Expedia's customer-generated blog gaining traction

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Expedia's test of using a customer-generated blog to drive search traffic is off to a strong start, according to the travel website's head of database marketing.

Weeks after launching the site, the blog is drawing more contributions than expected from travelers who are linking it to other social media, said Ami Packard, director of database marketing strategy and new initiatives. Travelers began sending their trip accounts minutes after receiving an invitation e-mail, and "they wrote novels," said Packard.

It's too soon to gauge click through rates or traffic totals, but the blog appears to be driving traffic, she told a panel during Digital Media Days in New York. About half the posts mention Expedia and nearly all mention hotel names, which link to those hotels' pages on Expedia, she noted.

"It's obviously getting people to share ... it's also an opportunity to gather data about customers," said Packard, "That information is invaluable." The blog is tracking where readers click through from the blog page, as well as its search-related traffic, she said. 

Expedia worked with Compendium Blogware to build the blog, www.stories.expedia.com. A list of travelers who had returned from trips to Hawaii in the previous two weeks received an e-mail directing them to a landing page to share their stories. Once the tales were accepted for the blog, the contributors received an e-mail announcing their page was live and directing them to share it with their friends.

Currently, the blog is focused on travel to Hawaii. Packard said she is waiting until after the summer -- the busiest travel season of the year -- to gauge its performance. She hopes to expand it to Expedia's top 25 destinations after the test, she said.

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