Free-ish Marketing via Popular Travel Blogs

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dumitru's picture
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Hi all,

A new question for today: would you exchange 1-2 nights of free stay at your place in exchange for an article on a popular travel website/blog?
If you get a review of your hotel, a backlink to your website, some photos and maybe even a positive review on TripAdvisor, would you do it?

Of course not in high season, but how about low season?

Thank for your feedback Smiling

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Nope would not. 

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Dumi there will be something here that we will all say "BINGO!" to, I promise...one day soon. Smiling

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dumitru's picture
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That will be one glorious day, one for the books!

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We get requests all the time from bloggers (everybody with the website is now a blogger!) and travel writers (mostly from obscure, never hear of newspapers) and often for the high season dates. No body is staying at my place for free - if they are reputable writers they should have a budget for travel. We do not provide free vacations.

dumitru's picture
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seashanty & Jon Sable, you are both making a great point about the disclosure. 

It surely is something to consider, so I got some more thinking to do. Thanks for your input, really appreciate it.

Generic's picture
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I've said it before... and I'll say it again, there is a legal requirement of disclosure.

The FTC in the US requires that bloggers disclose when they have received something for free. So if the person doesn't disclose that they received a stay to review the place they are in violation of the law and you are complicit in that fraud. If they do disclose then it's just a paid advertisement.

In other words, it's tainted, either way.

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seashanty's picture
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 there are lots of people with travel blogs  -  some have HUGE followings. i don't know how many followers this particular blogger has.    dumitru, it sounds like you really want to try this in spite of what others are saying.  but i think it should have a disclaimer that the writer stayed for free - not sure how you'd word that. 

 i enjoy rick steves on pbs - traveling to places i wish i could go.  i imagine he gets perks just because of the tv cameras following him around, even if he pays for the rooms.  who knows. 

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seashanty wrote:

 there are lots of people with travel blogs  -  some have HUGE followings. i don't know how many followers this particular blogger has.    dumitru, it sounds like you really want to try this in spite of what others are saying.  but i think it should have a disclaimer that the writer stayed for free - not sure how you'd word that. 

 i enjoy rick steves on pbs - traveling to places i wish i could go.  i imagine he gets perks just because of the tv cameras following him around, even if he pays for the rooms.  who knows. 

You're right SS about the disclaimer. I follow several very popular travel bloggers and they always say when they are either testing out a travel product as a request from the manufacturer or when they have used a travel service, i.e. tour company in lieu of compensation.

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I recently had such an offer from a free-lance writer who claimed to write for travel sites and blogs.  I googled the name and came up with a famous English journalist. That seemed strange, as I can't imagine a well respected journalist requesting free lodging or ideas for articles about our area.

So I e-mailed back asking for some examples of published works so I could verify and be helpful with the kinds of recommendations of the area that suited the writer's style of travel.

Never heard back.  

When a request for "comp" lodging comes from our Chamber of Commerce, a trusted, well respected source for publicity,  I will occasionally honor it and give a free night to help out.  But I never expect a review.  Usually, a review is posted but I can't say that I have ever received a booking due to a blog review.  

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dumitru's picture
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To give an example of the type of articles that I'm talking about, I have to link to something I did last year, in a beautiful place in Austria:

http://www.brinzan.com/2013/05/sankt-wolfgang-im-salzkammergut-austria-a...

Me and my wife stayed in that location for 1 night only, we needed a break in the "countryside". The place is awesome, beautiful scenery, so of course we both took a lot of photos.

I also took the liberty to link to the hotel that we stayed at, even though we didn't get anything for that (and did not expect anything in return either). It was a very nice hotel for which we paid in full (booked via Booking).

So I would image that an article like this might turn to be somewhat helpful for some business owners, etc.

Wanted to know how you would "value" something like it.

Breakfast Diva's picture
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Make your money off of ads on your blog so you can afford to stay at these places.

