Golf Vacation Insider provides free travel tips for golfers
Managing Editor and golf travel veteran Craig Better offers unbiased reviews and insider secrets about the best golf courses, resorts, and restaurants worldwide on the blog Golf Vacation Insider. He has been writing about golf for more than 15 years, covering equipment, apparel, the retail business, general interest, and travel for national consumer and trade magazines.
Prior to joining Golf Vacation Insider, Better was a freelance researcher, writer, and editor for Golf Magazine, Travel & Leisure Golf, Maxim, and about a dozen other publications. He also co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
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Mequoda – How long have you been blogging?
CB – This June, it will be four years.
Mequoda – How many blogs are you currently writing for?
CB – Just one: GolfVacationInsider.com
Mequoda – Which CMS (ie: WordPress, Typo) are you using? What do you like about it?
CB – We use WordPress. Relative to our previous platform, it’s much easier and intuitive to use. And combined with the right theme, it makes SEO a snap.
Mequoda – Are you blogging for your company as part of you job (ie: corporate) or is this a personal passion?
CB – Blogging is very much woven into our overall corporate strategy. Golf Vacation Insider is a frictionless way to build our email file, a file that we, at times, use to market our premium golf travel newsletter, Golf Odyssey.
Mequoda – Has your blog enhanced your professional reputation? How?
CB – First, by conducting “secret shopper” site inspections and not accepting advertising from the types of properties we review, we’ve established ourselves as the world’s only, 100 percent unbiased and objective source of golf travel and vacation advice.
Second, our blog is very well optimized for search, and combined with inbound links and re-Tweets, our exposure has grown exponentially. This often leads to interview requests from other bloggers, journalists, radio shows, etc. helping to further position us as the authority on golf travel.
Mequoda – How often do you post a new blog? Are you the only one posting on your blog?
CB – We publish new blog posts once or twice a week at a minimum. I’m not the only person creating posts, but as managing editor, I do most of the editing, optimizing, photo layout, and loading into WordPress.
Mequoda – Who is your target audience?
CB – Anyone who likes to take golf vacations or who plays golf on business trips can benefit from our expert, unbiased advice.
Mequoda – What are you doing to grow your audience and to create customer loyalty?
CB – We’re currently growing our audience by creating high-quality, search-friendly content on our blog, and by giving away free e-books, special reports, and golf vacation guides. As for loyalty, we ensure everything we publish (whether it’s on our website or in our email updates) is truly worth readers’ time and attention. Editorially, this is usually a priceless piece of advice about a certain golf course, resort, or restaurant. Promotionally, it’s often a special offer that isn’t available anyplace else.
Mequoda – How are you using social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) to promote your blog? Has that changed the way you blog?
CB – To be perfectly honest, we don’t devote much time to social media. We use a WordPress plugin to automatically Tweet our new blog posts, but that’s about it. We know this isn’t the “right” way to use Twitter, but the alternative seems time intensive; time our very small staff can spend in better ways (or at least we think so). We do pick up a handful of followers and re-tweets each week using this zero-effort method.
Mequoda – What is your main source of revenue: ads, sponsorships, products sales, or donations?
CB – Right now, our main source of revenue is product sales; our own products and third-party products.
Mequoda – Approximately what percentage of your overall revenue comes from product sales vs. advertising/sponsorships or other sources?
CB – Product sales is probably 95% of our revenue.
Mequoda – What is your main source of referrals?
CB – Google.
Mequoda – What key metrics do you monitor to analyze the health of your business?
CB – For us, our email list is all-important, so we look at the number of opt-ins and opt-outs on a monthly basis. Of course, we also analyze the conversion funnel of individual list-building efforts.
Mequoda – How many sites have you linked to in the last 30 days?
CB – Very few. Probably less than five. Inbound links are another story. We seem to get a few every week.
Mequoda – What changes have you seen in your market since you began blogging?
CB – Some independent golf blogs that were around when I started are gone. A few new ones have launched, but my sense is the net number is down. Totally different story with respect to the large, mainstream golf publications, all of which now seem to be devoting resources to blogs and social media. As for the golf travel market, the problems in the overall economy have hurt and helped us at the same time. Hurt, because some people have scaled back on travel, and helped, because those still taking golf vacations are more concerned than ever about spending their time and money wisely.
Mequoda – Any interesting experience you’d like to share?
CB – We blogged about a little-known method for getting a tee time at this spectacular course (without knowing a member). When we first published it, it received a few comments, but that was it. Well, I received a call the other day from the course’s head golf professional saying he was being inundated by people using the method we described. Apparently, when you Google this course’s name, our post now ranks second or third. The pro wasn’t happy about our post, but after discussing it, we parted friends and he invited me out to play.
Mequoda – What advice would you give a new blogger?
CB – Bring something truly unique and worthwhile to the table. The better your content is, the faster you’ll grow your traffic.
Mequoda – What ways are you planning to expand over the next year?
CB – We have several strategies for growing our email list. Among them, we’ll try to convert a very large group of people who requested, but never claimed, one of our free books/vacation guides. Another effort will likely be to incentivize existing readers to refer their friends.