Content Creation: About Journey, Not Destination?

Since content creation is the cornerstone of search engine optimization, and enticing content sells travel, finding ways to set your content apart from the masses is an incredible challenge to take on. It can be downright overwhelming when you realize that the big dogs have years, decades or more, of online content in the travel space.

Travel Content: Big Dogs, Lucky Stars, No Small Feat?

For starters, if you're running with the big dogs in a really competitive space, with generic travel terms, creating massive amounts of content is no small feat. You'll either need a complete staff of writers or a sizeable budget to obtain content. For the smaller business, you can count your lucky stars if your travel service or product is unique, and you can capitalize on niche keyword phrases, finding success with minimal effort. Minimal effort means that you personally have the time, motivation, and creativity to produce quality content -- after doing extensive keyword research, of course. Odds are, you are managing a million other projects, so finding the time and energy to write is fairly unlikely.

So what's a Web site owner or manager to do? There are three basic strategies when it comes to content development for your site:

Build Site as Pyramid Scheme. Free No Fee UGC, CGC, CGM

Rely on user-generated content, which still requires some editorial oversight of sorts to ensure content adheres to the guidelines you create. If you're a Tom Sawyer, there may be lots of Huck Finns you can get to paint your white picket fence. The upside: you promise to make all the Finns famous; get credit for creating a cottage industry of picket fence painters; pocket the big bucks; and bask in all the glory.

The downside? Writers who write for free know whether you're paying the A-listers, travel industry literati, and globe-trotting glitterati. That may breed resentment among those who don't get their tickets punched or expenses paid. Remember: in the end, Huck got his own sequel, won all the critical acclaim; whereas good ol' Tom? Sawyer's just a guy "Lost" somewhere across the ocean, and the book? Child's play.

Decide who gets to Celebrity xRank! You? Or your writers? Never the 'twain shall meet. Don't risk being called a huckster by grabbing all the power and the glory for yourself. No man is an island, even in the travel industry.

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License: To Kill or Not to Kill Fees? Real Simple: Syndication

License, or syndicate content from outside sources. Given the prevalence of RSS feeds, this is fairly simple to do, and it's free, a real bonus. However, realize that the content you are syndicating is likely to appear in many other venues as well, if not now, in the near future, as it catches on, and you will not have any 'unique' content to offer. Your first-mover advantage is fairly limited in this case. Licensing content will likely come with a small fee, but may be advantageous since the content owners may limit how many partners they license content to.

Natural Resources: In-Sourcing and Outsourcing

Devote resources to creating content in-house or outsourcing to writers. Either way, it's a tough project to manage. You must be committed to prioritizing your content needs, setting exact requirements and deadlines based on those needs, and finding the best resources to fit the bill.

So which option is the best choice? One route seems logical. Another may seem to be the easy path. Next time out: Taking the Road Best Traveled.

About the author

Elisabeth Osmeloski has been in the search engine marketing industry since 1999, with agency experience as an SEO consultant and web copywriter for a variety of clients, ranging from small businesses to large corporations, as well as working in-house for a travel search industry startup. Elisabeth is also a regular speaker and a moderator at the Search Engine Strategies conferences.

Elisabeth recently launched a new blog and consulting agency, Adventures in Search, specializing in editorial services including content strategy, SEO copywriting, community development and management, social media marketing, online PR and customized link building. Elisabeth's areas of expertise include adventure travel services, destination and tourism marketing, outdoor recreation and action sports, as well as luxury- and lifestyle-focused brands.

She holds a B.A. in Marketing from the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She also spent several years as the Skiing Editor for About.com, and still enjoys writing as an active travel journalist whenever possible. In addition to freelance travel writing assignments, Elisabeth has also created Downhill Divas, a social network for women interested in skiing, snowboarding, freeride mountain biking and living a healthy, active lifestyle.