Meetup Summary

If you have a blog for your tourism business or are thinking about starting a blog, this meetup is for you!

Our panel of subject matter experts this week included Sally Ricker, content strategist at Foxcrest Media and Scott Rehnberg, content and outreach manager at Improve & Grow. They shared the business benefits of blogging and sharing strategies and practical tips for how to make sure you are selecting the right topics and developing engaging content. They also shared tips for how you can promote your content to make sure it gets found by your target audience.

And most importantly, we discuss strategies for turning your blog readers into paying customers.

Guest Panel

Meetup Video Recording

Key Takeaways

  1. Blogging can really help you grow: according to HubSpot, companies with blogs get 67% more leads than companies without them
  2. Blogs can help you gain trust with your target audience: according to research, 50% of travelers are uncertain about a destination when they begin their search and 65% are influenced by the content they read from travel brands and destinations
  3. Developing a plan can help you be more consistent with blogging; develop a content calendar and stick with it.
  4. Your blog should be about your customers, not about you: choose topics that are relevant to your target audience and help them make good decisions
  5. Use Google to research your topics: find out what kind of content is already working and use that to inspire ideas for how to make your content better
  6. Repurpose content you already have – take the top 5 questions that your customers ask you and turn those into blog articles
  7. Publish your blog in a way that works for users and search engines – use easy to read language, organize your content with headers, paragraphs, and lists and use images and other media to break up the content for longer articles
  8. Don’t forget about promoting your blog article – post it on social, share it with your email list and reach out to websites that your audiences use and suggest they share it with their readers

Resource Links

Tips for Generating Blog Post Ideas

Tips for Improving Search Rankings for Your Blog Articles

Tools for Analyzing Your Content:

Tools for Generating Blog Graphics:

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Meetup Video Transcript

[Carl] This is Carl Lefever. I’ll be the host today for our Accelerate Tourism Marketing Meetup. For those of you who are new to the meetup this week, I want to introduce ourselves to you. So, we started this meetup about six weeks ago, just as a way to help business leaders that are serving the tourism industry. We’ve been meeting every week and our focus is sharing tourism marketing ideas through guest speakers and open discussion. We plan to continue holding these throughout the lockdown period, which hopefully looks like it’s gonna be opening up here soon for most of us. We plan to begin to move this to monthly once that happens, ’cause hopefully, you’re all gonna be focused on selling tours or selling bookings for your establishments. So today’s topic, you all signed up for, how to gain more bookings with strategic blog content. So that’s what we’ve got queued up for you today. Just gonna introduce this topic quickly and then introduce you to our panel of speakers. So, blogging really started out most of you have been around long enough to know it started out mainly as kind of a personal or social tool, but it’s quickly become an essential part of the way that businesses communicate online. Blogs can be very effective tools for developing an audience for your brand and can become key channels for developing traffic and bookings for your business as well, especially for tourism-focused businesses where the consumers you’re trying to reach are looking for unique experiences, good places to visit, good places to eat, places to stay. Blog articles can be great ways to really tell stories, provide itineraries, provide experiences that people just enjoy reading, or watching videos ’cause there are video blogs as well. But just like anything blogging needs to be tackled strategically. Otherwise it can prove to be a complete waste of time. It can be very frustrating to spend a lot of time writing a blog article or producing content on a regular basis and then find out that nobody’s viewing that content, or even almost as bad lots of people are viewing the content, but none of them are actually becoming customers for your business. So that’s why we’ve invited two guests today that have a ton of experience producing high performing content. And they’re here to share their tips, their best practices with you and some examples along the way as well. So I’d like to introduce Sally Ricker to you. Sally, wave hi. She’s from Foxcrest Media, out of Carlisle, PA and is gonna be joining us today. And Scott Rehnberg, who some of you have seen before if you’ve been on past meetups. He is a content strategist for Improve & Grow and works with a lot of our clients, particularly in the tourism business or tourism industry, helping them write and produce good high performing content. So welcome, Scott. Welcome, Sally. Thanks for joining us today. So I’m gonna start with you, Scott. Just kinda wanna really address the topic head-on of, why does blogging make sense for businesses, particularly for a tourism business?

Business Case for Blogging

[Scott] Sure. Well, we could spend the whole time talking about this one thing here. There’s an unbelievable opportunity for tourism companies when it comes to blogging. I read this stat recently from a multinational study that says 50% of travelers are uncertain about their destinations, when they begin online research. 65% admitted to directly being influenced by the informative content. That number when you come to the United States specifically rises to 80%. So a lot of people, when they’re developing their travel plans, they’re not quite sure what to do. They’re looking for more information. And honestly the best place that they can get it is from you, from your own personal blog and what you’re doing. It’s an unbelievable opportunity to generate that content, you own your blog, as opposed to other platforms. You actually get to structure it in such a way that you can tell the information, you can develop those ideas, you can draw people in, get them excited, give them a call to action to lead them along their buying process and create more bookings. You know HubSpot reported that websites that have blogs have a 13%, are 13 times more likely to achieve positive ROI efforts. So by doing things like picking good topics that are relevant, that are answering questions, that are speaking to people, that are looking to travel, are looking for destinations, and having good positive calls to actions, you greatly increase the likelihood that they book with you. It’s just a great opportunity for them. I do have a couple examples that I shared about. Carl, this example right here from Massachusetts is one of the top shared and visited blog sites in the country actually. You can become an authority on your area really and on your niche in your market as people are looking to know what to do. So Massachusetts we have Bed and Breakfast, they’re speaking specifically on to getting people excited about what’s in that area. They’re informing them on the topics at hand, they’re being specific to that time of year. And they’re calling people to action at the end. They’re asking people to visit for more information. They’re asking people to comment, they’re engaging their viewers and readers to keep them going along on their buyers’ journey. The next example that I have is how to kind of apply that at a local level. For individuals that are speaking to specific local destinations on their site, if there’s a niche or a specific thing that draws people into your area, into your market, talking specifically to that, sharing that information, how to plan it. This one is great ’cause you can help give itineraries, show things to do. Linking out to some of those things to show that you’re authoritative on those topics is huge. It’s another opportunity to expand your brand’s authority and a call to action on the end. I guess the other thing that I’d like to note on a case for blogging is it gives a lot more opportunity to show up in the search results as well. If you think about all the landing pages that you have on your site, they don’t always show up. They’re not constantly being updated. A blog is a great opportunity for you to continually put out good fresh content, to go after certain keywords, and to show up more in the search results. One of the things Sally and I had talked about yesterday a little bit when we were looking for examples, it was really difficult to find really great examples, which is good to know for a lot of people. That means there’s a lot of opportunity on the table. A lot of travel sites aren’t blogging, or aren’t developing content that speaks to audience in a certain way. So by honing in on your niche, speaking to your clients specifically, using good calls to actions, structuring your blog properly and engaging with your audience. There’s a ton of opportunity for everyone to be converting and getting more bookings and increasing sales.

