How Ashley Lands’ Online Travel Magazine is Viewed by 1.2 Million People Each Month
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Ashley Lands is the entrepreneur behind the highly successful online travel magazine Provincial Leisure.
She's overcome chronic illness, among other obstacles, to build the business she runs today. And she currently collaborates with some of the biggest brands in the travel and hospitality sector, including Marriott International, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, and Westin Hotels & Resorts.
She uses many unique strategies to grow her brand, including Instagram acquisition.
One of the accounts she acquired had 32.3k followers, and she was able to grow it to 71.9k in just 42 days. Provincial Leisure's Instagram account is currently viewed by over a million people each month on average, with traffic peaking in October 2022 at 2.2 million views.
Keep reading to find out about:
- Her Instagram acquisition strategy
- How she built up traffic for Provincial Leisure
- How her "spiderweb approach" works
- The tools she uses for keyword research
- Her unique view on link building
- The 3 ways she collects email addresses
- How she grew her email list to +55k
- Her content creation process
- The resources and tools she recommends and uses
- The greatest challenge she has faced
- Her biggest accomplishment
- Her main mistake
- The advice she would offer to other entrepreneurs
- Meet Ashley Lands
- More About Her Two Businesses
- Ashley’s Unique Marketing Strategy
- Understanding Ashley’s Strategy
- Ashley’s Service in Action
- The Importance of SEO
- Ashley’s Email List
- Ashley's Content Creation Process
- Achieving Current Revenue Levels
- Her Favorite Resources
- Ashley's Top 3 Tools
- Her Greatest Challenge
- Her Most Important Accomplishment
- What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
- Ashley’s Big Mistake
- Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
Meet Ashley Lands
My name is Ashley. I was born and raised in Texas, attended school in Houston, and still visit my family there regularly. New York has been home for long enough that I can’t imagine living anywhere else, and I’m very pleased to be running my two businesses out of NYC.
More About Her Two Businesses
In 2022, we split the businesses into two separate entities.
Stuff Oui Love is now our digital marketing agency, with a focus on social media services.
Provincial Leisure is an online magazine that publishes illustrated articles and reference guides for hotels, restaurants, Airbnbs, and unique experiences. With more than 55,000 email subscribers, the articles and guides are now distributed worldwide.
Ashley’s Unique Marketing Strategy
Our most popular marketing strategy is “account acquisition” for Instagram. We developed this service after having so much success on our @provincialleisure account.
In exact numbers, we acquired the account at 32.3k followers and grew it to 71.9k in 42 days! We now have a network of ”sellers” who are willing to sell an Instagram account to us. Once we purchase the page, we begin optimizing the bio for our business, changing the name to our business name, and continually posting content that’s relevant to the niche.
While that explanation is an oversimplification, the end result is that we are showcasing our business to 1.2 million people each month. We are now pleased to offer this service and training to other businesses as well!
Understanding Ashley’s Strategy
We have one main Instagram account for Provincial Leisure, which is @provincialleisure. The analytics and screenshots provided in this interview all come from that account.
We provide services to companies just like us that allow them to grow their own social media exponentially faster. Here’s our process:
- Purchase: We find and purchase an account in their niche that has a following that would be interested in their brand
- Manage: Once the account has been acquired, we begin posting and growing the page using viral videos in their niche.
- Build key SEO points: By updating the page’s existing bio to be “searchable,” we will attract new followers to the newly acquired account.
- Convert branding: Clients can add their company name to the new profile. This process takes 35 days through the Instagram account manager. Once the name is in re-circulation, it’s added to the newly acquired account. For brands with less than 5,000 followers, this can lead to an immediate marketing boost.
- Consistently post: We offer multiple options in this category. We can work with you for 35 days and train your team on the exact posting schedule we use, and we also offer account management (where we post for you), starting at $500 per month.
- Grow: We recommend posting at least once a day, 5 days a week. For optimum growth, we recommend posting twice a day, 6 days a week. Posts can be scheduled in advance using a number of scheduling tools. We can share a list of preferred schedulers during our training call.
Ashley’s Service in Action
In 2022, we rebranded our online travel magazine, Provincial Leisure. We then had to create new social media channels for a business we had been building since 2014. Considering the challenging process of growing Instagram accounts, we took a chance and bought an account in our niche.
We purchased the travel account in September of 2022. When we bought it, it had 32.3k followers.
We started carefully and began posting videos that were the exact style and mood of all of the previous videos. We used similar hashtags & music, as well as the same seasonal colors and locations.
After 10 days, we optimized the bio to be searchable and SEO friendly.
It took 38 days for our handle @provincialleisure to be available in the Instagram manager. Once it was available for use, we changed the account handle of the purchased account (previously @swiss_shone) to our brand name, Provincial Leisure.
