Best Guide to Evaluate Travel Bloggers for Blog Marketing in 2021

How to use travel blogging and blog marketing for your travel-related business (agency, hotel, restaurant, activities, other)? Is it profitable to work with travel bloggers? All the data here are directly from insiders in travel blogging.

How to use blog marketing in the Marketing Mix and how to evaluate travel bloggers? What are the critical points for that evaluation? In this post, we will present all the information on how a business can use blog marketing through travel bloggers, to gain awareness, leads, and -eventually- conversions to sales.

This information is an outcome of our dual role. For the last 15 years, we provide digital marketing services, SEO, and e-commerce services. Apart from these, we built a separate business unit that includes a travel blog (around 4 years ago). All that provides us with the necessary insights (the good, the bad, and the ugly) on how this market works.

What you read is equally useful for OTA’s and DMO’s, but also for individual travel and tourism related businesses or for any business in any sector. The same principles and concept are applicable for any blog marketing scope.

To better understand how to use all the data, you first need to understand and define what a professional travel blogger is (or isn’t). That framework separates the amateurs from the professionals, and you do want to deal with professionals.

What is the Profile of a Professional Travel Blogger?

A professional travel blogger that can help you with your blog marketing actions is a person (or a couple) that travels and then writes about its travel experience. That blogger takes photos, writes content, shoots videos, and shares them in his network. His network – depending on how serious he/she takes their role- consists of his social media and blog, plus all other blog networks or/and associations he/she actively participates in.

That is usually its profession and main business that puts food on the table, so to speak. It can also be a hobby for some, but the professional blogger really does that because they like it and for a living. Most bloggers start such a blog by aiming to turn it into a viable business, and along the way, they (must) acquire a quite large number of supplementary knowledge. They get that knowledge through reading, searching, testing, paying for courses and tools.

At least that is what those who are serious about their business do. It is a profession where someone must monitor their market and many things about technology, ranking, marketing, etc.

Everything they learn, they apply it to their own blog marketing actions, which creates value (traffic and money) for them and their paying clients. That knowledge is a must-have for them and all need to learn a lot about Content Marketing. Of course, not everyone does that.

A 90% of them usually love the topic(s) for which they write about. Another 10% may be the ones who write about things, without having a hands-on experience, but only for creating money from affiliate links. The latter may have never traveled at all (when it comes to travel bloggers). Our topic is for the 90%, but that 10% may have some extra value for a business too. All depends on a good analysis of data and what each blogger can provide as a value.

Those who take their business seriously are the ones where you -the business- needs to work with.

To extend this, travel is not the only market where blog marketing is applicable. There are many niche markets, like food and recipes, financial, banking, insurance, credit cards, health, wellness, outdoors, etc. Even inside Travel there are several niches, like points and rewards blogs, travel by train/cruise blogs, luxury specific blogs, etc.

Blogs are a big part of the global content creation and digital marketing ecosystem.

That is the reason many businesses have their own blogs (apart from working with bloggers). Creating SEO content and well-researched content helps with ranking in search engines. Backlinks also matter for ranking, and all that comes through blogs and content sites.

As such, blog marketing is not a trend or a hobby, or a byproduct of marketing. It is essential for the marketing mix.

Anyway, the main goal of a blogger is to increase its targeted audience and thus to increase readership in their website. Through that, a travel blogger -and any blogger- make money in many different ways.

What a Travel Blogger is not?

A blogger is not someone who only sustains/feeds an Instagram account, no matter how successful that may be.

He/she may not be a professional journalist. In fact, most of the times he/she is not. The same stands on if he/she is a professional writer. He may be not, though he/she aspires to become a great one.

A blogger depicts his experience in their own words. He/she may not be a pro photographer, though through the process and constant tests and learning they get better (or even great) at taking really good photos. Bloggers want to be better at taking videos and photos as that is part of their deliverables to their audience/clients.

Not all the content you read in their blog is their own. They work/cooperate with other bloggers for links and content exchange and cross-promotion actions or 3-way links.

Professional travel bloggers will not (usually) ask for barter accommodation (or other services) in high season periods. They recognize what is proper and when a business tries to sell more.

