Hello. My name is Steven Smullen. I am the editor-in-chief and co-owner of Tip-to-Trip.com, an independent travel portal.
Let me tell you what kind of website it is and how it differs from the rest. Here I will admit how we earn money, how we spend it and who writes such cool articles for us.
In general, I honestly reveal all the inner workings: costs, incomes, rules.
What is the idea and mission of the website?
I want to have the most useful articles here from people who know all the details about car rental, excursions or other nuances of preparing a trip.
There are almost no such articles on the Internet. Because random people are writing:
- Copywriters and rewriters. These are people who make money by writing texts. And often they just retell texts of others.
Understanding the topic is not required. Today we are writing about car rental in Tbilisi, tomorrow – about refrigerators. Usually the author receives a penny for an article, he has never been to Georgia and has never rented a car in his life. He will not be paid much for the text, so there is no time to at least read and understand other people’s materials.
It’s unfortunate, but most travel articles are just that. When you see some kind of absurdity on the Internet, this is most likely a copywriter’s text.
- Bloggers. Unlike copywriters, they have at least some experience. On average, they rent a car once before writing an article about car rental.
Some do not even have driver’s licence, they just retell other bloggers. Only a small amount of bloggers really have a lot of experience and expert opinion.
- Random people. Short reviews, posts on forums, impressions on Instagram. These are people with minimal travel experience. Their opinion is useful if you want to read, for example, about sights. But if we’re talking about car rental nuances, they can write something like this: “Rented through Localrent.com, everything went fine”.
Are there no experts?
Of course, there are many people who travel a lot and often. They buy excursions, they have lost count how many times they rented a car, etc.
But why would they write articles? You understand that these people are not poor at all. You need to make good money to regularly pay 100-300 € for a tour. Does it make sense for them to write some post in exchange for 1 € per 1000 characters?
I put a lot of effort into finding such people and getting them interested in sharing their experience. In my opinion, it turned out very well. Well, you judge for yourself.
How are we different from blogs and travel portals?
Open any popular travel blog. And it turns out that its author is ready to tell you about car rental, excursions, hotels, air tickets, insurance, transfers and a dozen other things in various countries…
Don’t you think this is absurd? Well, one person cannot be an expert on all these issues. I don’t think that if you once or twice rented a car or visited a couple of excursions it is already enough to give people advice.
Therefore, Tip-to-Trip articles are written by different people who are really well versed in the topic. Here are our criteria:
- For car rental articles: you need to rent at least 7 cars in a particular country from at least two different companies.
- For travel articles: you need to visit at least 10 excursions around the country or city from at least 5 different guides.
- For articles about transfers: check at least 3 different companies.
Ideally, authors should not become attached to any particular way to travel. For example, an article about excursions in Prague was written to us by Mary. But she both rented a car and used transfers. That is, a person knows the pros and cons, has the right to compare and advise something.
Who writes articles for us?
All articles are written by people who really deeply understand the topic. We do not have copywriters who simply retell other people’s texts for money. Each author has rich personal experience, which he is ready to share.
Each article is deeply edited and finalized. Otherwise it would be very difficult and inconvenient to read it. As an editor, I have quite a lot of travel experience. At least, I was in all the countries described on the website. And some of them I know very well.
Which companies are recommended on the website?
There are several requirements for companies that the authors recommend:
- Volumes. It makes no sense to recommend a company that has 3-5 cars or only one particular guide. A week after the publication of the article, they will have everything busy for a month in advance. Well, or prices will rise.
We ask the authors to recommend more or less large companies that will not choke on the large amount of clients from Tip-to-Trip. At the same time, I do not mind mentioning individual guides, if there are enough of them.
- Reliability. The company must be personally verified by the author. If he recommends it, then he must actively use its services.
- Online booking. It should be possible to view prices and book the service online. A pack of phones of your favourite taxi drivers or guides is not bad. But it is very inconvenient and unreliable. I don’t want to call dozens of foreign numbers just to order a taxi from the airport.
Such demands are not made on a whim. And not at all to infringe on small family businesses. It’s just that if the article recommends only one guide, albeit a very good one, almost none of the readers will be able to get on his tour. All dates will be booked.
Then it turns out that there is no benefit from such advice.
How are articles edited?
Since none of our writers are professional copywriters, each article is edited quite deeply. I try to preserve the author’s style as much as possible, but at the same time I bring the texts to a single design, make the structure and style more or less similar.
