Exclusive: Joan Collins and Dolly Parton to join Simonseeks

Travel recommendations website Simonseeks.com is about to launch reviews from two A-list celebrities from the world of film and music after what it described as a promising first six months.

Reviews by Joan Collins, on St Tropez, and Dolly Parton, on Smokey Mountains where her amusement park is based, will appear in coming weeks adding to the site’s celebrity content.

In addition new deals lists linking through to travel partners that have been handpicked by a member of the Simonseeks editorial team are also due to go live later this month.

The brainchild of moneysupermarket.com founder Simon Nixon and his brother Chris, the site had its best month in December since its July launch recording 250,000 unique visitors.

Simonseeks.com now has over 3,000 reviews by more than 730 reviewers, including 20 celebrities and 264 travel professionals.

Among other celebrities currently are Eddie the Eagle Edwards, TV chefs Gary Rhodes and Raymond Blanc, Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr and the site’s most popular author Sir Cliff Richard.

Simonseeks.com commercial director Chris Nixon said much of the focus in the initial start up period has been on making sure the content on the site was right.

He said developments like the deals portal and money saving tips written by editor Nick Trend have helped to improve the depth of content around each 800-word review.

The highest earning reviewer in January earned £80 from the 50/50 share agreement with writers which Nixon said, if replicated throughout in each month of the year, was a good return.

The dwell time on reviews was now in the region of eight to nine minutes, claimed Nixon, meaning users were reading content in depth and not just skim reading.

He said the site has worked with contributors on how to make sure their reviews are inspirational and to include rich content like video and pictures that improve click throughs.

Relevant deals, drawn from various sources like dealchecker.com and Travel Intelligence, will be checked for quality by Simonseeks.com before appearing next to reviews.

Nixon said: “How do you know if a deal is a good deal? We will get feeds in and rather than displaying all the deals we will have the best of the best.

“What we are providing is a platform, a shop front. The contributors give us great content, we build the website and we share the revenue fifty fifty.

“We are trying to educate our writers that the commercial model is very much geared round people who want to be inspired to book. We want to give people more reasons to book.”

More new functionality is due to be launched in the next two months, Nixon revealed, that will give users more up to date information on the content they are reading.

Currently Simonseeks.com operates on a cost per click basis but Nixon said he sees it moving to a commissioned based model as more travellers use it as a trusted source.

He said the feedback from commercial partners was that the site helps to qualify customers better and conversion rates are consequently higher than average.

Talks are underway with some luxury operators and leading UK travel agencies on the possibility of supplying them with phone leads.

Celebrity reviews will continue to be added. Nixon said content is provided without charge showing how keen celebs are to use sites like Simonseeks.com to nurture their online profile.

A future source of revenue for simonseeks.com could be licencing content to third parties, but Nixon said this will only happen once it has the requisite depth of content.

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