No freebies for bloggers at my place either. It's just not going to reap enough rewards unless the travel blogger has a large base in my region. The last time I gave a freebie was for our coast's big magazine. They did a 2 page spread, large pictures. It was beautiful. We only got 1 or 2 bookings from it, but let me tell you a lot of weirdos came out of the woodwork calling us!

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While it was nice of you to do that, who knows of your blog post? as an owner, it would not be worth  free nights stay to me. Thanks for the link,but again, anyone can link to any place. Not worth a free night.

dumitru's picture
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Well, for starters, search engines know of my blog post.

Backlinks are among the best (if not THE best) factors influencing the search rankings of a website.
For hotels and lodging properties getting backlinks is pretty difficult, as there aren't many occasions on which you would get one.

So a couple of quality backlinks from a few travel blogs can put you ahead of your competition.
I believed that in 2014 this is common knowledge...

gillumhouse's picture
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Ahhh, back links. I get a LOT of 1 page hits from places I never heard of. I am not looking for link love, I am looking for heads in those freaking beds! I DID get a rez this morning from someone in the Nat Guard who said one of the guys told him about us - they will be here for their honeymoon. And the couple that was here this weekend for him to go to a seminar on the gas wells said we were listed in the materials they received as a lodging place. I did not recognize there they said, but I will take it!.

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dumitru wrote:

Well, for starters, search engines know of my blog post.

Backlinks are among the best (if not THE best) factors influencing the search rankings of a website.
For hotels and lodging properties getting backlinks is pretty difficult, as there aren't many occasions on which you would get one.

So a couple of quality backlinks from a few travel blogs can put you ahead of your competition.
I believed that in 2014 this is common knowledge...

Backlinks are valuable if you are a valuable site.

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I understand backlinks and Search engines. I am just saying that as an inn owner, I would not pay you a free night just for that.

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EmptyNest wrote:

I understand backlinks and Search engines. I am just saying that as an inn owner, I would not pay you a free night just for that.

I had hoped the "link farming" had run its course... I agree, it is not worth a free night.

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I think I recall a big "stink" a few years ago when Rick Ste_ves was found to be staying free at some of the places he recommended in his guide books. In fact, I'm sure he recommended only good places, not in exchange for the free stay, but because his success depends on his readers finding value in his recommendations.

But it just didn't look good, so now he always pays standard rates, even at places he has been recommending for years. Luckily, he can afford it. I LOVE his guide books. He thinks and travels like I do!

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Arks wrote:

I think I recall a big "stink" a few years ago when Rick Ste_ves was found to be staying free at some of the places he recommended in his guide books. In fact, I'm sure he recommended only good places, not in exchange for the free stay, but because his success depends on his readers finding value in his recommendations.

But it just didn't look good, so now he always pays standard rates, even at places he has been recommending for years. Luckily, he can afford it. I LOVE his guide books. He thinks and travels like I do!

Agreed! And consider the Fodor's or Frommer's guidebooks, they need to be untainted. I know many of us thought that would sure be a cool job to have! I used to go to the bookstore and be glued to a guide for an upcoming trip! 

dumitru's picture
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I've watched quite a lot of his videos for Italy / Austria / Germany, I like his passion.

And you are right, staying for free at some place is a strong incentive to be positive about the place...

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dumitru wrote:

I've watched quite a lot of his videos for Italy / Austria / Germany, I like his passion.

And you are right, staying for free at some place is a strong incentive to be positive about the place...

It had better be.

I would NEVER let you stay here for free if you planned on doing anything negative, that is like a stab in the back. So that is where it is, really. 

Of late, there has been a slew of articles written about a local area here, and every last one of them was verbatim spew from another article or source. It infuriates me, as I know these writers/journalists never came here or they would have their own photos, their own pov. Some are big timers too, not blog or travel writers hitchiking across country.

