Last Saturday I popped up North for the day to take part in icelolly.com’s #BlogAtTheBeach event. Not only was it a great excuse to go up to Leeds to meet some of the lovely people I’d worked with on my previous trip to Paphos, I also got the opportunity to catch-up with some of my favourite bloggers, all while listening to some of the industry’s experts on topics such as SEO, video and working with travel brands.
icelolly.com is a low cost holiday price comparison site, and it’s seriously addictive. I always recommend them to my friends and family as they have some great deals. It’s also incredibly easy to get some inspiration by searching for ‘Any Destination’ and seeing what comes up within your budget.
The company are keen to work with more bloggers and so the event was a great way to see what icelolly.com is all about. Taking place in their office’s building in the centre of Leeds, the empty floor was turned into a beach, complete with blow-up palm trees, deckchairs and lots and lots of cocktails.
But it wasn’t all fun and games (although, to be honest, it mostly was.) We were also there to learn from some of the best on how to take our blogs up a notch. In case you weren’t able to attend, here are some of the main takeaways I picked up from each of the three talks.
SEO (by Robb Frost from WMG Agency)
While SEO sounds horrendously dull and time-consuming, it’s vitally important if you’re wanting to make your content stand out on the web. It’s probably something I probably don’t do enough of. Woops.
Robb explained that those blogs which are technically sound are of more value, so it’s therefore worth investing a bit of time getting to know the basics of SEO.
A title tag (also known as a meta tag) is the title of each blog post, and they should be between 30 and 65 characters. A good tool for working out the best title tag tool is moz.com.
The meta description (or description tag) should be around 80 to 165 characters long. This is what you see on Google under each result, and it serves to encourage people to click through onto your post.
In the main text of your blog, there should only be one Header 1 – the title. These are read by Google, and it can get confusing if there are more than one. Make sure to use Header 2 for subheadings, Header 3 for key sentences in between paragraphs, and so on…
Google Adwords is a great way to identify key words that people are searching for. These key phrases are great to pop into headings and content, but don’t start keyword stuffing as it can look spammy. However, Google loves it when you have one phrase or keyword that runs through your title tag, meta description and blog post. It shows you know your stuff and that the content is trustworthy, which ultimately leads to a better Google ranking for your blog.
Long tail phrases is the name given to keywords that are more specific. For instance, ‘Bali holidays’ is something that is searched for repeatedly, and which will feature in lots of online articles. There’s therefore lots of competition if you post a blog with these keywords. However, if your blog post focuses on ‘Bali infinity pools’, this is much more specific, and as a result will probably not be searched for that often. However, with less competition you will probably rank higher up in the Google rankings, and those people who come to your post will likely find it helpful. Both long and short tail phrases are useful, so it’s worth using a mixture of both.
Internal links to content are strongest on your homepage. This is a form of controlled linking – linking back regularly to articles shows Google that it’s important. External links are also very important, and they increase the chance of your blog being found. For instance, if hundreds of people link to one particular page on your blog, Google knows it’s important.
Still with me? Phew, good. Here’s a picture of one of the awesome cocktails supplied by The Alchemist during the afternoon:
OK, back to SEO (just briefly, I promise.) These are some links which are pretty good for optimising your site:
- Majestic SEO toolbar – lets you see who’s linking to your blog
- Google Webmaster Tools – so you can see what terms people are searching for, and whether you’re going to get penalised for anything…
- Google Analytics
- Analytics Tag Manager
- Moz beginners guide to SEO
- Oh, and Bing Webmaster Tools is apparently better than Google’s. Who knew?
Working with travel brands while keeping your style (by Monica Stott from The Travel Hack)
Monica’s talks are always a delight, and today’s session was no exception. While I’ll attempt to cover some of her main points here, if you want a more in-depth version, head over to her fantastic #BlogAtTheBeach blog post.
Monica’s session was all about working with brands while not selling out. My favourite takeaway was her best friend test. Basically, before you work with any brand, think to yourself: would I recommend this brand to my best friend? Would you pay full price for it? And will your audience care? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, you’re probably selling out.
