The internet has been both a blessing and a curse for travel writers. Many longtime travel writers curse the internet for its role in the elimination of a large number of formerly lucrative print publication opportunities, and praise it for the proliferation of online publishing opportunities.In addition to opening up new opportunities to get published, the internet has given Travel Writers a great gift – the ability to connect with his or her audience.Before travel blogging and online travel magazines became popular, travel writers would submit their articles to a print magazine, or maybe the travel section of a newspaper. While the author could – if one were interested enough – find out subscription and circulation numbers, he or she didn’t really know if anyone actually read the article, or if it received even so much as glanced as the reader flipped though the pages.You couldn’t peer over the reader’s shoulder to see if they just scanned it or read every word, couldn’t eavesdrop on conversations about your article. And truth be told, plenty of Travel Writers really didn’t care much — they loved to travel and they were being paid to write about it, so who cared if anyone had actually read what they’d written?I believe that really good writers – people for whom writing is a passion – care very much if anyone reads their words, if the reader enjoyed the article, if someone was inspired or motivated by it. And more than just caring, most writers crave feedback.At the core of this feedback are two key components to becoming a successful Travel Writer and Blogger:
The ability to know if our words are actually being read (through statistical reporting); and
the ability to stimulate and engage in conversation with our readers (through comments).
The first component is easy to accomplish – and free. Google Analytics can be installed on your travel blog in minutes, and gives you loads of information on your visitor’s behavior on your site – like what articles they read and how long they spent on those articles (a couple of seconds? They left without reading it. A minute or so? They scanned it. More than a few minutes? They read it!).When you find that certain articles (topics) are getting many more “reads” than other topics – that’s a clear message. Your audience is telling you “give us more of that!” If you aren’t already using Google Analytics, you should be, and you should be paying close attention to what it tells you. Knowing how to “hear” what your audience is telling you is an important factor in increasing the size of your audience.And a travel blogger with a large and loyal audience will find more publication opportunities coming their way than one with few, if any, readers.The second component is also important – and oddly I still occasionally discover travel blogs that don’t allow comments from readers. Once in a while if I have a minute to spare and enough curiosity I’ll drop the site owner an email to ask why they have comments turned off. Generally the responses run along the lines of “I don’t want to moderate comments” or “I don’t want people leaving comments just to get links to themselves” and even “I just don’t have time to respond to them”.Analytical tools are great for telling you what folks are reading, but they can’t tell you if someone liked what you wrote. If they were motivated to venture off to distant lands because of what you wrote. You need feedback for that. You need comments. Give people the opportunity to tell you that they really liked your article – or that you made them stop and think. Give them the opportunity to make suggestions for your next visit, or offer some advice in return. Don’t require registration to comment, as that creates an obstacle that readers may not want to surmount. Make it easy for readers to converse with you.Sure you might get some comment spam. Deal with it. There are several great plugins available that eliminate most of the spam. Delete any that gets through. Not engaging your readers in conversation through your comments means that you’ll miss out on valuable insights and opportunities.I’m reminded of an old Chinese proverb, one I try to practice:
“To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation”Without that conversation you’ll have to pat your own back!Take advantage of these two tools and they’ll help you understand your readers, improve the content of your travel blog, and increase the size of your audience, all of which will make you a better travel writer.