Coming to the end of Q1 with holiday season set to kick off for 2019, we spoke to Colin Carter of Weather2Travel.com to discuss the important role of content sites within the affiliate industry and the changing landscape towards the future.
Weather2Travel.com is quite a unique concept within the affiliate space. What drove the idea to start the site and how long has it been running for now?
We originally started in the film industry helping film and tv producers decide where to shoot on location. We took a side step into travel and launched Weather2Travel.com almost 14 years ago.
Weather is such an important factor when picking a holiday destination. In most industry studies, weather comes a close second after price for the most important factors in researching and booking holidays.
The original idea was to offer climate content to online travel companies as a B2B service, something we still do today. We soon discovered that we could publish this content for consumers ourselves and monetise it through advertising and affiliate marketing.
We’ve always focused on helping customers decide where and when to go on holiday for their preferred weather. As we’ve evolved, that remit has extended to include wider holiday research, such as travel deals and product searches, plus inspirational content through our blog.
With brands looking for more content-based sites in the affiliate space, Weather2Travel.com is in a good position. How do you see the landscape evolving, specifically in travel, over the next year?
I’m sure that we’ve almost had as many ‘Year of content’ as we have ‘Year of mobile’, so it’s been on the horizon for some time. Certainly, the focus on content is a higher priority for many brands, especially in travel.
The challenge is that affiliate marketing isn’t currently set up to measure and reward content in the right way. The last click model is focused too heavily on the bottom of the sales funnel where inspirational content doesn’t live.
Rather than ‘content is king’ for affiliate marketing it is better to say ‘context is king’. Unless your content is focused on selling a product you are unlikely to win with the current model.
Little focus is placed on measuring and rewarding brand and product awareness in content, which is a massive missed opportunity for the affiliate industry. Assisted sale measurements and payments along with the few multi-attribution models have shifted the conversation, but as yet these haven’t broken into the mainstream.
Personally, I think there is a massive opportunity for affiliate marketing to expand its definition of what is ‘performance’ and to reward all types of publishers based on exposure rather than just last click sales bringing PR and branding into the mix.
A hybrid model where impressions, clicks, and sales are all measured and rewarded opens up a vast new pool of content publishers, bloggers, influencers and allows brands to work with all types of partners including cashback, voucher, content and more.
What has been the biggest challenge for you in recent times within the industry?
The biggest challenge remains customer acquisition. Traffic is the lifeblood of any publisher and brand, but it also needs to be the right type of traffic. To make affiliate marketing work you need customers with intent to purchase. In travel, the purchase path is long and complicated making this an even bigger challenge.
Google has moved the goalposts over recent years favouring big brands in natural search and even treating different types of websites differently making it even harder for publishers to compete on a level playing field.
Google is also now answering consumer queries directly - keeping them on the search engine. This includes answer boxes, featured snippets, knowledge graph, local results, and syndicated content plus their own travel product searches such as Google Flights & Hotels.
All this will have an impact on search visibility and traffic whether a publisher is looking at natural search or paid search. It’s important for publishers to diversify their traffic acquisition and not rely 100% on search engines - as the risks are just too high.
What do you see as the next steps to take Weather2Travel.com further and what else is in store for the site?
We have quite ambitious plans for the future as Weather2Travel.com becomes more of a complete holiday research tool. We have some new weather datasets, major content pieces, and travel tools coming soon.
We are also looking at different types of media and the use of AI to enhance the work we already do with travel brands. Without giving too much away, I’m hoping we can launch some new products that should disrupt the online travel landscape for the better.
What is it from TradeTracker that you feel benefits not only yourself but other content sites as well?
TradeTracker’s ‘Real Attribution’ technology is perfectly placed to benefit both content sites and brands. It’s the first step in the evolution to a more holistic approach to tracking and rewarding based on exposure and interaction.
By rewarding multiple touch points, more types of publishers will become engaged in the industry making it a healthy place to be once more. We’re excited to work with TradeTracker and their travel clients to see if we can be at the forefront of change within the affiliate space.
We'd like to thank Colin for taking the time to talk to us and sharing his thoughts on content sites within the affiliate industry. Check out Weather2Travel.com and see how your brand can benefit from the value of content with Real Attribution. Stay tuned for next months publisher spotlight.