[Carl] That’s great. Yeah, I liked what you said about picking specific topics and creating basically more room for your website in the search engine by giving Google lots of different things that it could serve up to users when they’re searching and based on I think you guys will talk about this a little bit later, but based on what we know about how search engines work, creating pages that are on specific types, like things to do with kids in this specific city will stand a lot better chance of ranking than just a general article for fun things to do with kids across the country, for example. So that’s great.

Best Practices for Developing Blog Content

Sally, that’s a good segue to my next question is just how do you go about developing ideas for blog articles that are really gonna stand out and add value like here in our hometown? I mean, I’ve probably seen 100 different blog articles called things to do in Lancaster. So like, how is a tourism business that’s deciding to blog or wants to kind of really get back to it, how are they gonna go about creating content that’s really gonna stand out from the crowd?

[Sally] Yeah, I think that’s a great question. And I know some of the people on this call specifically asked for that, when you’re starting a blog or if you have a blog, and it’s been stagnant for a couple months or a couple years. Yeah, figuring out what to talk about is usually the biggest barrier there. And I will give you guys some suggestions just like tangible takeaways usually when I’m starting with blog topics. The first thing that I’ll do is I’ll actually create what I call like a content calendar. Which nine times out of 10 is just an Excel sheet. And I’ll map out if I’m gonna try to blog once a month, I’ll put all 12 months in there, and then figure out what topics I’m gonna talk about. So you guys know your business as far as tourism goes, there’s definitely seasonality to that. So you’ll know what are your up seasons, what are your down seasons, figure out what topics kind of fit in there. If June’s a really busy month for you, talking specifically to those tourists, who are traveling to your area. That’s kind of where I’ll start with things. And then from there honestly, I am like the biggest advocate for googling stuff. So if you think you have a topic, Google it and see what’s out there. Are other people in your area talking about it? Have other blogs already done it? And then from there, just kind of strategically gauging that. So as simple as things to do in Lancaster, PA, are there 45 other blogs out there? Because if there are you might wanna talk about something else or take a spin off of that, focus in on one of those areas, or one of those topics. And there’s also free tools out there as well. So blogs are really great because you can write for the customers that you already have your audience. It’s kind of like a resource, you can direct them to your website, there’re blogs there, if you have this question, check out our resources. And then the flip side of that is kind of this SEO value. So the search engine optimization side of things where you’re connecting questions people are directly asking on Google with the answers that you’re writing in those blog posts. So more so for those SEO ones, figuring out what’s the competition look like? Because if there’s national brands that are blogging about that topic, your blog posts might not show up. But if there’s less competition in that space, figuring out kind of where you fit into that mix. That’s definitely where I would suggest starting. It’s always great to blog about like lists. So if you’re like the top five things, examples of things to do in my area, listing stuff out, being able to talk about pricing. So pricing I’ve found in a lot of different industries there’s a huge gap in information, people are really afraid to talk about pricing because they don’t wanna put themselves in this box. But a lot of people are searching for that information. So it gives you the opportunity to be found. And pricing doesn’t necessarily have to be, it’s gonna cost you 499 a night to stay in this bed and breakfast. You can make a blog post that says you can expect to spend between X amount and X amount on your trip here. This is what the cost of living looks like, like different stuff like that that kind of alludes and gives people ways to kind of gauge their own answer, if you will. But it still picks up that traffic for people who are searching around that area.

[Carl] I love that tip on pricing. Lots of people are looking for, what does it cost to stay in this area? Or where can I find deals to stay in this area? And so creating content that addresses maybe directly or indirectly that pricing question but also using that as a way what they’re really getting at is I wanna have a fun time but I wanna know if I can afford it. So leveraging that like even talking about itineraries, for instance, like going beyond just talking about your business and the experience you offer, but how can you wrap that around other things that are in the area. That’s great.

[Sally] Yeah, I think we have an example on here too, which is a little less tourism specific, but answering questions that your audience is asking. So figuring out like, what people are calling in for and being able to answer those specifically.

[Carl] Cool. When it comes to actually writing the article, do you have any tips on how to make it good, make it engaging, make it something people really wanna read?

[Sally] Yeah I mean, I always tell people that I work with the biggest thing when it comes to blogging is writing for your audience and not for yourself. So we can go and pick any topic we wanna talk about, we can be the experts on it. But if your audience isn’t asking for that information, that’s not very helpful. So I would say definitely try to chunk up your blogs, make them very visually attractive, a lot of users nowadays are on their cell phones when they’re looking at websites. So keep that in mind. Yeah, paragraphs should be short sentences, should be short, use headers. So this example here we have foods bolded, you can kind of see the photos were used to break up the content. Just make it as visually appealing as you can. And another thing too I will mention that you guys are welcome to look into is this idea of blogging, it’s called the quartz curve. So I think a lot of people see blogs or come into blogging, and they expect a blog has to be 2,000 plus words, it has to be this really long piece of work. And that’s not always the case. So the quartz curve tells us that people want either really short content that they can scan through, kinda get their information like less than 500 words, or if you’re gonna make it longer, make it longer and really go in depth. So that’s kind of where that SEO value is in those blogs. So you wanna try to stay away from that middle like 500 to 800, 500 to 900 word count, because those are blogs that really get lost. People can’t scan them, but there’s not enough information for them to really get the full picture of everything.

