Brand Building Case Study: Building A Civilized Travel Brand

Hello everyone and welcome to another branding case study! Based on the traffic and feedback it is clear that these are some of my most popular posts ever. Since I have so much fun writing them I think this will become a Wednesday tradition. In case you have missed my last case studies you can find them below:

Today I’m going to talk about a brand I’ve been really passionate about and one that has been a lot of fun to build. This brand is CivilizedTravel.net and it’s all about how to make travel more enjoyable. Now I know what you’re going to say so let me clear this up quickly…while saying what it is you’re going to say. “But wait, Morgan, you just told us you were going .COM and that .COM is now the focus of your business, what are you talking about crazy man!”

In this case this is a brand where I really loved the concept of “Civilized Travel” and I am the owner of facebook.com/civilizedtravel and twitter.com/civilizedtravel and I’ve made countless offers on the .COM but the owner doesn’t want to sell. That’s okay – in this case I’m building a great brand, yes I’d love the .COM but you can still build a great brand without the .COM however having the .COM is better and I’m not going to lie and tell you I don’t care, because I do! There are HUGE brands run on .NET and .ORG domains that couldn’t secure their .COM’s and I like the term “civilized travel” so much that I’m willing to make this sacrifice.

Okay, now onto the good stuff, building a civilized travel brand!

Travel BlogFirst things first, why build this brand. For those who know me you know that I absolutely love to travel and I do a lot of traveling. While I’ve shared some travel adventures on this blog from time to time I really wanted a place to share my love of travel along with my approach to travel. Since I’ve been traveling heavily for the last seven years I’ve learned a lot about how to make travel more enjoyable and I really enjoy sharing that with other people.

I also know that there are other people out there who also love travel and have a similar mindset that would love to share their stories as well and one of them, Kevin Fink, is sharing his travel adventures as well. This brand is not a store, it’s not a page full of links, it’s not all about money, it’s about building a brand that I really care about and this brand happens to be another blog. We’ve been seeing some good traction lately with over 800 Facebook fans and some good friends on Twitter that we now correspond with regularly.

Facebook FansThere are a lot of things we are doing to build this brand both in the search engines and social media so as with all my case studies, I’ll share what I’m doing with all of you! Of course feel free to ask any questions you have about the process or why I do things the way that I do.

  1. It all started when I came-up with the idea of “civilized travel” – I was in an airport watching stressed people panic and freak-out in front of me. One guy dashed by late for a flight, a mother yelled at her kids, and someone was arguing with someone else on the phone. This doesn’t look like fun, I thought! However for me it was fun, I love traveling, I expect things to go wrong and I’m prepared for it. Flight delayed – great! I have a bunch of things planned already. Flight canceled! Cool – I wanted to check-out a restaurant I read about in this city anyways. Yes, I’m one of those glass half-full kind of guys.
  2. For me securing the brand meant really bringing meaning to the term so I got the domain (yes once again wish I had the .COM but the .NET is just fine for now!), securing the facebook name, and securing the Twitter handle.
  3. The next thing I did was installed WordPress, in this case it’s not because I think WordPress is great for building sites, it’s actually terrible to scale with since having a million WordPress sites means having a million sites that can easily be hacked. I choose WordPress because it’s a blog and WordPress is the best damn blogging platform on the planet, period.
  4. The great thing about a blog is you just start blogging. I travel all the time so I had plenty of things to share and I just started writing.
  5. I got on Twitter and started following a few people I liked in the travel world and started retweeting articles of theirs that I liked as well as sharing my own.
  6. I did the same on Facebook making a Facebook page and advertising it through Facebook Ads to attract more people to the brand.
  7. Rinse, repeat. I’ve got a lot to say when it comes to travel, I read travel blogs and travel news every day because I love travel so it’s really just been a lot of fun.
  8. I’m also tracking the site in SEOMoz Pro as there are a number of keywords that we’re trying to rank well for, this is the best way to keep track of your rankings and better understand how to build your organic traffic the right way

I think one of the keys in building this brand has been social media. I spent five minutes every morning on my twitter account and probably 15-20 minutes/day writing my post. Now I’ve expanded to a second writer re-investing some of the profits into staff. As I’ve said before I really like doing this and it’s a great way to create a business. In the beginning I like putting in my own blood, sweat, and tears until it starts generating revenue, once revenue starts coming in I think it’s wise to invest some of those profits into you doing less, or in this case, the site getting more.

