01 How Top Travel Bloggers monetise their blogs – podcast

by Heather Cowper on 19, April 2011

In Podcast 01 I interview four well established travel bloggers, who are making money from their travel blogs, about the different strategies they use to monetise their sites. We cover different income streams such as advertising from contextual and banner ads, sponsored posts and commission from affiliate products. We also hear about some less obvious strategies such as contextual ads on photographs, and fees for speaking, writing  and consultancy.

Whether your travel blog is already making money or just getting started, you’ll learn some really useful tips from Keith Jenkins of Velvet Escape, Karen Bryan of Europe a la Carte, Alastair McKenzie of Travel Lists and Matt Preston of Travel with a Mate. The interviews in this podcast were recorded at the Travel Bloggers Unite conference in Manchester, where there was a panel discussion on monetisation for your blog.

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Show notes

Keith Jenkins writes at Velvet Escape

Keith Jenkins Velvet Escape

Keith Jenkins Velvet Escape

When he started his blog, Keith’s main focus was on building a brand and producing quality content, rather than making money and once the blog was established he found that advertisers were approaching him rather than the other way round.

Banner Advertising;

  • Keith finds that banner advertising provides a stable monthly income
  • Most approaches are through online PR agencies who have a portfolio of travel clients and feel that Velvet Escape matches their client’s brand.
  • Keith prefers to accept advertising for a period of 3-6 months to allow him to periodically review his pricing.
  • He offers 2 options for banners – either on a particular post or in the sidebar, with different pricing structures for each.

Contextual advertising;

  • Keith originally had contextual ads at Velvet Escape he has now taken them down as he feels they do not match the look and feel of Velvet Escape.
  • However Keith’s photo blog at The Happy Explorer does include Google ads and also ads that appear when you hover over the photo.
  • The advertising on the photos is through Image Space Media and this is working well, although Keith initially hesitated to include these kinds of ads.

Sponsored posts;

  • Keith works with a limited number of sponsors for sponsored posts and limits the number to around 1 per week, mixed in with his own articles.
  • There is a disclosure on his website that tells readers that he accepts sponsored posts.
  • Keith is very particular about the quality of article that he accepts and refuses articles that are not well written, working with sponsors to ensure the content suits the style of Velvet Escape, so that readers do not feel that they are reading something completely different to other articles on the blog.

Indirect income streams;

  • Keith also earns money from talking at seminars, workshops and conferences.
  • He believes that travel bloggers will become influential enough in the future to be paid for endorsing travel products or destinations.
  • He also is starting to write columns on the websites of travel operators, who are also keen to tap into Keith’s network of readers

Alastair McKenzie runs Travel Lists

Alastair McKenzie of Travel Lists

Alastair McKenzie of Travel Lists

Travel Lists is not a typical travel blog, but more of  a directory with a series of lists of travel providers grouped into different categories. The website started because as a journalist Alastair was continually being asked for tips on his favourite places to go and best travel companies to use. The most successful income stream is the core business of fees for reviews, followed by affiliate links, followed by Google ads which gives Alastair a bit of extra beer money.

Review Income;

  • Alastair charges £12.50 to companies who wish to be considered to be included in the lists on his site.
  • The payment is for Alastair to review the travel provider and decide whether to include them on the site, but does not guarantee that they will be included, if Alastair does not consider them suitable.
  • Although Alastair asks for information from the travel company, he writes the information about them himself.
  • The review charge is a one off fee and once added to his site, there is no further charge for a company to remain on the site, although a company may later be removed from the site if their standards slip.

Advertising;

  • Alastair uses some Google ads on his site as the contextual nature works well on the different themed pages.
  • There are certain slots that are used on the site for this kind of advertising, but Alastair does not overpopulate the site with Google ads, and there are some pages such as index pages where he does not include any ads, to ensure the speed of navigation around the site.

