Written by Jennyfer Espiritu, Journalist
2020 is a very important year for the hospitality and tourism industry due to COVID-19. At the end of the first quarter of 2020, the World Health Organization effectively declared the outbreak a pandemic, initiated the government to enforce a stay-at-home order, advising against non-essential overseas and domestic travel. Within a month, the trip became impossible. As a result, a $1.8 trillion global industry stalled, disrupting the livelihoods of more than 300 million people, including travel publishers small and large.
It’s hard for travel-focused publishers to create relevant content when people aren’t prepared to go out and risk their health and safety. However, despite the unprecedented challenges, small publishers like Local Adventurer, Be My Travel Muse, and MarcoFeng.com are seeing massive growth, garnering more than 10 million views in organic search in 2021 alone. The team’s willingness to adapt to the current situation was at the core of their breakthrough. According to founder Hailun (Marco) Feng, when COVID-19 hit, they shifted their focus from travel to home content that surged in search queries. And most of the content is based on reviews, surveys and polls, and independent sources, which gives the site an advantage to maintain and produce travel content even when it’s nearly impossible to travel.
In 2021, the newcomer also launched faceted navigation that allows readers to search for destinations and guidance using filters such as “best time to visit”, “located in”, “suitable for”, “cost”, and “visa and vaccination requirements”. as a one-stop-shop for travel planning. While such a feature is common in eCommerce, this is the first time it has been used in publishing, offering readers new ways to discover and consume content. Also, during a pandemic, when infections and policies change frequently and uniformly, this offers publishers more flexibility in presenting information in a timely manner without a lot of manual input. Feng said, “This feature will continue to be refined to provide better results.”
While many sites are starting to cover news related to the pandemic, Feng recommends finding the right angle to keep the brand alive. Unless it’s a health site, avoid topics that worry too much about people’s lives and wealth. Google’s algorithms enforce strict rules for ranking websites in YMYL (your money, your life) categories, and you risk losing rankings to cover up that content without the right skills. “In early 2020, we removed all of our insurance and health-related content from the site, which was not working at all, resulting in a slight increase in organic traffic. A reference section is also added to the bottom of each article to signify our authority to Google.”
Another recommendation from Feng is to review content regularly to ensure the information is accurate so that readers can have the same experience as before the pandemic. For example, this section lost organic visibility because it wasn’t updated to reflect local health and safety guidelines for restaurants but saw a spike in ratings after the update. If you don’t have the resources to do it or do it quickly, an alternative is to add an announcement bar to your site to remind readers to check the venue before making a reservation.
While all of this may sound simple, Feng reveals that it takes a lot of effort, involving 15 to 25 hours researching, editing, fact-checking, and adding references and visuals for each section. Also, to stay competitive as newcomers, they have created unique formats such as grouping feature-length content by geography, type, and genre, or using a transparent scoring system to rank recommended places based on the best.
Hailun (Marco) Fenghttps://www.marcofeng.com[email protected]