[Carl] Yeah, that’s a good tip. Do all blogs have to be written articles?

[Sally] Definitely not. So if you guys have like internal stuff that you’ve used with your business, whether it’s a PowerPoint, or a video or an interview or a Q&A, any of that content can be repurposed for blogs, definitely don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel there. If there’s content that can be used, definitely use it. And as far as blogging goes too I feel like a lot of people don’t recognize that you can go back and edit blogs. So for the people who already have a blog that’s existing, maybe you had an intern a couple years ago who started it and no one’s touched it since then. That’s fine. You really like don’t always have to start over with those. But if you go back and revisit the posts, if there’s stuff that’s outdated, or if there’s links that are broken or just content that can use an update, I would say go in there, update it, Google will like what we call reindex the page. So it’ll read about the blog post and get any of that new information. And that can really help in your search as well.

[Carl] That’s really good. I can personally attest to that we’ve got some blogs that we work on where some articles that were written a couple years ago and still do really well with some fresh updates to that content, they now get even more traffic than they ever did before. And those articles are four plus years old. That’s okay.

[Sally] I would say and to add to that point to coming up with the not reinventing the wheel, I really like that a lot is looking at competition, that is also in a similar situation. If they have any outdated content or ideas that you think you could expand on or broken links to their site as well. Writing those pieces kind of creating, a better piece of content, an updated, a fresh piece of content that’s got the most up to date information. Sometimes coming up with a topics can seem difficult, can seem challenging, the ideas might just be there for the taking again. And establishing kind of a framework for how to kind of think outside of the box when it comes to looking for content ideas. Keywords are another great tool to use for kind of the basis of it if things are, ranking highly, if people are searching for certain terms. This is another thing you can just really use Google for if you start searching for something in your area, see what some of the Google suggestions that pop up are using those kind of as working titles and basing content off of that is a good starting practical, easy way to get started on writing content that people are actually looking for, asking questions for. A lot of times people are asking questions for things because other sites haven’t answered those questions yet. If you can answer those questions, Google is, there’s a much higher likelihood they’re gonna pull that up into the search engines now. Especially with the way they’re kind of changing how they’re pulling information. They’re much more looking to answer people’s questions rather than necessarily just bringing up keywords that people are searching for, wanting to make sure they cover all their bases. So if you can answer questions that people haven’t answered yet, or if they’ve answered them, and you can just do a better job at answering that and become the authority on it. There’s a lot of great opportunity there.

[Carl] Yeah, great point. Great point. And just one little tip for those on the call if you’re trying to find out what kinds of questions are people asking, just going into a search engine and typing a topic Google will, a lot of search engines but particularly Google will auto suggest queries that it thinks are related to the query that you’re making. And oftentimes those will be questions. That’s just a quick tip on a way to find out what kinds of questions people are asking that are relating to the topic that you’d like to rank for. That’s great.

Best Practices for Publishing Blog Content

Scott, you know we focus a lot on the content itself, like what idea should I write, how long should it be, you know, that kind of stuff. Do you have any but then, like publishing the blog is a big part too, having the written content obviously or the video content. You’re not gonna get a good blog article without that content. But I know from experience that the way you publish it or the format you publish it can affect its ability to be found or to be seen as engaging. Any tips on publishing? And Sally, you’re welcome to comment on this one as well.

[Scott] Sure. You know, there’s some things that Sally had mentioned already on this that I’ll kind of touch on again. Using proper headings. First of all, it makes it skimmable. If we are breaking it up into chunks, it does make it skimmable. It also tells Google and search engines what this is about. So using headings not just bold and italics, but actually using proper headings for each section is really important. Ensure that you’re using your keywords, the things that you want to talk about, and spacing those out and using those wisely, using those in the headings as well, including internal links and external links. Recognizing that you can’t be all things to all people. And if you wanna talk about a topic in a post, linking out to an external site, as long as it’s not necessarily competition, or gonna draw them away from business. But if it’s another authoritative site that can be really helpful as well. Making sure it’s readable, legible. One of the things that I always check is I have in your spelling and grammar section where you can check that. You can set that up to show the Flesch-Kincaid score. Trying to make sure that it’s set up between, I usually have it at like a seventh grade reading level is what I usually check it for maybe up to a ninth grade. Typically people don’t want content that go over their head, you wanna make sure that they can understand it, that they can easily digest it. You also don’t wanna condescend to them accidentally, and speak below their reading level. So making sure that it’s easily digestible. Those are some really good practical ways to just establish and set up, kind of layout and structure the blog for publishing. The other thing is when you’re using images, ensuring that you’re using good descriptions on your images and your alt text and things of that nature, making sure that if you can use the keywords, but really just making sure you’re describing what that image is as well. This is great for other types of, if you’re searching images for search results on images that Google can recognize it, and give you kind of like the authority, kind of stamp on that as well. And there’s a whole litany of lists of things that we can go into when it comes to publishing, title tags, meta descriptions, making sure that when you’re popping up in the search engines pages, that it’s very clear and defined, what you’re answering, that you’re using those keywords in there too that you’ve developed for those pieces. Those are kind of some basic structural things when it comes to publishing. Look at your dates, a lot of the things when it comes to publishing, and how often we should publish, and when we should publish is testing. It’s gonna be different for each one, publishing posts on a consistent basis, that’s gonna look different for everyone. If that’s is what your capacity is, is it once a week, is it once a month, is it twice a month? Is it daily? Just testing that and seeing what that looks like, it gives a great opportunity to see what’s performing well, what’s not performing well, and expanding on those pieces and highlighting them. So there’s a lot of factors that kind of come into play, but they’re really just simple updates, checking headings, checking keywords, making sure links are there and ensuring that you have a really clear message that you’re communicating.