Affiliate income;

  • Alastair finds affiliate partners through sites such as Affiliate WindowTrade Doubler and Commission Junction which have a huge range of affiliate partners.
  • Alastair works with around 60 different affiliate partners, choosing travel related companies that he has already mentioned on the site.
  • The way it works is that if a reader clicks on an affiliate link on your blog and then goes on to make a purchase (normally within 30 days) you will receive a commission of 3-5% on that purchase.
  • Text links in individual pages are more successful than links from banner ads in making affiliate commission
  • Income from this source is generally fairly stable although it may fluctuate depending whether people make large purchases.

Karen Bryan runs Europe a la Carte

Karen Bryan Europe a la Carte

Karen Bryan, Europe a la Carte

Karen finds that you have to have many irons in the fire, and make a bit of money from many different sources. She also believes that it is important to pay attention to SEO as quality content alone will not be enough to drive traffic to your site and you need to also pay attention to the keywords that you use. Traffic is important as this is what advertisers are looking for when they approach you.

Affiliate income;

  • This may be based either on click throughs or on actual purchases.
  • Karen finds that affiliate links in the body of the article are more successful than banner ads for affiliate partners in the sidebar.
  • For instance Karen may use Hotels Combined links to hotels in a country or city that is mentioned in the article, or links to a  prepaid payment card in an article on how to avoid Ryanair fees.
  • Karen chooses companies that she has used herself and is happy to recommend, even if other companies give more commission.
  • She finds that you have to sign up for a number of third party suppliers such as Trade Doubler and Commission Junction.

Advertising;

  • Karen sometimes works directly with travel companies and sometimes through their advertising agents – they normally approach her rather than the other way around.

Writing;

  • Karen also writes for other travel websites and can be paid around £30 per article, but the companies are also looking for exposure through Karen’s network.
  • While it is reassuring to find that someone is prepared to pay you to write for them, you may feel that the time is better spent writing for your own blog.

Matt Preston runs Travel with a Mate

Matt Preston, Travel with a Mate

Matt Preston, Travel with a Mate

Matt finds that offering consultancy services is the most successful financially for him but advertising also also successful and is helpful to the bloggers who write on Travel with a Mate.

Advertising;

  • In the early days Matt approached a lot of advertisers but now they tend to approach him.
  • He doesn’t have a standard rate card as the website is fairly new and by trial and error has worked out the optimum rate that he is able to charge
  • Some advertising is site wide which commands a premium, and advertising is also available on specific posts.

Sponsored posts;

  • Matt charges on a per campaign basis, starting at £50 for the first month and £35 per month for following months, depending on the goals of the sponsor such as SEO, buzz, competitions, seasonal sales.
  • Matt has a policy of charging on a monthly basis rather than a one off fee, which gives him more flexibility if the blog design changes
  • He also feels that accepting one off payments is not a sustainable business model, as it could clog up their site with so many links so that the integrity of the blog is lost.
  • Matt keeps sponsored posts in a separate featured articles section and makes it clear that articles are sponsored within the wording of the article.

Indirect income streams;

  • Matt offers consultancy to PR companies on how to work with bloggers.
  • He developed relationships through making appointments with PR companies at the World Travel Market in London.
  • Many PR companies want to work with bloggers but  need advice on the best ways to appoach travel bloggers.
  • Although it was not mentioned in this podcast, Matt has also started creating his own on-line products such as his e-book on How to start a successful site with WordPress

Links to sites mentioned in the podcast

Keith Jenkins blogs at Velvet Escape and The Happy Explorer
Alastair McKenzie blogs at Travel Lists
Karen Bryan blogs at Europe a la Carte
Matt Preston blogs at Travel with a Mate
Keith Jenkins uses photo advertising from Image Space Media at The Happy Explorer
Affiliate websites mentioned: Affiliate Window, Trade Doubler, Commission Junction

This article is originally published at My Blogging Journey. You’ll also find lots of great travel stories, videos and podcasts at my travel blog at Heather on her travels

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