9 Ways to Use Sherpa Sites for a Killer Outdoor Blog

Sherpa Sites launched last week and we’ve been talking with interested bloggers ever since.  One of the most asked questions we get is “How is Sherpa Sites different than WordPress or Blogger?”  We’ve answered that question before with this comparison of the 3 platforms.  But we’ve discovered that it goes beyond that.

What bloggers are really asking is “How can we use Sherpa Sites to build our outdoor brand?”.  This post answers that question.

We created Sherpa Sites to evolve the process of creating an outdoor blog.  We’ve built custom post templates for trail reports, gear reviews, and recipes to make publishing that type of content easier and more uniform.  We anchored Sherpa Sites to a central site, TrailSherpa.com, where all of this content is syndicated to help every member of the Sherpa Sites network grow their audience.  We’ve even begun the development of collection of outdoor specific custom themes to give our member sites a unique outdoor look and feel.

Here are a few use cases to consider.  These 12 uses for Sherpa Sites will highlight the power of this platform and should provide you with a sound understanding of what the platform can do for your brand online.

Outdoor Bloggers

Anyone who runs an outdoor blog knows the challenge of managing all aspects of the process.  You wear several hats: blogger, tech support, photographer, copyrighter, SEO practitioner…  Sherpa Sites streamlines your process by making it easier to create an outdoor blog, publish to it, and manage it going forward.  We’ve even baked in a few powerful tools that will help you grow your blog into something more.  Blogging about your outdoor adventures can be more than a hobby if you can find a way to build and audience and provide them valuable information, products, or services.

Document your hikes
Many outdoor blogs are a living chronicle of the time that the author spends in the outdoors.  That was the genesis of Trail Sherpa.  The challenge is creating consistent content that is formatted in a reader-friendly way.  Of course, if content creation and distribution were easier then more people would do it, right?  Sherpa Sites was designed to ensure content consistency each and every time.

Example trail report

Sherpa Sites Solution: Our unique custom post templates  for trail reports, gear reviews, and recipes make it easy to create stunning content without the hassle of wrangling with  layouts.  Feed pages can also be used for each custom post type to show off your collections of trail reports, gear reviews, or recipes is feeds that users of your site can easily follow.

Showcase your outdoor photos
I’m sure that I’m not the only shutter bug/outdoor bloggers.  We click away with each mile we cover. Finding an efficient way to publish those photos can be a task.  Each Sherpa Site theme helps you showcase the digital images you take on the trail.

Sherpa Sites Solution: We’ve built in gallery functionality and there are several gallery/sideshow plugins (already loaded) that can be used to organize and manage a photo biased blog.  We’ve even integrated Flickr galleries into the core of Sherpa Sites to allow you to easily embed your Flickr images into your blog and save on your Sherpa Sites storage.

Publish gear reviews
Many outdoor bloggers publish reviews of the gear that they buy and use.  If done properly, a gear review can be a very popular piece of content or even lead to gear sponsorships.  Many gear manufacturers will trade free gear for a review if the outdoor blog has enough traffic.  What they need to see is a sample of your work so that they can visualize their gear review on your outdoor blog.

Gear reviews exampleSherpa Sites Solution: We’ve created a custom post template called Gear Reviews.  This powerful tool allows you to create compelling gear reviews, post them seamlessly to your blog, and maintain a consistent format from one review to the next.  It’s as simple as filling in the fields with the specifics and clicking publish.  Each gear review contains a personal rating you can use to rank your reviews.  Did I mention there is also a field for “Where to buy” that works perfectly with your affiliate link?  It’s got that too!

Create a custom gear store
Many of us that manage an outdoor blog have daydreamed about creating our own gear store online.  Some of us have actually developed a prototype of a product.  Often, these prototypes fill a need that the big gear manufacturers have overlooked.  The ultralight backpacking crowd has become very proficient at this.  The problem is getting that new product in front of buyers, and building enough grass roots momentum to get to the next level.  Your outdoor blog on the Sherpa Sites platform gives you an edge.

Sherpa Sites Solution: We’ve integrated e-commerce to allow you to create your own online storefront.  The best part is that each product you post will also be syndicated to the Trail Sherpa Marketplace where visitors to our site can discover your products, click through to view them in more detail, and purchase directly from you.  The entire system is built around a full feature e-commerce solution that integrates easily with PayPal.

Turn your blog into a membership site
We’ve all clicked on a link to an article that a friend has tweeted only to find that the content is restricted to members only.  Or you visit a website that offers the best information that you’ve found on a subject and much of the gold is protected behind a registration wall.  If the information is compelling enough, users gladly register and pay for their access.  Many of us subscribe to at least one such site. Sherpa Sites has this functionality baked in as well.

Sherpa Sites Solution: You can use the membership plugin to restrict content, functions, categories, or pages to members only.  You can even use membership to restrict access to downloads.  For anyone that is focused on making their outdoor blog an industry news source or a place to showcase thought leadership, the membership plugin is a valuable tool.  It can certainly help monetize your site.

