Let me tell you something you need to hear: your travel blog sucks.
Now that I've gone and pissed off every blogger who opened this post, I have to stop to explain why I said it. But first I have to say this comment is not directed at the hobby bloggers out there. If you're writing just for fun as a means to let your friends and family follow along with your travels, you can stop reading here and head to one of our destination articles for something more relevant to your interests.
But if you're trying to blog professionally, you need to stick around. Your blog still sucks and I don't even need to read it to know it's true. The good news is today is your lucky day and I'm going to give you a kick in the pants to turn that around.
Why Your Blog Sucks (and Mine Does, Too!)
1) We're all the Same
After joining many Facebook blogging groups, performing many studies across the social networks, and generally reading into the trends of travel blogging at large, I've realized that no one is unique anymore. Think of what you're doing, be it anything from a specific blog post, to the entire focus of your blog, or even your blog name, and if it is on a global scale* there are likely dozens or hundreds of others doing the exact same thing.
The world does not need another traveler versus tourist debate (it didn't even need the first one, and this is coming from someone who has also written one).
I will scream if I see another “Travels with [Blogger's Name]” or “The Blonde [Something].”
Your Do Not Ride an Elephant in Thailand post is the 50th that was published this year and will change the mind of precisely no one.
Weekend guides in [Random Top 50 City] have some of the biggest competition for SEO ranking in the world, and your tips aren't that good anyway because you were only there for three days and only saw what ten other bloggers told you to see.
I could go on.
Unfortunately we're now at the point in travel blogging where professionals need to stop what they're doing, take a moment, and question why they're writing a specific article.
Will someone want to read it? No, really, will they actually read it? Has it been done before? Or rather, how many times has it been done before? Why should you be writing this and not someone else? Use a tough filter before you get content out the door.
For any article you wish to publish, take a while to sit on it. Think it through many times over. Write it. Let it sit some more. Let your thoughts develop. Then, when you're good and ready, publish it- or delete it. This will ensure it is actually something you want going out the door and your readers will respond accordingly. There is no shame in keeping an article in draft mode for a few months or years as you do not have to be obligated to publish every single thought you have (we have over 100 ourselves that are finished but may never get published).
*Global scale is important on this one because you can still pick a local travel blog niche and have little to no competition. Global travel blogging is, sadly, a saturated market.
2) You Don't Know Your Audience
So you're audience is primarily 18-35 year old, educated, and from the USA, Canada, and other English speaking countries? Join the club! That doesn't tell you anything useful about them though.
Where are they traveling to specifically? How often do they travel? How many times has your blog actually made them take action? These questions are much more important details to know about your audience, and most seem to have no clue about it.
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Send out a reader survey once a year to find out. Do every thing you can to track your readership be it through affiliate links or outright asking them. The more you know about your audience, the more you can target them in ways that will make you money blogging and grow.
After adding hotel affiliate links to our Top 50 posts, we found that our highest converting articles were for readers visiting Easter Island and Spain, to the tune of a few dozen per month. The articles were also written in a very specific style targeted for active travelers to those countries. What did we do? We wrote more articles to help them out- and also packed them full of affiliate links to capture their purchases too.
Our sales went up accordingly.
No matter what, an audience doesn't come to you, you have to go to your audience. This can't happen if you don't know them inside and out to begin with and in many cases all you have to do is ask in order to find out.
3) You're Chasing the Wrong Income Sources
Do you open your inbox every day hoping for the offer of a sponsored post, freelance writing opportunity, or the holy grail of paid travel campaigns? Have you had a month, or months, go by with $0 in income despite good traffic? We've been there.
Inquiries resulting in income are nice, but if you're relying on this inconsistency and have huge swings in income each month you're looking at monetization all wrong- at least partially. There is a lot of money within reach to bring in a base income purely from your visitors through Adsense, other ad networks, and hotel affiliates just to name a few.
If you have 50,000 page views a month and aren't making at least $100 on Adsense, you need to re-evaluate what you're doing. The CPM advertising service allows you to display up to three ads per page, and you better ensure you do it on both desktop and mobile devices too (try the Ad Inserter plug-in if you do not display a sidebar on mobile devices). This quick change increased our revenue by 300%-500% (depending on the day) in just four hours of work and also set us up for custom display advertising campaigns as well.
Heck, if you have 50,000 views you could even join Mediavine and turn that $100 you'd make from Adsense into $1,000 a month. It is what we do!
The same is true for hotel affiliates like we mentioned in the last point. By adding prompts into our Top 50 posts (as determined by Google Analytics), we were able to increase our revenue by over 1,000% to, at a minimum, $100 per month.
I don't know about you, but taking 10-20 hours out of my week to overhaul my ads and top performing articles to go from $10-$20/month in revenue to almost $1,000/month is one of the best things I've done in recent memory. The best part is that targeted affiliate sales and CPM ad revenue is a numbers game, so as long as your site grows, so do your earnings.
Are you optimized for this? I'd bet money that you're not.
4) Social Media is a Numbers Game
In the world of social media algorithms this is especially true, whether you like to admit it or not. Why does one site's content become popular on social media while another's does not? It is because they're reaching users who care about the content.
