Travel Bloggers Unite & The Relationship Between SEO & PR

I spent this weekend at the Travel Bloggers Unite conference, meeting some of the people i’ve been talking to on a daily basis online for over 18 months. It was great to finally meet them all face to face as well as making some new acquaintances, both bloggers and otherwise.

One theme which ran throughout the conference was the relationship between PRs and bloggers and how we can make this relationship better and more fruitful. Some interesting ideas came out of the debate and i’m sure it allowed both bloggers and PRs to understand their counterpart’s needs much better.

Travel Bloggers Unite ConferenceHowever, one of the key issues it raised for me was the relationship between SEO and PR. As search engines continue to improve their ability to weed out dirty tactics, it means SEOs need to be interacting with their audience on a much deeper level in order to establish relationships that can allow both parties to prosper. For too long SEO agencies have been viewed in a bad light but, if working correctly, they can provide value for a blogger beyond just a few pounds in the back pocket. This kind of relationship building approach is the key to successful, long term SEO campaigns in my opinion. In the coming months and years I expect to see more niche SEO companies sprouting up, so we end up with Travel SEO companies, Fashion SEO companies etc rather than generic, full service agencies that currently dominate the market.

This, of course, means moving SEO much closer to the realms of PR which is certainly no bad thing. However, it surprised me at TBU that digital PR companies still seem to place little emphasis on the SEO benefits that can be gained from a social media campaign. Despite spending many hours identifying which bloggers can provide value for a campaign, outreaching, then going to the effort of sending them places and funding their trip, it seems ensuring that the blogger links to their client’s website is an optional afterthought. As an SEO it seems crazy to go to all that effort and expense and omit such a key detail, and a digital PR should feel the same.

SEOs are just as bad in this sense. Too little thought goes into creating great content which travel bloggers will appreciate, share and link to. Instead, they opt for the blanket email, cross their fingers and wait for a reply. If and when the reply comes, it’s simply a case of establishing how big the wallet needs to be and then moving on to the next one.

There was a fantastic presentation from the guys at Gosh PR, followed by an equally stimulating debate, but it only highlighted the issue to me that PR and SEO agencies need to work closer together (if not being fully integrated within one agency/team) in order to maximise the value a client gains from their campaigns. Gosh are certainly ahead of the game when it comes to realising the value of bloggers to the travel industry, but I think the digital PR industry as a whole needs to recognise the relationship between what they are doing and the huge SEO benefit they could be adding for a client with very little extra work and effort.

In the end PRs and SEOs are both working towards the same goals for their clients – greater visibility online – so it’s time the process became much more integrated. If this happened then I think PRs, SEOs and bloggers would all get more from the process.

Cusco, Peru – Backpacking Photo of the Week: Llama Time!

The trek to Machu Picchu is a long and beautiful one, so i could have picked any one from a million photos for this week’s Backpacking Photo of the Week. However, it was on the way to Machu Picchu that i established the identity of my new must-have pet – the Llama! You can’t walk anywhere in the Andes without tripping over one and they captured my heart. Now i’m not interested in getting a dog or a cat or a hamster for the garden – it’s gotta be a Llama!

We weren’t far from Cusco when i got my first sighting of a gaggle of Llamas. You can hear them coming from a mile off with the bells attached to their necks and it quickly became the signal to get cameras at the ready. This time the woman brought them right past us. It was just a sample of what was to come over the next few days, there was no escaping them, much to my happiness!

See more photos from the Backpacking Photo of the Week series here

A Beautiful Beach Getaway: Ko Lipe, Thailand

PC273711People ask me why Thailand is my favourite holiday spot in Asia. The answer is simple, it’s cheap, relatively close to Malaysia and it has some of the most gorgeous beaches known to man.

Perhaps one of my favourites islands on the South West coast of Thailand is Ko Lipe. Living in Kuala Lumpur which is the capital of Malaysia, makes crossing the Malaysian Thai boarder by car rather easy, and then a gorgeous beach holiday is only a stone’s throw away.

