FIVE years ago, Travel Perspective was asked by an online travel agent to help re-write all of its destination content following a big algorithm change by Google.
The change, the largest of the Panda updates, targeted poor quality sites with thin content and a low text to advertising ratio. This OTA certainly qualified.
The offer was derisory. In fact, it could only have worked by taking the same approach the OTA had previously taken: paying students to re-write destination content already published on the web.
It’s difficult, I know. You start an online travel site and the chances are that you need content. But freelance writers and bloggers want paying, at least a reasonable rate, and the figures don’t stack up.
So, apart from laying out a fortune – which will probably never be recouped – the only option is to get destination content for free.
How? Through user reviews, such as TripAdvisor. Possibly by signing up to an affiliate programme. Or preferably by finding communities that produce content about their passion, or where they live, then aggregating, linking to or licencing that content.
It’s the best way: genuine content from people on the ground where they live, providing insights and knowledge that can never be obtained by an itinerant visitor. And, more importantly, by people who can provide real-time information to visitors.
In June, on this blog, I wrote about tourism boards and brands running WhatsApp groups for visitors in their destination, providing that real-time information.
And this week, I read some interesting statistics from the Office for National Statistics about social media usage in the UK, which confirmed that increasing need for information from the ground up.
Of all the many reasons to use social media, the most important is to find out what’s happening in the user’s local area. That can also translate to visitors, who want information on events at that time.
Hence, the Istanbul Tourist Pass office and Sallbach Hinterglemm Tourist Board in Austria being among tourism brands to be constantly in touch with visitors on WhatsApp.
Live-time information from tourism professionals and residents in situ chimes perfectly with increasing use of mobile devices being used for search, viewing of videos and sharing content.
Responding to visitor information needs, and how they want it delivered, is paramount. Some get it, most don’t: one UK tourist board director recently asked me how many times a day they should check their Twitter account.
Make the information relevant, feel free to recommend the best, be on hand to answer questions and inspire visitors – so that they share their inspiration, and return with their friends and family. Not much to ask – but it’s what is required to be the best.