Is Travel Blogging and Blog Marketing Merely A Trend?

All the historical data clearly show that it is not just a trend. The creation and distribution of content are continuous and not a trend. That is what travel bloggers or any blogger do. They are in the “content” business.

Check that on your own. Simply, perform a Google search using something like “best things to do in [X-location]” (replace the X-location with any city you like). Most of the results are from content sites and blogs. The same stands if you search with short or long-tail keywords. That would be enough to prove the power of content sites and travel blogs (along with doing good SEO) but read along for more examples you may haven’t thought of.

Bloggers are a huge channel for awareness, leads, and sales for any size of business (from small to colossal ones). Big business (i.e Amazon, Booking) sustain dedicated websites for affiliate marketing, which is actually done through blogs and blog marketing of others. Such sites provide bloggers with tools, ideas, links, insights, and any data available so the bloggers have a reason and the medium (and commissions) to send traffic to these businesses like Amazon or any other.

Big businesses or medium ones, do that because they make money from that. Even small businesses do that. They help bloggers to make money and bloggers help them make money. The concept is there for decades already. That is the way businesses use bloggers as a significant win-win channel.

On top of all the businesses, there are other businesses that provide bloggers with extra tools so they can present even more businesses in their blogs. You may know them from affiliate marketing where they also bridge the gap between publishers (bloggers) and advertisers (i.e. CJ.com, Linkwise, Avantlink, Mediavine, etc). The whole affiliate marketing is based on content and bloggers and that is just one of the things that bloggers do.

We run a course where new bloggers can learn all the monetization and SEO models they need.

As promised, here are more examples from businesses that use blogs for getting awareness, leads, and sales:

  1. Amazon: They work with bloggers for decades, for all their different niches
  2. Booking: They do the same for hotel, car, and services reservations
  3. GetYourGuide: They do the same for tours and activities
  4. Viator, TripAdvisor: Same as above
  5. Almost all the Outdoor Gear and Experiences Companies do the same. Examples: REICoop, Patagonia, G-Adventures, and tons more
  6. Banks, Credit Cards, Health and Travel Insurance services, Coupons, and Money-Back services
  7. Food, Recipes, and cooking related gear
  8. Health, Wellness

There are hundreds of thousands of businesses in all kinds of markets that use and work with bloggers in many different ways, even for product/service reviews or by sponsoring their trips and activities.

For your Travel Blog business we receive lots of requests. every single day from companies and outreach agencies and we see how much they want to get into serious and professional blogs.

That doesn’t mean that such businesses stop their Adwords/PPC or Social Media marketing actions. They do all that too, and those who can even create their own content for their blog.

So, the blog marketing mechanism is not a trend or something “new”. It is another channel for online marketing.

How to Evaluate Travel Bloggers?

That is a really good question, that every business is entitled to have an answer.

The actual question relates to how a business can evaluate different travel bloggers, so to decide how to use each one of them according to their profile. As you see, we say “how to use” and not “if to use”. That is because each blogger has a value range they can provide unless they started their blogging 4 months ago. A business can take (and respectively pay for) different things from each, at different prices.

That is the reason for the existence of “evaluators” of bloggers or of blog groups and networks. We do that for our clients and provide them with the necessary data for cooperation schemes.

In the following you will also see a debunking of several myths regarding blogging. Lets start on the evaluation framework.

Evaluate Blog Traffic Metrics and Audience

If you Google around, you will notice that many marketing articles suggest that you ask the so-called, Media Kit of a blogger. In general, that stands right. However, the numbers that you usually see in that Kit don’t reveal the information you need. In such kits, you will usually see:

  • Their Quarter or Yearly website traffic
  • The number of followers per their Social Media channel
  • Which are their most popular posts
  • Why they created their blog
  • Some basic demographics
  • Other businesses that hired them or sponsored them

Do you need all these? Yes, you do.

Are these data useful to make any decision or pay money to any blogger? They are definitely not. In fact they can be quite misleading.

Why that, you may ask? Here, follows the answer.

A blogger usually writes for a range of topics under a main topic (i.e. Travel) or for a niche in a main topic (i.e. about a specific location).