As soon as we acquired the account, we posted twice a day, six days a week. We believe this contributed to our accelerated growth. After 40 days, we began including stories and highlights that would lead viewers and followers to our website.
In exact numbers, we acquired the account at 32.3k followers and grew to 71.9k in 42 days. October 2022 was our highest traffic month, with 2.2 million viewers with over 38,000 reshares.
The Importance of SEO
SEO is everything when it comes to owning a web-based business. People have to “discover you,” and SEO makes you discoverable.
Whether it be our own strategy or that of a client, our overall strategy is a spider web approach. Be everywhere, always.
I would also say you should be looking for people who are willing to teach you to fish rather than upselling you what they caught.
Our main go-to tool is Keywords Everywhere. It’s one of the most effective and easy SEO tools out there. Their chrome extension allows us to look directly at a topic and see where there are opportunities to insert long-tail keywords into an article.
We also heavily rely on trends.pinterest.com. Their SEO generator is actually useful even outside of Pinterest. The predictor can help you stay ahead of seasonal trends and topics on other platforms such as Instagram, TikTokpint, and even on your own website.
Link building is important for any website.
The fact is that Google does not see any new website as “trustworthy” before it has at least 40 backlinks. So this should be something you are making time for when it comes to your SEO strategy.
Our link-building strategies start with a place of education and community. While many businesses may be aware of link building, many do not fully understand how much can help your website traffic.
We very often send out “partnership” emails to sites that have content similar to ours and see if there’s an opportunity for cross-promotion on both sites! Pinterest Partnerships can also be great for this.
Building relationships with editors, writers, and publishers can also be an amazing way to build links. The goal is to create a community in and around your business that serves a common goal.
For those in the hospitality and travel industry, we do link building inside of our articles.
Ashley’s Email List
We began building our email list in 2014. While the digital marketing side of our business has rapidly evolved, the travel and hospitality side of our business has always remained the same.
Here are the top 3 ways we collect these emails:
1. Pop-ups: Over the past 8 years, our subscribers average out to 6,875 a month. We have created specific pop-ups for every travel article we create, prompting users to join our community.
Once we hit 20,000 emails, we did begin to advertise that number by adding “Join our 20,000+ email subscribers.” It’s true that the average website visitor is more likely to do something if they realize that many others have done it already
As of 2022, we have over 55,000 readers finding out what's new in the world of travel, including travel guides, tips, and ideas.
Giveaways: We have hosted giveaways with some of the top names in hospitality, including Hilton Hotels. Rather than collecting followers for these giveaways, we very frequently create a landing page and collect emails!
Pinterest: Pinterest, believe it or not, can be a great way to capture subscribers! Pins can be a “mini- advertisement” for anything from an upcoming giveaway to the highlights of your newsletter offering.
Ashley's Content Creation Process
We have specific strategies for each platform. I’ll cover each here briefly:
Articles: Our travel articles on Provincial Leisure cover multiple categories, including hotel stays, rentals (such as Airbnb), excursions and tours, fine dining, and PL picks (which are “The Best in Travel” compilations picked by our contributors).
We have teams in place that offer photography, content creation, posting, and editing. Clients can request that our team create hospitality and lifestyle content for their business location. We use selected images from each photo shoot to create our articles.
Instagram: Our Instagram strategy for Provincial Leisure consists of 80%-90% organic travel and leisure content and 10%-20% promotional content (where we’re advertising for a hotel or driving traffic to our own website).
Our content is consistently viewed by 1.2 million users a month. For this reason, we believe it’s crucial not to oversaturate the page with advertisements. Not only does this allow us to remain extremely authentic, but it also gives us the opportunity to ensure our clients' ads will not be “lost in the crowd.”
Email marketing: We are extremely selective with what we send to our subscribers' inboxes. Our subscribers only receive one paid advertisement email per month. These advertisements are sponsored content for a particular hotel or hospitality group. Our package prices for these offerings start at $5,000, making it one of the most lucrative standalone offers we have.
As inbox marketing is much more targeted than other platforms, it is both financially beneficial to us and beneficial to our clients. Also, each season, subscribers will receive our PL Picks Roundup. These PL Picks include travel opportunities and highlights for that particular season.
Pinterest: We use Pinterest as a traffic generator for our articles. We create 40 unique Pinterest pins for each piece and use keywords specific to that article. You want your content to be the answer to someone's question. We use keywords to drive them to our related articles.
We also provide these services. Provincial Leisure offers content and marketing services for the world’s leading destinations, hotels, restaurants, and experiences.
For hospitality groups, we help them build content calendars for one or more hotels at a time.
We also offer Instagram promotion, email campaigns, backlinking, video and photography, and Google reviews, and articles.
Achieving Current Revenue Levels
It’s been an ongoing process of growth in regard to driving traffic and readership across multiple websites and platforms. Growing a dedicated community in the travel space is crucial to our bottom line.