[Carl] The topic of how often to post is a question that comes up often when I talk to people about blogging. And I know a few people that wrote in questions when they registered, mentioned that as well. So could you guys talk a little bit more about that? Like, I hear best practices, anything from you should be blogging every day. If you’re not blogging at least every day, forget about it. By the way, I don’t subscribe to that. But I hear those things. And then I hear the other extreme is, only blog when you have something really important to talk about, and otherwise don’t bother. I feel like the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. But could you guys elaborate on that a little bit?

[Sally] Yeah, I can start with that. Yeah, I mean I would definitely say it’s a happy medium. And as Scott said, like it is different for everyone. Figure out what your capacity is. So if you guys have someone on your team who is a writer, or does maybe like admin work and helps with website updates, is it something that they can be writing? Can you add blogs to their list, or do you actually have to do it, is it gonna be you in that role, writing those blogs? And then figuring that out, I think a lot of people and social media is kind of lumped into this as well, think that it has to be like, hours and hours of work. And definitely some SEO blogs that rank really well, yeah, there’s hours of work that go into that. But if you’re putting out a blog that answers a question, it doesn’t have to make you overthink. I would say if you can set aside like one hour a week to work on your blogs, that’s awesome. Figure out what that looks like. And then once you do have a rhythm or you know your capacity stick with it. So if you are blogging once a month, make that the expectation that every month we’re gonna have a new blog that’s out there. And then yeah, just drill out and promote it on your social media, send it out on your newsletter, whatever that looks like. But stay consistent with it. Don’t put out four blogs in one month, and then none for six months. Or hold on to those blogs too. Even if you have kind of a backlog of them. Let’s say you have six that are in your Google Drive, they’re ready to go. Post them once a month and that way you can stick with it, stay consistent and continue writing so that you have those to push out in the future.

[Carl] Yeah, that’s a great tip. I’ve got a friend that writes like once a month, and he puts together like six or seven blog articles. And then he schedules them to post throughout the month. So it looks like he’s writing all the time. But really, he’s just blogs out one day a month to do that. That’s great. Cool. I feel like you gave another tip there that I wanna elaborate on a little bit, which is just answering questions. You know some of the best blog articles I’ve written or gotten the most value out of have been, one person’s take on a particular topic, kind of just addressing that in a more conversational tone and addressing just a very specific question. So like if you would just write down like one strategy we’ve advised people on is just write down the list of questions that you often get when you’re taking phone calls for bookings. Or when people submit contact forms on your website, like what are the things that they’re usually asking about? Those are great questions to then put on the blog. And then the way that you would answer them on the phone is a great way to answer them on the blog.

[Scott] That’s a really easy way of getting content ideas. The questions that people are asking all the time, there’s a good chance especially if they’re newer, and they’re calling you up and you’re asking you, they’ve probably looked on your website for it. They probably tried to find that question before they come to you with it. And if you’re getting it frequently, that usually means you haven’t answered the question yet. And it’s a really good opportunity for a topic that people wanna know more about, if you can get them on your website, if you can answer those questions there. If you can bring them down with a call to action, you can increase the chance of getting bookings through your site that way. So that’s a great point and a great way of doing it.

Best Practices for Promoting Blog Content

[Carl] Cool. So I feel like there’s kind of an elephant in the room here that I want you guys to talk about. Starting with you, Sally which is, we can put a lot of work into writing a blog, we can publish it with these best practices, and then it just like feels like it’s sitting on a shelf, nobody’s finding it, you’re checking Google Analytics, there isn’t anyone visiting it. Or there’s just a small handful and then you realize that that’s you visiting your blog article. So, one thing I always remind people is it’s, maybe writing the content is half the battle, but the other battle is really promoting the content. And sometimes we forget that, right? We think that if we just post, that’s all that it takes. And the reality is there’s lots of people posting it. So I know that promoting content is a really big deal. Can you talk a little bit about that?

[Sally] Yeah, absolutely. I think this is a great question. And definitely one I come across with prospective clients who were like, hey, you can bring more traffic to my website, with blogs? And I’m like, yes, to a degree. And it definitely takes time. I think understanding that, Google’s not gonna index your page overnight. It’s just like launching a website. You launched it last week, you’re probably not gonna be up in the rankings this week. You’re definitely not gonna be up in the rankings this week. For a new one, but keeping that in mind. So you touched on this Google Analytics. And for anyone in the room who doesn’t have Google Analytics, get it. It’s a free tool. Really easy to install on websites, if you YouTube it, you can do it. If you can log into your website. So put Google Analytics on and then track that. So you wanna check and see, what pages are popular on your website, almost always it’s your homepage first. But if you have a blog that goes viral, or people are looking at a lot, you can see that. You can see the direct traffic that’s coming kind of into your website from that way. So understanding that you do have to kind of track, that’s a big part of marketing, we wanna make sure that we’re reaching those goals and things are attainable. But yes, so you to your initial question, promoting the content is huge. So aside from just people finding it on Google, if you have a newsletter that you send out, I would recommend making a section in your newsletter that highlights your blogs, whether that’s the one a month or one a week. And you send a newsletter and it has all four from the last month. On social media I would say anytime you publish a new blog you should be putting it on social media. And even depending on kind of the frequency of those blogs as well, there’s some like lifestyle bloggers that I follow, and they’ll do a roundup at the end of the week. Hey, these were the three blogs if you missed them. And a lot of times it’s helpful. It is a lot of content. So kind of staying up to date on it isn’t always the easiest. And I think another just big missed opportunity and this is a little bit more like a public relations side of things. But if you guys are on Reddit or if you follow any forums, and you follow threads that are in your topic, like look through those and see what questions people are asking. Reddit is like, that’s what it’s used for, people go there to kind of crowdsource and ask questions, and if you can insert your blog into that conversation, not in a salesy way, but just saying, hey, this is a great resource. I think it answers your questions, you guys, this might help. That’s another really great tool. There’s a lot of benefits to that besides just directing traffic, the links and all that good stuff, but definitely like put it into your marketing mix and figure out anywhere that you can publish that, I would say do it appropriately if it’s for the right audience.

