Dorene from Travel Life Media is back on the Tourpreneur Podcast with Shane Whaley for more marketing tips for tour operators. This time, its a new monthly series on Blogging. Tune into the audio below or read the transcript to find out how to establish blogging goals and reframe your mindset to create a blog for your tourism website.
Tourism Operator Blogging Tips - Goals and Mindset
Shane: What we thought we would do is a monthly series, rather than just do a two-hour deep dive on Blogging for Tour Operators , we thought we’d break this down into bite-sized episodes that you can tune in and listen to.
Today we’re going to kick off with probably the most important (because this is how we build the foundation of our blogs), which is goals mindset and why even bother taking the time to create a blog. Dorene, what are your thoughts on this? When it comes to mindset: we’re sat down; we want to create a blog. What should operators be asking themselves in the first instance?
Dorene: I would say the first thing is get over that personal fear of putting your voice out there. It’s hard because many people in our audience have a website, and it’s really easy to hide behind a company name. But when it comes to your own personal blog, where you’re writing about a particular topic in your niche, all of a sudden, it changes because the imposter syndrome comes out.
Here are some common imposter syndrome feelings:
- What if someone reads this and they don’t think it’s good enough?
- Or what if no one reads it at all?
- Or who am I to be writing and putting this out in the world? No doubt there are people in this audience that are feeling that way. I certainly have felt that way many times. I have two blogs on my own, but I also write for some other companies. It took me five years of courage to finally take the time to write a blog. So it’s real, that fear of putting your voice out there is real.
Shane: It is. And before we even get to that, I feel the most important thing we need to ask ourselves is why? Why do we want to sit down and publish a blog? What are our goals? When I think about goals with blogging, especially in the professional sense, it’s we blog because we want to get our voice out there, we have something to say. We blog because we want to attract business, we want to attract bookings to our website. And we do that because by blogging, you hope you build credibility, authority, maybe a bit of intrigue, getting your personality out there.
But it also acts as a traffic magnet, that old SEO—which I know you’re an expert on. Blogs are very, very good for SEO; a magnet, a way of attracting traffic to your website.
And also, a lot of bloggers—we forget this—blog for fun. They enjoy writing. They enjoy publishing a blog and getting their opinion or their insight or observation out there in the world. But I think it’s really crucial before tour operators begin blogging that we really ask ourselves, why are we doing this?
Dorene: Yeah. It could be the most basic thing blog should be to answer the important questions that most of your guests have before they go on your tour. That can be a blog in itself. It should be worth your while, too, because you don’t start a blog overnight, necessarily. There’s a lot of nurturing that has to happen with a blog. So yeah, having goals in mind. First and foremost is the right approach.
Shane: Yeah. I think also with the mindset to bear in mind, I would say starting off with adding credibility to your tours. Because as we know, once we get into recovery—which hopefully won’t be too far away—you may be in an area where it’s very competitive.
So let’s say you are leading walking tours in a major city, and there are several walking tour companies. The fact that you have a blog where you’re talking about some of the things that you see on your tours (some of the things people will experience on the tours), that hopefully will give credibility to. Or it could be the decider between your company and your competitor down the road because you’ve taken that time out to blog.
First of all, maybe that’s how a traveler has discovered you because they were Googling and they found your blog post, or they’ve been planning to go to that destination for some time.
I certainly have a list of destinations during COVID that I want to visit, and I’m researching. And as soon as I go to London, I’m booking that walking tour with Jane because she really knows her stuff when it comes to architecture. I love her blog. And money doesn’t come into it. I’m going to book that particular tour or experience. So there is that credibility aspect, and a way of standing out from your competitors, isn’t there?
Dorene: Definitely. There are some good facts out there that say that 60% of businesses say their blog has been really effective at getting people at the early stage of buying.
Blogging can help that person right now who’s in lockdown and dreaming about their next vacation What are they doing right now? They’re researching. And blogs are one of the best ways. You think social media is. Well, chances are they’re looking at social media, but it was a blog that was linked to that piece of social media that got them reading about a particular location.
So yeah, I’d like to think blogging is a really good jump-off point for a lot of things, because it’s a jump-off point for content marketing. Because content is basically built off of things like blogs, and then you can divide it into other things. It helps you with PR, because even if you’re applying for a job or if you’re talking to a publication about your business, chances are you’re going to send them to your blog to talk about the themes and the ideas that you have out there, which is your blog. It can also be your SEO, which we’ll talk about as well, and confidence. So it’s a real jumping off point for a lot of things.
Shane: Yeah, absolutely. And we’re going to dig into a lot of the content creation techniques and tactics in future episodes of the Blogging for Tour Operators series.