Before you agree to work with a brand, it’s best to find out exactly what they want so you can deliver results and provide value. While many brands say they ‘want to increase awareness’, their main goal is to increase sales, so always bear this is mind. It’s worth asking them if they have a specific goal in mind, as brands have got to get the right blogger for their aim.
What do PRs look for?
Monica spoke to some PRs about what they look for in bloggers. The results may surprise you…
- PERSONALITY – brands hire copywriters to write in-house generic copy. Bloggers add the personal touch, so don’t worry about toning down your personality.
- TRUSTWORTHY AND PROFESSIONALISM – Don’t forget that PRs talk to each other and swap contacts. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by being a twit.
- MULTI-SKILLED BLOGGERS – PRs love bloggers who can write, take good photos, produce videos AND promote over social media.
- HIGH STATS – The guys at icelolly.com stressed that they also look at people’s engagement. There’s no point saying you have 10,000 page views a day when you have no comments on posts. Also, don’t ruin it for everyone by buying followers. It’s not cool, and you will be found out.
- A NICHE – Focus on what you’re passionate about and the right opportunities will come a’knocking. A niche also helps you stand out from the crowd.
Don’t be nervous to send pitches as PRs receive them every single day. If you’re unsure of where to start, begin with brands that you really like. Also, it’s possible to work with non-travel brands that fit with your blog.
If you’re unsure of what to put in your pitch, here’s Monica’s suggestions:
- Who you are
- About your blog
- Do you have a specialist niche?
- Stats (Social media, page views – also good to offer Google Analytics screenshots so they know you’re trustworthy)
- What you want from the brand (be specific!)
- What will you provide in return? (i.e. a blog post for each day you’re there, social media coverage…)
- Why your brands are a good match
- Examples from previous trips (or show something you have done yourself)
- Testimonials (or link to media pack)
- Can you provide any extras? (i.e. photos)
Who do you pitch to?
The best way to meet people is obviously via networking. Visit events, meet people and get the ball rolling. Take part in Facebook groups as brands often reach out to bloggers there, while World Travel Market is absolutely worth the stress! If you’re at a loss, cold emails can also work, and make sure you keep hold of press releases as they always have important contact details on them!
Videos (by Greg Brand from Travizeo)
Greg Brand is such an infectious, passionate speaker that it’s impossible to walk away from his talks feeling anything but enthusiastic. I dropped in on his talk at Traverse earlier this year and was so impressed at his company’s travel videos.
Some key pointers:
- Use natural light wherever possible.
- Raw, unedited content is coming back in fashion. Beme is a new app that’s gathering some attention. It films for 4 seconds and then publishes online – there’s no chance for you to edit.
- To build up a following quickly, make sure you’re posting regularly, just as you would with a blog.
- Collaborate with other bloggers so you can connect with their audience and vice versa.
“It doesn’t matter what camera you have, just how it moves.” – Greg Brand
To illustrate this point, take a look at this video from Bentley – filmed entirely with an iPhone 5 (with professional rigs etc)
- Invest in a glide cam to get stable shots.
- Put a camera on a dishcloth and then pull it for a gliding shot.
- Another tip: pop a GoPro on a revolving egg timer for a 360-degree time lapse.
- YouTube now ranks by the number of minutes of a video watched. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how long your video is, as long as it’s engaging. The longer you keep your viewer captivated, the higher you rank on YouTube searches.
- It’s worth investing in Adobe Premiere Pro. If you don’t want to make a massive commitment, you can even download the complete package for a month (for £45.73), or even a single app (for just £17.15 a month!)
- Take part in courses on lynda.com.
- Find something different. Do what you love and people will come to you.
One of the things I struggle with when making videos is finding copyright-free music that fits my shots. While there is a YouTube audio library where you can pick up free music, there are also a number of other outlets, including:
- Vimeo music store
- The Music Bed
Phew. That’s pretty much all of the notes I took down during the talks. If there’s anything you’re unclear of, please do let me know. I’m probably not sure either so we can google them together!
BIG BIG thanks to icelolly.com for hosting this fabulous event!