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4 Things I Learned at TBEX


TBEX — the annual convention of all things travel blog — took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2011. If you weren’t able to make it, here is my rundown:

In This Travel Blog Article You Will Discover:

  • Top Points At TBEX ‘11
  • Whether You Should Attend TBEX ‘12
  • And More!

Kim Mance’s TBEX is quite the event. Held annually, it brings together several hundred travel bloggers, PR reps and travel industry types for a weekend-long conference of sharing ideas, workshops, networking, state-of-the-union-addresses and more. Since it was held in my hometown, at the beautiful Vancouver Convention Centre, last weekend, I could hardly skip it. I’m glad I went. If you missed it — here are some of the top points I took home:

1. The Money’s In Print

Whether it’s Gary Arndt talking about the upcoming six-figure book deal he got using the success of his travel blog and its audience of tens of thousands; the Lost Girls discussing their book deal and movie rights sale a few years back (due to their blog); or Mike Barish declaring his inaugural newspaper article was the first time he gained “legitimacy with his grandma;” it was amazing how many digital nomads were expounding the cash cow of print. A blog is your tool to get a book deal or to get magazine work. It also really got me thinking about what “monetization” means — it goes a lot deeper than just selling banner ads. Monetization is cash in all its forms. It doesn’t mean you blog is useless — quite the contrary. Your blog is your audience, and your audience is worth money to a book publisher, movie producer, magazine editor… etc… etc… (As a very successful writer/editor in the print world, this was all music to my ears.) So – let me just take this moment to thank you for being my valuable and dear audience…

2. Sponsorship Rocks

Aside from tossing aside the shackles of the day job, many travel bloggers also dream of having corporate bucks to simply fund their next vacation. How do you do this? With sponsorship. Spokespeople from Expedia, American Express and more talked at length how they love to work with bloggers who can provide them with something of value (posts, Tweets) — and will pay for this service. Do you have a post idea about the top Thai food spots in Denver? Find a way for American Express to benefit from this post and you may just find yourself also with a few hundred AMEX bucks to cover your Green Curry and Pad Thai expenses. Think as big — or as small — as you want, and pitch these companies professionally. Good luck!

3. Deep Links Matter

I’ve known about the value of “linking” for a while — but I’ll be honest, I had heard the term “Deep Links” before, but I really didn’t know what they were. Deep Links are links from other sites to specific content on your site — not just to your homepage (i.e.: blogroll). Why do these matter? When a search engine sees that a webpage links to one of your posts, which has related content, the engine registers that as a strong endorsement of your post. This helps your page rankings. Conversely, when a search engine sees a link to your homepage, it “knows” that’s probably just a blogroll or reciprocal link and gives it less importance as the linking site isn’t recommending any of your specific content… it’s just announcing you as a “friend.” The more authoritative the linking site, the better it is for you. (FYI: .edu sites are the best.)

4. “Four Yards & A Cloud of Dust”

Bootsnall founder Sean Keener used this football term, made famous by Vince Lombardi, as inspiration — and a reality check — for us bloggers. In football, if you can run the ball four yards every down, you will score a touchdown with every possession. It’s not sexy, but it works. And it’s a lot of work. Therein lies the lesson — shoot for little victories every day, week or month and you will score a touchdown with your blog.

…Yes, of course I learned more than that. Robert Reid from Lonely Planet had a great presentation on how he feels travel blogging is not held to a high enough standard yet — and that we, as a group, should be better, for example. The networking opportunities were tremendous and although I didn’t’ win anything, some of the prize giveaways were fantastic too. But I can’t blabber all the secrets I learned…

On the flipside, TBEX had some disappointments too. One, at times it felt a bit cliquey. The fact that TBEX organizers publicly announced after-parties that only a select group was able to attend didn’t help matters there either… Further, some of the speakers (no names, it’s a moot point now) were less than inspiring… and, frankly, less than engaging.

Plus, throughout all the talk of “monetizing” blogs, I couldn’t shake the feeling Kim Mance and the Galavanting crew, founders of TBEX, had discovered the ultimate monetization secret of all… use your popular blog to promote an annual event — then charge fellow bloggers $80 a pop to attend, PR reps $550 and sell sponsorship opps to big-money corporations. Good for her — but I can’t help but feel a tinge of “what the…???” when I realized that I helped massively monetize someone else’s website while figuring out how to elevate my own… and that may have been the best lesson of all. Bloggers are a friendly bunch and a wonderful community, but ultimately, when it comes to running your website — it ain’t “Show Friends.” It’s “Show Business.” Just make sure you offer something of value.

What DO You Think Of TBEX?

Let’s Connect On Facebook!

Photo Courtesy Vancouver Convention Centre

Also Read: 11 Lessons Bloggers Can Learn From TBEX 2011

About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

3 comments… add one
  • Chris Heidrich Jun 15, 2011 Link

    Great to hear you got a lot out of the conference, David. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet you while there, but if you’re interested in some deep linking, give me a shout and let’s see what we can do.

  • Scott Jun 13, 2011 Link

    I had a great time at tbex. The panels were excellent and it felt like it was organized well. I do wish there were more events to go on in groups rather than the few that were taken up so quickly, and that’s really my only feedback for improvement. Its easier to network in small groups while doing something inspiring. Excellent conference I thought.

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