So guess what. I don't actually hate top 10 travel blogs. That was just clickbait (see #5 on my list below). But since this is a top 10 article, clickbait is OK.
To be fair, there is a time and a place for top 10 articles, which I will explain further, and many bloggers that I truly respect write them. Hell, I've even written a few and will probably write more in the future. But come on, travel bloggers! Aren't we getting tired of writing the same articles over and over again?
There have recently been calls from within the industry for change. Bloggers are sick of writing material designed to be popular (see the post I'm Travel Blog Sick by Gaspard of "I Left Home"). We want travel writing to be fun again, but feel obliged to write lists because they share well, or maybe some of us are just getting lazy.
I don't blame you. I know it's a super tough, competitive, and time-consuming field of work, and top 10 articles tend to go viral easily. Personally, I've only made a couple hundred bucks from blogging (my income comes from my book and other published work) , but I've spend like 5000 hours doing it. Some of you (probably very, very few of you) are making a decent living by publishing oversimplified listicles. But you probably worked extremely long and hard in others ways to build up your following. I DON'T HATE THE PLAYER, I'M JUST BORED OF THE GAME.
So without further ado, here's my crappy list.
Top 10 Reasons I Hate Top 10 Travel Blogs
10 Reasons I Hate Top 10 Travel Blogs
Choose a city in the world, and I could fart out a top 10 blog about it. The information is already abundantly available, all you have to do is google it then reword it. Seriously, I could write a top-10 article in less than an hour, as I did for this one. Thanks to the listicle format, I don't have to worry about making my own outline or being creative in any way whatsoever. But to write an actual guide that includes my own personal opinions, experiences, genuinely useful information for travelers, and places that I found on my own instead of lifting them from other guides, for example, my Guide to the Stunning East Coast of Taiwan, I spend at least 1-2 weeks working on one article. And guess what, that particular one has been my most successful blog ever, without being a list! Also note that within the article, I gave credit to others when I used their ideas. I'll never achieve the popularity and fame of some top 10-loving travel bloggers, but at least I know that my post is doing well because I worked hard on it and it is quality work, and not because I focused all my energy on other tricks and pumping out material as quickly as possible.
1. It's lazy writing
Why would you want to write an article that somebody else already wrote? And OK, there are exceptions here. Maybe you've spent a chunk of time in some remote place that has no such list. And you know that place very well. And you noticed that more travelers are showing up. Your list will be new and useful, so go for it. But seriously, if I google “top 10 sights in Paris”, how many versions of the same article am I going to find?
2. The whole world's been covered
Yup, they are that easy to write. I know for a fact that some popular travel bloggers haven't even been to the places they recommend on their lists. Sigh. But the temptation is strong, because you don't even need much info the compile a top 10 list, and voila, thousands of shares, loads of traffic.
3. You dont even have to visit a place to write one
OK, so if you are Lonely Planet, and you publish a top-10 destinations list, I'm going to read it. Hundreds, if not thousands of professional opinions, statistics, and other considerations go into making such lists. Lonely Planet is a famous, trusted resource in the travel industry. But if “Nomadic Carl” makes a top 10 list after visiting New York for 3 days, what exactly is it the top of? Did he conduct a poll? Did he analyze visitor statistics? So what his article really should be called is “Carl's 10 favorite places in New York” or “Ten Places Nomadic Carl went to during his short visit to New York.” But that doesn't sound as enticing right? (see next point).
4. Top of what?
Yup, everybody loves a list. “I wonder if my favorite restaurant made the list? (Opens, reads.) No? WTF? I'm going to write a comment and share this article out of protest! (article goes viral)” But guess what, top 10s aren't as effective a form of clickbait as they used to be, because there the Internet is just flooded with them now, and everybody and his dog is writing them. “Top 10” no longer means top anything. How can there be 10 different best 10 things? The phrase itself is losing its validity, so even if you are trying to write clickbait, you might be better off going with something more creative.
5. It's clickbait
Nutsack! I can only think of 6 things. Oh, well. I guess I'll just call my blog “Top 6 Reasons to Visit xxx.” (also see point number 11).