[Scott] Just to add to some of that a little bit, there’s some practical things you can do on the search side of things to kind of help speed up the process and our resources we have will have a link to a piece that we have regarding this. You can submit your sitemap to Google Search Console. Making sure that Google can quickly kind of go through and know exactly how your site’s laid out, finding your blogs and you can also submit your blogs to that as well when you do have fresh content coming out. Like Sally said, it does take time, it’s not always an immediate thing, but you can do some things to kind of help yourself out. One stat that I found is websites that have blogs have 434% more index pages. So just having blogs that are coming out regularly, you are over time gonna have a better chance of showing up in the search ranking pages. A couple more things about sharing the post and kind of making it a little bit easier. If you’re using sites as resources, if you’re talking about other businesses, if you’re quoting somebody, in the piece using their stats or things like that, let them know. When you share a piece out, send them an email, thank them for what they contributed, ask them if they could share. This is I think, a huge hurdle that some people have, when it comes to sharing pieces out, ask people to share your content. I think a lot of people have to, it’s a pride kind of wall that we have to break down a little bit. The biggest thing that we can do is ask people to share our content. So those businesses, if you’ve listed top five things to do in my area, and you have X, Y and Z and in there and you’re linking to them, let them know about the piece, ask them to share with their audience. If you’re expanding on pieces of content that you found and you’re generating ideas, let them know, thank them for the information they put out, say, we expanded on that, wrote this piece, I think this could be a great fit, a great match for your piece, a possibility that they might even include that in their post and link back to you. Which is great for all types of things. It builds brand authority, it helps drive referral traffic. There’s a lot of opportunity when it comes to that for organic SEO value, as well as just establishing your authority telling Google hey, I really know what I’m talking about when it comes to this topic. So those are some actionable things. And again like I said, the one will post in the resources about how to go about helping your blog to show up in search.

Resources to Help with Blogging

[Carl] I know that there’s some questions building up in chat. So before we go to those just kind of one last question for both of you. Is there anything any specific tip or resource that you wanted to share, that you haven’t already shared yet today? Scott, go first.

[Scott] Sure, I will. There’s a few things that we have that will come up in the resources links that I wanna touch on. One of the things that is a really way I know we talked a lot about the SEO value and how to structure things that can seem overwhelming and kind of daunting. We posted a link to a Yoast. You can get a plugin for your WordPress if you have it and use Yoast that way. This is a really easy tool. If you don’t have it yet, you can just copy and paste. If it’s formatted, copy and paste it into that box. It’s completely free. It’ll just give you some basic tips. You know maybe you wanna follow up on this tips that will say things like add more keywords in your sub headings or include more external links. So you haven’t used your keyword enough or you’ve used it way too much. It’s a very helpful tool to just do some basic, kind of takes out some of the guesswork for you. So before posting anything live, it’d be worth running it through something like that, to do that. Another big thing would be using images like we talked about. If you can use any of your own personal images, if you’ve taken photos, things like that, utilizing those would be great. I know Sally has another tool that she’s listed on here that I’ll let her speak into about how to create great content for that as well. But I can’t stress enough if you have your own images, even if they’re on your Instagram page, using your Instagram posts in your blog articles, it could be just a great and easy way of updating it and pointing people to a social media feed as well, to get them to follow you that way. So there’s some good opportunities there to use content that you’re already generating and optimizing that to share out.

[Carl] That’s great. Sally, any closing or not closing but any last tips before we open up for Q&A?

[Sally] Yeah. I mean I would definitely agree with all those resources. So Unsplash we have listed here as a free stock image site. I know stock images are something some people struggle with or clients I’ve worked with in the past don’t know that there are like free ones out there that you can use. So Unsplash is a great one and Pexels. It’s P-E-X-E-L, That’s another one, free images really high quality. I definitely agree with Scott. If you can use your own images, that’s better than stock photos. But if you have one or if you don’t have a photo, or rather you have one that’s just not the quality that you want, stock photos can be a great option. And Canva is another really great resource for blogs or outside blogs just as a business tool. I would recommend you all getting signed up with that. There’s a free account you can use and it’s pretty much just templates for like everything. So social media headers, blog graphics, PowerPoints, there are a bunch of templates in there. You can go in and brand them so you choose your fonts and colors, add in your own photos, swap out the text, and they look really professional and yeah, I would say use those in blogs if you can as well.

Open Q&A

[Carl] Cool. Cool. Well, Sam, I know you’ve been watching chat. What kinda questions do we have for our speakers here today? Sam, you might be muted.

[Sam] Yep, sorry. There we go. We’ve got a couple from the chat here. The first one I want to bring up is from Phil True, who’s looking for some better perspectives on reaching readers with relevant content. But his question is, how do you prepare your mind to write from the perspective of the reader and address what they want? So I think there’s kind of three parts to this. It’s kind of how do you get in the mindset of writing a blog? How do you write to address the needs, the situation that the reader would be in? And how do you really hit home you have a solution to what they would want? So that’s for anybody really.

