How to Create your own wealth-generating Turn Key V-Business with iNetGlobal Travel.
iNetGlobal in a strategic partner alliance with Expedia.com / Holels.com is launching it’s own Affiliate Travel Web Site.
Here is a very cool article about the travel industry which includes an interview with Sunil Bhatt VP of Affiliate Relations for Hotels.com.
In today’s market, if you can create a well-defined niche Web site that draws a passionate audience — such as visitors looking for reliable, current information on bonefishing in Cozumel or the party scene in South Beach Miami — you can easily generate a six-figure income… and perhaps as much as $1 million a year or more, experts say.
During the past decade, a lucrative business opportunity perfect for individual entrepreneurs and small investors has slowly emerged and matured. “Travel affiliate” Web sites combine compelling content with a commission-based revenue stream derived from partnerships with sellers of hotel rooms, airline tickets, and other online travel products.
Tom Ogg is a 40-year veteran of the travel industry and author of the 2007 book Home Based Travel Affiliate: Turn Your Website into a Virtual Money Machine. Ogg launched the site CruiseReviews.com in 1998 and earned well into six figures every year thereafter until he sold the site in early 2006. He says that an individual entrepreneur who starts a successful site can easily earn a net income of $100,000 a year, and a seven-figure income is realistically attainable if you do everything right.
Other experts agree.
“Travel has moved online,” says Mims Wright, president of Colorado consulting and venture capital firm Chimney Rock Capital Partners. “And it’s growing.” Plus, according to Mims, the consumer base is demanding quality from the online travel-related experience. “And there are not enough sites that do the job well enough to satisfy the needs and interests of people, especially in the more esoteric sectors of travel.”
Experts weigh in on potential
Sunil Bhatt, vice president of affiliate marketing at the Hotels.com/Interactive Affiliate Network (IAN) division of Expedia, agrees that the industry holds a wealth of opportunity. “Travel is a very good business, in general,” he says. “It’s a very large market. Everybody travels, so there are lots of opportunities to capture travelers with specific needs or interests by creating a travel affiliate Web site.”
Bhatt, whose company partners with hundreds of successful sites operated by individual entrepreneurs, offers one important caveat. “To be successful today, you need to find a creative niche for helping consumers. But there are plenty of opportunities still out there.”
“What has worked well for us is mixing relevant content that the affluent reader wants to see with high-end services like yacht charters and fractional jet ownership or a VIP concierge service for visitors to Las Vegas,” says Gilbert Gautereaux, founder and president of LuxeMont.com, a successful travel affiliate site in San Diego.
Plus, it’s an easy market to get into. “You can create a Web site and do your search engine optimization work, or buy keywords, and attract people searching for travel to your site” with no real barriers, says Gautereaux, a former information technology executive at GE.
Another bonus: the number of keywords available. “With many product or service categories, there are very few keywords still available,” says Ogg. “But with travel, there is an unlimited assortment of keywords and phrases that describe travel and allow you to focus on a niche market. That’s what makes travel affiliate sites so attractive.”
“There are really three different ways to generate traffic to a Web site,” says Bhatt.
1. Search engine marketing. You buy banner ads and keywords and bring people to your site that way.
2. Search engine optimization. You post unique editorial content and construct your site in such a way that an organic search at Google or another search engine will lead potential customers to your site.
3. Name recognition. You have a familiar brand that people can type into their browser.
However, Bhatt notes that you must not overlook the most important consideration for attracting customers: a genuine passion for the topic you are covering. “Passion for your topic is the common denominator among the most successful entrepreneur-type sites,” says Bhatt. Ogg and Wright say they agree wholeheartedly.
And Ogg stresses that your passion must translate into excellent editorial content that not only attracts an audience but also generates high page rankings from the major search engines such as Google and Yahoo. “Without question, straightforward, unbiased, easy-to-access content is number one,” says Ogg. “If you have that, you’re going to do well, no matter what.”
Another key factor becoming more important every day is social networking, the latest Internet trend to evolve from the extraordinary success of MySpace and Facebook. “In today’s market, you have to move the visitor experience into a community environment,” says Ogg, who adds that personal reviews and chat rooms or discussion groups are extremely powerful.
Shared information and user-generated content, in any form, are vitally important components of a successful site today, agrees Wright.
Filling a niche
Since the first travel affiliate Web sites, such as CruiseReviews.com, were created a decade ago, the fundamental business model has evolved, says Ogg. Today, more than ever, success requires a well-defined niche that is not already being served.
“If the consumer is looking for information on bonefishing in Cozumel, it’s not likely he’ll search for fishing or even bonefishing,” says Ogg. “He’ll search for bonefishing in Cozumel. That’s why keyword strategy and search engine optimization are so important now. If you’re starting a site like that, the actual URL should be BonefishingInCozumel.com. And those types of URLs are readily available, if you identify a good niche market.”
You must also capitalize on the way search engines rank pages. Says Ogg, if you’re creating a site about bonefishing in Cozumel, you can also attract visitors searching for fishing guides or local restaurants. Simply do your homework, create content for individual pages on those topics, and execute each page to the highest possible editorial standard.
By the same token, if you’re creating a luxury Las Vegas site, you can attract Internet surfers who are looking for specific restaurants or nightclubs. You just need to have the best content related to those venues, based on the independent assessments of the search engines.
Awareness of these opportunities provides another level of traffic-building capability beyond the merely generic — at no cost.
The diversification and balance of revenue streams also play an important role in your success. Though partners such as Hotels.com, Travelocity.com, or Priceline.com will pay commissions to a typical travel affiliate site for the booking of hotel rooms, there are many other opportunities to generate income.
