Tag Archives: travel business development

Getting Better Search Engine Rankings Via PR

Need more links to your travel business website?  Or Maybe you need to improve your search engine rank…Press Release websites are a must.  I’ve heard the importance of PR from Marketing companies and wil attempt to do this myself for iheartbackpackers.com.   Anyways, while researching the most effective way to do this I came across two excellent links:

http://nakedpr.com/2007/07/16/effective-free-press-release-distribution-in-5-easy-steps/

http://nakedpr.com/2007/07/29/big-list-of-free-press-release-distribution-sites/

The former is a how to guide and the latter is a list of free PR Submission sites.

Create a Social Network for your Travel Company

 In my last post I wrote about how utilizing social networks like meetup.com, twitter.com, and facebook.com is a necessity not only for sales and brand awareness but also for valuable links that can boost your website rankings.  I discussed in an earlier post how meetup.com was a valuable tool because I can target an audience who specifically is interested in my travel products by creating a local community of backpackers.  Now what I’d like to do is combine these two tools by creating my own social networking site!

There are two important parts of getting visitors on my website:  Having them stay there for a period of time and repeat visits.  By offering tools on my website like a social networking site, I can guarantee these two important aspects of brand exposure and awareness.  There are many different sites out there that will allow you to create your own social network.  Here are a few:

http://www.ning.com  (free)

http://www.socialgo.com  (free)

http://www.socialengine.net  (free, updgrades cost money but are relatively cheap.  Fully customizable but difficult to use if you’re not computer savy)

If you would like to visit the http://www.iheartbackpackers.com  Social network that I created using ning.com please visit  Wanderlust!  – http://iheartbackpackers.ning.com

Social Network Media for Marketing

It’s incredible how fast and popular the social network media has grown.  I remember back in the day (pre-myspace) when I used to use http://www.friendster.com and http://www.livejournal.com to keep connected with friends.  Today there are thousands of websites out there that allow you to connect and share ideas, experiences, photos, videos etc.  More than just a way to stay in contact with peers, social networking sites have grown to be a huge channel for marketing, branding, and sales.  If I’m going to be in business, using this to my advantage is a must!

In an earlier entry, I wrote about the benefits of using http://www.meetup.com – a website that enables people with interests to gather, or meet up through group organizers, with others who have similar interests.  Today it is imperative to have a presence, or a page, on leading sites like http://www.facebook.com, http://www.twitter.com,  and http://www.myspace.com.   Just to give you an idea,  here are some stats on these sites:

Facebook –

  • More than 300 million active users
  • 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
  • The fastest growing demographic is those 35 years old and older

Myspace-

  • Reach over 70 million
  • 1100+ targeting options

Twitter-

  • Third largest Social Networking site
  • 6 million unique monthly visitors
  • 55 million monthly visits

So where else can I go to advertise?  Now a days there are SNMS for just about everything.  Wikipedia has an expansive list (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites) that I can search through.  For my Backpacking  business, the wikipedia lists http://www.couchsurfing.com, http://www.exploroo.com, http://www.passportstamp.com and many more under travel that I should be participating in.

So now that I have the basics down, where else should I be participating?  My new favorite site (and hobby) is http://www.stumbleupon.com.  Wow I could just spend hours (and have) here.  Stumble upon is a site that allows users to designate their interests and then shows them random websites that pertain to those interests.  I myself have found several valuable tools for my trade  just by stumbling around.  You may also submit sites that you wish other users to stumble upon (IE YOUR SITE!).  This can lead to hundreds of thousands of page view to your site!  WOW!  Talk about instant exposure…but it’s not that easy.  Although no one really knows how the stumbleupon matrix works, it has been suggested that in order for my submitted site to be viewed by others, I need to actively participate by writing reviews of sites I gave a thumbs up to and by adding friends to my stumble upon network.

And of course there’s Youtube.com.  Here’s another avenue to showcase my product and my creativity!  Make commercials for my website, product, service…make helpful videos sponsored by my company with my website.  Free advertising!  And here are some statistics why I need to be on youtube.com:

  • Number of videos watched daily — over 200,000,000
  • Number of accounts on YouTube — over 300,000,000

And there’s one more avenue I need to pursue.  Create a blog (like this one) and participate in other people’s blogs.  A year ago, while starting another business, I interviewed a marketing firm.  Part of their plan to raise our website rankings and exposure was through “Blog Infiltration”.  This means that they would post answers frequently on blogs (for a period of three months as they put it) that pertained to my business and leave my website address as a signature.  Remember, the more websites out there that have your link on it, the higher your rankings in search engines.  Pretty smart if you ask me.  Not only are you participating in your community and gaining industry experience and insight but you’re also promoting your website rankings and product to targeted viewers at the same time.  Remember, some of these blogs may have huge followings.

With the induction of SNMS websites into our Pop Culture it is important to use these as tools for exposing my company to the public.  Sure, I can spend thousands of dollars producing a commercial and even more money buying a slot on tv but with Tivos and DVRs my commercials will be ignored and skipped and the little  money that I have for my startup will go down the drain.  I’m going to take advantage of targeting millions of people who want to listen, watch, or read about my for free.

Easy and Cheap solutions for home based Travel Agency Startups

As a startup tour operator, I have searched the internet high and low as to how I can buy airline tickets at the bare minimum cost.  My idea was to become a travel agency.  This way I can buy my supplies at cost while making money on the side selling other travel products.  For those of you who don’t know, becoming a travel agent can be a lengthy, expensive, and extremely difficult task.  The requirements for gaining an IATA and ARC number are enough to turn most people away from the prospects of being a travel agent.  These requirements include lengthy applications, taking a class to become a certified Arc rep, 3+ years experience in the industry, proof of errors and omissions insurance, a 200 lb safe, an inspection of your commercial property, a surety bond, and the list goes on.

If you do the research however, there is a way to get around this.  A Host Travel Agency is one that will partner with you for a small fee or a piece of the commission.  What you get in return is the use of their booking engine, their ticketing service, and an Iata and/or Arc number.

The host engine I really like is http://www.nexion.com.   For a monthly fee you get full commissions and 24 hour support, although they’re booking engine is a little…well…rough.  Nexion.com makes sense.  They offer different plans (80% commission for $199 one time fee) but at least they offer a plan for 100% commission for $200 a month.  Basically you are paying them a fee to rent their arc and Iata number.  Not a bad deal if you’re going to take this seriously.

http://www.mtravel.com is another popular solution but I feel that they’re cut of my commission and they’re fees are extreme.  They want you to pay  $200-400 in annual subscription fees and take about 50% of your commission.  Although they’re booking engine is more sophisticated it’s still a poor business model compared to Nexions 80% for a one time $199 fee.

Go ahead and start googling “host travel agency” and see what comes up and begin comparing solutions.  Until you have the necessary experience and resources this will be your best bet at becoming a travel agent!  Also, don’t forget to ask about if you are in a state that requires a seller’s of travel license and how to apply for exemption!  You wont be able to do business without it.