So here, we are at the beginning of a new year in 2015, reflecting over what we learned in the last year and how we can apply it to our endeavours in this new year. For my blog at Heather on her travels, here’s what I plan to do differently in 2015.
1. Refine my audience focus
When I first started my blog I wrote about a random mix of things that interested me, but over the years my travel style has developed along certain core themes and I’m clearer about the audience I want to target. In 2015 I want to use this “blog persona” to determine everything I do on the blog so that it presents a coherent message to my readership.
My four core travel themes are Culture (which can encompass art, design, fashion, historic places and local customs), Food (from fabulous street food to Michelin star experiences), Hiking (incorporating other soft adventure such as walking and cycling) and Cruise (which also includes the food, sightseeing and culture themes).
The person I have in mind when I write is an energetic woman aged 40+ who travels with a curious mind and wants to find a quality travel experience. She enjoys staying in nice hotels, eating great food but it’s not always about the price tag, more about the experience. She is normally travelling with family or friends and will happily visit mainstream destinations although always looking for an authentic experience that goes beyond the stereotypes and tick list sights.
Having clarified my core travel themes and target audience I’m hoping will help me not to be distracted into chasing “shiny objects” and provide a more coherent message that will resonate with my audience.
2. Develop my Social Media by working smarter not harder
I was a late developer in the world of social media. It was not until I got my first iPhone to replace my old cheapo mobile that I was converted and started to have fun in the world of social media. Although I have a pretty good following across a range of social media platforms, I feel that I still have some catching up to do develop my following and engagement with my audience.
As I work with brands on many of my trips and track the results to share with them, I realise that social media is an increasingly important part of the mix that is used to judge reach, engagement and success. Although I also know that social media does not necessarily lead to many more website views I do see it as a way of improving visibility, personal branding and demonstrating good results to sponsors, not to mention having some fun.
However my plan is to work smarter not harder at this area, using all the information I can find from experts to drive my efforts as well as the analytics available from platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to determine what works best. I am already using automation tools to pre-schedule useful content and my latest articles, which should then free me up to ‘check-in’ on different platforms regularly to interact and share more “in the moment”. Over the year I want to focus on each platform in turn and learn all the tips and tricks I can so that I can systemise and organise my efforts most effectively.
3. Ditch the guest posts
In the last few months I’ve decided to stop accepting guest posts on my blog. Originally I was happy to use guest posts as a way to broaden the range of travel destinations I could cover on my blog and give a helping hand to newer bloggers who wanted some exposure for their work. However the reality is that the majority of guest post I get are poor quality and often thinly disguised link building attempts. Even those that are from genuine bloggers are often so poorly written that I end up spending hours on editing or re-writing, finding better photos and generally making them presentable.
As I refocus on my key themes and target reader, I’ve decided that my time would be spent better on writing more of my own work than on preparing someone else’s article that may not even be suited to my audience. I’m not ruling out guest posts from blogging friends that are aligned with my blog, but from now my default position is not to accept guest posts.
4. Develop the newsletter
Last year I signed up for Mailchimp and started my newsletter, something that was long overdue. I have a steady trickle of people signing up, boosted by the occasional giveaway that I run, but I haven’t so far really capitalised on this. Somehow it always falls to the bottom of my to do list to get that next newsletter out, especially when I’ve been travelling and it’s as much as I can do to keep up with writing my next blog post.
Yet every internet marketeer I know preaches the importance of building a list of true fans, the readers that can really identify with your work and travels to the point they invite you into their in-box, one of the places you can practically guarantee their full attention. The people on my mailing list are more likely to be the paying travellers rather than other travel bloggers, the ones that are deciding to spend their hard earned money, only have limited holiday time and are looking for advice on how to spend it wisely to get the best experience.
I found that my giveaway of a Tour de Mont Blanc packing list helped to increase the flow of sign-ups, so this year my resolution is to produce a few more giveaway PDFs that are aligned with my core themes and to be more consistent in sending out the newsletter. I’d like to get to the point where it’s a fortnightly mail going out and the mailing list is driving more discussions and engagement with “real” travellers.
5. Develop Travelator Media
Around 18 months ago I co-founded a group called Travelator Media, a collaborative group of UK bloggers who came together to work on paid travel campaigns. I had observed the trend towards the professionalisation of the travel blogging industry and how things are developing in other blogging sectors, such as parenting and fashion, where many bloggers are making a living from their work.
I wanted to join with other likeminded bloggers to use our experience and collective reach to help travel brands reach the affluent quality traveller who we represent and be paid for our efforts just like other travel professionals. We have one successful campaign behind us, working with the South Tyrol Marketing Board and another campaign won for the spring with lots of interest which should lead to more work in 2015.
I’ve realised that developing this work is my best chance of eventually being able to blog full time, since other monetisation strategies, from sponsored posts to affiliate sales have only produced a limited income. In 2015 I plan to focus my energy on introducing Travelator Media services to more DMOs and travel brands as my main monetisation approach.
So here’s to happy travels and blogging success in 2015 and please do check on my travels at Heather on her travels and subscribe to my newsletter below, to follow my travels this year.