- Build a Travel Website Series Part 2: Internet Travel Business
First off, stop dreaming about your internet travel business being a massive e-commerce travel store, where customers can search and get their custom quotes and get referred to airlines, car rental, hotels – leave that to Expedia and the rest. You do NOT have multi-million pound marketing budgets…
What you can do is leverage off the bigger marketing firms to offer more diversity on your site, but that should be seen as a supplementary thing; more of that later.
Look at your destination and see where you can refer business too – probably the most under-rated way of generating money for your internet travel business is to drive leads to offline businesses. Some definite ideas to include in devising a monetization strategy...
People will buy from people they trust – that’s what you need to focus on. Building a brand of YOU! But people are happy buying from recognised and reputable internet travel business brands such as Expedia and lastminute.com – these firms spend millions on marketing their products. Think about it, that cash has got to go somewhere; why not have it go to your bank account?
Affiliate marketing is where your internet travel business partners with bigger brands to drive business to them in return for commission on any sales they make out of your leads. Promoting your affiliate merchants can be done much in the same way as advertising. If it’s a well known and trusted brand then your visitors will use it, and also they’ll think more of you.
Remember, each affiliate program you sign-up to effectively means “I endorse this company, its best parts, its faults and its great commissions” – it certainly is if you’re going to build a travel website getting your web visitors to go to your destination!
Here’s a shortlist of criteria to consider when applying for affiliate programs for your internet travel business:
1) What does it add to your visitor’s experience?
2) Are there any alternative affiliate programs out there?
3) Will it compete directly or indirectly with my other affiliate marketing efforts/money-making schemes?
4) Where can you place creative’s from this affiliate merchant to make the most out of membership?
5) What do I want to achieve by applying and implementing this merchants creative’s? £X per month?
And here's a few internet travel business affiliate programs you should consider applying for:
Assuming your site is convincing enough to get people planning and then booking their holidays, how will they go about doing it? Will they book online at your website – no. People prefer to book direct and cut out the costs. ‘Middlemen’ are seen as expensive ways to get the same thing.
But there is still a way to make actual money from your internet travel business from people booking mass-market travel
Why not integrate travel-specific search functions into your website? Let your visitors search on third-party systems whilst on your site – the search function ads value to your visitors experience, you stand to lose nothing only gain financially and the merchant gets more business. It’s a WIN-WIN-WIN situation!
Adding search functions for the bigger brands allows users to do the general stuff on your travel website. This can include;
> Searching flights and travel
> Car Rental
What’s the likelihood of you building the software, relationships with the airlines/hotels/rental companies and the brand to attract the business? Not high. But your visitor will still likely need to perform some search functions and from your perspective they’re better off searching from your website.
‘Functions’ please visitors and add a great deal of value to a user experience. Whilst content is still king, function is a great auxiliary tool to keep visitors happy whilst increasing your revenue streams.
When looking through affiate merchants widgets - consider using search widgets and integrating them into your website.
Advertising is a staple of any internet travel business. Advertisers can deal with websites direct, or more usually deal with companies such as Google who can serve targeted adverts across a network of signed-up publishers. I’ve had positive experiences with Google Adsense, Infolinks and Chitika. I’ll talk through each of them individually...
Adsense also provides a customizable search function that allows you to offer site search or world wide search on your website with paid adverts displayed where you can earn money. Interesting link with what we’ve talked about above – more generalized, but plenty of scope for making money.
The primary method of making money with Adsense though is through displaying contextual adverts. Google crawls your pages and displays the highest bidding and most relevant adverts from it’s clients. You then earn a percentage of what the advertiser has paid for each click-through.
Doing well at Adsense is dependent on the placecment of the adverts (how visual they are to your visitor), increasing page impressions (number of visitors x number of pages each one visits) and increasing the cost of each click.
Infolinks also crawls your page but it highlights isolated keywords which then become underlined. When a visitor hovers the mouse over these links, an advert is displayed. You get paid if they click-through on the advert.
It’s a much more subtle method of advertising and doesn’t yield as much as Adsense, but it is a great supplementary advertising system.
The great thing about Infolinks is you only have to install the set script at the bottom of the page and it sorts out the rest for you!
Chitika is designed specifically for search engine traffic. Given the ‘click-ready’ nature of searchers who are looking for a solution to their specific query, many searchers are very likely to click-out of the website they land on.
