your posts.

BONUS Reward: Get off the beaten path to reveal locations’ secrets. This might not at first sound like a reward in the traditional sense, but the whole point is to surprise and delight readers. There are three types of travel bloggers:

  • There are those who visit a destination and tell you the facts/experiences that anyone would have there.
  • There are those to dig deeper to find special things to do that most people wouldn’t otherwise know about.
  • There are those who interview the bus driver to get his take on things, convince tour guides to share secrets that the public shouldn’t know, and follow waiters to see where they hang out after work.

Be the third type. Quality content rewards your readers every single time they come to your blog to check out a new post. Push yourself to always go one step farther, so you’re constantly giving your blog readers goosebumps, making them gasp, and evoking emotional responses.

How do you reward your blog readers?

7 Phrases That Make Me Ignore Your Guest Post Query


This post about guest post mistakes was previously published on the NMX blog, but I wanted to share it here as well, since travel bloggers aren’t immune to HORRIBLE guest post inquiries!!!

Doesn’t it just make you cringe when you see a subject line in your email inbox about a guest post?

computer keyboard

No, don’t get me wrong. I love guest posts. The world of guest posting might be changing, but here on the TBEX blog and on the NMX blog, we’re guest-post-friendly! But the problem is that 9 out of 10 people who send me queries about guests posts are unoriginal and off target. What can I expect from a guest post if you can’t even write a 100-word email properly?

I do try to reply to everyone, even these poorly-written emails, but there are only so many hours in a day. So, if I don’t reply to your guest post query, it probably included one of the following phrases and made me wrinkle my nose. Don’t make these guest post mistakes in your next email!

“Our writers will create…”

If you’re not the person who will be creating the guest post, I probably don’t want to talk to you. I want to talk to your writer. Now, occasionally, I do work with agencies and others who relay information to a writer, but most of the time, people who email me regarding what their writers will do submit horrible posts from a team of “writers” (I hesitate to even call them that) who clearly do not have a grasp on the English language.

For a guest post to be beneficial to me, it has to be your BEST work. Your best work. If you’ve hired a team of writers to create 100 guests posts a week, I’m not going to get something high-quality from you.

“We are offering this to you free of charge…”

I didn’t come to you asking you to post on this blog. You came to me. Noting that what you’re offering is free sounds extremely arrogant, almost like you expect me to say, “No, no. Let me pay for it.” If you approach me, you aren’t doing me a favor by guest posting. I’m doing you a favor by giving you access to my audience.

Some blogs paid for guest posts, but it’s our philosophy that guest posts are freely traded in exchange for promotion. If you think you deserve to get paid, apply for a freelancing job or find a blog that pays guest posts. No hard feelings. We all gotta eat.

“All we ask is…”

If you’re asking me for a guest post spot, please don’t make demands. That’s like asking a neighbor to feed your fish while you’re out of town and then saying, “In return for getting to feed my fish for a week, all I ask is that you also clean his tank.” Yes, I know that there are benefits to having guest posts on my blog. But you are approaching me. You don’t get to make demands.

Furthermore, we have rules. If you cared enough to read my guidelines, you’d know that. Most of the time, what the person is asking for breaks the rules. No es bueno.

“Please reply in…”

I receive this “threat” all the time. If I don’t reply in x number of days, then they’re taking their ball and going home.

Listen. I’m a busy gal. I try my best to respond to all guest post queries in a week. If I don’t respond to you, by all means, follow up with me, and note that if you don’t hear from me you’ll be pursuing other opportunities with the proposed guest post. But giving me a deadline in your initial email when you have no idea about my schedule is just rude. I almost certainly won’t reply if you make a demand like that. It just tells me that working with you will be too stressful, and I hate stress.

“Let me know what you’d like me to write about…”

I have no idea what you’re an expert on. The biggest advantage of having you guest post is that you’ll provide insight into a topic that I haven’t covered (or perhaps don’t have the skills to cover). If you don’t know what you want to write for your guest post, it tells me know of two things:

  1. You aren’t really an expert on anything in this niche.
  2. You haven’t reviewed the blog at all to see what kind of content we publish.

Usually both. If you’re pitching me on a guest post, PITCH ME on a guest post. Don’t half-heartedly ask if you can write something for me and then expect me to tell you what you are capable of writing.

“…high-quality, well-researched article…”

First of all, they are blog posts, not articles. Second of all, if you have to say something is high-quality and well-researched, it usually isn’t. The vast majority of the emails I get regarding guest posts include this phrase (or something very similar) and it is always a red flag for me. It’s the biggest of the guest post mistakes, in my opinion!

“Dear sir/madam…”

This is ridiculous, but I get it all the time. If you can’t be bothered to find my name, am I really going to believe that you read through the blog to see what kind of content I publish? Half the guest post queries I get don’t even know if I’m male or female. Come on, people.

Beyond telling me that you didn’t care enough to read my past posts, it also tells me that you’re taking the “spray and pray” technique to this whole guest blogging thing. Which means you are probably writing crappy, quick posts for everyone and maybe even “spinning” low-quality copy to take one piece of content and create dozens of versions, each worse and more generic than the last.

So those are my seven most hated guest post email phrases. What would you add to the list?