Frankly, about half of the original author’s texts remain. The second part is the result of my edits and improvements.
About the photos on the website
Our authors are not bloggers at all. And certainly not photographers. And I’m a perfectionist. So if the author does not have beautiful photos, I do not hesitate to use pictures bought on various exchanges for illustration.
We have about half of the photos taken by the authors, and the other half are the usual pictures from the stock, which I insert as an illustration or to create a mood. All photos are legally bought! We don’t steal pictures.
In general, most authors are not public people. And some are also quite well-known, albeit in narrow circles. And they usually have no desire to publish personal photos somewhere on the Internet.
How do authors get remuneration?
You understand that people who are traveling a lot and oftenare clearly not in poverty. Writing instructions for the website is more of an entertainment for them and an attempt to try themselves in a new role than a way to earn extra money.
However, most authors write for a fee. It can be money, nice gifts like an Apple Watch, or some kind of service. In general, as we agree with them personally. Two people, for example, refused any payment at all.
On average, each article costs me 400 €. This is without taking into account the work of a programmer, system administrator, payment for hosting, etc.
At first glance, the fees seem decent, but in fact they are quite small for such a colossal work. A good article is being written for a month. Sometimes even two. So money and gifts are just a way for authors to explain to themselves and their family “why they waste a lot of time on all sorts of nonsense.”
Content Credibility: How did we protect readers?
No matter how wealthy a person is, he may still be tempted to earn extra money on advertising. We are against recommending readers to buy “not where it is better, but where it is more profitable for the author.”
To ensure this never happens, we have put a lot of effort into protecting our readers. Here are some of our methods:
- Strict selection of authors. I personally know most of the authors of the website. We do not hire professional copywriters, even very expensive ones.
Most of our writers are real travelers who have decided to try their hand at blogging. Usually one author writes only 1-2 articles.
- Fixed fee only.Since the authors do not receive a percentage of sales, it makes no sense for them to impose some web service on you.
If a someone writes that he likes to rent a car in Georgia through Localrent.com or buy excursions on the Viator website, then it is so. It just doesn’t make any sense to cheat.
- Fact Check. When a person recommends a particular website in an article, I ask him to prove that he really uses it regularly.
Usually it’s not difficult at all. For example, Mary wrote an article about car rental in Cyprus. When I asked her to confirm the facts in the article, she simply sent me a bunch of vouchers from Localrent.com and other rental companies.
How does this website make money?
There is always a fly in the ointment, right? So it is here. Any somewhat popular resource requires money for its content. Here are some examples:
- Servers and domain name cost me about 100€ per year.
- Programmer and system administrator: 300 € per month.
- Writing a new article: about 400 €.
- Photos: an average of 29 €. Sometimes the authors give their own photos.
- My time: about 500 € per month.
As you can see, the costs are decent. Unfortunately, I cannot develop the website with my own funds. I just have a lot of ideas where to spend the “extra” 1000 € with greater benefit for myself and my family :-)
A small note!
I do not advise you to use websites that give you information “for free” and have no benefits for itself. Usually there is either very impudent advertising, or “it’s not so simple.”
The internet is full of travel guides and blogs. And their spendings are about the same. Well, you can’t write a good, objective article about excursions in Cyprus or about renting a car in Prague for less than 1000 €.
Let me tell you about car rental. Do you want advice like this: “I once took a car from Uncle Peter, he did not deceive me. Take everything from Peter!”?
I’m somehow don’t. I want to know that the author rented cars from different companies at least 5-6 times, check everything for himself and only then advise me something. How much does it cost to rent a car for three or four days? That’s right, 100-150 € ≈ 105 $, 86 £, 386 Dh, 1824 ₺. Multiply by five attempts, add the cost of the author’s time and get the same 1000 € ≈ 1050 $, 860 £, 3860 Dh, 18240 ₺ per article.
It is clear that no one will invest tens of thousands of euros just to help other tourists. Therefore, most travel websites have to be monetized. Here are six ways to do it:
- Donations. The details of the author are left under the article with a request to support and transfer 10-20 euros. Someone will sendit…
This is the most honest way, only it does not work at all in tourism. I know a dozen bloggers and no one earns more than 5-10 € ≈ 5.25 $, 4.3 £, 19.3 Dh, 91.2 ₺ per article from donations. I remind you that we need to get 1000 € ≈ 1050 $, 860 £, 3860 Dh, 18240 ₺.