Displaying keyword-targeted adverts – as in adverts relevant to the original keyword entered at the search engines – means that you only make money off first-time visitors who are more likely to leave your website anyway (might as well make the most out of them!)
Writing a book these days is easy enough. You sit down and write to your hearts content on a word processor and then go online and look for a publisher.
POD (or Print on Demand) is a new method of publishing. Previously frowned upon by the big players in the literature market, POD is now pretty common. When you order a book on Amazon, the chances are it hasn’t been printed yet! Books are printed to order often. This saves companies tying up money in stock which then just sits there.
As a business, you don’t want stock sitting around; be it in a garage, a warehouse or in your mother’s attic! It doesn’t make business sense to have money tied up and not doing anything.
If you envisage selling 1,000 books a week, then a large scale print run may make sense - otherwise POD is a very sensible solution.
Be wary, that decent travel guides may often need to be "graphic-intensive" which may rack up publishing costs. It's important that any publishing venture be profitable. That's why I recommend taking a look at this free e-Book; 'Make Your Price Sell'
>>>View and Download 'Make Your Price Sell'- Or look to market a destination guide that already exists. Consider signing up to Amazon Associates and promoting existing books related to your destinations. Go nuts and write book reviews, investigate their suggestions yourself and try them out.
But don’t give too much away! A book’s value is in its content. If you spill all the ‘secrets’ on the inside, people have no reason to buy the book. Wet their appetite, nothing more.
Staying with food analogies…
You know those absolutely delicious appetizers you sometimes stumble across? Gets all your senses going and you just want more – but no! It’s an appetizer and the restaurant are trying to save you for the main meal. It’s a prelude to something better.
- Your book review should be like that!
The Most Under-Rated Intenet Travel Business Secret...
- Referring local business and events
Most businesses are offline, and if your thinking along the lines of travel – perhaps the ‘gems’ you’ve found haven’t even contemplated getting online. Perhaps they are already online but aren’t doing so well. Your internet travel business can step in…
You are trying to build a website based on the entire destination and drive traffic to it. They are simply trying to use the internet to market. When you’ve got plenty of traffic going and good search engine results – present yourself as a marketing opportunity to local businesses and it's another WIN-WIN-WIN situation!
Sell hard-goods from your destination.
Perhaps offline businesses are trying to sell goods, or there’s something you could experiment with selling internationally. Experiment with eBay and offering simple ‘Buy Now’ PayPal buttons on your web page. If it’s successful, you could look to diversifying your internet travel business to include a dedicated shopping cart.
If possible, get the local businesses you’re dealing with to ship straight to the customer and save you having to hold lots of stock, which is essentially dead money.
Importantly, you’ll need to agree prices on anything you’re looking to export and make sure you’ve got enough margin to cover payment fees (PayPal for example charges 3.4% + 20p per transaction), shipping (will you charge different shipping rates to different countries? Free shipping?), any applicable taxes and charges and enough to make it worthwhile to run an operation.
Present your internet travel business as an avenue to increase their sales, not as competition. As a webmaster, you’re in the business of driving and converting targeted traffic online, they are interested in increasing sales. Make the most of both your tools and skillsets – play to each others strengths!
Act As a Rental Agent
If someone has a service or property, why not offer to advertise it in return for commission on each sale?
Real estate? Car Rental? Facilities for the day? Anything.
Again, talk to the agent you wish to market and present yourself as part of a wider marketing solution. Show them some of your stats, traffic figures per month and where people are coming from. Excite and enthuse them into working with you.
Just remember, your success is their success so try to make the most of any relationships with businesses from your destination.
DIVERSIFY OR DIE!
Every visitor that finds your internet travel business will be looking for something different, and they may not be receptive to each money-making scheme. Offer lots! Even the experts know this – look at what Expedia offers. Flights, hotels, car rental, packages – the lot. A truly diverse internet travel business!
When looking to convert a visitor into a money-making visitor, you can’t “hard-sell.” You must picture in your head your visitor sat in front of their computer visiting your website – they are only a click away from leaving at anytime!
Your website should enthuse your visitor – make them want to travel. You need to present yourself as a credible source – a real person - that people can trust. Your recommendations make you money and fulfill your visitor’s objectives.
For a bit of fun, I’ve added this ‘Mock the Week’ extract showing ‘What Not to Say In A Travel Documentary’. (If you’ve read through from page one then it’s best to take a quick break before continuing to the exciting stuff – how to BUILD a travel website and get your internet travel business out-there!