Gary Bembridge is a London-based global marketing consultant and travel blogger (sharing advice through Tips for Travellers). In addition to consulting and speaking, Gary shares insights on marketing through Marketing Mix Man.
Below Gary addresses some elements of his blogs' success, the value of awards, sources of income, and means of promoting one's work and services.
What is it about your marketing or travel blogs that you think makes them so successful?
Creating a product focused on what the audience wants, and not what I want to focus on.
I have applied the principles that I learnt over 30 years of brand marketing, which are quite simple really:
- Giving my target audience exactly what they are looking for and want.
- Making sure that I do it better than the alternatives available to them.
I make sure I know exactly who my audience is and take time to understand what they want and then try to create a product that does it better than others they can chose from. I am very user focused and take a lot of time to know what they want. For example, before I go on a press trip I make sure I get close to the audience I have and others that I think will be attracted and make a point of finding out what they want. I then share my findings with the brand I am covering and ask to interview, get access to, and cover the things the audience wants to hear about.
Which of your websites, on the whole, is the most popular? Which yields more income and professional opportunities?
I find it easier to attract an audience for my Marketing Mix Man site than my Tips for Travellers as there is less competition and clutter. However, I see my Tips for Travellers property as the more successful as I have a more multi-media approach and create videos, audio, articles and eBooks so people can consume my content the way that they want to. I have built up a huge volume of content and consumption that way. For example, I received over 25 million YouTube views, 600,000 audio podcast downloads, and 90,000 visitors to the blog last year with each visitor consuming 2 or 3 pages a time.
The marketing one brings in more paying professional opportunities as it promotes by 30 years of global marketing and branding – and that pays better! On the travel side, there is still only an emerging model of travel brands getting used to the idea of actually paying bloggers / podcasters / video makers to visit and cover their destinations. They are used to the “press trip” approach where the journalists are being paid by the publication for the article or as a member of staff. I am lucky enough that I am now semi-retired and in a position where the combination of well-paid marketing work and press trips works for me on many levels. I prefer it to when I was full-time marketing!
As you have won several awards through your work as a blogger, what benefits, if any, have come from them? Does winning a blogging award make a significant impact on a blogger's career or earning potential, and how can one determine whether it's worth it to apply for one (should an application process be necessary)?
No. They are a waste of time! They are designed to get traffic and links to the promoter’s site. They also mean you hassle your audience to vote for you. They do not care if you win or do not. I wish I had realised that earlier. I have seen almost nil traffic from them. I never enter them now. If there was a good system that professional insiders are choosing and selecting the best it may be worthwhile. As someone once put it in a post I read: the people who win are good at electioneering, not the best.
What proportion of your income results directly from your work as a blogger and podcaster?
Very little. Though it depends on how you calculate that. I see them as promotional and credibility vehicles. They build a reputation and name. They showcase. They are great advertising. They often lead to discussions that turn into opportunities. For example, through my blogging and experiences, I was asked to run a roundtable about how to work with bloggers. The roundtable went well; people heard about that and it has ultimately led to my being offered some press trips. What's more, a major PR agency has hired me to develop and deliver training for their other offices in the UK and around Europe (and possibly further afield). The blogs / podcasts enabled these opportunities, but were not the direct cause.
Would you be able to support yourself from your blogging alone were you not a global marketing consultant as well?
No! I don’t think anyone, certainly in travel or marketing blogging, can make a living on that alone. It is what services you create around that that earns the income and pays the bills.
From blogging specifically, what yields the most revenue for you? Ads? Sponsorships? Something else entirely?
Before Google Search's many algorithm updates, many bloggers and video makers like me would get a four-figure payment every month through AdSense, but whatever happened that has evaporated. That was the biggest source of direct income for 2 years. I thought, at first, that my loss in earnings and traffic was a result of something I had done, but then saw the internet is full of bloggers affected the same way!
Increasingly, sponsorships for content or for producing content for a brand is the main source of revenue related directly to blogs.
What do you do to promote Marketing Mix Man and Tips for Travelers?
I try and promote it more and more “offline” these days. People do not live exclusively online, so I try and get out to where the audience really is to promote it. The best blips and growth comes from talking events, or from other sites covering you or linking in some way.
I then also use the usual social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest to talk to current readers and followers. But I am shifting much more focus more proactively on attracting new users. I don’t think I should rely on search as much, as Google is not your friend always. I believe that if I am very reliant on them bringing new users, I am too vulnerable. Many people have discovered just how vulnerable they are when Google goes through one of their constant algorithm changes. I am starting to promote my work in other ways such as linking better through YouTube, starting to publish books etc.
What frank advice or warning would you give to a friend who wants to become a professional blogger and make 100% of his or her income from blogging activity?
You are unlikely to make an income from blogging alone. You need it to be part of a bigger strategy offering valuable services or products in the real world. The value you provide (and profit from) may be consulting, training, content creation and development from major brands.