Prompted by Alex Bainbridge's 11 more rules and an email exchange with Kevin May of the Travolution Blog I have expanded the description of my four quick rules for a successful travel content/community company.
Here are the expanded rules:
1. Content - lots of it. The main source of traffic you are going to receive is from search engines. For a search engine to trust you and for the scale of long tail traffic to be sufficient you are going to need to be adjudged "relevant" by search engines. Nothing establishes relevance better that a constant stream of good quality content. Does not mean that size is better but need a mix of quality and quantity. Chances are you will need the help of consumers to get you to the quantity threshold (ie user gen content);
2. Index - a fantastic Google friendly index and expertise in search optimisation. It is no good to have great content if the search engines can't read it or find it. Yury Shar of Hotelscombined.com said design the site for both Google and consumers. You need smart consumer/UI people and smart search engine people to work together for the index that speaks to both;
3. Access methods - varying ways and means for consumers to access the content. Consumers are choosing very different ways to access and use content - old fashion websites, RSS, email subscription, embedding in blogs, widgets, social networks etc. You cannot provide all things to all people from day one but your system needs to be able to support different access and sharing methods or you will cut off customers; and
4. Patience - time (and money) to wait for the traffic to build. It takes time for the search engines to trust you and the consumers to care. It takes intestinal fortitude to survive the peaks and troughs of the whims of consumer behaviour. Bursts of traffic will come and then go away - inexplicably. Advertisers (outside of Google adsense) will want to see a history of success before committing to big juicy CPM campaigns.
As with the short version - very easy to write much harder to do.