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Back in my early days - before TA and bllogs and FB, I gave freebies to freelancers in hope of getting publicity. 2 of them came through - both being vetted by the Tourism Div BTW and both put me in books. One did a book tour and mentioned our rail-trail as on of her favorites and the other put us in the 3rd edition of a guide book on WV. Then the lady who wrote the book on trails in my State and JB's did the 4th edition and the 5th edition and included us with a nice vignette in both. None of the others did squat.

My policy now is - if Tourism sends them - however many nights they need, otherwise I am sorry, no room for free. (And Tourism knows to call.)

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 a blogger really shouldn't be offering to write a review in exchange for a free stay - it sounds like a sweet deal for the 'reviewer' but how can they be impartial after getting a free stay? i used to get emails like that - a few each season - and turned them all down.

 i once got all excited because someone who wrote a travel blog was coming by and wanted to review the place, and didn't ask for anything in return.  i fussed for a week over so many details - and the CLEANING i did!  i wanted that place to shine. well, at the 11th hour (literally, just before i locked the doors for the night at 9 pm) the writer stopped by, stood OUTSIDE in the dark under the porch light  -  saying she had no time to come in, gave me less than 5 minutes to answer a couple questions and was off and away.  she had a camera with her but took no pictures that i'm aware of. i got the impression she was disappointed that i didn't have a restaurant or bar.

  i don't know if she ever included the place in an article, i certainly never saw any reference to it.  i felt like a fool for getting my hopes up. 

  i will say that i gave a night's stay in exchange for a painting of the place. THAT was a nice exchange. 

OnTheShore's picture
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I would add, what sort of "popular travel website/blog?"

Certainly there are lot of magazines/blogs, travel and otherwise, where you apparently have to "pay-to-play," i.e. the editorial content of the magazine/blog (particularly product reviews, new product announcements, etc...) tend to feature the advertisers in that mag/blog.... Reputable journalistic news organizations certainly don't engage is such tactics, though, do they....

 

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dumitru's picture
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An independent travel blog, ran by a single person/traveler, who has over 500 daily visitors, and writes about all his/her travels and experiences.

So nothing major like Yahoo! Travel or Huffington.

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I wouldn't care what blogger wrote about an inn. Doesn't mean squat to me. Now if the Washington Post does an article that's an entirely different thing.

dumitru's picture
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So basically if I come to stay for free at a place, it would be against some ToS to review the place on TA? If money is not exchanged then no review?

Let's say your B&B is in Miami. I come for a 10 day vacation, and spend 2 days at your place. So instead of staying for free at some poor guy's place via CouchSurfing, I would stay with you.
I don't pay any money, but I have a popular travel blog, where I will be writing about Miami. In these Miami posts, I could mention something like: "During my trip, I stayed at JB B&B", with a link to your place.

So the article won't be JUST about your place, but might contain a photo or two of your property, the view from my room, me with a beer at the terrace, etc.

So you gain a link from a relevant travel blog, + some photos, + some visitors from my blog audience.

P.S. This is just a hypothetical situation, I'm not going to Miami, and I don't have a popular travel blog.

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dumitru wrote:
So basically if I come to stay for free at a place, it would be against some ToS to review the place on TA? If money is not exchanged then no review?

No, the point is that the there can be no quid-pro-quo -- the arrangement that you come to stay for free, or otherwise, can not  be in any way based on a predetermination that you will write a review.... TA says NO incentives for writing reviews, positive or otherwise.

 

dumitru's picture
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Harborfields wrote:

dumitru wrote:
So basically if I come to stay for free at a place, it would be against some ToS to review the place on TA? If money is not exchanged then no review?

No, the point is that the there can be no quid-pro-quo -- the arrangement that you come to stay for free, or otherwise, can not  be in any way based on a predetermination that you will write a review.... TA says NO incentives for writing reviews, positive or otherwise.

Thanks for the clarification, this is very helpful.

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That is an interesting question. What sort of article? I ask as journalism ethics dictate that they do not receive freebies when they write articles. Now, is this the case in reality? Probably not.

A review is definitely a no no in exchange for anything, TA has stated those policies clearly.

 

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