Article structure
Search-engine optimization (SEO)

To attract an audience, find a USP.

ICE train in Berlin

ABOVE: A photo from a six-page introduction to Germany's ICE trains.

by Durant Imboden, Europe for Visitors

The term "USP" isn't a mistyped abbreviation for "United Parcel Service": It's advertising and marketing shorthand for "Unique Selling Proposition,"or how you differentiate your product from everyone else's.

At, our USP is "in-depth travel-planning information," especially for topics that we've focused on since our earliest days (Venice, Switzerland) or chosen to add in more recent years (Paris, Germany, European cruising). Two extreme manifestations of our obsessive-compulsive approach are:

  • A 10-page ship review and 241-page photo gallery of an MSC Poesia cruise in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Excessive? Maybe. Still, it's a USP that has helped us attract millions of readers each year, and it distinguishes us from the "content farms" that publish short, keyword-driven fillers written by amateurs and $10-an-article freelancers.

But enough about us. What will your Unique Selling Proposition be?

  • If you're writing about a topic that hasn't attracted much coverage, your USP could be as simple as "the first and only compehensive English-language travel-planning site for Bazookastan."
  • If you're writing about a topic with well-established competitors, such as cruising, your USP could be "a site devoted solely to European river cruising," or "a comprehensive cruise guide for handicapped travelers."
  • If you have a flair for programming, your USP might be "a European travel site with free Android apps," or "a New York City shopping guide for GPS users." 

The important thing is to have something unique or compelling that will help you:

  • Establish a reputation as the "go to" site in your niche or sub-niche, and...
  • Attract links from related sites that aren't direct competitors.

Next article: "Search-engine optimization (SEO)"

Photo: Olaf Loose.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Jill Browne

With your particular sites, where in-depth, detailed information is critical, how do you make sure the information is up to date?

Thanks again for this site.

Durant and Cheryl Imboden

Depends. Some things require personal, on-the-spot research, but many facts (such as airport-bus fares or URLs of museum Web sites) can be checked easily on the Web by going to official sources.

Jill Browne

Thanks, but what I was wondering was not where to get the info, but whether and how on your own sites you personally work the process of staying current into your regular work routine.

Do you diarize all your pages and do scheduled reviews?

Or do you try to write in such a way that the reader will need to consult external sources for the types of particulars that are likely to change?

Or, or, or?

It seems like a massive task and I'm sure you have a handle on it.


Durant and Cheryl Imboden

Again, it depends. If we know that an article about the Paris Metro is getting tens of thousands of page views per month, we'll include fares and other time-sensitive information and check or update the article regularly. If we know that an article about the remote Scottish island of Outer Haggis is likely to get very little traffic, we'll avoid including time-sensitive information, and we'll update the article when we have a reason to do so.

In general, we link to official sites when appropriate, and we encourage readers to visit those sites for up-to-date prices, hours of operation, etc. After all, linking (the use of hypertext citations) is the most fundamental concept behind the World Wide Web.

Jill Browne

Thanks again, that's very logical and practical.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)