For our latest addition in our publisher focus series, I decided to sit down with Rob Burgess, publisher of frequent flyer website Head for Points (www.headforpoints.com) to find out how he copes running a blog with 1 million monthly page views.
What inspired you to become a blogger?
I used to work in finance but lost my job in 2011. I had a two year fully paid ‘non-compete’ clause so I couldn’t work for a while. I had already become very interested in Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points through traveling with my job. There were some good US focused blogs out there but nothing dedicated to the UK and thought I could fill the gap. I knew literally nothing about WordPress or social media when I started Head for Points (www.headforpoints.com) but I had the time to learn and the site grew quickly.
When did you decide to make affiliate marketing a career?
When my two-year non-compete period was up, Head for Points was doing well enough to convince me to stick with it full time. The site has tripled in size since then and generated 1 million page views in January – which is quite spooky, when I think about it!
The affiliate links do not drive the content – a large percentage of the articles I run do not contain any links whatsoever. My stance is that I write about the best deals for my readers, irrespective of any affiliate deals, because that is the only way to grow page views and guarantee long term success.
How often do you blog? Is it more important to blog daily, or send out two or three strong posts a week?
I write three articles a day for Head for Points, plus edit a fourth (written by a freelancer) for my Tesco Clubcard and Nectar points’ spin-off site Shopper Points (www.shopperpoints.co.uk). That is over 1,400 articles a year.
Head for Points is primarily a news site written from a first person perspective. I cover all the latest frequent flyer and hotel loyalty deals but also explain how the readers should approach them to maximise the benefits. There is so much going on that one article a day would not cover it.
If someone was running a pure travel blog, I would recommend they focus on a couple of strong articles a week. There is so much competition out there that you need to offer depth and insight to win readers and get good search engine rankings.
What does a typical day for your blog involve?
I take my kids to school and then head to a café for breakfast and an hour with my iPad going over all the industry websites and forums I monitor. This will usually shape the three articles I will write for the following day. If I don’t have any meetings,, I head back home and work for 6-8 hours in my office.
As well as writing 21 articles a week, plus editing a further seven for Shopper Points (www.shopperpoints.co.uk), I get over 700 emails a week. These are mainly from readers asking questions, potential advertisers or from PR companies pitching article ideas. There are also 1,000 comments posted per week on the site which need to be monitored. It is far, far more work than the readers imagine.
What are your top tips for readers looking to maximise their air miles?
It is a complex area so I recommend people dip their toes in slowly whilst they learn. The three daily articles on Head for Points (www.headforpoints.com) highlight the best current deals for earning and spending miles.
There are some ‘easy wins’ which can show you what can be achieved. Take out the free Hilton credit card, for example, and once you’ve spent £750 they will give you a voucher for a free night in ANY of their hotels. This would include the Waldorf-Astoria in New York or its luxury sister hotels in Amsterdam, Berlin etc. plus thousands of other Hilton properties. If your partner got the card as well then you have a free weekend away in a five star hotel.
Once you’ve got a couple of deals like that under your belt you begin to see the potential. Frequent flyer and hotel loyalty schemes rely on 99% of their members not knowing how to get the best value for their points – I try to ensure my readers are in the other 1%.
How do you go about selecting the right brand opportunity for your site?
I originally worked backwards. I would go through existing articles I had written, see if the companies mentioned had affiliate deals and then apply and work in those links. If your old content still ranks well on Google, as mine does, this works fine. If a new travel-related company I haven’t previously covered launches an affiliate scheme, I will only join up if I genuinely believe it offers good value to the readers and if I know how to promote it effectively on the site.
That said, it is often worth taking a chance. I joined a programme recently where the company was only mentioned in one article on my site, out of more than 3000, and that was 18 months ago. The article (it is a review) ranks very well and the link is now consistently generating a few pounds every week. This is effectively ‘free money’ from content that I had already written.
Finally…. what was the last thing you purchased online?
I just booked some tickets for a series of talks on Art Deco and Art Nouveau organised by The Art Fund, an arts charity I am involved with. One of the benefits of running my own business is that I can take a couple of hours out during the day to attend events like this.
Owning a successful website does not guarantee a good work / life balance however, especially if you publish new content 363 days per year. I am writing this in Austria where I am, in theory, meant to be on holiday! Head for Points (www.headforpoints.com) and Shopper Points (www.shopperpoints.co.uk) will continue to run their combined four articles per day even though I am away.
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