- Contextual advertising. It’s also a normal way. Clearly noticeable blocks with advertising are inserted into the text of the article.
The problem is that this method almost does not work now due to ad blockers. If you’re lucky, you can actually earn 100-500 € ≈ 105 $, 86 £, 386 Dh, 1824 ₺ per article from advertising. But this is still not enough to cover all the costs.
- Affiliate links. The blogger recommends a website or company. If someone buys using his promo code or link, he gets a percentage.
The adequacy of this method strongly depends on whether the blogger actually considers these services to be good. On a tip from William, I tried transfers in Georgia from Gotrip.ge. And he found this company from some blogger. They are really cool and affordable. Now I advise them to everyone.
If a blogger sincerely recommends a website, it’s okay that he gets a percentage. But some people advise only out of a desire to earn extra money…
- Barter. If a blogger is very popular, then sometimes he will be offered deals: “Let’s get you a transfer | we’ll give you a night in a suite, and you will write about us?”
Ideally, there is nothing bad in this, but in practice it all depends on the specific conditions. Will the blogger have to embellish reality? Can he write a devastating review if he doesn’t like the service? Questions, questions…
- Paid advertising. Well, everything is simple here. The principle “here’s your money, write that it’s best to rent a car | buy excursions | book a transfer with us”.
As for me, this is already quite ugly in relation to the readers. Especially if the article does not have a note that this is an advertisement. And they rarely honestly write it…
- Direct deception. Have you noticed how often bloggers advertise pranamata, sleeping pills and other crap? Like, I really, really use it and it helps a lot. Discount code in the description.
It is clear that they were simply paid for it. And this is a clear scam.
So bloggers are corrupt?
Not at all! You just need to understand that any free content is created at someone’s expense. In tourism, this can be following:
- Tour operators. Everything is simple and clear here. They want to attract people to their website and try to sell them their services.
The downside is that, in my humble opinion, the quality of texts from tour operators is one of the lowest on the Internet. It feels like they are usually written by people who have never been to the places they are talking about.
- Politicians or government. There are good travel websites that are sponsored by city municipalities or governments. They do this in order to attract more tourists. The quality is very different. Sometimes it’s just fine. But usually any blogger writes better.
There are also “political” websites. It seems that they write about travel, but their goal is completely different. These websites are not worth reading.
- Travel companies. If a firm sells travel services to you, then it almost always has some kind of blog, forum, or a couple of related websites.
The quality varies. Someone slides into the most boring self-promotion. Others write quite interesting things and promote their services along the way.
- Advertising revenue. When creating content, you can count on income from “links in the description”, contextual advertising or the sale of video integrations. This is what most bloggers and large portals do.
If the authors remain honest with the audience, there is nothing wrong with that. There are a lot of advertisements on TV too. And this despite the fact that we pay for watching channels. Part of the TV fee goes to channel owners. The Internet is also not free, but website owners do not receive a penny from this.It is bad when dirty methods are used in the pursuit of profit. For example, I used to write notes for free for a very, very popular travel forum. And then I noticed that the moderators in the texts of my articles changed the names of the companies to completely different ones, which I had not even heard of. Looks like I have used this compamies and recommend them. But this is a lie!
- Enthusiasts. Indeed, there are articles and reviews that people write without plans to somehow make money on them. But this is downright rare.
The fact is that it takes at least 20-30 hours to write a good article. Often more. If you work 5 hours a day, it turns out that you have to hard work at a “regular” job like a week or so. Well, or spend your evenings for a month…So you can write one, two, maybe a dozen articles. But do you believe in people who spend years of their lives completely free just to help you?
Personally, when I read any tips and articles (not only about travel), I immediately try to understand what the author plans to earn on. And if I do not find advertising on the website, I am wary of the text. Because it is not clear who sponsored him and why.
Why do we use affiliate links?
Because this is the most honest way of all that would allow me to keep this website afloat and make it happen that new articles will be written.
I have no influence on which websites the authors recommend. And they are also not interested in promoting this or that company. Details here.
But if the author himself recommends a company that has an affiliate program, then I do not hesitate to put such a link. What’s the difference if Localrent.com for example, earn 10 € ≈ 10.5 $, 8.6 £, 38.6 Dh, 182.4 ₺ or if we will divide the profit in half?
