Just as the internet has forever changed the world of Publishing, it’s also forever changed the way a Travel Writer connects with his or her audience.
In the “olden days” of travel writing, you’d submit your article to a travel magazine, or maybe the travel section of a newspaper, and while you could find out subscription and circulation numbers, you really didn’t know if anyone actually read it. You couldn’t peer over their shoulder to see if they scanned or read every word, couldn’t evesdrop on conversations about your article occurring in many different places. 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 can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I know that I do care. I believe that really good writers – people for whom writing is a passion, who have writing in their very soul – care very much if anyone reads their words, if they enjoyed the article, if they were inspired or motivated by it. And more than just caring, we crave feedback.
Therein lies two of the gifts the internet has given to us Travel Writers. And these are two key components to becomming a successful Travel Writer and Blogger:
- The ability to know if our words are being read (through statistical reporting); and
- the ability to stimulate and engage in conversation with our readers (through comments).
The first part is simple – and free. Google Analytics  can be installed on your travel blog in minutes, and gives you loads of information on your visitor’s behaviour 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 two? 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.
The second component is also important – and oddly I still ocasionally discover travel blogs that don’t allow comments from readers. Once in a while if I have a minute to spare and enough curiousity 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“……really?
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.
I’m reminded of an old Chinese proverb that I work at daily:
“To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation”
Sure you might get some comment spam. Deal with it. Because by not engaging your readers in conversation through your comments you may miss out on valuable insights or opportunities. And you’ll have to pat your own back!
How do you engage your readers? Share your experience!