[Scott] I can speak to that a little bit. And then Sally, I’m sure she can speak into this as well. Some kind of easy things that, some things that I’ve adapted is I’ve come up with internally just some questions I ask about all my clients, about prospective buyers, about their pain points, about what voice we wanna use, whatever questions need to be addressed, coming up with outlines, how we speak about ourselves to the public, what our internal words are that we use internally, that we don’t need to use when we’re talking to the public. Those are some just really helpful guidance. If we have a general guide kind of a structure that’s based there’s a few different types of blogs that you can write. If you have a kind of a template that you can kind of almost work off of, it’s really helpful, then you go into it with an idea of the direction that you’re going in. That’s what I found to be the most helpful is having a template, having those pain points listed out, having that discussion guide in front of me about how we talk about ourselves. And it helps to kind of formulate those ideas a lot easier going into it. Sally could probably speak a little bit more into this ’cause the content kind of overseeing it she’s more of the writing aspect of it. So yeah.

[Sally] Yeah, I think that’s a great place to start kind of the template and figuring out what the voice is. I mean, the brand is something that you wanna match. So if it’s your business that you’re writing, you want it to sound cohesive, sound like it’s coming from you. I would say so Grammarly is a tool that we have listed here. If you guys again don’t have Grammarly that’s another, I believe they have a free option and then a paid option. Grammarly is really cool. So if you write an article and you put it in a Word doc or something, you can copy and paste everything out and then put it into this tool. And Grammarly actually gives you the options to kind of filter the voice and tone of what you’re writing. So it’ll say, do you want this to sound business? Do you want this to sound neutral? Do you want it to sound friendly? And you can kind of filter out some of those things. It’s not gonna be a person reading it. But I think that’s a really great place to start. And then on top of that, it gives you all of the grammatical updates and tenses and stuff like that, that might just not be on your mind. I would say one thing and this is kind of a just random note towards this question. People assume to write you have to have an English degree and be super professional. I have an English degree and I like to think I’m professional but I know so many people who write amazing pieces and whether there’s a spelling error in it or you missed a comma, people are still gonna read it. So don’t let that hang you up. But I think outside of that, like usually when I’m getting ready to write, and it’s for a client that’s either like, a new industry to me, or I’m just not sure what topic I wanna write, again, going back to Google, I really just try to get into that mindset. So for me personally, like getting into that tourist space, we’ve all been there, we’ve gone on vacations, we’ve searched for a specific area. You know the questions that you ask when you’re traveling. So you can assume that other people are asking similar questions when they’re traveling. Whether it’s to the same location or not, I think just kind of getting into that, again, how do you get in the mindset but just figuring out like, what are those questions, who, what, where, when, why, how, those are always good places to start. And then go to Google to figure out what you wanna start googling. A lot of times that’s like a rabbit hole that is really helpful, at least for me. I’ll search one thing and end up 10 topics away but the path that took me there, I learned a lot and it kind of, gave me the inspiration I needed to start writing or figure out a topic or yeah, jump into that mix wherever that might be.

[Carl] If I could add another tip I’ve heard that’s worked well for me is just envisioning the, almost pick someone you know that represent your target audience and write to them. So, if you’re writing for kids or a topic for parents or a topic for a couple looking for a romantic getaway, like think of someone you know who fits that target audience profile and write it to them. And if you don’t know what someone who fits that profile, almost like, just spend a little bit of time imagining what would they be like, what’s their background, what kind of job do they have, that kind of stuff, personify them a bit, and then write to that person. I’ve seen some really good examples where just taking that approach makes a piece much more engaging for everybody. Because it was targeted to someone personally. So that’s great.

[Scott] Yeah, to add to that and what you’re saying Carl, having a buyer persona can be super helpful, multiple buyer personas. I know there’s some free ones that are available, I can share that out later, I’ll find one. But knowing who your buyer is, you’ll get a great understanding of who they are. And it helps to get into that headspace a little bit more if you know the age of the person, the occupation of the person, what they do, you can almost put yourself in their mindset when you begin to write a piece, if you kind of take it on and let yourself think, it’s kind of getting outside the box a little bit, but you have to kind of let that happen to get in that person’s shoes and see how they wanna be addressed, and how they’d like to be talked to.

[Carl] And I would say too that like, Scott and Sally, you’re often in the position of writing for another business or writing for someone else. So I just wanna point out to everyone else on the call like those of you who are writing for your business, like you have a leg up on Scott and Sally or other people in their position because you know your audience, you know your customers, you’re talking to them every day. So like, just pick your favorite customer and write to them. They just asked you, what’s other stuff I could do in the area? Write them an article the way that you would relay it to them if they were sitting across from you in the counter or in a coffee shop.

[Sam] Okay, so I know this isn’t, we can talk about this in the context of blogs. But one of the questions is like how do you use, so this is from Caitlin Has from Landis Valley, and she’s wondering about how to use SEO tools. I know you talked a little bit about SEO Yoast, which is a popular plugin for WordPress obviously. So that’s a little niche but there’s a ton of tools out there. And I’m wondering if I can take a little liberty on the question and say, not only how do you use them, but how do you first evaluate any SEO tools that might be out there? And if we kind of keep it in the wheelhouse of blogging, that’s probably helpful.