Tourism Operator Specific Blogging Tips
Who are you writing for? Who is Your Audience?
I think also, a big question we need to ask ourselves when we’re publishing or creating the blog is, Who is it for? Who’s your audience? Because what I see in my own blog consumption is I tend to read more from thought leaders.
Nikki Padilla Rivera is a great example of this. She produces incredible content around tours. Alex Bainbridge is always very controversial, but I enjoy reading his blog posts because he always gives me something to think about. He knows, and Nikki knows the audience they’re writing for. And I think that’s the key.
Are you writing a blog for potential customers who may book with you? Or do you want to make a stand on sustainable travel and be a thought leader? I think you really need to understand that because it’s very easy to blur the two. And then I think it makes it more difficult to publish blogs if you don’t really know who your audience is, who you’re writing for.
Dorene: 100%. That goes without saying for the tour that you’re building for your business as well. If you don’t know who it’s for, it’s really hard to do.
One really big benefit with blogs is you can always update them and you 100% own it. You can update it all the time and if you decide you don’t like it, you can delete it and try again. That’s the beautiful thing about it. Maybe you don’t feel that you got this one. Go back and redo it. That’s what actually makes it powerful because it’s not 100% static and you have 100% control.
Shane: Yeah, I agree. The other thing when it comes to mindset—It’s the same with any kind of content creation and certainly the same with this podcast—is discipline and consistency. Deciding from the start, I’m going to publish a blog every Monday or the first of every month or every day, whatever it may be. Try and stick to that program and to that schedule. So people know, A, when to expect your next blog post, but B, it will help you with SEO and with that traffic because you’re blogging regularly.
Dorene: And then it keeps you top of mind. Now, to make people feel a little more comfortable with that idea, you don’t always have to be the one blogging either. You can get guest posters to blog for you so you can maintain that schedule. Or it doesn’t even have to be written. It can be an interview with someone, it can be a video that you create into a blog post. It can be audio—which basically you do on the Tourpreneur website—or an infographic, or anything so you don’t have to feel you aren’t going to be able to maintain that. You don’t need to write the most incredibly thought-provoking 1000-word blog post. It doesn’t have to be that way and you can mix things up on your blog.
Shane: Yeah, I agree. And it will be interesting. When you look back when you create the blog, then you see how it evolves and where you’ve taken it. Because it may be you have this goal starting out that changes six months through and you start focusing on other topics, other areas, and that’s fine as well, seeing the evolution of a blog.
Dorene: Yeah. And sometimes you’ll look at it and you’ll think, oh, the traffic? You look on Google Analytics and it wasn’t very good. But you’ve got to really look at it and say, Was it the topic? Or was it the way it was written? It could have been the title, or you didn’t really share it enough. There’s a little bit of problem-solving that goes into it as well to find out what the right content is.
Shane: And that’s the fun part about being a content creator. I love going back over my stats and seeing which podcasts were the most downloaded. And I look at that and say, Okay, was it the guest? Was it the content? Was I just on form with the magnetic headline that day that everyone was like, I must go listen to that. And it’s really to go back and appraise the content because there is so much that goes into the blog post, right? It could be the images, it could be your SEO stuff—definitely headlines are really important. Because right now, we are drowning in content. So you do have to stand out. And if you just type a blog post, Walking Tour in London, you’re probably not going to get that many clicks. But maybe something such as Five Sites in London that the Tour Guide will Never Show You, or something like that, is more intriguing to click on. And this whole art involved. You’re a copywriting expert, but there’s a whole art in that as well.
Dorene: But that’s what makes it fun. It’s that problem solving, figuring out what works, what doesn’t work.
Starting a blog doesn’t mean you have to write a blog- it can be audio, or video, or picture gallery
Shane: You and I think that’s fun. If you’re considering starting a blog, and you don’t actually enjoy writing, maybe a blog isn’t for you. And maybe you want to create audio or video or whatever it may be. I would say to people: don’t force yourself into publishing a blog if you don’t actually enjoy the writing process. Would you agree with that, Dorene?
Dorene: Definitely. I can tell you from personal experience, when I started I was convinced I was going to be a full-time blogger, leaving the corporate world. “This is what I’m going to do.” I was so exhausted, trying to live up to that, and I really wasn’t enjoying it. So instead, I pulled back and thought, Okay, what is it that I really want to do here? What’s important to me, it changed from there and I didn’t actually really like it that much. I just thought it’s something I should be doing because that’s what people do. Or, this would be the normal stage that you’ve got to really dedicate to something and do it really, really well to move on. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s just establishing really good goals and being consistent.
