The Travelvice Compendium
Anticipating the exciting expansion of Travelvice.
At this point I'm not sure what I'm going to call it when it launches—I'm still searching for a proper name fit—but in the mean time, I've got a labeled for the project: The Travelvice Compendium.
1. a brief treatment or account of a subject, esp. an extensive subject; concise treatise.
2. A list or collection of various items.
The difference between the Travelvice Compendium and the Travelvice Travelogue will be that of content, and intent. The Compendium will be an archive of single-topics, created with the intent to make money—whereas my travelogue is more of a chronicle of my travels, with an emphasis on educational stories, information sharing, and good will.
In the travelogue I might talk about traveling from city to city (and the pleasures, pains, and thought process surrounding that decision), but the Compendium will focus on the smaller topics contained within that complex, multi-subject story. For example: The cost of a ticket, the departure schedule of a particular bus terminal, or the observation of a strange cultural quirk while en route. I could see a travelogue post linking to words and phrases in the Compendium, much like I've linked to Wikipedia or other external resources in the past.
The goal is to make pages that people will search for (and find) using "organic searches"—a process by which people discover Web sites using the search results complied from various keywords. The field of search engine optimization, (SEO), is concerned with maximizing the visibility of a Web site by making its listings appear more frequently and more prominently in organic search results.
Many of my chats with Andy over the past week eventually turned to SEO, and the techniques he's gathered and put into practice (to a point where he's currently making more money off of Google Adsense adverts than he knows what to do with). But regardless of the search engine friendliness of Compendium pages, it all comes down to quantity. The more pages (topics) I have, the more people will hit the site. And the more people that hit the site, the greater Adsense revenues will be. It's a game of statistics and probability—and a strong visitor-count is the best way to come out on top.
Just a side note: A few days ago I integrated a pair of Google Adsense adverts into the photo pages of the Travelvice Snapshots gallery. I really hated to do it, but I'm afraid it's a necessary evil. Big hugs to everyone.
So, even though lots search-friendly pages with good content are a key contributing factor to success, it's really only the first part of a larger equation. Keeping content current (updating pages) makes search engines happy, and the best way to do that is by allowing visitors to do it for me. Much like the Travelvice Travelogue, a form will be placed on Compendium pages to allow visitors to contribute relevant comments or links.
The reality is that Compendium pages will function much like blog, and thus I will use a blogging engine to publish the pages. After the mess Blogger has been with my travelogue, I'm looking elsewhere for options.
The forerunner right now is WordPress. A neat tool called XAMPP that creates an artificial Web site server on Tatiana's laptop, which allows me to run WordPress locally (without the need of an Internet connection or the involvement of my hosting company's server).
What I've seen of WordPress in the past 24 hours of poking around just makes me shake my head at the Blogger crap I've been putting up with. WordPress seems to offer up a well balanced publishing engine that really makes Google's Blogger service look like an aging dinosaur. I can't believe I passed on this thing.
Travelvice.com is now over two years old—launching a few months before I started traveling in 2005. I designed it to last at least five years without a major overhaul, but because Blogger isn't a stable platform (they keep upgrading the engine, which means I have to adapt my site when it breaks), and because I've dreamed up many improvements as I've traveled, the long-term hands-free site that I thought I'd created turned out to be anything but.
With a November touchdown in Lima fast approaching, I'm outlining the creation of the Compendium addition as best I can without actually programming anything—that will come when I've got a persistent high-speed Internet connection in the home of Tatiana's parents (where we'll be residing). Several weeks of stationary living with free Internet will do wonders. So by the time December rolls around (marking my two-year travel anniversary, and the birth of the little nomad), several Adsense/SEO enhancements will be in place and the Compendium should be online and ready for action.
I'm also looking to transition off of Blogger, perhaps during 2008. Not only is Blogger a liability from a technical perspective, but some countries (China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Ethiopia) are effectively blocking blogs by blocking access to blogging sites, such as denying access to Blogger.com altogether. By hosting my own blogging engine off of Travelvice.com, I can blog freely, without worry of governmental Internet censorship.