Content 2.0 Tips from a Travel Site Owner

by Charis

As the owner of a travel/information site and not one that had an actual product to sell, I was seriously discouraged during the first 18 months I used Content 2.0. I was receiving very few submissions and I truly didn’t understand that. But here in Latin America we have a saying: "de la necesidad nace la creatividad" (“creativity is born from necessity”) and that translated to “creativity is born from failure” for me.

So the following is advice and a few ways I’m getting results with C2 – all of them born from something I was doing wrong.

Failure is Good

It can put you back on the right path if you allow it to. I began to take an in-depth look at where I was failing and when I did that, I realized I wasn’t taking my site visitors into account in the correct way. After all, people who visit my site know nothing about Bolivia so how could they contribute experiences? And after people finish touring Bolivia, they’re not online looking for information any more, so naturally they don’t re-visit the site (thus they don’t contribute their travel stories or anything else). Very rarely do we actually find out who our site visitors are (although we sometimes do meet them as you’ll see in the forums) so we can’t contact them later to ask them to contribute their travel stories if we don’t know who they are.

Asking For Something In Return Is Not A Sin

Because of the way I was brought up, my tendency is to give, give, give and ask for nothing. This attitude permeated my website. I get a lot of requests for info from people who are totally lost on a subject. Since my site visitors don’t pay me to answer their questions, I’ve begun to add ask for a contribution through a C2. For example: When a person asks me for help with a recipe, I ask them to write in about whether or not they were successful cooking it, or if they liked or hated it, or if they had problems cooking it. They do, especially when they flop! See how this angry site visitor turned into my buddy:

When someone asks me for info on specific tours I add, “and after your tour I’d love to see your photos.” They send them in along with their travel stories and links to their videos on YouTube, etc.

Don’t Forget To Write FOR Your Audience, Not AT Them

I encourage you to seriously study who your site visitors are and try to gauge their needs. You may think you know who they are or what they need, but do you really? It may take some time until your site stats tell you who your visitors are, but it’s really worth it to study which pages are getting the most attention. I ultimately began to get even more creative when I remembered one of Ken’s really important rules in relation to the SBI forums: Pay it forward. It really applies to any area of our lives, so I flipped the use of Content 2.0 around. Rather than hoping my site visitors will add content, I now use C2s to offer information. I make a submission myself when I have something to say something that is short and not worth making a whole page about.

A Place For Locals To Contribute

I also now actively offer local Bolivian businesses and organizations a place to add information they want my site visitors to see. After all, who can tell foreigners about Bolivia better than Bolivians?

Local event planners, museums and galleries now advertise events and concerts, art openings and exhibits on my site using the C2 forms on my event announcements pages – for FREE. It benefits our community (Bolivia is Latin America’s poorest country) and events are just as interesting to travelers as destinations. These are the most active pages on my site now. Most contributors add images and this is adding lots of pages to my site.

Provide An Important Service Your Visitors Are Not Expecting

I put up a page where I was inserting announcements just for American travelers and expats living here because most of my traffic is from the US and sometimes things happen here that can cause people to have to change flights etc. The American Embassy apparently found it and they’ve been sending me their travel warnings and other announcements to post. The page practically belongs to them now. This reaches a huge audience with information that can make or break someone’s trip, keep travelers out of danger, etc. The use of it by the Embassy lends my site credibility.

How Your Visitors You Give Back To Your Community

I design free pages for non-profit volunteer organizations. People find info about them on my site first because their own site rankings are so awful. As a result, they are promoting BoliviaBella on their sites and actively telling future volunteers to visit my site for additional information on the country they will soon live in. I link the pages I make for them to their lonely rank-less websites. As a result, their websites are going up in the rankings. They’ve seen this, so they promote me more. This gets me more site visitors. I also link the pages to C2 on my volunteer page where I ask people to write about their most memorable volunteer moment.

Flip It!

The pages I had set up for travelers to review hotels, restaurants and travel agencies are now going to be used by hotels, restaurants and travel agencies themselves instead. I’ve now got several businesses actively asking their guests and customers to add their reviews through my site rather than using actual paper comment cards (good for the environment too). I’ve seen other websites copy my “Hotel Review” and “Restaurant Review” here in Bolivia. When something works, people copy it. I’ve made the choice to rejoice and I wish them well.

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More Content 2.0 Success Tips

by Charis

Give And Ye Shall Receive

Some of the travel agencies are getting nice reviews through Content 2.0 and have offered me a percentage of tours sold. I didn’t ask for it. They just offered so who am I to say, “No thanks”?

Carefully Chosen Controversy Can Be Good

Sometimes I put C2s on pages that involve topics that are somewhat edgy and controversial. Like my page about the San Pedro Prison tour – it used to be one of the most visited tours in Bolivia (because it’s illegal of course). There was a prisoner mutiny in March that made international headlines. Then a former inmate wrote a book about it and Brad Pitt decided to turn it into a movie, so it’s been a piping hot topic all year. So once in a while, pick up on hot topics that are occasional or trendy and people will add their thoughts.

