Archive for August 2009

Why I Won’t Use Blogsherpa

August 8, 2009

A few months ago, Lonely Planet came out with a way to try to engage bloggers called “Blogsherpa.” You tag your blog post with blogsherpa, the LP bot picks it up, and it ends up on their site like so: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travelblogs/6/631/Exploring+Edinburgh?destId=360630. It’s exactly as it appears on your own blog. When I thought I could have my stuff on Lonely Planet, I thought “cool! I’ll probably get tons of traffic and valuable backlinks!!!!”

But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve tested it, the more I’ve realized it’s a raw deal for me (and other bloggers). While I think the guy who runs it, Matt C, has really good intentions, I don’t believe the bigwigs above him do or are really looking to connect with bloggers. This has just turned into a way to get free content. So Ive decided to no longer going to contribute. Here’s why:

  • Something for nothing. You are giving LP your full RSS feed so they get your whole article. Free content for them, nothing for you. Google adsense is placed next to your feeds but I’ve found that your click through rate is TINY and you don’t get much money from it. Also, if you use adsense normally, this will lower your CTR and thus your payments. Moreover, most of these pages don’t even get cached by Google unless they are really old. Since they aren’t in the Google index, you don’t even get the benefit of a backlink from lonely planet. Then when they do get cached, since the Lonely Planet brand is better than yours, they will out rank you FOR YOUR OWN CONTENT! That’s not a problem if you put some work into building backlinks to page- you’ll get above them but your doing double the work to beat the article you wrote? That’s sort of crappy.
  • No Traffic.  If people are able to read your full feed, why would they bother to click over to your site? I’ve found my Lonely Planet traffic is about 3-5 people per day. Considering I have over 25 posts on “blogsherpa” and usually 1/2 the traffic I get comes from the forum I post in, the traffic value of Blogsherpa is crap. I bet most people aren’t getting anything. In fact, I get a much better conversion from their cluttered forum than I do from Blogsherpa and I don’t have to fight myself in the Google search results.
  • Quality Control.  Let’s be honest- some people are just better writers than others. In the beginning, there was a small group of people who were part of this. But lately everyone is allowed to do it. There is a video that tells you how the program works and let’s you know that as long as you can write a sentence, you get in. Not exactly the highest standards in the world. I’m sure some blogs get denied but I have noticed a large, large number of new sites in the system.  Now, as a branding thing, I think it’s awful for LP because it sullies their brand but that is my business mind at work. But for a blogger, it’s awful for two reasons: First, you get crowded out. With so many blogs out there, unless you are blogging about some unknown destination no one goes to, your blog is going to be just one blog out of many. One popular destination pages like Thailand, there’s a million blog posts there. If your work isn’t at the top, you aren’t going to get much traffic.  Secondly, not all bloggers treat their website with “journalistic integrity.” Many bloggers considered themselves online journalists (I do) and really go out of their way to produce quality work. However, a lot of people write about their trip and it’s mostly “hey mom, look! I’m in Italy”. I love to read those blogs and follow abut 50 in my RSS and, while they do find some cool stuff, in terms of planning my trip, I wouldn’t exactly call these people experts and wouldn’t want to use them for trip planning.

    So while it may sound elitist, I work very hard on my site and my brand. I don’t want to be lumped in with “hey mom” travel blogs on Lonely Planet. Having those style blogs on Lp takes away from the public perception of the value of the all blogs there. If people think some of the sites aren’t quality travel planning sites, they will think all of the sites aren’t. I work too hard on my brand to have it perceived as just another “hey mom I’m in italy” type of blog. When I’m traveling, I put a lot of work into finding budget deals and getting information. And while I’m not 100% there yet, I like to feel my site is more than simple travel blog so to potentially be perceived otherwise doesn’t sound good to me.

I think the idea of reaching out to travel bloggers is great and I’m glad there is an effort on the part of LP to do so but I think how this program is run right now gives lonely planet a bunch of free content and you a bunch of nothing. Most people are going to be enamored with the idea of having content on Lonely Planet but if you really think about it, you aren’t getting anything out of it.  Could this be a great traffic generator? It sure could. LP mentioned me in their community blog and I saw 200 new visitors to my website. Blogsherpa could have the same effect but it requires substantial changes to their program and I think a much broader commitment than the big shots at Lonely Planet probably want to make right now. If there were some changes to the problem and I bit more visibility for the blogger on the LP website, this would be great. But as it stands now, you get the short end of the stick.