Shane: Absolutely. I would also say that if you want to publish a blog and you’re worried about your grammar, there’s great tools out there. I’m saved every single day by Grammarly that corrects my poor grammar. If you go back a few years, these tools weren’t available. If you had poor grammar, it would show. Now there’s really no excuses because this thing will correct you.
Dorene: I’ll speak specifically for people that are listening that have an English website and you have a blog, and English is not your first language. Hire someone. You can hire someone to edit, you can hire someone to write. You improve it and change it as you go. It’s not a problem.
I use an editor all the time on my blog. I made the mistake of making a really bad mistake on a blog. I had a ridiculously horrible spelling error throughout the entire thing, and I just didn’t even see it when I was scanning and editing. So now I’m going to have an editor relook at this thing because they’re going to catch something that wasn’t even in my head while I was writing it.
Shane: Absolutely. I’ve been saved by Grammarly so many times. I look back and say, “How did I make that mistake? But that’s the really cool thing. Even if you want to write and you’re not confident—especially if English is your second language, or even in my case where I haven’t read a school book in many years. I forget the grammar and even spelling. There are some words I think, “Really? It’s spelled that way?” I have to double check!
Dorene: And then British spelling, American spelling, and Canadian spelling. There are all those things to think about, but don’t worry because you can always change it. You can always hire someone to give it another scan. And if you don’t like it, you can delete it or you can update it. We think the pressure is high but the pressure is relatively low, because of the nature of the medium,
Shane: Absolutely. Pay the $49 for Grammarly. I should get an affiliate link from them because they definitely have saved me.
Another aspect of blogging that I would ask people to consider is if you’re going to go down more the thought leader route or if there’s a particular struggle that you want to write about. Some of your readers might identify that with being thick-skinned. And I’ve had to learn this with the podcast. There are occasionally comments which are pretty cutting. Because not everybody knows how to give constructive feedback. That’s something to be prepared for. It’s kind of the flip side of if you’re getting those comments, it probably means you’re doing well in terms of sharing your blog post and getting it out there. Because that’s when you tend to get those comments. And also, it’s a part of human nature. For most of us, you might get 10 compliments on your blog post, one negative comment, and you just fixate on that one negative comment.
Dealing with criticism and the crickets
Dorene: Yeah. And often, for some reason, people won’t comment unless you do some things to invite people to comment. When you post it on social media and you say please comment, hopefully you’ll get some comments. But people don’t necessarily comment on blogs. And then that alone kind of is a little bit of a frustration. You think, Did people not like it? What did they think? Did they not read it? So whether you get comments or not get comments, you’re going to think something, and it’s going to be personal.
Shane: Going back in time, it would be you would get comments on a blog. Now it seems to me that people don’t really—even on Tourpreneur, I don’t get many comments on the website itself. But when I share on social, that’s when I’ll get, “I listened to this, and I strongly disagree with Jane on such and such.” And that’s where you will get that feedback. You will get it on social rather than just on the website itself.
Dorene: Yeah. And I think that’s just by nature of the forum. There is that kind of natural desire to want to comment and put your voice out. That’s another example of putting your voice out in the world when you comment on social media.
Shane: Absolutely. But I would ask listeners, if they are considering publishing a blog, to just be mindful about putting yourself in the public spotlight. You will get the occasional comment that is negative and it will piss you off all day. I still get that now, several years in. So just be ready for that.
Shane: But that’s like reviews, isn’t it? So walk away. And then you respond to it later.
Shane: I was talking to an author the other day, not in travel, and he was complaining because he had a new book out and most of the reviews are four or five stars. He had one one-star review. Like I just said, it was that one one-star review that really made him angry. And I said, “You know what? You should welcome that one-star review. Because that shows me that you haven’t just got all your mates to leave you reviews.” When I go on something and it’s all five star reviews, I kind of think, Oh, is this some kind of marketing campaign or whatever? So I kind of like to see a few negative reviews because I don’t think real people are buying this. There’s a certain psychology.
Dorene: That’s character building, as you said. It’s the courage to accept those things and how you choose to handle them.
Shane: Yes. If you’re writing about architecture—for instance, let’s say you have a walking tour in London—you’re probably not going to get any negative comments. But once you start going down the thought leader route, you will encounter that. And it’s difficult. Sometimes you have to say, “Okay, this is the stand I’m going to make on a particular issue. I appreciate not everyone’s going to agree with me.” I’m gonna take some flak for this, but be ready for it. But the advice I give is to take a step back and listen. What can you learn from that comment?