The next steps are adding a third writer and doing some guest posts on other travel blogs. The nice thing is that since I’ve been active on Twitter for a while now I have some great connections that I can reach-out to for guest posting both me on their site, and them on mine. I also created a “Recommended by CivilizedTravel.net” badge that I send to people that I provide to anyone that I review on the site.recommended_by_civilizedtravelSo what’s ahead for this brand?

  1. I’ll be adding a Civilized Store that’s all the travel gear I myself use and love (Tumi is high on the list!)
  2. Like I said above I am looking for one more regular writer so there will be three of us
  3. I am also making business cards this month for myself and my writer so when we visit somewhere that we’re going to blog about, we can leave them with a card
  4. There are some great travel-related tradeshows and I plan to attend one in 2012
  5. Direct Advertising – right now the revenue for the site comes from Affiliate Ads and AdSense but I’m in the middle of negotiating our first direct ad deal, this will most-likely replace both the Affiliate and Adsense ads in the future
  6. Civilized Travel Social Network – I’m going to be making a Ning Social Network that plugs-into the site so it’s easy for people to communicate with each other and share ideas

This is by far one of the most fun brands that I run and we’re seeing a steady increase in traffic and revenue each month which is a good thing! It’s always more fun to work on things that you love and I look forward to updating all of you as this brand continues to grow and develop. Now it’s your turn, comment and let your voice be heard!

 

Morgan

Co-Founder at Fashion Metric
Morgan Linton was born in Berkeley, California but spent nine years traveling the world as an early employee for digital music startup Sonos. In 2007 Morgan founded Linton Investments, a domain name and branding company that has helped some of the most recognized startups in the world acquire their top choice domain name. In 2012 Morgan left his full-time job to co-found Fashion Metric, a startup building technologies that make it easy for online shoppers to buy clothes that fit and arming retailers with more data than ever before.

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{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Leonard Britt August 17, 2011, 7:28 pm

    Twelve to fifteen years ago before numerous choices in parking systems, affiliate programs, Google Adsense, minisite developers, ELance, domain aftermarkets, etc, those registering megapremium .COM domains did so because they thought they would make great brands. Yes, .COM is the TLD of choice and search-phrase keyword .COMs do get type-in traffic – sometimes considerable traffic not dependent on search engines. But given those megapremium .COM domains are not accessible to the average person or even small business, most domain buyers have to go with some sensible alternative. Personally I believe branding on certain extensions is more of a challenge than others, but IMO the everything but .COM is junk hype is bogus. If people are looking for info on a particular topic, they could care less about the domain (OK the domain may influence CTR). On the other hand, if you are going to develop a brandable (non-search phrase) domain, I believe it is going to be much more challenging branding-wise on an alt TLD (people don’t normally search for or even use that term). You will exert a great deal of effort and yet get no exact-match or even phrase search engine traffic. Regardless, I’m sure with your SEO skills you can overcome that disadvantage.

  • Brad Pineau August 17, 2011, 7:48 pm

    Love these posts. Thanks for sharing!

    Question – You mentioned you’re trying to rank well for certain keywords — do you have any special link building strategies that you’re following?

  • Morgan August 17, 2011, 7:59 pm

    Great point @Leonard – at the end of the day many brands rank well though not because of having exact-match domains but because they build a great brand. I do love exact-match domains but in this case I just loved the brand more!

    @Brad – I am strictly white-hat so like to build it by writing guest posts on other blogs and writing great articles that get covered on other sites. When you write great content people will naturally link to it. Social media has also been critical for us since we can make connections that would be very hard to make otherwise.

  • AndyO August 17, 2011, 9:19 pm

    Great stuff, Morgan! I really enjoy reading these sort of posts, as they give me a lot of inspiration when I feel clueless as to where to start on something.

  • Morgan August 17, 2011, 9:49 pm

    Thanks @Andy – much appreciated!

  • John August 18, 2011, 6:23 am

    If you’re going to take the time and build a brand you need the .COM. CivilTravel.com is available:
    http://whois.domaintools.com/civiltravel.com for $1595 (so they say). Shorter & Sweeter. Good Luck with the site.

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