[Scott] I can, I guess I’ll start on this a little bit. I would say, definitely check out that Yoast tool. It can be really helpful. When you’re looking at different tools, there’s some key ones that just kind of stick out, stand out that are tried and tested that people will kind of view as the authoritative, best tools to use. Try them out, see which ones you like the best, see which ones work for you, which user interfaces you really enjoy. When you’re using them specifically for blogs, I’m trying to think of the ones that I would think for blogs other than Yoast specifically for generating content ideas. There’s tons of them. There’s lots of tools to help you identify new keywords. I’m thinking specifically of Ahrefs, Moz. You know, I mean, the list can go on and on, Majestic, all types of things that you can do to help generate keywords to build blogs off of, see which current posts are getting the most attraction, which are getting the most inbound links. It depends on how deep you wanna go, the user interfaces are all gonna be different. So I would say you really have to try them and see which one you like the best, which one fits best for you. Some of the free versions you can probably get away with using. One of the things that’s great for doing blog content, if you’re just looking for something basic to see what’s being shared well is something like a BuzzSumo. It’ll show kind of what Google is recognizing as this is top content, what social media is saying, hey, this is really special and it’s getting a lot of shares. But yeah, test them out, see which ones you like the most. If I were to recommend them, I would say, I use Yoast, I use Ahrefs. I’ve used SEMrush in the past. There’s a lot of great tools that are out there that I could recommend and kind of play with them. And see which one fits your brand, your price point, that’s gonna have a lot to do with it too. All things to keep in mind. But when it comes to SEO, if you’re doing just those basic things to kind of keep yourself, make it digestible. Watch your headings, making sure you have internal links, making sure you have some links pointing out, a proper use of keywords, you can kind of cover your own basis. Everything else is really icing on the cake to help you out. So if you’re keeping those standards in mind, and this comes with consistency too. Consistency over time of continuing to practice those things. You’ll get more and more comfort with it. Everything else is really just extra. So I wouldn’t get too overwhelmed with all the tools. They’re good. They’re good markers, it’s a good indicator. But they’re really guess best tools at that. We don’t know exactly 100% Google doesn’t divulge all their information. They’re really just good mile markers for us to use to kind of gauge where our contents at, how we can improve upon it. So really just consistency over time with what you’re doing is the most important thing. Everything else is icing on the cake and just play with it and see what you like the most, what works best for you.

[Carl] So you mentioned Google Analytics already. And I know that we put that in the chat, as well as a link to some free tools. Another one that I’m not sure came up yet is Google Search Console. Where Google Analytics is great as it can show you which blogs are getting traffic already, which can be super helpful because like the 80-20 rule is a good one here. You know if you’re blogging consistently, the reality is not every blog article you write is gonna be super popular. That’s just the truth. And so where Google Analytics can help you is figure out kind of like we talked about on the social media, like test out lots of different social media posts, see which ones work and then repeat the things that are working. Same thing with blogging, write on different topics, write with different lengths, try different things, try different styles, see what seems to resonate with your audience and then repeat those. So Google Analytics can help with the traffic part, or which things are getting the most clicks. With Google Search Console what’s nice is you can actually see how is Google looking at your blog article? What keywords do they think your blog article is relevant for? And you can even see how far up in the search engine is that blog article showing up when Google thinks it’s relevant. And so you can get some ideas for keywords that Google thinks are relevant to your blog article but maybe you haven’t even really referenced in your blog article. But by specifically updating the blog article like Sally talked about earlier, and including some of those keywords, you can see dramatic increases in the rankings for those. So Search Console is a completely free tool. It’s provided by Google. So even though Google doesn’t divulge everything, like Scott said, their own tools are gonna be the best proxy for what they’re likely doing. And so if they’re showing you this information, like, hey, your page is getting impressions from these keywords. That’s a very high indicator that that’s an important keyword. And so emphasizing that or talking more about the topic that that keyword is referencing in your blog articles can be a great way to figure out what’s gonna work well. Cool.

[Sally] Yeah. Only other one I have to add to that is another free tool I’ve used. Yeah, I guess when I first started getting into blogging on a more serious level, I was really awakened to find out that a lot of these really awesome tools are like agency priced. So if you’re not looking to invest in those, I would say stick with the free tools, but 100% to Scott’s point, I mean SEO yes, that’s a component of it. But there are so many other pieces out there that you guys can focus on. And I know we’ve thrown so much at you. So I would say pick some of those areas, make sure that the blogs are formatted correctly, answer your customers’ questions and then let the keywords kind of lead you as they do. But don’t get too hung up on the SEO side of things.

[Sam] Okay, a couple other questions here. This one, I think we might have talked about guest posts a little bit. But any other suggestions? This has come from Rick from Pedaltown or Pedal Ptown. So any other suggestions on collaborating on guest posts and things like that?

[Scott] Yeah, if you can, do it, definitely do it. Guest posting is an unbelievable opportunity. There’s a lot of ways you can go about doing it. Collaborating is great. Native advertising, if you have a budget for it, is a great way of doing it. If you have blog posts, if you’re generating blogs on your site, you have topics to talk about. This is again, you don’t have to come up with anything fresh ideas, you can rewrite, reframe the pieces that you have currently there and adapt them to other websites. The one thing I would caution about is republishing your blogs on other people’s websites. So I wouldn’t necessarily say do that directly. If you decide to do that, give it some time. Not the worst thing in the world. I wouldn’t regularly make a practice of it. But guest blogging is a great opportunity. It’s a great opportunity for some internal linking or some external linking. It’s a great opportunity to drive referral traffic. Again, getting back to establishing you as an authority on that topic in that industry. Guest blog, yeah, I couldn’t recommend it enough. I think it’s an awesome opportunity.

[Sally] Yeah, I think 100% agreed, if you can guest blog do it. My other thought and this is just my kind of public relations background. If you are writing about a topic and it seems newsworthy to you, so there’s a vested interest from your community in the topic or the opportunity for it to be like an event or something else that’s kind of happening around it that makes it more than just this evergreen piece, definitely reach out to your local media. I’ve seen so many people have really great wins. They’ve gotten interviews with local TV stations, published in local newspapers. There are so many like local news blogs as well. So they might not necessarily be like a WGAL, but people who are independently blogging news stuff. And a lot of times they’re looking for content to put out there. So if you have something, reach out to them, look for emails on those websites you can connect with. Depending on kind of who you’re reaching out to, sometimes you might need to repurpose that blog into what’s called a press release, which honestly, if you learn how to write a press release, if you Google it or watch a video on YouTube, it’s more just like a formatting thing. A lot of the content can stay the same. Send that to anyone that you can and see who picks it up. That’s another easy one.

