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If you are a travel blogger, you are probably seeing the effects of Coronavirus on your business right now. I know I certainly am.
Businesses all over the world are struggling (even those not directly related to travel) and travel blogs are no exception.
I’m lucky that my travel blog, The Globetrotter GP, is not my only source of income. But the drop in traffic and in travel bookings has inevitably taken its toll on me financially. In fact, my traffic (which is predominantly Asia and Italy focussed) has seen a depressing 70% downturn.
So I understand how you are feeling now. But I’m sure there are many people worse off than I, who perhaps rely on their travel blog for 100% of their income.
I decided to write this article because I’ve been reading things on social media that concern me. There are the bloggers who want to give up entirely and there are also the bloggers desperately trying to cling to their traffic who are making reckless suggestions.
So today I wanted to discuss some practical suggestions for
- How to approach talking about Coronavirus on social media
- How to deal with difficult questions from your audience
- Where to focus your blogging efforts for maximum return
- What projects you could turn your focus to during uncertain times.
A few Coronavirus Conversation Do’s and Don’ts
Update: Things have accelerated quickly since I wrote this article and Coronavirus is now a pandemic with many countries closing their borders. It is the general consensus that people should try to get home if they can or face being quarantined abroad.
Firstly, who am I to be giving you this advice?
Well, what you may not know about me is that I am a qualified general practitioner doctor. In fact, I may have to pick up some more GP work soon to help with the health burden on the NHS!
So I have a health background and therefore I am in a better position to be giving advice on Coronavirus than most travel bloggers. But in truth, the situation is changing so rapidly that even health advice I give could be outdated in a few days or weeks so it is always best to refer all of your readers to official sources of advice such as the World Health Organisation.
Whatever you do, do not give medical advice or opinions on risk unless you are qualified to do so. It is reckless and sadly I have seen travel bloggers doing this. Please stop.
Even if your readers reach out to you for advice, PLEASE refer them to official sources!
As well as avoiding directly giving health advice, I would also be very careful advising people directly to travel right now. If they reach out to ask you what to do, refer them to official sources for advice.
When you are advising someone to travel, you do not know enough about the situation to encourage them to go. Here are just a few scenarios worth considering
- That person might be living in an area where there is a Coronavirus outbreak. They may be asymptomatic but when they travel, they could spread the virus.
- For the same reason, they may even get refused entry on arrival if quarantine rules change.
- That person may have an underlying health problem which puts them in an ‘at-risk category’
- They may have elderly or immunocompromised relatives at home they could pass it to on their return.
- They could lose their jobs is they have to quarantine for an extended period of time.
So try to avoid giving people a direct answer and saying ‘yes, you should travel!’ Remember you do not know their full story and that advice could be reckless.
Again, I would be pointing people in the direction of official and reliable sources of information instead.
Remember, whether you call yourself an influencer or not, having a following on social media makes you exactly that. What you say can easily influence what people do.
Ask yourself, are you actually the best person to be influencing them right now? Do you truly know enough about the evolving situation?
It’s also important to remember to neither panic people OR falsely reassure people.
Neither are useful.
Carrying on with life without making any modifications is contributing to the rapid spread of this infection.
Stockpiling toilet paper, hand sanitiser gel and face masks is equally not helpful. The face masks should be reserved for health care professionals to help keep them safe.
Also, we need to band together as communities not get selfish and stockpile resources. Remember there are the elderly on tiny pensions who cannot afford to bulk buy and who are at most risk here. Let’s share the resources out, yeah?!
These are the sorts of messages you can deliver on social media which will have a helpful impact. Use your influence for the good!
So what should we be telling people?
I get that you want to talk about Coronavirus with your audience. Its the topic on everyone’s mind. But there are plenty of things you can be talking about which are helpful.
- DO tell people how to go about getting refunds if they have to cancel trips
- Do encourage people to get travel insurance AND check what their policy is on Coronavirus
- Do tell people which companies you find that have helpful Coronavirus cancellation policies. (Hello affiliate income.)
- Do encourage people to practise good hygiene
- Do encourage people to band together as a community.
- Feel free to update people on the location situation as long as it is factual. It might be useful to tell people if restaurants and tourist attractions are open or not, for example.
- Do encourage people to plough money into local businesses which might be struggling rather than huge corporations.
- Do encourage people to visit local tourist attractions to help them stay open ONLY if it is safe to do so. If there is a local outbreak then this might not be sensible advice. For example in Northern Italy, self-isolation is being enforced for the next few weeks to control spread.
What to do if you have just finished a campaign
Before you hit publish on all those pre-agreed deliverables, it is best to reach out to the company or health board you were working with.
I was working with G Adventures on a campaign in Sri Lanka the week before the Sri Lanka bombings. I was literally about to press publish when I heard the news.
I got in touch with them straight away and we agreed to hold off publishing the content until the situation calmed down and it was considered a safe destination to promote again.
This is likely to be a similar case during the Coronavirus outbreak. If you hit publish now, the company are unlikely to see the ROI you both anticipated.
Give them the option! They will appreciate it!
I would still suggest finishing creating the content as it6 will always be better quality when it’s fresh in your mind. But store it safe in a file somewhere ready for when things settle down.
How can we protect our income?
Ok, let’s address the elephant in the room. We are all taking a rather large financial hit because of this nasty virus.
Firstly, let’s keep this in perspective. We are lucky as bloggers that even if we can’t afford to stay working on them full-time, we will never have to give up on them entirely. There will be plenty of businesses which do go bust completely and will never recover.