However, from all the different posts they have in their blog, not all are successful in terms of traffic, visibility, and ranking. Each of their posts doesn’t have the same value. The reasons are multiple but that is not something that you -the client- are interested in.

You want to find out for which actual topics or subtopics his/her blog is popular and -very important- their seasonality.

As you understand, in that manner, the “general statistics” of a media kit become very vague. You want to know the details.

The same stands for their Social Media followers and/or likes. The “Like” does not translate to Website Traffic. That is proven. Someone may have 1000 likes on a post on their Facebook page and only 2 or 3 visits from that Facebook post towards their blog post.

You -the business- need to know and ask for details. If a blogger denies providing details then don’t waste more time.

You need to ask them for sending you specific traffic reports for specifc time periods and topics.

Are all bloggers equal? No, they are not. From some, it will be best to get a backlink, from others to create content, while others may be eligible to be invited for a press/blog/FAM trip.

Knowing specific date will drive your decision and you will have more chances for increased value.

So, each blog is evaluated separately.

Evaluation with SEO Tools

One of the solutions for businesses is to adopt, pay monthly fees and learn to use 3rd party tools that allow finding data for other websites. Of course, they need to learn to “translate” the data they see, into business decisions.

In that way they can do the research by their own.

All these 3rd party tools, provide you with data but not with all the data. To get all the data, the business must have access to Google Analytics (GA) and Google Search Console (GSC) of each blog. Rarely a blog or any website you don’t own provides that.

However, with such tools, a business can see for which topics a blog ranks high in Google and their backlink profile. Knowing for which things a blog ranks, is very important. These tools provide all their good metrics under their Paid/Premium subscriptions. Free ones, provide generic useless information that is misleading.

Are the Blog Aesthetics Really Important?

There is a case here. How someone can evaluate the aesthetics of a blog and if it looks “great” or not? There are many blogs “out there” that may look they are made “in a night” with a cheap/free theme and they are tremendously successfull. Many of such are in USA, Europe and Asia. But, when you look at their numbers and ranking they are jaw-dropping and they charge “an arm and a leg” for mentioning you to their audience.

For sure, when you visit a luxury blog, you expect that “elevated” thin-font, clean design. There are many such. Do they have the traffic, audience and rankings you need? Great! But check, first.

Always check the data, not just if things “look” professional.

Keep the following rule in mind. You are looking for what your target audience likes and not what you like or prefer. The same stands when you design your own website.

What a Travel Blogger Can Do For a Business?

More or less, all travel bloggers, can -at least- provide the following:

  • Sponsored Posts
  • Guest Posts
  • Activities, product, services reviews
  • Press Trips
  • Running/Hosting Competitions and Giveaways
  • Content Creation (even for your website)
  • Social Media Distribution and/or Campaigns
  • Mail and Newsletters Marketing
  • Advertorials
  • Brand Ambassadorship

All these can be combined with all the other marketing actions your business does, like Adwords, Social Campaigns, Extended Content Marketing, SEO. With good planning, you will have a cumulative result.

How to Work with Bloggers?

The range of the deliverables differs, depending on what can be done at a destination or for a single business. Each organization/business, after identifying their goals, has to sit down and discuss the following with any blogger:

  1. The action plan
  2. The deliverables
  3. How to measure milestones, success, and the reporting
  4. Implementation of backlinks and if they are dofollow/nofollow or marked as sponsored
  5. The blogger fees and what is included in that fee
  6. A separate agreement on intellectual rights, the range, and length of use per content type (both for the client and the blogger)
  7. An agreement on where, when, and how the deliverables will be distributed

A business needs to make sure that generated content must be SEO and published as such following correct SEO rules. When all things are done in the best possible way, then the business (and the blog) are led to a win-win concept.

Note that not all bloggers know how to make SEO content in the best possible way.

Finally, it is important to agree on what happens with a “Negative Experience”. Serious bloggers include such disclaimers. That means, how to handle a case where the delivered experience (towards the blogger), is done in such a bad way where the latter has to decide what to write about that. Each blogger has their own ethical framework and all professional bloggers mention that they are entitled to their own opinion.

