Including walking routes as part of your online marketing strategy has never been a better idea. Across the UK, walking is enjoying a surge in popularity and governmental support, boosted by reaction to the Covid-19 lockdown, advice to avoid public transport and a spell of great spring weather. People who have never walked for leisure before have started doing so, and it won’t be long before they’re all looking for gear and skills to support their new hobby. As far as outdoor writing ideas go, online walking routes appear to be a relatively simple outdoor writing activity but, as someone who has written plenty of rural and urban walking routes, I can tell you that it takes a bit of practice.
1. Get the balance right
If you have ever followed a walking route that left you stranded, without signpost or clue, you’ll understand the problems that can result from not giving enough user information. Conversely, online walking routes that give too much information can slow the pace of a walk and sometimes make important navigation points tricky to find.
A good online walking route will understand the purpose of its audience. For example a website aimed specifically at experienced walkers might keep additional information at a minimum and focus instead on technical detail such as cardinal directions and height gain. On the other hand a walking route written to demonstrate the history or geology of an area might use left/right instructions and encourage regular stop-and-look points through the provision of key facts.
2. Use the right tools
If you have used walking routes online, you will know that the best ones include a few basic essentials that enhance both the planning and the walking experience.
- A map of your online route – Both paper and online maps have their advantages but the desire for followable routes on mobile mapping apps is growing, particularly in the ‘new walker’ market.
- Pertinent route images – Be careful here, too many images can make your online route seem confusing. Before you include an image, ask yourself if it will serve the dual purposes of demonstrating the potential beauty or interest of your route, whilst also providing useful visual clues.
- Suitable written route instructions – This comes with practice. Provide too much information and risk important points being ignored, provide too little and frustrate your users (not a good marketing strategy). The way online route instructions appear on the screen can make a big difference so think about layout as well as content.
3. Provide additional information
When writing walking routes online, it’s important to remember that your reader will expect access to a higher level of additional information than they would, for example in a paper magazine. You don’t have to provide all of this yourself but by offering links to public transport, refreshment and other useful visitor information, you will present your online route as a complete and very usable package.
Always be aware of your audience needs when it comes to additional route information. For example, a family walk may need to include toilet options, you might want to include alternative routes where there are steep or difficult sections, or an accessible walk may need information on the placement of stiles.
Time and skill
If you enjoy walking and can turn your hand to writing then creating walking routes for online publication is a great outdoor writing idea, especially if you have an outdoor product or service you want to sell. What better way could there be to hook in people who are already interested your offering. Writing online walking routes however does require some skill, experience and a considerable amount of time. You need to understand online and paper mapping, be able to appreciate a route from alternative perspectives and have the ability to write in an appropriately concise and informative manner. You also need to be happy finding time to explore both urban and countryside outdoor spaces.
If this doesn’t sound like you, the good news is there are specialist outdoor web content writers who are more than happy to do the job for you. At Fi Darby Freelance we have experience of writing walking routes online for a number of popular outdoor publications and authorities. Whether you want to hook into the current trend towards urban exploration, or encourage people further afield, we can help you provide exactly the online walking route your target audience is looking for. Please feel free to take a look at our examples below and get in touch for more information.
Walk London – Ordnance Survey (co-author)
Dartmoor Walks – Countryfile Magazine (author)
Local Devon Walks – Two Blondes Walking (author)