Sunday, 11 November 2012

Calculating Blogger ROI: Why Travel Bloggers Are Lightyears Ahead

Last week I headed off to World Travel Market (WTM) 2012, as part of my work, and it was a brilliant opportunity to find out what one of the blogging world's most innovative sectors is getting up to. Travel bloggers are some of the best networkers and negotiators, as well as being incredibly nice people, and they know how to make an impact. When I attended a seminar on how to measure a blogger's Return on Investment (ROI), I was fairly intrigued as to how this could be done, as a fashion blogger as well as a travel industry insider. 

Fashion Meets Travel: Calculating Your Worth as a Blogger
I figured this photo had the wanderlust/style crossover covered.
[Image my own, taken at a vintage fair in Brighton].

Knowing that the seminar was being run by Melvin Bรถcher of Traveldudes and Keith Jenkins of Velvet Escape, I felt that I'd be in pretty safe hands - these guys are two of the most successful bloggers in the travel sector and they certainly know what they're talking about. It was chaired by the head of TBU (Travel Bloggers Unite) and showed just how supportive and well integrated these bloggers are.

A Gap in the Market

"It seemed strange that there was no way to calculate ROI on my press trips, yet I had 80,000 unique visitors to Traveldudes," said Melvin, reflecting on his website. "In contrast, I worked on a local newspaper which had 30,000 unique visitors but also had 50 members of staff; I have assistance with Traveldudes but I am the only full-time person running it."

The idea was then planted to measure your blog's success based on a combination of factors such as your AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent), Google Analytics statistics and your impact on others, such as your scores on Klout and Peer Index as well as how much you could charge for a sponsored tweet. The overall rating, applying AVE principles to content and social media outreach, would then help organisations to work out if it would be good value to collaborate with you on press trips or other opportunities. 

Do you need to be psychic to calculate blogger ROI?
No, you don't need to be psychic to calculate ROI.
[Image my own, taken in Boston, USA].

Jo Johnson,deputy MD of 4BGB, said: "This is what has been missing in terms of evaluation. The travel industry really wasn't sure of the value of bloggers vs. print media. For example, the value of getting re-tweets hadn't ever been calculated, but it is important, such as if Melvin [with 100,000 followers] re-tweets you."

I can see why the travel industry is keen to improve evaluation and pinpoint those key bloggers - if you're working in fashion or beauty then you can easily send out samples or organise a press day and work to a smaller budget, whereas the travel industry is investing a lot more money in detailed press trips. What's also worth bearing in mind is that the majority of fashion bloggers are happy to post about product launches and deals, but their travel equivalents are a lot more wary about working with brands and often ask for payment. This means that developing a relationship with a blogger in travel is much more of a long-term investment and is not as simple as sending out a press release.

Your Search Visibility

Meanwhile Keith, from Velvet Escape, brought up an interesting point about how consumers find blogs and how they behave on them. "People might not cite bloggers as reasons for buying a holiday but if they use Google then, chances are, they will come across a blog in the results. They just don't realise that's what they've found, as more and more blogs look like online travel guides, so they think it's a website. Also, consumers don't tend to leave comments, but other bloggers do. Consumers tend to talk more on Twitter and Facebook."

In light of Keith's comments, it's worth bearing in mind that social proof is one of the best ways to target and grow your audience. That means if someone genuinely recommends a blog to their friends it is more trustworthy than a company, which people might assume had a hidden agenda.

What can we learn from the ROI calculator?

Now is the time to start finding out more about ROI. The calculator is currently free but will be available from €15 a month in the future, which is pretty reasonable for something that you can use to negotiate your future collaborations with brands. Plans for development include measuring newsletters with click-through rates, YouTube and Google Hangouts. 

The seminar definitely proved to me that travel bloggers are the savviest group when it comes to understanding their own worth and projecting their potential. If you're not in the sector but you want to follow their lead in terms of marketing yourself to brands then the ROI calculator is a great place to start.

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