Starting an online travel guide, any suggestions?


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I am helping a client/friend build a site where he'll post a "definitive guide for the upscale traveler" for popular business and leisure destinations. I've already visited many travel guide websites, blogs, and communities to get a feel for what's out there. I feel like we do have something unique and useful for any traveler with money to spend on luxury.

Content is already written and consists of a list for each city, with a few selections under each category (i.e. hotel, restaurant, bar, etc). Each city is different and has special categories based on the culture and feature of the city. The author is a baby boomer and wants to market to that audience because of his tastes, writing style, and sense of humor. He does not participate much in social media (he has linkedin/twitter/facebook but doesn't use them too much), so he's unsure of how much "community" to integrate in the site from day 1. I'm inclined to keep things simple in a blog-type format and wait until we get an audience to develop the site further.

My question is pretty wide open, so any advice you can give as it relates to travel sites, or launching a site like this in general, is much appreciated.

-what platform do you recommend? (I'm leaning towards Wordpress)

-what types of community involvement would you recommend? (i.e. would disqus comments be enough? or should we aim for more facebook/video/other social media integration?)

-should we start with a forum? I have no experience starting forum sites and I'm intimidated at the idea of starting a forum with few posts/responses.

-any other ideas or suggestions? Thanks in advance!

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asked Oct 12 '09 at 05:15
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Dlynton
1,057 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll

4 Answers


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I think Wordpress is definitely your best bet. The number of tools, plugins, and people who can support it are ridiculous. Also with the right caching plugins I hear it will scale well enough.

It is very hard to build community, I think your instincts are right that you should focus on building up the content and get popular before trying to add forums or building in social media features. There is nothing sadder than a forum with a handful of posts. Stick with the comments for now and build up more when you need it. I do think integration with facebook might be interesting, the baby boomers are starting to flood into facebook and anything they can use to show off where they are traveling might help jump start the site.

I think the major concern for a site like this is SEO, if you don't know it very well I would learn it or talk to someone who does. The travel space is very competitive in SEO since the CPM and affiliate rates tend to be pretty good. Search Engines are going to be how most people find your site (hopefully).

answered Oct 12 '09 at 05:22
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James Avery
570 points
  • James, great point regarding SEO. I think it is our biggest challenge as all the destinations have very competitive keywords. I'll need to put more emphasis on this goal; it's been overlooked while we've been mulling over the logistics of the site. – Dlynton 10 years ago
  • Agreed. For SEO there are plugins; also consider a theme like Thesis (http://bit.ly/I13D7) where they have a lot of support you (including SEO). It's only a one-time $100 and you get tech support, and it's documented how to extend it. – Jason 10 years ago
  • I love thesis! Proud owner of a developer license. Have you seen or used http://headwaythemes.com ? It adds a lot of CMS features and seems like it would save us more time in development. – Dlynton 10 years ago

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This is an interesting niche and if the content is already developed that is great. I like your approach of keeping it simple and seeing how it progresses.

Some sites you may want to visit would be:

http://www.jetsetlife.tv/ http://www.everlater.com/ http://www.tripadvisor.com/Inspiration They each have a interesting way of how they have approached this industry. Jetsetlife started out really simple and has evolved into the site it is today.

As for forums you may want to check out

http://vanillaforums.com/ It is tough to get conversations started early on in a forum. You will need to attract some power posters or incentivize the forums to get some traffic.

I hope this is of some help.

answered Oct 12 '09 at 05:28
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Usman Sheikh
1,728 points
  • Usman, Thank you for the links and insight. Jetsetlife looks like a great example and they demonstrate that the content can be monetized. (although monetization is not an immediate need.) Vanillaforums looks very cool and will be a good option when the time is right. – Dlynton 10 years ago

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WordPress is a great choice for something like this.

The good news is that the barrier to entry is pretty low (easy to get started). The bad news is that the barrier to entry is low -- so there's lots of competition and you're going to have to find ways to differentiate.

The key for something like this is creating interesting content that pulls people in and then engages them somehow. I'd stay away from a forum in the early days (you need a following first). You might find that targeting an even narrower audience to start out with is a good way to go (that way, differentiation is easier).

I'd strongly advise to start participating in social media. Though it's not perfect, alternatives for trying to build a big audience are usually much more expensive.

answered Oct 12 '09 at 06:21
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Dharmesh Shah
2,860 points
  • Wow, how I'm loving this site! Every response brings a different angle to the answer. Agreed on the social media participation - there are so many travel community sites where the author can participate. One that recently caught my attention is www.simonseeks.com, consisting of user-generated travel guides. I'm a firm believer that the site's success will greatly depend on the author's participation in social media & the travel community. It will have a positive impact on SEO and will hopefully attract some of the site's most active readers. This is true for launching any blog site. – Dlynton 10 years ago

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Try Square Space. Use the promo code of TWIT and I think you will save 10%.

answered Mar 24 '11 at 23:11
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Cbmeeks
135 points

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