Considering that almost every large company now has affiliate programs, I have no need to influence the opinions of the authors. No matter what service they recommend, it will still be profitable.
What are affiliate links on a website?
These are special links on the website. When you buy something through our links, we earn a small reward for it. Usually the amount is much less than they would spend on attracting a client in other ways. They save money this way.
At the same time, the price does not change for you. It does not matter if you follow our link, follow the links of other bloggers, or even enter the address of the desired website in the address bar of your browser. This does not affect the cost of excursions, car rental, insurance or transfers.
Why would it be more expensive without links?
It would seem that the service would be cheaper without all these links. But it’s not. On the contrary, it would be much more expensive! Such a paradox. Let me explain:
In a simple way: wholesale is cheaper. The more tours, insurance or car rental a particular company sells to you, the lower its cost per sale. This means lower prices for tourists. To make a lot of sales, you need advertising. The cheapest type of advertising in tourism is an affiliate program.
In order for you to buy something, you first need to find out about the company and make sure that it is really good. And that requires advertising.
So, advertising with affiliate links is the most profitable and honest of all alternatives. I’ll compare with examples:
- Contextual advertising. It’s quick and easy, but very expensive and risky. The search giants sell you user referrals. Just for the fact that a real live person opens a website about car rental or excursions, they want $ 1 ≈ 0.95 $, 0.82 £, 3.67 Dh, 17.36 ₺ on average. But people look, choose. At best, one person out of 10-20 who clicked through advertising will buy.
- Billboards. It is also not cheap and for small companies it almost never pays off. The price of such advertising is often much higher than the profit from all the customers attracted through it.
- Flyers. You can distribute advertisements in tourist places. True, 99% of the booklets will go to the nearest trash can. Efficiency is minimal.
- Advertising on TV and radio. It’s very expensive. Only the largest companies that are trying to get into the heads of users and build a recognizable brand can afford such advertising. In tourism, such advertising pays off very, very rarely.
- Buying bloggers. You can let bloggers stay at the hotel for free. They will take a bunch of photos and tell you how cool it is there. The effect will pass in a week. And it’s also difficult to guess which blogger give real travelers based on his subscribers, and who just lives for free.
Affiliate links are the cheapest and most reliable form of advertising. A man brought a client, he was paid some money. Usually this is 3-5 times less than what would have to be spent on attracting the same person in the ways above. Well, if someone does not bring customers, then you don’t have to pay.
The cheaper advertising costs, the lower the price can be made for the end consumer. So it turns out that websites that pay interest on affiliate links usually have lower prices than those that have not thought of this yet and get buyers from other sources.
There is also a scale effect. Roughly speaking, inventing and launching Gotrip.ge or Localrent.com costs roughly 100 000 € ≈ 105000 $, 86000 £, 386000 Dh, 1824000 ₺. If they have only 1000 customers, then in order to just reach the payback, they will have to include 100 € ≈ 105 $, 86 £, 386 Dh, 1824 ₺ in the price of each customer. And if there are many more customers, then 1-2 € ≈ 1.05 $, 0.86 £, 3.86 Dh, 18.24 ₺ will be enough.
Advertising is one way to make “much more” customers and spread the costs across everyone. This helps to significantly reduce the price specifically for you.
Cons of monetizing through affiliate links
What about cons? For example, there are no articles on the website about sights and attractions, resorts, restaurants, yachts or mountain hiking. Just because I have to pay for them the same 400 € ≈ 420 $, 344 £, 1544 Dh, 7296 ₺. And I understand in advance that I will never be able to return this money. We are very limited in the topics we can write about.
That is, I have to analyze in advance the subject of each article, not only on the subject of “whether the author can write interesting and useful about it”, but also to check whether I can pay for his work. Unfortunately, many potentially good articles are not written for financial reasons.
I hope that over time I will be able to pay for at least the most interesting things from my own pocket or from the income from the website. But so far, the focus is only on those topics, the costs of which can be paid back at least in the future 2-3 years.
But what if a good company does not have an affiliate program?
If the author mentions some company that does not yet have an affiliate program, I leave such a link. It’s free advertising for that company.
I do not force authors to write only about those companies that pay me for advertising. They can mention any websites, companies or businesses that meet the criteria above.