Absolute worst-case scenario, you revert to working part-time on your blog and take a part-time job alongside it to keep your income topped up.
I know that would totally suck and I’m not in any way belittling how anyone is feeling. BUT once this crisis is over, our blogs will bounce back. Not every travel business has that to reassure them.
There are also ways you can help your business to thrive as much as possible during this difficult time.
Firstly, focus on inspirational travel content. The sort of content that people look at way in advance of travelling. Think bucket lists, top places to visit in X location, the most quirky cities in Z location etc.
People may even be bored at home self-isolating and maybe MORE likely to read this content.
They are less likely to focus on your detailed planning guides, packing lists and accommodation guides as there travel plans are less likely to be imminent.
Also, focus your efforts on promoting content in places which remain relatively unaffected by Coronavirus. It may also be worth promoting more rural locations which will be safer due to less risk of transmission of the virus.
It is also worth thinking long term and using this time to write SEO optimised content which can be slowly gathering traction with Google so that when this worldwide crisis does calm down and normal travel plans resume, your article is top of Google search.
Make sure you are not leaving money on the table.
You may be getting less traffic to your blog and less affiliate bookings, but make sure that you are maximising your earning potential from the traffic you do have.
If you use ads to monetise your blog, make sure you have optimised your website for the best RPM. This is a great article by Mediavine about optimising for ad revenue.
Have a look at the articles which are still getting lots of traffic (via Google analytics) and make sure they are optimised for affiliates (and ads.)
If you need to step up your affiliate game then you may want to consider joining my 5-day Affiliate marketing challenge – 5 emails over 5 days packed with tips and strategies that help me earn $5k a month in affiliate income alone (all with a smallish blog!)
If you are completely new to affiliate marketing, you may want to read this beginners guide to affiliate marketing.
You may also want to try and recruit as many of your readers as possible to your email list. Having a loyal tribe is more important than ever during these times.
The best way to convert readers to subscribers and community members (and then to loyal fans) is to offer them something really valuable in exchange for their email address.
Again look at those articles which are still seeing traffic and think about how you could offer a content-upgrade.
If the article is a city guide could you offer a PDF with a guide to the best restaurants or Instagram photo locations? Could you create a map with all the places you mentioned marked on it?
Could you create a more in-depth Ebook guide? (Only do this if you have a LOT of traffic to that post to make it worth your time!)
If your article is a packing list or an itinerary, could you create a printable version?
Could you create a generic travel planning checklist that you could promote across several articles?
If this is something you want to try, maybe grab my free ebook ‘Digital products Made Easy’ to learn how to create, deliver and promote products like this to grow your email list!
Could you take the time to learn a new skill?
Could you use the extra time you have (maybe your self-isolating or your travel plans got cancelled) to take that course you’ve been putting off?
Now is an ideal time to learn a new skill and up your game.
Here are a few courses I recommend;
- Explode your blog traffic with Tailwind tribes – this one is an affordable Ebook by Maria from Chic Pursuits which I got in the Genius Bloggers Toolkit Sale. This book was absolutely jam-packed with useful, actionable advice about making the most of your tailwind tribe strategy. She really helped me to nail analytics so that I am only pinning to tribes which actually benefit me.
- Grow your blog income with Facebook ads – Jessie Festa is a travel blogger who is using a Facebook ads strategy both for her affiliate products and to grow her own business. This video-based course goes into a LOT of detail about how to set up profitable ads on Facebook and Instagram. She teaches you how to use Tripwire products so that you actually earn money from running ads rather than spend money!
- Facebook ads for affiliates – Beth goes into a lot more detail about using ads for affiliate products. Did you know you can set up ads and track conversions directly by working with your affiliate partner? This can work out very lucrative for open-close cart type of sales such as the recent Travel Smart Super Bundle sale with Ultimate Bundles. (Are you an affiliate yet? If not sign up here to enjoy a lovely 40% commission rate!)
- Zero to Blog Hero – this course was launched recently by my friends Marta and Greta. Between them, they are the dream team of travel bloggers. Greta is ace at SEO whilst Marta rocks Instagram and brand sponsorships and has landed many 5 figure sponsorships. Together they created this comprehensive beginner bloggers course which covers every aspect of running a successful blog.
- Paid to Create – this is another course by Marta where she delves into her tactics for landing some awesome sponsorship deals. She teaches that you don’t need a huge following to get paid well and she has plenty of testimonies to prove it. (If you are reading this before March 13th then join my Facebook group as Marta will be teaching us some of her sponsorship wisdom in a Facebook live!)
And of course, there is my advanced affiliate marketing course coming out soon. You can get on the waiting list here!
Other ways you can use your time productively
Use this time when you might not be travelling to upscale your business!
- Have you considered creating a course?
- Starting a Facebook group?
- Creating and selling digital products?
- Growing and nurturing your email list?
Now is the perfect time to carry out that project you’ve been putting off. Normally, doing all of these things can feel overwhelming in between back-to-back press trips and writing up your content. If you have more time on your hands due to Coronavirus, use it for something positive which can make you money longterm.
Hopefully, you have now ;
- Got some ideas for how to deal with difficult questions about Coronavirus
- Have ideas to keep blog traffic as high as possible
- Have ideas to optimise your blog to help maintain your income
- Have plenty of ideas to use your time wisely to scale your business
And I hope you are now feeling a little more positive. I know the next few months are going to be tough financially and emotionally but we are all in this together and it is more important than ever that we support each other as a community!
Feel free to join my Facebook community where I teach passive income methods and affiliate marketing for bloggers. We have a lot of travel bloggers hanging out there.