6. It’s lazy writing (part 2)
This is directly related to point #4. Unless you are a major authority, then what makes your “top 10” worthy of being the “top” of anything? BUT HERE'S THE THING. If you really are an authority or know a lot about somewhere or something, that maybe I do want to read your top 10. For example, if Two Can Travel have been living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for years, then I am going to want to read their advice for Phnom Penh, because they know their shit, even if it is in top whatever style. And notice that they didn't even rely on the top + number format, despite their deeper knowledge of one specific area. Another example: a fellow blogger in Taiwan, Kirk Beiser of The World in Not That Big, specializes in waterfalls in Taiwan. So when he writes a top-10 waterfalls in Taiwan article, I'm going to take it seriously! The point is, if you only visited a place for a few days, or even a few weeks, how could that be enough for you to decide what is the best anything there? Don't write a top-10 list for every spot you visit. Save it for the stuff that you REALLY know. Your readers will know the difference.
7. Are you an expert?
If you are doing top 10s because you think it's good for SEO and shares, well maybe that works, but it's not going to work forever. After seeing and sharing so many top 10 articles, even the stupidest readers and Pinterest users are going to start realizing how ridiculous it is. And from my understanding (correct me if I'm wrong) changes to Google's algorithms now favor longer, deeper articles with good headings. You don't need numbers to have a good title and headings. AND, it's even possible to have a numbered list within your article, such as I did with this Yoga for Toddlers and Traveling Parents article, without ruining the credibility of the whole article by making the whole thing into a top-10 article.
8. It’s so overdone that it is going to die out
Thanks, but I can find out the top-10 places to visit from the free brochure at the airport. But give me the top-10 ANYTHING that you found on your own, by spending a lot of time somewhere and actually exploring, and that I can't find in every single guidebook, and NOW we are talking. Tell me how you felt when you went there. Tell me the good AND bad things about it. And bonus points if you write about them without calling them top anything.
9. It is ignores the less popular (and often way more interesting) stuff
Many popular traveler bloggers have complained that they hate the fact that they basically have to write top 10 articles to get by. They miss writing about the adventure of travel and their genuine experiences on the road, which is what traveling blogging was originally about. They think everybody wants a short and pretty guide, and doesn't want to hear the truth. Some popular bloggers argue travel blogging is just changing, our audiences demand it, and us old-school bloggers just need to get on board. I say to each his or her own, but at least I love and am proud of the work I do, and don't do it a certain way just because I feel I have to.
10. It is making travel writing less fun for all of us
Diclaimer: Please don't this article too seriously. I don't mean to criticize anybody's hard work. I'm just bored with what's out there, and I've been seeing more and more people saying the same thing. Let's make this industry fresh and exciting! If you write real travel stories, you might be interested in this new Facebook group. Let's put the passion and creativity back into travel writing together! If you disagree with what I've said, please comment below!
Nick Kembel doesn't usually write such critical articles that make other travel bloggers hate him. He writes about traveling in Taiwan and spiritual stuff. He is the author of Taiwan in the Eyes of a Foreigner and has contributed to CNN and numerous travel magazines. 20% of his book and travel photography earnings go to charity.
Cock and balls! I wrote too many things. Instead of editing my work, I'll just adjust my title to top-11. Feeling hyper? Fuck it! Top-50 reasons to visit India! Every thing in India is a reason to go there! I can think of 50 things in India!
11. It's lazy writing (part 3)
Be more creative! You are a "writer", right?
The truth of the matter is that good articles should be organized into sections, and a numbered list in an east and effective way to do that. Here are just a few things you might want to consider first:
Has anybody else already written the same article?
Does your article offer anything new?
Did you include fun, personal details about your own experience there and your honest opinions, or did you basically just copy a basic description of a place that is readily available elsewhere?
Do you really need the word "top" at the front? Is there another way you could say it?
"Top 8 Destinations for Kids in Pangaea"
Why Pangaea is an AMAZING Destination for Kids
Why All Parent Should Take their kids Traveling in Pagaea
Super Fun Kid-Friendly Destinations in Pangaea
Not as good for SEO? Some app told you that's not the best title? Well, at least it's honest.
I'm not saying we should totally abandon top 10 lists. Just use them less.