How to become a successful travel affiliate

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The travel sector is a desirable one for many reasons.

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For the budding traveller, the opportunities and inspirations are endless, and it can be easy to get lost in the depths of wanderlust. For the affiliate, the travel industry offers an opportunity for sizeable commissions to be earned, alongside the promotion of a wide variety of places, activities and price points to appeal to all audiences.  Whilst the possibility of voucher codes and cashback on a holiday gives a tempting discount to entice a customer, the photography and reviews available for content sites to promote holiday destinations opens a wealth of opportunities to create unique and beautiful content to capture a reader’s imagination. However, the travel vertical has typically been one of many touchpoints, and Google’s latest research shows that travel journeys can have up to 500 touchpoints, including many after the purchase has been made, as users continue to research additional parts of their trip, like accommodation, transfers and luggage.

As such an inspiring industry to be a part of, competition between travel websites and affiliates in particular can be strong, and therefore it's important to find something to make your website stand out from the crowd to attract a loyal following and encourage users to come back and buy through your site. We’ve put together a few tips to help make your website stand out and become more successful:

Treat it like a business

Before you start, decide what type of travel site you want to have.  Do you want to be inspirational, offering a first step in the research phase? Or do you want to be a sale-closer, showing where to get the cheapest deals, discounts or best ways to travel? It's important to have a clear vision of where you want your site to fit in the customer’s research journey and tailor the type of content you’re putting out to fit that phase of research. 

Travel websites and blogs often depict perfect pictures of paradisiacal locations that most people only dream of experiencing in real life.  If you’re a budding travel blogger and using your own travel experiences to write about, ensure you’re treating your trips like a business. Document everything, either in journals, photos or video and write up your content as quickly as possible. Before you go, plan out the type of content you want to create and build a plan of when to release these, so you have clear deadlines in place as well as what you’ll need to collect while you’re away. It's easy to forget on this sort of trip that you’re working, but remember that you need to be able to produce good content and reviews in order for your business to thrive.

Make contact with relevant advertisers

Once you’ve outlined the type of content you want to create, contact advertisers who provide the services you’d be likely to promote. Alert them to your plans and offer them the opportunity to be involved in your content. This doesn’t always mean they have to gift a part of your trip or offer something for free but allows them the opportunity to see what your content is like and if there is possibility for collaboration. You can also add details of your work to Awin’s Opportunity Marketplace and offer any placements you’d be willing to include alongside them. The Opportunity Marketplace is open to all advertisers and publishers and offers a quick and easy way to find promotional placements with affiliates that might not necessarily be on an advertisers’ programme or on their radar.

Make your content clear, concise and structured

With potentially over 500 touchpoints in the average travel customer journey, it's easy for a consumer to read many articles and get lost in conflicting reviews, a wide range of options and ideas, at lots of different price points. It's important to offer the customer what they’re looking for in the most straightforward way possible and help to guide them towards their decision.  This can be done in a range of ways:

  • Structure your content. Plan your writing before you start so you can create a clear and easy-to-follow structure. Use Google to help you create a framework; searching key terms will highlight common questions being asked
  • Use the tools available to present information in a clear way – many travel advertisers offer widgets which allow your users to search their products without leaving your site, improving conversion and offering a simple way to monetise your website whilst also providing a simple-to-use functionality for your audience. Skyscanner has recently released a multi-vertical search widget which utilises all the features of Flight Search, Hotel Search and Car Hire Search widgets in one place making it easy for your audience to search travel. Adding Skyscanner’s multi-vertical search widget to your site will bring low effort monetisation and could help improve conversion rate of your traffic.
  • Present the most useful information in the most consumable way possible. Sometimes it can be hard for users to make crucial decisions, especially regarding travel, as prices can be impacted by so many factors.  When working with travel advertisers, check what tools they have available to help you structure your site in the best way possible.  Skyscanner’s insider tips widgets make use of an abundance of Skyscanner data to provide users with helpful statistical information about flights, like the cheapest month to fly and indicative pricing for a specified route. Their widgets are fully customisable; you can change locale, market and currency to suit your audience.

Be aware of the market

One of the most difficult parts about promoting the travel sector effectively, is the rapidity in which prices can change. Flights and hotel prices can often increase with demand, making it almost impossible to correctly advertise costs within your content.  Using tools such as advertiser APIs allows you to provide up to date and accurate information to your readers. Speak to each advertiser to find out if they have an API available for you to integrate into your site.

Use your social media platforms to take your audience with you

If you’re travelling as part of your business, social media is a quick and easy way to keep followers updated with your trip and give them a taster of what’s to come in your content.  Instagram and Instagram stories are great places to upload pictures and videos of your trip to pique your audience’s interest.  There are many features on social media platforms now that allow your audience to directly interact with these posts and will also enable you to gauge where the most interest lies for your future content. Facebook and Pinterest also provide strong interactive platforms to encourage users to follow your page, photos or articles whilst you are out of the country.

 
 
 
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How am I ever going to get over this place?!? #manarola #italy #italy_vacations #italia #cinqueterre

A post shared by Liesbeth | Lili's travel plans (@lilistravelplans) on

 

Using questions, interactive captions and intriguing photos encourages users to respond to you and leave their answers and their own questions, which will help to guide the blog content you’re able to put together once your trip is over.  Use your imagery to make users want to follow your travels – imagination and inspiration are two of the biggest factors in encouraging travelling.

Every travel site is different, which can help to cloud the decisions of budding travels, so the key factor in bringing success to your business is to stand out from the crowd and help your audience as much as you can with their decision-making process. Find your place in the user journey and use all of your channels to ensure your users return to site through easy-to-find information, continuous updates, and inciteful photos and content pieces.

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For Awin's inaugural Science Behind Ecommerce event this year I was asked to hold a session discussing what the future might hold for the wider travel industry as well as for our own affiliate world. As we were hosting the conference in London’s iconic Science Museum it made natural sense to me to frame the discussion within the context of one of their current exhibitions which is bound up with associations of the future, namely their Robots exhibition.