Photo credit:

TBEX CEO Rick Calvert Talks About Why Europe is Important to TBEX


Michael Collins interviews TBEX CEO Rick Calvert about why Europe is such an important part of the TBEX experience. Rick also gives some inside info about what TBEX has to offer – from pre-BEX trips and tours, through the conference with great speakers, to all the post-conference events.

Find out what you missed in Dublin, and why you won’t want to miss it 2014.

Internet Privacy: How Much of Yourself Should You Share With Your Community?


“It’s my birthday today. My real birthday, not my Internet birthday.”

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend, and I was surprised when he revealed that it was his birthday, because I had previously thought that his birthday had been months ago. Turns out, he has a “birthday” that he celebrates on Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites, but it’s not his actual birthday. He keeps the date of his real birthday private.

happy birthday cake with candles

Recently, I wrote about a session at TBEX Dublin about connecting with readers on a personal level, but the conversation about birthdays got me thinking about internet privacy: how much of your story should you actually share?

And while this is an important question to ask in any niche, I think it is especially important for travel bloggers. Do you want people knowing when you are traveling and away from home? Do you want to share where you are in the world? Do you want pictures of your family circulating online?

The Advantages of Sharing Online

While I do understand why some people choose to keep details of their lives private, I think it’s important for all bloggers to realize that sharing more helps you to better connect with your readers.

The truth is that most of us are voyeurs. That’s why even the most track-wreck reality shows out there end up being really popular. We’re all curious about how other people live, and we all like to feel that we’re not alone

Sharing details about your adventures allows people to experience the world through you eyes. Most people never get the opportunity to travel to all of the locations that you do, but on your blog, they get a taste of what it is like.

I think sharing the everyday details is even more important. Oh, you get nervous before flying even though you’re an experienced traveler? Me too! You love that feeling of your pet getting excited when you get home? Me too! Your favorite dessert is chocolate cake? Me too!

Those details may seem mundane to you, and even though you might like to thing you’re unique, we all also love that feeling of knowing that other people are just as weird as we are.

Why Internet Privacy Sometimes Makes Sense

Even though I think sharing details of your life can be beneficial for building your community, I also take Internet privacy very seriously. Sometimes, keeping details to yourself just makes sense.

As a travel blogger, here are a few things to consider:

  • If you write controversial content, you might not want to announce where you’ll be traveling until you’re on your way home. It’s great to meet fans, but if can ruin your trip if you run into trolls and people who just don’t like you.
  • Do you have a house sitter? If not, telling people when your house will be empty might not be a good idea.
  • It isn’t always good to share pictures of your kids online. For all family members, as soon as they are old enough, it’s good to talk to them about what THEY want to share online.
  • In some areas of the world, sharing your itinerary could make you a target.

Beyond safety, sometimes it just makes sense to keep details private because being out there in the public – yes, even if your community is small – can be emotionally exhausting. Sometimes, the whole “Internet privacy” issue is just about having certain things to yourself.

I choose to be more of a “sharer” than most, but I also respect the Internet privacy choices my friends make. There are also details that I just will not share online (and I imagine the number of those details will increase once I have kids).

What about you? Is Internet privacy a concern? Do you share a lot of personal details on your blog or do you choose to keep most details private?

Photo credit:  SXC

Introducing the Monthly TBEX Travel Blogging Challenge


We’re starting a new TBEX project and inviting YOU – the TBEX community – to participate.

It’s a monthly themed travel blogging challenge. Some months it’ll be a specific writing challenge, pushing you to improve your skills, other months it will be a chance to showcase some of your best work from your archives, and still other months we want it to be an opportunity to kick back for a good laugh. We hope it will be an opportunity to work on your craft (whether that’s written, visual, or auditory), as well as a chance to get to know fellow community members. And hey – community members working in the travel industry – you are invited to participate, too.

TBEX Toronto stage

To kick things off this month, we’re just asking you to share one of your favorite posts. No particular challenge or theme to start off, but check out below to discover our theme for December.

To participate, just click on the “add your link” button at the bottom of the post, follow the easy steps, and voila, you’ll be part of of this month’s TBEX Travel Blogging Challenge. And here’s a tip, on the screen that asks for Name, put in the name (title) of your blog post rather than your blog’s name or your own name, as that will entice readers to click through to learn more.

Because we have to be responsible in sharing content, there are a just few guidelines to keep things on the up and up.

  • Show us your best stuff. Sure, you might be learning and just starting to work on your craft, and there’s no need to worry about that. Make sure your contribution represents the best you can do today and it’s all good. This is also a chance to learn and grow, no one is going to make fun of your progress.
  • Only one link per per blog.
  • Links are moderated to keep off-topic and spam posts out. Please be patient, we’ll get yours approved as quickly as possible. And, of course, check back to see links from new participants.
  • Remember the good old days when blogging was about sharing and being a good community member? This is a chance to bring back some of those values by sharing the TBEX community love with everyone participating in the TBEX travel blogging challenge. We hope you’ll click through and read these posts, comment, and share with your own communities via social media. It’s just a nice thing to do.
  • The theme for November 2013 is simple – merely sharing one of your favorite travel posts.

Blogging Theme for December 2013

Our December travel blogging challenge will be published on December 5th. The December 2013 theme is Holidays and Festivals. We know travel is intricately entwined with celebrations, so it should be easy to write a post (or find something in your archives) that fits the theme. Stretch yourself, try something new, show us what you all can do.