How do you reach those users? You have to be popular in the first place.
Ignoring this key point doesn't help, because if you hope that “good content” is enough to make you become the next big thing you're sadly mistaken. Power in numbers makes you the next big thing. Luckily for you there are ways to launch yourself up to the next level with relative ease.
On Facebook, pay for social advertising. If you get your site earning the revenue we discussed above, reinvest it in your blog. A good ad targeted to the right community in the USA can return a CPA (cost-per-action) of a few pennies each. Likes can come in at under 10 cents a head in the USA if you're targeting the right community with a good ad (one that will respond to your updates, too!). Start at $1/day and keep trying new things until you find something that works for your desired audience, and ramp it up from there. If you can't spare $30/month in advertising you might as well quit right now.
On Twitter, follow up to the 2,000 limit in place, and continue with the +10% limit after you hit 2,000 fans in return. Pick the right users, ones who are interested in your content, and most will follow you back. That is 1,000 new followers for those who do it right just for starters. As Twitter moves into the algorithm model in the future, this is going to be incredibly important. After you get a base crowd you'll see growth continue without doing anything at all- and you won't have to unfollow a single account to make it happen.
To gain Instagram followers, follow up to the 7,500 limit after building a gallery of a several hundred epic photos. Also picking the right users could net you another 3,000 followers and get you placed well enough in the algorithm that you grow organically from there. We should know, we've done this twice. (For more tips on this one, please read the preceding article. It is long, but worth it.)
If you are not using every tool and available loophole to reach your audience, you're not working hard enough and throwing thousands of free followers and traffic away. Your content may be amazing. It might not be, too. But those who succeed are often not the best, but rather those who know how to market their sites and work the system to their advantage. Use every single tool you have at your disposal and do not apologize for it in the slightest.
No one that matters will fault you for it. (Hint: Other bloggers do not matter- your audience does!)
5) Test Everything
Seriously, this one is important. You cannot be complacent with anything you are doing.
Nothing in blogging will come to you unless you reach out and take it. This is true for followers, page views, income, or just about anything you want. Exposure doesn't happen just because you're good. You make it happen.
Do not go along month-to-month writing, updating your social networks, and hoping for organic growth. It may come, but it is going to be awful. It will take you years to get to any place that matters (we should know, we've been at this for over a decade). Do every single thing in your power to make your blog become popular from reaching out to new users and influencers who can help promote your content. Don't get mad if they don't care. Move on, try new things, and keep going until you get the results you want.
It doesn't matter if the industry accepts this as truth. It doesn't matter if it is a popular technique or not*. All that matters is what works for your blog.
To get there, test everything. Come up with a plan, log what you're doing, and monitor the results. Update, re-test, and continue over and over again. What you're trying when you're not popular may work great when you have an audience, and vice-versa. Have an idea for something new? Try it! If you lose one fan but gain ten, its a success. If you lose ten but gain one, you may not want to do it again. Keep at it every single day until things start working. Once they do, you know you're on the right track.
*There is a fine line here on popular tactics, like taking advantage in loopholes on social media and advertising for Likes versus buying fake followers and pageviews to “appear” popular. I don't really feel like I should have to explain the difference between the two and if you can't tell the difference you're going to have bigger problems than what we're writing about here.
I Think Only a Handful Will Find This Valuable
The unfortunate thing about writing this post is that I know people will either ignore it or misinterpret it.
I've seen it time and time again with my articles in my Blog Your Trip series. I get the chorus of “great ideas” followed up with a long list of things someone is going to do to “make it work.”
Then it doesn't work.
That is why I am asking you not to make any rash decisions today on any inspirations you may have from this article. Sit on it for a week, maybe even a month. Come up with your game plan now and work on it behind the scenes for a while before you implement it. I guarantee you'll come up with an idea two weeks from now that is better than an idea you have this moment. Even better, find a few blogging friends to bounce ideas off of, join Super Star Blogging to learn more behind the scenes, and research all your ideas even further before implementing them- we did for every single point mentioned here, and it helped us immensely.
If you need the results of your blog immediately to meet a goal, you're looking at it from the wrong perspective and should go back to your day job. Blogging takes years to generate any sort of success, and unless you're willing to play the long game, you might as well get out of it altogether because no one can help you become an overnight success.
Take it from me. We're into our eighth year blogging and are only just now seeing the results of our hard work. I may not be happy with the fact that it took so long to get here, but I am eagerly awaiting the next eight to come.
Looking for more information on how to promote your blog? Click the previous link to learn all of our secrets!
Looking to start a blog? Find a domain name and grab a server on Bluehost today!
Have an existing blog that is in need of an upgrade? Check out the following services we personally use on our sites!
- Performance Foundry - Premium hosting.
- Elegant Themes - Customized site themes.
- Tailwind - Pinterest scheduling tool.
- Mailerlite - Cost effective newsletter.
- Super Star Blogging - Travel blogging course.
- Social Warfare - Social share bar.
- Keysearch - Keyword research tool for SEO.
- Interact - Quiz software for email sign-ups.
If you are looking for tips, check out our Blog Your Trip series!