A big mistake different businesses make is the following. They see bloggers as “hired pens”. As such they don’t deal with them as they would with their clients. That is not correct. Bloggers must be confronted as clients and receive the same level of professionalism from the business.

Keep in mind that a blogger writes and suggest your business to their audience. When they experience a sum of bad experiences they cannot write that all things were “amazing” as that suggestion is not real and their audience will kick-back and debunk them for misleading them.

What is the Cost to Work with Travel Bloggers?

Prices vary depending on the profile and the services of a blogger (ergo, the correct evaluation of each case), along with the range of the deliverables. Professional bloggers will usually offer the nominal “market price”, as they know the prices in their market.

Most professional bloggers ask for a fee, regardless of the covered expenses (or they ask for a higher one with the expenses included). They ask that for a reason. It is a business and they work.

All of course are subject to a -per case- agreement, but a business must have in mind that they buy a service and that comes with a cost like any other service.

The fee is influenced by the number of days you agree with the blogger. A barter concept is not a thing to exclude. Some bloggers may ask you (maybe they are in your location already) to cover their accommodation and dining, where they offer a post and a link in their blog. Depending on the case that can provide a 10x return on your investment. So, evaluation is needed.

Don’t listen to such deals with a suspicious mind. For sure, there are “bad cases” too, where bloggers may ask for something but have far less value to give back. Just, evaluate them right.

We have clients who have paid influencers with i.e. 5000 euros and got back 20x in sales. At the same time, we have clients who just paid 300 euro for a post and they rank in the top 3 results in Google, in the USA.

Everything depends on data evaluation.

Blogging is part of Content Marketing. It can start from 300 euros and extend to hundreds of thousands. It depends on the case and the opportunities.

Travelers and Outdoor Activities

Why we mention that you may ask. That is an example of niches in a market. You see, many businesses make the mistake to target those who choose destinations for their activities, with those who choose a destination for sightseeing, beaches, and -secondary- for the activities.

The ones who seek destinations with opportunities for hiking, trekking, sea kayaking, canyoning, and other soft or hard adventures, seek different things in their vacations.

As such, a generic -travel blogger- may not be your target medium for your blog marketing. Best is to seek for niche bloggers. The same stands for food, religious travel, etc.

There are bloggers that are specialized and write only for Food and Culinary travel.

They have different audiences and maybe they overlap with others for the sightseeing and culture topics.

Even activities have their sub-niches. Mountaineering is not the same as hiking.

A thorough evaluation is needed, in relation to the client personas and what they seek.

How Difficult is the Job of a Travel Blogger

Let’s solve any misunderstandings for the work of a travel blogger.

A Travel Blogger that agrees on a small or big project, invests lots of work and effort into that. That is why you compensate them after all. They have and acquire skills and pay for tools, so to be able to deliver the best possible result.

All that is time and money. They don’t just walk around, shouting “Yolo” (You Only Live Once). The good thing is that travel bloggers enjoy their work a lot since it combines what they love with a money-earning job.

In that way, the paid trips they take are not a chore of course, but a pleasant work.

The bloggers’ work doesn’t stop when the daily schedule is done. They have to go to their room, open their laptops and cameras and evaluate and organize their content while seeing if the plan goes according to the agreed deliverables. In cases, they have to create content after their daily schedule and that means they work until late.

They respect their time and they are not in your location just for a “complimentary” drink/dining option. They are there to give and take.

If they agreed on the barter concept, that means that both parties agreed on that compensation model. A barter deal is another way to pay for something; it is not “for free”, for either side. It comes with obligations, but with rights as well.

That is why a barter deal must be mentoned in the agreement. It is “payment”.

What Happens Internationally with Blog Marketing?

All the things presented here, come from our international hands-on experience, where blogging is a serious business.

Businesses work with outreach companies, blog associations, and networks. Multinational companies, use and sponsor bloggers, in many cases for several years in a row.

Niche blogs work better when a business falls under that concept.

Things work far better when a content marketing plan is in place, along with planning prior to any content going public.

Good use and good timing of the created content has huge impact on awareness.

Never neglect the opportunity to get a backlink from a blog, even if you can’t arrange for the blogger to come to your location.

Ask us for more.