Ko Lipe is an island in Satun Province, near the Tarutao National Marine Park, on the Andaman (west) coast of the south of Thailand. Ko Lipe is usually reached from the town of Pakbara. Speedboats take one hour to reach Lipe, leave several times a day and cost 650BHT one way or 1,200BHT return. If you bargain hard, you might knock it down to 900BHT return/person. Once your speed boat gets to Lipe, local Chao Ley (Sea Gypsies) will come with their longtail boats to pick you up from the ferry. They will take you to any beach on the island for another 50BHT (not included in your ferry ticket!).

PC283826the long tail

Ko Lipe’s beaches feature white, soft sandy beaches with clear, calm, and shallow water. There are four main beaches to relax on, Pattaya Beach in the south the most popular beach; Sunrise Beach on the east, near the Chao Ley village; Karma Beach in the North which faces the Adang/Lipe channel, and Sunset Beach in the west, which as the name implies, faces the sunset.

PC283764secluded, gorgeous chalets that are affordable and clean

I love this place because it is the perfect getaway and a brilliant place to party, have great food, and just get away from KL’s city life for a bit. Paradise so close to home, what more can you ask for?

pristine beaches as far as the eye can see

About the writer…

Mei is an avid traveler, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who enjoys writing about her travel and gastronomic experiences. In her words: “It all started out a couple of years back as a means to journal our travels and related photos. However, because we enjoy eating so much (as do other Malaysians) this blog soon took on the form of a food blog: Cumi & Ciki is a Malaysian food and travel blog. The name is derived from a popular educational television puppet show for Malaysian children in the 70s and 80s. This is the tale of the two traveling, eating, thrill-seeking monkeys from Kuala Lumpur. Food and culture go hand in hand. We feel that in life, we need to enjoy what we do, have passion; cultivate a sense of curiosity about the world.

We hope that this is conveyed through our travel and food blog Cumi & Ciki blog.

Alternatively check out our adventure blog

You can also follow Mei on Twitter.

TBD Top 5 – The Best of February Travel

A slightly different format for the Top 5 – February flew by so this top 5 encompasses the whole month. So many amazing posts to choose from, so hard to whittle them down!

First up is Leif from The Runaway Guide. I always find his take on travel interesting and this post in particular caught my eye as it’s more than a little mischievous! Trains are a hugely popular way to travel around Europe and Leif shows us how to do it on an even cheaper budget than most can manage – by train jumping! Some may question the morals of it but if you’re on a tight budget and fancy an adrenaline rush then this guide’s for you!

Next, a post from the guys at Thinking Nomads who churn out top notch posts all the time so it wasn’t going to be long before they featured here! The post is actually via National Geographic but Alaska has always been a dreamy, mythical kind of place for me so i love reading anything about it. Coupled with the amazing photos and story that was provided here it kept me in a daydream the rest of the day!

Another place which has captured my imagination which i’m yet to visit is Mongolia (you’ll notice the trend of posts with the places i’d love to go!). Sherry at Ottsworld indulged me with this one though it was more through the amazing, fun idea of being able to be taken along on the trip with her via a bid on Ebay. You’ll have to read the post to find out the rest, but i thought it was an ace idea!

Next is Barbara from Hole in the Donut. I love her site for the name alone but this post caught my eye and again made me dream of visiting Nepal. As someone who spent an extended time in the country we get a bit of an insiders view and Barbara pulls out the best spots for travellers heading there. I’ll certainly revisit the post when my flight’s booked!

Finally, one from Todd at Todd’s Wanderings. This is a bit of a cheat as it was actually published before February, but i read it in February so who cares! It’s another fantastic guide, this time to the enchanting land of Petra. Todd’s photos are fantastic and give you a real insight into this amazing place.

So there you have it for another month! For me, travel and travel writing is all about inspiring and these posts certainly did that for me during February. Hope you like them too if you’ve just read them for the first time and i’m sure if you’ve seen them before then you’ll agree that they were just as good the second time around…