Does the other person actually have a good point of view that you haven’t considered before? Engage in discussion and dialogue, especially on social. Because we know that dialogue, the more engagement you get, the more social media channels promote your content or publicize it. So that kind of discussion is actually really good. But it can be difficult sometimes, because our tours and our experiences, they’re our babies. And when you write a blog post, it’s very easy—same with a podcast episode—it’s very easy to get defensive.
You don’t have to be a thoughtleader in this industry to blog
Dorene: Yeah. I think we’ve got a lot of real thought leaders. In this industry, your blog doesn’t have to be a thought leadership type of piece either.
It can be a piece that’s about giving information. You know, what things to do in New York City when when there’s a lockdown, or you can look at it in a lot of different ways.
Shane: We’re going to dig into some of these content areas because there are so many things we can write about. But there’s often the case of the blank page staring back at you when you’re wanting to blog. We’re going to dig into that.
Future Topics on this Blogging for Tourism Operators Series
Some of the other topics that we have lined up for future episodes in this series are
- what you should write about, where to find the best topics,
- how to repurpose content. That’s something I need to do a lot of work on this year.
- Copywriting tips specific to blogging.
- On-page SEO.
- Tracking and analyzing performance.
That’s something else when you’re starting a blog, unless you’ve got a massive social media following. I would say don’t even check the stats for a while. Nobody agrees with me on this, Dorene. And I also say it to fellow podcasters. When starting out, don’t fixate on the stats at the start.
Dorene: I agree with you too, because it’s too maddening. And it’ll make you stop, because you have this expectation that there’s all this visibility and views and everyone’s reading it. Yeah, I’m 100% with you. So for the listeners that are a bit skeptical, saying, “Okay, there’s some personal aspects to it.” It can do some good things, but let’s just share a few facts.
Key Facts to Support Why You Should Start a Blog
- 70% of people would rather learn about a company through articles rather than advertisements. This is not a selling forum. You can do it subtly. Content creation really makes the world go round when it comes to marketing now because it’s the subtleness of it. Helping people get warmed up to knowing who you are. A blog really does that.
- The other thing is that businesses that blog get 55% more website visitors than businesses that don’t. You can get more traffic. You’re marketing your business in a subtler way than selling all the time.
- Websites with a blog get 97% more links than businesses that don’t have a blog. And links are really an important part of SEO, which improves the value of your website. So there are reasons to do it 100%, and bringing new people into your businesses is obviously a big part of it as well.
Guestposting and Watch Out for the Link Builders
Dorene: I have a different point of view on ghostwriting because I also do ghostwriting for some blogs. The most important thing is you need to keep the consistency. The reality is there might be some other people writing it. But you’re always going to be the one that’s looking in and editing it and changing it to make sure you’re comfortable with it because it’s going on your website.
Shane: I can agree with that. But I would also say hiring you probably isn’t cheap and you’ll do a really good job and lots of research. You’ll look at the tone and voice of the website. You’ll go and research the topic being discussed. There are a lot of folks out there that are charging bargain basement prices for blogging, and they’re the ones that you have to be careful of, in my experience.
Dorene: Fair enough. But the same goes for guest posting, which is a really effective strategy that we’ll talk about in future episodes. Having people write about a particular topic that’s related to your theme or your niche. They’re gonna have a different take on it but in the end, you need to feel confident about what’s going on your blog,
Shane: Well, then you go from being a blogger to an editor. You need to decide, Hey, is this content useful? Is it authentic and credible? Is it the right tone for my business, for my website? Maybe you become an editor, not just a blogger. And yeah, absolutely, I strongly believe in guest bloggers. Linkbuilders – I get a ton of email from many of them who want a guest blog on Tourpreneur for things that are just not relevant to the travel industry, let alone to tours. So you need to be very careful when you bring on a guest blogger to a guest post.
Dorene: Those guys are after the link. They don’t even care that their topic is not related to yours, which is annoying. Note that some travel related content can be a good link building strategy for you – partnerships is a good thing.
- Having that credible content will lead to more bookings, more business, and more traffic.
- But I think the main lesson from today is making sure you have that goal in your mind before you start out and know who you’re writing for. Any final tips on that?
- Take a deep breath, because it just feels like one more thing that you have to do on your business. But it can pay out. You can easily do it little by little and not feel like this is going to solve all of your traffic and visibility problems. It won’t. It’s going to take time. Who knows? You might actually enjoy it.
- I agree with that. The other thing I would say is make sure before you even think of publishing a blog that your copy is in good order for your tour descriptions. Your photos are looking good, videos are looking good. Make sure you have the basics in play before you go write a blog post.
On the next episode of Tourism Operator Blogging Tips
- What to write about?
- Where to find good topics?
- How to organize all the good topics you found