[Sam} Oh, great. Thank you, Sally. One, if we have time for this last question. I think Ruth Franklin, I think you sort of asked the same question. But this is also coming from Teresa from Linda’s Valley. Effective blog writing and best publishing platforms. So I guess the question I’d like to look at here is, if you don’t currently have a blog, what platforms are out there? How can we evaluate our website to see if we have a way that we can do it? I feel like this is a good question to end on just because if you’re not blogging and you’re wondering how to do it, we’ll set you up for some good actions to move forward.

[Sally] Yeah, I can start on that one. If you don’t already have a blog, but you have a website, I would say start a blog. I usually encourage people that I work with to hold off on actually launching their blog until they have a couple kind of posts that they can put out there. So it’s not just one blog that people can read. If you’re getting traffic to that blog then give them like three pieces of content that they can read. But most websites today, whether you’re on WordPress or Squarespace, have a blog function already built into it. So you might need to connect with someone that’s a little bit more of a website expert to be able to say, this is how you actually install it or make it show up on your navigation. But from the back end, you probably don’t need to do much to actually get that up and running. And again, YouTube has some really great tutorials. If you do have, like I said WordPress or Squarespace and you’re not sure how to add a blog, Google it. There are a lot of really great videos. And it’s honestly as simple as figuring out a couple places to navigate to, pasting that blog into it, making sure the formatting is good and then publishing it. Yeah, I would say definitely do that. And then if you don’t have a blog, or you’re looking to write somewhere else, I’ve worked with before, so that’s a kind of self published, again, news aggregate. There’s the opportunity to get paid for your articles there too, which I will say you probably aren’t gonna make a whole lot of money starting out, but they have an affiliate program. So if you are writing articles, or you wanna repurpose other content, you can always post it there, and link back to your website. I would say that’s the important part there, make sure you have kind of like a signature on the bottom or a bio and include your website in that.

[Scott] Great. Yeah. And to add to that, I think a lot of the tools that we had mentioned earlier would be really helpful if you’re looking for formatting tools or publishing tools, Grammarly, and that Yoast tool, I think would really come in handy. Some other places that you can look if you have your blog and you’re looking for other places to kind of branch out. There’s usually some type of local, like Patch and things of that nature that do allow blog functionalities or family type websites that allow you to post regularly. I think Lancaster Pennsylvania has a family site that you can regularly update your content. If you are paying for a membership to any local tourism communities and DMO setups, like that Massachusetts site that we had shared earlier or things of that nature, typically they will allow you to submit your blogs to them as well. So having multiple platforms is great if you have the opportunity to do that and to share it out. But as Sally said, the big thing would be on your own site, you have the functionality, you have the operations, everything typically is set up and established there for you. So, really get blogging on that site is a great opportunity.

[Carl] I would say too if anybody on the call here has any questions on whether or not their website is set up to do blogging, you can always leave a message in the Accelerate Tourism Facebook page or contact one of us directly. You know, anybody on the call here, will try to help you determine whether or not you’ve got something that you can work with or chat about some of these other ideas to get you up and running.

[Scott] Yeah, I would real quick if you have questions, if you wanna share a blog or anything like that with me, I’d be more than happy to take a look at it. Give pointers, tips, send suggestions along, feel free. I’ll share my email out in the chat area, but I’m more than happy to take a look at a piece.

Closing Summary

[Carl] Hey Sally and Scott, thank you for joining us today. Shared a lot of information, a ton of tips. I hope people were taking notes. If you weren’t, it’s okay we’re gonna send out the recording and the notes for you. We did cover a ton of different things I would encourage you to take the advice Sally gave. Pick a few tips that really resonated with you and try them. Keep the notes saved somewhere and go back to them later when you feel like you’ve nailed those things and try some more. Blogging’s kind of like social media. It’s not something you have to be perfect at right away. Just get going with it. Try some things, see what works and don’t give up. Just wanna give a shout out to Nicole Anderson at Twin Pine. She took it on her own to ask us some questions about how to get, how to get a blog written and what some tips were. And it’s her, we can’t promise this is gonna work this way for you guys, but their very first blog article on the Twin Pine website just got featured on Forbes. So, they linked to it in an article that related to the topic they wrote. So it’s just a testament to the fact that getting out there trying some stuff and figuring it out and doing some things to promote it too is gonna be a really big help for you. So thank you everyone for joining today. Just wanna talk about our topic for next week. Many of you have asked about SEO, there were a lot of questions for this session that were SEO related. In the context of this call, trying to keep this to an hour, we can’t really get too deep on the topic of SEO. So next week, we’re gonna spend our entire session just talking about SEO, breaking it down a little bit. What is it? What does it really mean? How does it work? And what are some practical tips that you as tourism business owners or business leaders can use to help build up organic traffic using search engine optimization principles for your website and in other places as well. So I encourage you to tune in for that. We’ll send out a link via email for that soon, early next week. We’ll have for those of you who are members of the Facebook group, just a reminder to join that if you haven’t already. We’ll be posting it as an event there with a link to join there as well. Thank you, everyone. Thank you again, Scott and Sally. Thank you everyone, for all your questions. If you have a question that didn’t get answered today, get on the Facebook group, pose the question there, we’ll take your questions there. And if you have a blog or you’re ready to start a new blog and you just want a second set of eyes on it, post a link to your blog in the Facebook group and we’ll take a look at it and give you some advice. Thank you everyone. Have a great weekend.

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Meet the Author:

Carl Lefever

Carl Lefever, Founder & Strategist

Carl is the founder of Improve & Grow, LLC, where his primary passion is helping businesses grow by improving their online marketing. He leads the team and is involved in developing and executing internet marketing strategies for our clients. Carl's background is in continuous improvement disciplines, focused on sales and marketing operations. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is a proud father of 4 girls and loves traveling and supporting missions work.