For example, you can promote books related to your general topic and become an affiliate of Amazon.com. You can also link to affiliate programs that sell insurance or luggage, or anything else your audience might want.
If you build enough traffic to generate income from affiliate programs, you can also sell banner advertising. And many affiliate sites charge an annual or monthly fee for categorized editorial listings, whether they’re for hotels, restaurants, or local tourist attractions.
Finally, Google AdSense is a program that links other commercial sites to yours based on shared interests. If a visitor to your site clicks through to one of the AdSense sites, you earn money. “AdSense is a perfect way to monetize your site from those visitors who are going to leave anyway without buying anything from you,” says Ogg, who earned more than $100,000 a year from AdSense alone as CruiseReviews.com matured.
Furthermore, he says, it’s easy to learn how to do. Just go to google.com/adsense and follow the practical tips Google provides, such as where to place ads on your pages.
Though travel affiliate Web sites represent an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs, there are challenges that must be addressed.
“The skill set that it takes to succeed in presenting travel information is related to an ability to research, analyze, and present,” says Ogg. “So, if you don’t have that skill set, then it becomes much more difficult to generate content.” You can hire a freelance writer or travel agent to help you develop your content, Ogg says.
Wright calls attention to an emerging trend he thinks will have a profound effect on the previously accepted business model. Hotel companies are fighting to bring Internet traffic back to their own Web sites and away from affiliate sites. So would-be entrepreneurs can no longer develop a generic travel site designed only to generate traffic and book hotel rooms from partners, such as Hotels.com.
“I can assure you that the people at Hotels.com and Expedia and the rest of them are keenly aware of this [trend],” Wright says. “For that reason, the model of the future is multiple revenue streams. And the ‘niche’ site is the magic formula. The more well-defined an audience — what they do, where they shop — the more advertisers will pay to reach that audience.” So smart entrepreneurs will focus on a niche to draw unique business to their sites.
As an example, Wright says high-end fly-fishing outfitter Orvis will, with its advertising, enthusiastically support the bonefishing in Cozumel niche site over a more generic fishing site.
“And if I sell some hotel rooms and airline tickets along the way, that’s great, but the actual value of the audience is actually much higher than that,” he says, adding that he encourages the multiple-revenue-stream model over the traditional model that generates most of its revenue from a travel affiliate program such as Travelocity. “Whatever is relevant to that visitor, sell it to him,” he says. “Maximize revenue streams.”
Still a burgeoning opportunity
Despite the challenges, Bhatt says travel affiliate sites still represent a superb business opportunity. “We continue to see new affiliates join us every month that realize success,” he says. “We are seeing growth. It’s still a burgeoning opportunity.”
But the industry is becoming more competitive, says Bhatt, so the onus is on site developers to be more passionate and do a better job of merchandising. “I have to emphasize, again, that there are new sites launching every month that are realizing success,” he says. “There are still lots of opportunities for creative ideas that serve travelers in some unique way.”
John Buchanan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
3 Successful Sites to Emulate
1. SouthBeach-USA.com. Owned by a Continental Airlines pilot with a genuine passion for Miami Beach, the site attracts more monthly visitors than any print magazine in Miami. It also generates an annual income well into six figures. It’s the perfect example of high-quality editorial content combined with effective search engine optimization. In a Google search for “South Beach hotels,” this site comes up No. 1 behind three “sponsored” — or paid ranking — sites. And its proprietor has never paid a cent to a search engine optimization company.
2. JustLuxe.com. This site, with 250,000 unique visitors a month, represents the core revenue generator of the LuxeMont luxury portal created by former GE information technology executive Gilbert Gautereaux and his brother, a direct marketing expert. It exemplifies the diversified revenue stream model that venture capitalist Mims Wright encourages. Sixty percent of its total revenue comes from banner advertising and paid editorial listings in 20 categories, while 30 percent comes from travel affiliate marketing and 10 percent from a VIP concierge service.
3. Virginiabeach.com. Featured by Travelocity as one of its most successful affiliate Web sites, from among more than 7,000, this is a good example of excellent content combined with effective merchandising. For more examples of successful Travelocity affiliates, go to wctravel.com and click on “Sample Sites” on the home page menu.
Practical Tips for Success
Concentrate your efforts on the following areas to get the most from your Web site.
Search engine optimization (SEO). Unless you want to invest a significant amount of money buying keywords from search engines, you should determine how to earn high page rankings from Google and Yahoo for free. Expert Tom Ogg recommends bruceclay.com as a top tool for mastering SEO. “It’s a finite science,” says Ogg. “Spend time, and learn to do it.”
Social networking. Next to high quality content and effective SEO, social networking is the most important requirement for success in today’s market, according to Ogg and consultant-venture capitalist Mims Wright. For the best tool out there — which is also free: Check out open-source provider phpbb.com.
Conversion rate. “Your conversion rate is more important than traffic,” says Robert Tuchman, founder and president of New York-based TSE Sports & Entertainment — tseworld.com. His “sports experience company” markets packages to events such as the Super Bowl via several dozen travel affiliate sites and pays excellent commissions. “You want to attract traffic, but you want to make sure you’re attracting the right kind of traffic. You need to make sure that the people you bring in convert to being customers.”
Travel affiliate consultant and venture capitalist Wright agrees. “We see affiliate sites where a person is driving a million visitors a month, but only converting less than 1 percent,” he says. “We also see [sites] that are only driving a half a million visitors a month, but they’re converting 3 or 4 percent.”
Hire a good graphic designer. The first impression your site makes, whether on a visitor, a prospective advertiser, or potential marketing partner, will last forever. Invest the money to create an attractive, easy-to-navigate site.
Customer service. In addition to online support, provide your visitors with a 24-hour toll-free phone number.