Why this blog is a waste of time for travel brands


“There’s nothing for you here” – Tubbs, The League of Gentlemen

What follows is one of those periodic navel-gazing exercises. If you have no interest in the rather strange world of travel blogging, stop reading now and find something more interesting instead (may I humbly offer you this post).

Reading from the many round-ups of the recent travel blogging conferences the route to getting a return on the considerable effort involved in managing a blog appears to lie in building a relationship with travel brands. Whether they sell hotel rooms, airline tickets, travel insurance or magic vests, those responsible for promoting these brands are the people who see the best reason to engage with the blogging community. There appears to be a fairly happy exchange taking place between those who own a travel blog and those who want to have their business promoted on their sites.

It makes perfect sense of course. Companies allocate a proportion of their budget to getting the message about their products or services to as many of their potential customers as possible. As travellers themselves, who better to act as their advocates than travel bloggers? And the best part of all for the travel companies is that it’s so cost effective. Instead of paying large sums of money for PR, marketing and advertising, now a blogger can get your brand in front of a new audience for a fraction of the cost (a trip or a product sample is the normal currency of payment). As for the bloggers, they get access to travel or travel-related goods which would otherwise be, in most cases, beyond their financial means.

And it is here that I lose interest in the business of blogging. I don’t write on this site to make friends with travel brands, be their advocate or introduce them to my readers. That should probably take me off the radar for those brands (and their PR agencies) looking to ‘reach out’ to the travel blogging community. Rightly or wrongly, I started this blog as a place to publish my own musings and try and develop my writing. Over time I’ve become more determined to keep it like this and not go down a commercial route.

If someone pays me to write (thankfully this does occasionally happen), they are taking my work and publishing in their pages or on their site, not mine. It’s a simple rule but one that helps me make consistent decisions about the ‘mutually beneficial opportunities’ that are presented to me on a daily basis.

Does any of this matter? Not really I suppose. But before people make their offers of exciting collaborations or amazing blog trips, I do wish they would look beyond my site statistics and read a little bit of what’s on here. My About page makes my intentions clear, as does the contact form that presumably people use to find me. If those looking for suitable travel bloggers for their new project did a basic check they’d quickly see that I am not what they are looking for and would turn their attention to someone far more useful.




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Freelance travel writer

8 Responses to “Why this blog is a waste of time for travel brands”

  1. Indeed. I got a recent email from a very well known PR co the other day ‘reaching out’ to me as ‘one of the UK’s top travel bloggers’. Except of course I’m not a travel blogger. My blog is about travel writing. But you wouldn’t expect a PR co to actually read your blog before sending you that press release or blog trip invite would you?!

    June 27, 2012 at 10:38 am
    • Agreed. I would have thought it was standard practice to screen the people on whom you plan to spend your/ your clients’ money…

      June 27, 2012 at 11:10 am
  2. Not sure I agree with the title Andy. This blog shows, part from your rather excellent writing style, humour, and eye for a tale, that you have integrity. Funny old word that. Much underrated I find.

    The sooner the Google geeks devalues crappy links the better. They say they do but Panda only really touched the surface. There is no group noun for a collection of Pandas so let’s make one up.

    I would like Google to rain down on shite link-baited sites a *Sleuth of Pandas*. I would like Google to get Medieval (think Pulp Fiction) on them. I would like quality writing, photography, design, uesefulness and video to rise to the top. Sod links being so important with the al-gory-thm. Let’s have quality. Off course this is just an opinion.

    Big picture what’s really needed is an alternative to Google. I feel that’s a way off though.

    By the way what is the going rate for a link. Anyone know? Genuinely interested

    June 27, 2012 at 1:43 pm
    • A sleuth of pandas indeed. And then a gaggle of Penguins to follow, no doubt. An alternative to Google that efficiently ranks sites on quality would indeed see a major shake-up, in both the blogging world and your own world of online travel companies. Until then, there will be a pursuit of short-term but relatively meaningless targets that will keep sanity at bay.
      And thank you for your nice words Stuart.

      June 27, 2012 at 4:51 pm
  3. Andy,

    What they want is reach. It may sound personal, but as you know it’s also about your social media influence. The fact they come to your door is a good thing. The fact that you can close it when it suits, a luxury earned.

    And while we are on the G thing the idea to reward good content is also good thing, but when it gives you multiple returns for the same supplier in the top 10, it’s clearly gone awry.

    Dare I say it, Bing is far more balanced in this sense.

    Best wishes,


    June 28, 2012 at 6:40 am
  4. Stuart,
    I agree with your description of Andy and then some! You are correct about Google also. They built up a search engine based on backlinks. This was before webmasters knew the reason for the Google results being better than the competition. Then it was gamed. Every site added pages of useless links that were no use to the site visitors but were part of link exchanges. I think the original reason for Facebook ‘Likes’ was to record genuine votes of appreciation. Is that the case now? Same with Google plus. The so called ‘worth’ of material uploaded to the internet is now measured by all of these means, plus the number of comments received. I think Google have the means at their disposal to record how long a person spends viewing a page in relation to the amount of material on that page. That could be a valuable metric. If they do use this measure, then the last thing they should do is publish the fact that they use it. They already say that webmasters and bloggers should concentrate on producing useful, interesting content.
    For alternatives to Google take a look at DuckDuckGo.

    Your approach to 501places is what makes it so readable. Most of the time it doesn’t provide me with information on planning a trip, but when you do cover trip advice it is of an excellent quality. This is in contrast to a post I read this week, I won’t mention names, but it is one of the Top 10 most widely read blogs. It is an article on ‘green cities’ and it includes the geothermal powered Reykjavik, hydrogen buses etc. Then goes on to say you can fly there cheaply from the UK. Why would someone who cares about being green fly to Iceland just to see hydrogen powered buses?
    It includes a link to the blog sponsor, an affiliate coupon site. This marketing is frowned upon by affiliate companies because there is no coupon, just an affiliate link that looks as if it might be a link to a coupon code. The company the link suggests doesn’t even offer flights to Iceland! Are we going to see more of these sponsored posts on other blogs?

    June 29, 2012 at 12:08 pm
  5. Nice bit of reverse psychology here Andy, I like it, clever, clever. White horse n all that :P
    Arguably though whenever you write about any place, you are actively contributing to its marketing, whether you mean to or not and – more to the point – forming opinions among your readers, inc the likes of me, as I’m sure you know.

    June 29, 2012 at 5:14 pm
  6. Thanks for the comments chaps (and the nice words too).
    Jools, you make a good point about us all adding to a company/org’s marketing, whatever our intentions and whatever their knowledge of us doing so. Yet I can’t help but see a big difference in the reliability of that output when I place any article (or even tweet) into context against how/why/on what terms the writer has gone to a place or tried a product.
    As for Google, as John and Mark suggest they are not the absolute judge of what is worth reading or trusting when we’re looking for information online. Will they still be the no.1 in 10 years time? I suspect that the world of search will look very different in the near future…

    July 15, 2012 at 11:30 am