A couple of days ago, a REAL former inmate wrote in and had his say and totally blasted me. That’s OK, I loved it! Now my site isn’t all about what I think and what my opinion is. That makes the site more credible, not less.

When A Forum Is A Forum, Call It A Forum

I put up a C2 and called it the Bolivia Travel “Forum.” It is now within the top five pages viewed on my site. That’s because every time I get a contribution, I MOVE IT to an existing C2 page that is already about that topic. Most questions that come in are repeats. I don’t have time to answer the same question over and over again personally by email. In most online forums you have to search for a thread that relates to your question. I offer my site visitors the ease of just inserting their questions on a single C2 page and I move it to a related “thread” for them. I approve all incoming C2 contributions before publishing anyways - so this is just one extra click for me. This has worked well and keeps my other forums active.

Try Adding An Index To All The C2s On Your Site So People Will Know They Exist

Many people only see a few pages of your site. I created a page that lists all the C2s that are available on my site. Every time I create a page that has a C2 invitation on it, I list it in this index. I put a link to it on my Travel Forum page that says “Existing Topics,” so they visit this to see if their question has already been answered in one of my so-called “forums” prior to writing me. This saves me tons of time.

Answer Questions Online Whenever You Can

Replace contact forms with C2s when it makes sense to do so. I replaced my contact form on my “Contact Me” page with a C2. Similar to my travel forum, after I answer their questions, I move their messages to my other forums, if there are any that relate to their question. Eventually they get responses from others too, not just me. So answering people’s questions through a C2 and putting the responses online has really cut down on the time it takes to respond to each person individually by email. You’d think that naturally then I’d be getting fewer questions – however since my traffic has gone UP I’m still getting tons.

Rule Number One In Customer Service: The Customer Is Always Right

Stop putting up C2s relating to things you think might be interesting to your site visitors and let your visitors tell you what they want to see. I studied the questions I get from them through my contact page and because so many involve the same or similar topics, when I see a topic beginning to repeat, I put up a new “forum” (a C2) to cover it. And of course I add it to my index.

Be Sure You’re Putting C2s On Your Top-Viewed Pages

I watch to see which pages are the top-viewed on my site each month. Those are the ones I want C2s or links to C2 pages on, not others. My Bolivian Food page is popular – so now I let Bolivians contribute recipes. As a result, an online Latin food site contacted me to ask me if I’d please be their affiliate. So now each recipe page has their banner on it.

You Don’t Have To “Seed” Your C2s

Add real, useful information. I saw in the forums that some people “seed” their C2s to motivate site visitors to add contributions because they think site visitors don’t want to be the first to add something. As I’ve mentioned, I sometimes use my C2s to insert information, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something I wrote. I’ve added articles through my C2s that are written by others (be sure you follow article site terms of use). I stick to articles that have information I’m unable to provide. For example, I added articles on international adoption that contained information on the procedure and others on how to find financing for it. I got lots of thank you’s for that! It’s information I couldn’t possibly have provided myself.

Let Your Site Take On Its Own Personality And Your Site Visitors Will Connect

This is similar to what Ken says about “finding your voice.” I get A LOT of “Dear Bella” messages. “Bolivia Bella” actually means “Beautiful Bolivia” but I guess people think it’s my name (obviously waaaay too many people are hooked on Twilight). But I picked up on that and changed my CONTACT US button on my navigation bar to TELL BELLA. I knew it was working when a lady wrote me “Dear Bella. My daughter’s name is Bella too. We read your page about adopting Bolivian children and decided to sponsor a child through XXX and guess what! The name of the little girl we were assigned is Bella! Isn’t that amazing!!!????”

Then I got another message – “Dear Bella, my friend Bella and her mom told me about your site cuz they just couldn’t believe…”

It’s viral. Needless to say, I rapidly changed out my Contact Form for a C2 on this page. These are the kinds of messages I WANT people to see. It’s bonding and it builds a sense of community. (And I need to be able to move them to the appropriate related forums like my child adoption forum). When I get them by email I can’t share them or move them to other C2s.

A note on this: I let my visitors know I answer online and I provide a link to a secure contact form they can use so they have both options. You can see it at this URL:

Messages that don’t fit into any other C2 topic sections you have, can just remain under the contact page C2 or you can always delete them if they don’t require a response. I mean, what do you do with messages like, “I Googled BELLA and I found your site so I clicked on it just cuz the name sounded so musical”?

A Hobby Is A Hobby And A Business Is A Business

SBIers succeed because they make websites regarding topics they are passionate about. That’s true and it’s a dandy thing. However, this can lead us to make the mistake of treating our websites like a hobby, too! Writing about your hobby on a website and building a website because you plan to monetize your hobby are two completely different things! If you plan to turn your hobby into a business, it’s no longer a hobby. It’s a business. Adjust your mentality and your web writing/building/designing to reflect that.

Make any failures you experience work for you, Turn your attention to your visitors and stats, and creativity with C2 will follow.

Happy C2ing!

Charis Barks

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