So, you've researched your keywords, and built them into the foundations of your content strategy. Congratulations. You've already shown a sense of discipline and foresight some of your rivals in the travel industry will never be able to match. Now you’re ready to enrich your content, attract a more engaged audience, and convert that interest into sales.
But don't go resting on your laurels. There are others out there who are just as organized as you – and they’ve been at it for longer. Prompted by their SEO agencies, Google’s recent RageRank algorithm updates, and the burgeoning content marketing industry, they’ve been upgrading their content for three or four years.
As a result, a tidal wave of content has been unleashed. Mostly, the effort has gone into blogging. Top tens of this and travel tips for that are everywhere. Established media sites such as theguardian.com/uk/travel and telegraph.co.uk/travel are at it too: and the most obvious keywords have produced a flood of copycat articles.
My favourite example – which I’ve referred to in an earlier blog – is the safari packing guide. Type into Google ‘What to pack for a safari’ and you have to wait till page 15 of the results before you find a piece of content which doesn’t directly encapsulate those keywords. Google claims 29 million results in all.
There’s a new phrase to describe this phenomenon: content shock. On the one hand, readers are being blasted with information, a lot of which looks and feels the same. Meanwhile, companies are finding it harder and harder to make themselves heard in the cacophony.
Launching yourself onto this turbulent sea is a daunting prospect. But if you care about content, it’s also an invigorating and inspiring one, because ultimately what’s going to work is the stuff that makes writing and producing images exciting in the first place: creativity, a passion for a subject and a bit of daring.
Here are a few pointers.
Dig deeper into the subject than your rivals
Say you’re a cottage company in Cornwall, and you’re about to launch a content marketing campaign. Blogs are a key part of your strategy: and amongst your clutch of keywords is “Best Beaches in Cornwall for Families”. Brilliant: but then you Google the phrase and realise just how many people have already been working with the same keywords.
Don’t panic. Open up the articles on those results pages and you’ll realise many of them are desk jobs, written at speed – with no greater ambition than filling a page with keyword-related phrases, and then getting on with the next item in a packed to-do list.
You can do better, by digging deeper into the subject. Send your best writer (or hire one) to test six beaches with their kids, Start with a limited but popular area (say, the North Cornwall coast between Newquay and Padstow), and publish “Tested: the Newsom Family’s Six Best North Cornwall Beaches”. Or maybe, “Tested: the Six Best North Cornwall Beaches for Burying Your Kids”. Chances are, both subjects will generate great words and pictures - and energise your social media followers as well. Longer read times, inbound links, likes and shares will all boost your performance in search. You’ll probably get five more great ideas out of the project too. Once your writers are out of the office, and on location, that’s what usually happens.
Be more helpful than the competition
You can also give your feature better traction simply by being more helpful. Take that article about the best beaches for families. Readers will want to know how crowded the beaches get in the school holidays, how much the car park costs and whether or not you need to pay for the loo.
Rate the beach café too. Is it a rip-off? Is there somewhere that’s better value, nearby? You don’t need to bang on about these issues for long. Keep the words light and tight: but show the reader you’re on their side. They may well bookmark you or share your feature with their friends as a result.
Address concerns, as well as feeding dreams
I spent a week in Cornwall recently, and the universal question on the beach was not, “Is this the best beach in Cornwall?” but “are the jellyfish dangerous?”. Surprise, surprise, not so many content providers are publishing blogs about that. There’s a hole in the internet where an honest and reassuring conversation should be with the holidaying public. Why not step forward and make your company the one that’s having it? You’ll earn respect and loyalty if you do.
“What to do on a rainy day in Cornwall?” is a blog that you’ll see repeated ad nauseam. So why not take a different angle? “Don’t go to the Eden Project on a rainy day in Cornwall” is an opening gambit that will raise a few eyebrows – because the Eden Project is Cornwall’s most obvious rainy-day option. Your blog will generate a debate, as well as traffic - and provide readers with a very useful piece of advice. After all, everyone goes to the Eden Project when it's raining. It's more crowded as a result, and you'll miss the magnificent outdoor gardens as you scuttle to the shelter of the biomes. Save it for the sunshine instead.
Don’t Invest all your energy In your blogs
Overall, two things strike me about many companies’ travel content at the moment. First is how much of their energy is focused on blogs at the expense of the rest of their website (and in many cases, their social media outlets too). The second is how invisible many blogs are once they’ve been published. It seems as though the blogs have exhausted the content team, and they haven’t got any oomph left for other key tasks.
So be loud and proud about your blogging output. Promote the latest in a prominent spot on your homepage, and work hard on social media to generate a conversation about it. Email each one to your subscriber list as well – and maybe throw out some prizes for the best contributions in the blog comments box. You’re a Cornish cottage company, right? How about giving away the odd bottle of Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé Brut? You can blog about this superb Cornish product, too.
You should also think about blurring the lines between your blogging and the rest of your content. For example, why not give a couple of key blogging themes their own sections in the home-page navigation? Cornish beaches are obvious contenders for this treatment. So are restaurants and surfing. That way you can assemble a whole series of blogs in a single place, and give them a landing page which introduces the subject, helps to organise the material, and introduces the reader to your most relevant products. Done well, the landing page itself will score highly on internet searches. You’ll have also turned your website into a reference tool, which readers will return to again and again. That’s a pretty useful asset when it comes to selling Cornish holidays.
Now and Then, Forget about keywords
Never underestimate the siren call of travel-related subject line in a subscriber's email inbox. It’s just another stressful day in the office, and ping - in comes your latest blog, “Why buying a longboard will make you love Cornwall more”. And their eyes mist over. So who cares if occasionally the keywords go out of the window, and you’re just sharing the love of your destination instead? Ultimately, the object is to build a relationship with your audience. This is another way to do it.
Above all, give your campaign the resources it needs
Does this sound like a lot of work? Good. Because implementing a content strategy is an activity that needs to be properly resourced. As the current flood of poorly-written blogs shows, this is not something you can do in your lunch break.