Established Outdoor Brands

Established outdoor brands usually have the resources to develop, deploy, and manage their online outposts.  Often times, that effort comes from the organization’s marketing or brand departments.  Our experience with bigger brands revealed that these departments often are pulled in many directions and run short on bandwidth.  We saw this as opportunity to build some solutions into Sherpa Sites.  The following use cases will illustrate how Sherpa Sites can be used by established outdoor brands to produce a site dedicated to a specific digital campaign, at a fraction of the cost of fully custom solutions.  Furthermore, Sherpa Sites can be deployed in minutes and often launches with the desired functionality out of the box, so to speak.  A custom theme may be all that is needed to get a specific campaign fully branded and running in days rather than weeks or months.

Manage blogger outreach
Columbia (@Columbia1938) has been running a blogger outreach campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #omniten.  They delivered a outdoor goody package to 10 outdoor bloggers  for testing and reviews.  Now, I don’t know the full scope of their campaign but I follow all of the 10 participants and the conversations are starting to escalate.  I assume that they will begin to aggregate the conversation in a central place, maybe a blog or feed somewhere.  Sherpa Sites would be a perfect solution for such a campaign in the future.

Settings for domain mapping

Sherpa Sites Solution: An  independent Sherpa Site can be created with your campaign URL to serve as the content hub for your campaign. In fact, any Sherpa Site can be mapped to a custom URL of your choice.  Include Twitter feeds, blog posts from the participating bloggers, the gear reviews with active conversations in the comments, and even social sharing integration to allow visitors and bloggers who follow and participate to share the most valuable threads.  This allows the brand to establish the digital venue and own the real estate where the content is served.  Pretty valuable for SEO, don’t you think?  The possibilities are endless.

Fundraising campaigns
Established brands often endorse or co-market social causes for non-profit organizations.  Many times they choose to promote these efforts outside their corporate websites. There are numerous reasons why they do it this way, I’m sure.  A new digital outpost must be created to fosters the user experience, and leads to social sharing to amplify the  message reach.  After all, that is the point – drive awareness (and fundraising) for the cause.  The more exposure, the more participation.

Sherpa Sites Solution: Sherpa Sites can be used to execute and promote a fundraising campaign: e-commerce, membership, user registrations, all on your campaign URL (all Sherpa Sites can be mapped to an individual URL).  Easily integrate with third party solutions like JustGive.org or Paypal, which works seamlessly with the e-commerce functionality.  Of course, the social sharing plugins make message dissemination a breeze.

Athlete showcases
Many established outdoor brands sponsor athletes.  But there are many more that don’t, and it could be due of the daunting task of creating a web presence for each athlete to get the most mileage from the relationship.  However,  it greatly benefits the brand to showcase the adventures of their sponsored athletes.  But how do you do that on a budget or with limited bandwidth?  Simple, you leverage Sherpa Sites.

Sherpa Sites Solution: Sherpa Sites is a multi-site environment, built to house multiple sites.  Brands looking to create multiple sites could do so on the platform and maintain control over each athlete’s site and URL.  Each could be presented with a central custom theme but include small customizations so that each athlete blog has a slightly different look and feel.  Best of all, content from each athlete site could be pulled into a central campaign site that would serve as a jumping off point for visitors.

New product launch
Established outdoor brand introduce new products and services and  it’s important to draw as much attention as possible to these new product launches.  Usually, the marketing, brand, and PR folks work tirelessly for weeks or even months to prepare for a launch.  The marketing push typically includes a mix of traditional media buys, social marketing tactics, maybe a bit of blogger outreach, and in some cases, a keystone marketing campaign to build a groundswell of initial demand.  Social media has altered the way consumers discover new content and products, how they make their purchase decisions, and most importantly how they share their buying experiences after the fact.  So what is the best way to develop awareness and then participate in the ongoing dialogue that surrounds a new product?  Sherpa Sites can be a piece of the puzzle that brands don’t have to worry much about.

Sherpa Sites Solution: Micro-sites have been utilized by marketing folks for years.  Sherpa Sites can be used to develop micro-sites dedicated to specific product or services and even as an aggregation tool for content created by multiple contributors, like a team of bloggers.  Brands should consider a Sherpa Site as a content hub that can be deployed in short order to showcase a new product and serve as the meeting place for consumers that want to exchange feedback directly with the brand.  The experience can include rich media, multimedia, and social platform integration.  The best part is that Trail Sherpa Design can often move more quickly than internal departments that are usually juggling 15 other projects.  Plus, the conversation can be managed on a platform that doesn’t require deep technical integration with the corporate site, or require their resources.

How would a Sherpa Site benefit your next web project?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.  Better yet, we’d like to know how you’d like your website or outdoor blog to perform.  Sherpa Sites may be able to fill the need.  The list above is certainly not an exhaustive list of the ways to use the platform.  How can we help you?

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I'm the founder of Vestor Logic, the digital strategy and web design firm that created Trail Sherpa, ParksFolio, and Modern Steader. I'm a day hiker, top chef in camp, doting husband, and father to two headlamp wearing boys. My work in digital media brings those experiences to life.