Well WordStream fans, I have some bittersweet news—I’ll be leaving WordStream soon to spend time in Europe.
It’s been such a joy to work here and be part of our mega-marketing team.
Normally a year isn’t all that long, but in startup years it’s a decent chunk of time. I started at WordStream during its haywire adolescent stage, and have had the unique opportunity to be here as it has come into its own and really begun to thrive.
Blogging and discussing the latest online marketing happenings with you guys has been awesome. While I’ll miss WordStream immensely, I’m excited about my travels and what’s next.
Now dry those tears, this isn’t the end! I’ll be spending a couple weeks in Italy teaching a bed & breakfast some SEO basics, so I’ll continue blogging here from time to time so I can share how things progress and what we are learning. (P.S. if you live someplace awesome and need some help, I’m working for lodging !)
3 Online Marketing Lessons I’ve Learned While Travel Planning
As my last post in the WordStream office, I thought I’d share with you guys some of the online marketing lessons I’ve glimpsed through planning and researching my trip.
1. Keywords Don’t Always Cut it: When Strong Communities Are Essential
Planning a trip can require quite a bit of research depending on what you want to do and how much you want to plan ahead. Traveling is one of the few times in which you usually can’t get all the information you need with a quick Google search. Too many variables exist—not just destination, but what you intend to do on your trip. Are you a solo traveler? Traveling with young kids? Are you after beaches or museums? Are you traveling on the cheap or staying in upscale hotels? Different situations will require different approaches.
This is why forums are great for travel research. Well-seasoned travelers often love to share their experiences and advice. I’ve spent a good chunk of time on TravelBlog  asking for advice and reading past threads dealing with the same issues I’m grappling with.
At least for me, a big aspect of travel forums is simply comfort and affirmation—visiting a new place, especially a foreign country, can be daunting. It’s good to know that others have gone before you and will go after you.
In situations like this, community and user engagement are key. Even the most colorful infographics and sophisticated studies aren’t quite as reassuring as someone in the same boat as you. Consider your ideal audience, their needs, and how reliant your business is on forming a community. Could you be that reassuring friend for your users?
2. Meeting in the Middle: Predict Your Audience’s Research Process
In planning my travels, sometimes all I know is that I want to get from point A to point B. Especially when traveling around different parts of Europe, I’m not always sure if I’ll take a plane, train, or automobile. That’s when I usually search something like “Madrid to Barcelona.” When I search a phrase like that, airline sites and train routes will pop up, but that’s too far along in the buying cycle for me—right now I just want to know what my options are and compare them.
Take a look at this screen capture of my Google search “Madrid to Barcelona”:
It ends up being about who has the information I really want, explaining the different transportation options I have for getting to Barcelona from Madrid, and what I can expect in terms of price and length of travel time.
This is an ideal spot to be in as an advertiser, because you’ve caught a visitor before they take the next step by searching “plane tickets Barcelona to Madrid” or “train tickets Barcelona to Madrid,” etc. If you are a discount airline who flies this route, this is the perfect time to link to your Barcelona to Madrid flight routes. The key here is providing valuable information, coupled with your offer, one step earlier in the buying cycle.
3. Harnessing The Power of Online Reviews
Review sites are always valuable, but become even more vital in regards to traveling. With restaurant sites like Yelp, a user might visit a restaurant despite a negative review if the place is cheap enough, if friends still give it a thumbs up, or it’s nearby. There isn’t much at stake, so users are more likely to take a chance.
Visiting a foreign country, however, the risks are much higher. You also can’t always get word of mouth advice, so you are forced to put more weight into online opinions. Trip Advisor  is basically the Bible of travel planning, and I’ve used it many-a-time to find the top recommended hostels or activities in the area.
Consider your own business and who would be looking for reviews of you and your competitors. If your key audience is likely to be anxious and needs extra reassurance, then you’ll want to focus even more energy on generating reviews of your business. You’ll also want to be extra sure you’re posting badges of trust and authority.
That’s it for today folks. Thanks for all the swell times, and good luck as you continue your web marketing journey! Tally ho!