SEO, affiliates, podcasts and IG Stories: the big conference stories

SEO, affiliates, podcasts and IG Stories: the big conference stories

MORE than 400 travel influencers & content creators gathered in Italy at the weekend for a summer conference and catch-up.

The Traverse event in the Trentino town of Trento (motto: The Alps with an Italian Touch) saw 50 seminars staged in a 200-year-old opera house.

And the most topical conversations were Instagram, SEO, podcasts and affiliate sales, among many social and digital media debates held at several parties and over drinks in bars throughout the old town.


Many influencers have given up on IG, citing the frequent algorithm changes that have seen likes and follower numbers decline. The gaming of IG and flood of posing influencers also rankles deeply.

However, IG Stories prompted encouragement from @cailinoneil who offered this advice in her seminar ‘IG Stories for working with brands’:

  • Film in threes – for example, outside the shop, film the product and then eat the ice-cream
  • Use the highlight feature
  • Can get content out of archive for a demo reel
  • Use polls and questions – but avoid using music (copyright issues)
  • Use location tags and tag yourself. Use important hashtags
  • Save the story for you to keep before publishing
  • Use the Canva app to make IG Stories


An astonishing number of bloggers have become slaves to SEO, and its importance was hammered home by Gemma and Laura of Make Traffic Happen – their talk was the best-attended seminar of the weekend.

“It’s about speaking Google’s language through targeted keywords but using them naturally,” said Gemma. “You are writing for people not a robot.

“Use the target keyword in the URL, first 100 words, meta, alt tag and variations in subheadings and in the text. Then work on your liking strategy.”

In other tips:

  • Go to Google Analytics>Behaviour>Site content>All pages> All posts. Find the posts with little traffic and either revive or delete them.
  • On pages where you are selling stuff, use No Follow links (a message to Google it shouldn’t bother ranking the page).
  • Google now checks the mobile version of a site more than a desktop – so mobile has to be responsive, clean.
  • Don’t upload heavy images – optimised images tend to be no more than 200kb. Each image should be as small as possible so that the entire page weighs no more than 500kb for optimal page speed.


Podcasts are booming in the UK, with six million people now tuning in every week, according to Ofcom.

The number of people listening to podcasts every week has also doubled in five years, from 3.2m in 2013 to 5.9m last year.  The increase is across all ages, but the most growth is among young adults aged 15-24.

There were two podcast creators at Traverse:  Susan Schwartz @LushLifepodcast for beginners and Palle Bo @TheRadioVagabond for a more advanced class.

“Podcasting takes a lot of time,” warned Susan, who hires a producer to edit and publish her podcasts. She advised using a spreadsheet to organize and structure a publishing schedule, usually a 30-minute podcast every week.

She uses a Zoom H4N (£400) for recording. You’ll also need artwork to accompany the podcast, and an intro. The artwork will need to be clear enough to read on a mobile, and if using original music for the intro, then make sure you can adapt it for future changes.

She writes her script first, then reads it. You can also use new software which will convert the broadcast into text (computer-generated). Good for deaf people and currently free to use.


There is a new generation of bloggers who are relying on SEO and affiliate sales to ensure a strong level of ‘passive income’ – making money through selling travel products such as suitcases or insurance which, naturally, they endorse and use….

Jodie Dewberry @alajode told her audience:

  • Promote products with high relevance
  • Trial widgets as well as deep links
  • There are a few good brands – don’t over advertise
  • Don’t push content below the fold
  • Good affiliate networks include Amazon Associates, Awin, Skimlinks
  • Best selling pages: insurance/banking, travel, tech, products
  • Put posts close to purchase – guides, reviews, offers, resources
  • And disclose affiliate links (sponsored by etc.,)

In all, it was an excellent conference, with several sessions covering YouTube and photography, essential elements for blogging and social media these days.

There were also a number of speakers calling on bloggers to up their writing skills – including myself (view the presentation here) – I do think the rush to perfect SEO and affiliate selling has been at the expense of improving the quality of written content. It was also interesting to meet Rebecca Wood @EditingUK who is a freelance copy editor who can help writers brush up and improve their output.

Finally, it was a pleasure to meet two mature bloggers who aren’t just rushing around in search of paid gigs to travel and write to order.

Meet Andrea Wade @happydaystravelblog, whose site currently includes excellent new content from Morocco, Trinidad & Tobago, Ethiopia and Benin. Also, Janis @OurWorldForYou who specialises in roadtrips in a soft top Audi – recent trips include Iceland and Croatia, with Zimbabwe to come.

The number of bloggers/creators is exploding – indeed, there was an article this week suggesting the market is saturated and that the influencer era has peaked.

Perhaps. But what the Traverse conference showed in spades is that maturity and diversity in blogging and social/digital media is alive and well. They may just not be called influencers any more: perhaps content creators. Or multimedia editors. What’s in a name?

Traverse staged its first Creator Awards during the conference, with winners in 15 categories.

Read who the best of the best content creators are, as voted for by a panel of independent creatives, experts and those who work closely with creators.

The next Traverse event will be Borderless Live, a festival with a conference and exhibition, at Tobacco Dock, London on September 6-7.

Brought to you by WTM London, brands and destinations will have the chance to meet with the world’s top influencers through a series of organised networking events, special receptions for industry and creator attendees and of course on their own dedicated exhibition stands. Tickets on sale now

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Steve Keenan has been a travel journalist for 25 years. He started at a Reed paper, news editing at Travel News in London - now Travel Weekly - having spent a decade reporting general news in the UK and abroad. He also taught English in Peru, delivered cars in the USA, ran the Sydney desk at AAP and took the train home from Hong Kong. He left Travel News in 1990 to freelance for several publications, including The Times of London, which he later joined as deputy travel editor. In December 2004, he became the first national digital travel editor in the UK, running the combined travel website of The Times and Sunday Times. The introduction of a paywall at the papers in 2010 persuaded him that the connected world might continue outside of Wapping and he left to co-found Travel Perspective. The company runs the social media seminars at World Travel Market London, and works with Reed Expos and others in helping the travel and tourism industry best communicate stories in all forms of publishing.

One comment

  1. Sassy Wyatt says:

    This was a really interesting read, especially as I unfortunately didn’t make any of the talks that you listed in this article. I also want to highlight that alt text is for screenreader users, in particular blind people, you need to label the photos with the descriptions: who, what, where, why, when. Please do not use your keywords here as it detracts from the point of accessibility.

    Cannot wait for borderless live in September! :)e

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