For Provincial Leisure, we have continually scaled our pricing model as our network and readership have grown. For instance, we were charging $1,000 for our basic hotel and marketing packages in 2019, and those prices are no longer competitive.
Our average price for a hospitality package that includes on-site photography, social media content and posting, email marketing, and an article is now $6,500. With this pricing model, we still find ourselves 42% below the national averages in 2022.
Her Favorite Resources
Our team members strive to constantly update our knowledge base. SEO & social media change rapidly. If you’re not willing to invest in personal research on these topics monthly, you’re going to get left behind. I would like to mention a couple of courses that we found particularly useful:
Pitching: Julie Solomon has a great deal of experience in coaching and PR. I purchased and began implementing her Pitch it Perfect strategies in 2016. If you aren't able to purchase a course at this time, I highly recommend "The Influencer Podcast" that Julie offers. Her guests are knowledgeable about all things digital marketing and bring value to every episode!
Pinterest & SEO: Sophia Lee offers courses on both Pinterest/SEO & Blogging, they are both worth your time. Even though many online business owners say: "We don't have a blog" or "I'm not a blogger,” in truth, blogging's value lies in its ability to increase SEO (when used properly). Search engine optimization leads to traffic. Your “life hack” might be studying and implementing the best blogger strategies if you want to scale your business.
Reading: If you’re like me and enjoy a good read, here are some books that helped us rebrand and scale our business model:
- The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber
- The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
- Stand Out, by Dorrie Clark
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth
- The CEO Test: Master the Challenges that Make or Break All Leaders, by Adam Byrant & Kevin Sharer
- The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook (Edition 8), by Edmund J. Bourne
Ashley's Top 3 Tools
People: Number one is (and will always be) people. While I have never been a fan of the entrepreneurial cliches, this one I will always get behind.
Over 80% of our business currently comes from referrals. That’s something we take great pride in. It means that we provide enough value to our clients that they will tell someone else about us!
Reading: I have always found it not only to be a great source of joy, but an overwhelming source of inspiration and value. I especially enjoy titles that include real-life statistics, success stories, and applicable knowledge. I do feel all of the aforementioned titles I suggested are rich in all of those things.
TikTok: When used properly, TikTok can teach you more about a consumer base, viral content, herd mentality, and useful business hacks faster than any other platform on the planet.
I would not have discovered so many simple and effective business strategies if I hadn’t taken the time to follow like-minded people on TikTok. If you scroll for hours watching dance videos, I'll be frank—it’s your loss. The app can be a powerful lifeline if you can stay focused and look for relative content!
Her Greatest Challenge
The biggest challenge in my business has been my own journey dealing with chronic illness.
In 2018, I began experiencing repeated episodes of what I assumed to be food poisoning. The situation lasted for several months. No explanation could be found by any physician. Over the next 3 years, one symptom would subside, and new ones would take its place.
In the end, it was friends and family suggesting that I look into alternative medicine that has helped me work my way back to a place where my health is stable again.
Her Most Important Accomplishment
Creating stable businesses while overcoming health obstacles has been my greatest accomplishment as an entrepreneur.
At the age of eight months, I was diagnosed with Type1 diabetes, and as a child, I suffered from a variety of illnesses. I realized at a young age that if I was to achieve anything in life, I would have to fight for it.
Having to revisit all of these health struggles and more while building my businesses felt truly insurmountable.
There were so many little failures along the way that made me want to quit. To anyone else out there who may be going through the same thing and working through it, I applaud you. There’s nothing more gratifying than overcoming your biggest obstacles!
What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
You cannot succeed without others.
Whether or not a customer is satisfied depends on them. You win or you lose depending on how well you invest in relationships and surround yourself with like-minded people.
Ashley’s Big Mistake
My biggest mistake was believing that I could handle it all on my own. Over the years, I have always found myself “alone again.”
During each stage of entrepreneurship, loneliness is something that is rarely discussed. There is a level of loneliness bundled into the journey of every entrepreneur. You'll discover that no one cares as much as you do. Then again, why would they? The temptation to isolate yourself during these periods can be very strong, but ultimately it will not lead to success.
To succeed, you'll have to find like-minded individuals throughout the process of building your business.
Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
Be careful not to create a business model that revolves solely around you! The reason being you may find yourself working 24/7 because the business relies solely on you, your skills, and your persona.
If you feel that your current business is doing this to you, I once again recommend reading The E-Myth Revisited. "Can I scale my business model?" is the question that this book asks eloquently.
Another piece of advice is to consult a business advisor before committing too much time and energy to your business plan. It’s common for them to share anecdotes about how they have completely deleted one of their client's favorite services, only to replace it with one that is 5-6 times more profitable and effective.
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