· 8 months ago

Horizon Guides Travel guides and trips to exceptional places

9 Comments Badges

Horizon Guides is a travel media platform that offers unbiased, human, travel advice you can trust.

Here's how it works:

πŸ“š Impartial Guides We commission the world's leading travel journalists to produce impartial travel guides offering honest, unvarnished, grown-up destination advice. Our guides are written exclusively by expert travel writers. If they haven't been there in person, it doesn't go into our guides!

πŸŽ₯ Multi-channel Our guides are available via the web, email, podcast and (coming soon) video series featuring our expert contributors and travel specialists.

πŸ’¬ Ask The Experts Readers can interact directly with our contributors, for free, by asking their own trip planning questions. Replies usually take a day or two, but you can be sure the author is not a robot, is writing from first-hand experience, and is not simply regurgitating what's already written online.

πŸ™‹β€β™€οΈ Travel Specialists We’ve partnered with some of the world’s best travel specialists to curate a range of experiences and tours. When you're ready to book a trip you can contact our travel partners – directly!

πŸš€ Simple Advertising We work with travel partners on a simple cost-per-click basis. Our advertisers pay us for referring users directly to their websites. We're not a booking site, we don't charge any commissions, and we don't share any personal user data.

Learn more about us and our contributors at horizonguides.com/about

Gallery image 1 Gallery image 2 Gallery image 3 Gallery image 4
Gallery thumbnail Gallery thumbnail Gallery thumbnail Gallery thumbnail
Recommend this?
4 Reviews 5/5


CEO, Horizon Guides

Hi folks! I'm Matt, one of the co-founders of Horizon Guides.

We've actually been kicking around for a few years, quietly growing our platform and grinding out the slow SEO grind. I remember the moment we celebrated three consecutive days of 100 users, we're now in the region of 75,000 users/month – still relative minnows in the online travel media world, but it's allowed us to build a sustainable business that I like to think is on the good side of digital publishing and advertising.

This is especially pertinent now with the massive revolution coming with generative AI, google reinventing itself as an "answer engine" and everything else. Our response in a nutshell: double down on what we know best. We're focusing on high credibility, human, unbiased travel advice that we know our readers want and trust. Everything else comes second to that.

Our business model is a simple advertising product. We've built a proprietary cost per click (cpc) solution aimed at independent travel specialists who are looking for an alternative to the big 2 platforms. We're not a booking site, we don't take any sales or charge commissions, we just refer our readers to our partners to book direct.

I'd be happy to talk here about our content strategy, what we've done in the past, and how we're adapting for the world of generative AI. Also keen to hear what others in this space are doing.


8 months ago (edited)
CEO & Co-founder, Insured Nomads

Matt, amazing product. Well done!

8 months ago
CEO, Horizon Guides

thanks so much :)

8 months ago
Tourism consultant + blogger, Diary of a Muzungu

I'm a big fan of Horizon Guides. (Disclaimer: I'm one of their writers). They are in-depth guides (I write about mountain gorilla tracking in Uganda, Rwanda and the DR Congo) written by local experts. (I've lived in Uganda for 15 years and work in travel and conservation). We review and update the content regularly.

Kudos to Matt and the team!

8 months ago (edited)
CEO, Horizon Guides

Thanks Charlotte, I've really enjoyed working with you on all these projects!

8 months ago
Founder, Travel Massive

Hi Matthew, thanks for sharing Horizon Guides with the Travel Massive community.

Great work on what you've created (bravo!) β€” clearly a lot of work has gone into creating the content and thoughtfully building value around it.

1. Would you call this a "blended" model of guidebooks that are enhanced by online channels and reader interaction?

2. The typical guidebook is kinda one way (author -> readers) but you've made it bi-directional (author <- -> readers) via your 'Ask the Experts' feature. Is this a well used feature?

3. Last question, if you're selling tours AND guidebooks... which serves as the primary funnel? Or is your business model multi-funnel (e.g. multiple things attract visitors and sell other things).

8 months ago
CEO, Horizon Guides

cheers Ian, thanks for having us here!

Important clarification – we don't sell guidebooks, well not in any meaningful way (we have some on Amazon, but they're not relevant to our revenue or business model).

So it's not really blended, it's actually very simple - just an old-fashioned marketing funnel: free content brings people in at the top, they're educated + engaged, and then when they're ready to book something we convert them as referrals to our partners.

But yes, the bi-directional piece is important for lots of reasons. It's a great source of new information that, by definition, people want/need and can't find elsewhere. I think this will be important for content/SEO in the AI age.

So the consumer-facing side is pretty simple. The innovations are on the b2b advertising product, we've created a really good, transparent, low cost alternative to google cpc, and we're developing this a lot further into a wider set of direct marketing tools for tour operators.

8 months ago
Founder, Wandr

Hi Matthew,

Thank you for presenting Horizon Guides and congratulations for your resilience over the years and for what your team has achieved so far.

I share your view on the importance of focusing on high-quality content to constantly bring value to your audience and stand out in a coming age of average mass content mostly produced by AI (garbage-in / garbage-out). I believe your data / information will become more valuable over time.

I have so many questions for you but I will try to narrow them down:

1. Are the journalists and experts providing this 'Ask the Experts' service for free? Or are they paid extra for every user they help out?

2. Social media is increasingly used for inspiration and, despite being flooded by average content and highly edited pictures, some creators stand out by the quality of the information and media they are producing as well as covering lesser-known destinations. Have you ever considered partnering with some of them alongside the journalists and experts you are currently working with? What is your take on this and the communities they are building around their content that could benefit Horizon Guides?

3. One on acquisition channels, I am curious to know about the evolution of your direct vs organic search traffic over the past few years as your overall traffic increased. In September 2023, Similarweb shows 24% direct / 71% organic / 5% referrals and social. My guess would be that it kept increasing with returning users as you kept producing content, covering more destination and building your image of a trusted, high-quality and unbiased travel media brand.

4. Last one, more on the technical aspect, what technology stack are you currently using, especially to manage the content on your website?

Also, thank you for your regular LinkedIn posts on SEO / AI, always insightful!


8 months ago
CEO, Horizon Guides

Hi Benoit, thanks for the encouraging words and your interest. I'll try to answer as much as I can!

In brief:

No, our contributors don't provide anything for free!

We've never cared much about social media, not for audience acquisition anyway. We're not interested in "inspiration" or the top of the travel funnel, we want to connect with people once they've already made some decisions and are serious about their travel plans. Also I only want to do things if we can do them well, and we're not resourced to do that stuff properly. There are a few exceptions, and we're leaning into video/audio but more for indirect / presence-building reasons, especially once LLMs start going multimodal.

I won't go into specifics but organic traffic is obviously by far our biggest source of new users (scarily big), and email is our workhorse for retention.

Tech stack is pretty simple: we built the front end on top of CraftCMS, plus Nginx, PHP, MySQL. Standard stuff.


8 months ago
πŸ‘‹ Welcome to the Travel Massive community!
Profile picture Profile picture Profile picture Profile picture Profile picture Profile picture + 303 others joined this month


About this Marketplace
Post icon

Horizon Guides

4 reviews

Horizon Guides was posted by Matthew Barker in Marketplace , Tour , Writing , Planning , Marketing , Startup . Featured on Oct 4, 2023 (8 months ago). Horizon Guides is rated 5/5 β˜… by 4 members.