Right off the bat, I’m just going to tell you that, this is going to be a really long post. I want this to be sort of a comprehensive writing on this topic and not just a grouping of vague tips on how to write about traveling ‘professionally’. I’m going to get into generating income, traffic, ideas for travel blogging, and the like. However, I want to do it from a longer term perspective and under the umbrella of generating passive wealth online. This isn’t merely going to entail travel blogging alone but being able to set up multiple streams of income whether or not a travel blog makes money in the near future.
Who Are You to Write About Travel Blogging?
Fair question. Aesthetic Odyssey is my travel blog and as of writing it’s still in its infancy. I created it back in 2016 and it’s mostly been on the back burner while I’ve worked on other projects. Heck, I haven’t even put up ads or begun tracking my traffic with Google Analytics (as of writing). This has been like a side project of a side project.
I’ve really only just started to travel within the past year and so my travel blogging pursuit hasn’t really taken off yet. However, I have been involved in creating websites, sources of online income, and running marketing campaigns since 2009. I’ve made a lot of money online and so want to offer the reader another perspective of how to tackle making this ‘making cash while writing about traveling’ thing work.
So, while no, I’m not making a living off of this particular blog as of yet. I AM making a full-time living through other pursuits and basically travel whenever I want. Thus, have plenty of opportunity to build up this website at my own pace, and with a variety of content. I’ve focused on creating lots of streams of income and Aesthetic Odyssey is just another one to be brought under the fold.
This creates a feeder system, in which, other projects throw off excess cash which helps to fund traveling. Those trips can be written about on a travel blog, creating more content and a larger audience. That content and audience can be monetized to make more money. That money is plowed back into travel and living expenses. Thus, the cycle continues on growing and perpetuating itself over time.
Don’t worry, I’ll explain everything and will indeed cover creating a website in the travel blogging niche in particular, but first I want to cover some other topics related to making money online. My focus has never been to become a ‘professional travel blogger’, rather, it has been to create a lifestyle from which I could do as I please…including going places and writing about it.
Remember, I said this post would be really long.
Considering the Source of Income
So, a lot of people want to start a travel blog because the enjoy writing and sharing their experiences on the road BUT they also do it to generate a source of income to fund their lives and travels. Makes sense, right? Why not get paid to travel?
I think that this is a mistake that a lot of newbies to making money online will fall into. This idea that, the travel blog is going to be a fruitful generator of income. Yes, it can be over time but it does take time to make that happen. Blogging isn’t very lucrative until you begin to have a large audience and up until that point, it is basically writing your ass off for free.
If you’re planning on funding your trips with a travel blog, it is going to be a while before that becomes a reality, and you will have to self-fund every trip that you take before that. Unless you’ve already traveled a lot, can translate those journeys into traffic generating posts, and can fund more excursions to blog about…you’re kind of stuck in no man’s land with a travel blog. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t launch one, you should, just know that you will not be bringing in the big bucks for probably a few years.
OK, so becoming a ‘professional’ travel blogger is probably a few years of work away, and we will be relegated to amateur status for the time being. Does this mean we have to work our 9 to 5 jobs, save money, and use vacation time effectively? I would recommend going that route but doing so while creating streams of passive income (or as passive as possible) to help bring in cash while we go about or daily lives and even while traveling.
Think about it. What do you actually need to travel?
- The time/freedom to do so
- The money to make it happen
Does this money have to come from a travel blog? Nope.
Since the money doesn’t have to come from travel blogging AND it is going to take some time to make such a venture profitable…should we not consider generating money through other means? Meanwhile, we can also be building up our travel blog, finding a writing style, and garnering an audience.
If done correctly, we could then have multiple sources of income to go along with whatever we could make through travel blogging (six figures a year is definitely doable, when you reach the upper echelons of this travel niche, but again, lots of work and time are required).
What is Passive Income?
Essentially, any revenue stream that comes in while you’re not working. Think of a dividend paying stock, you buy the stock, and each quarter (or semi-annually or annually) the company pays you a dividend. Did you have to do any work to get that dividend money? No, aside from the initial purchase and research of the company’s potential. There are semantic arguments about what constitutes ‘passive’ income, as there is usually some upfront work involved and maintenance to keep it flowing but for our purposes, who cares? If something like writing a blog post now, that still generates money for you in 5-10 years, is that much of a hassle then don’t even bother getting into making money online.
There are only so many hours in a day during which you can sell your labor by working a normal job. As such, creating passive income streams is almost a requirement for accumulating substantial wealth.
This is, in fact, how most retirees are living (outside of Social Security and even that too, I suppose) by having investments in passive income generating assets. Stocks, bonds, real estate, MLP’s, small businesses, micro loans, Lending Club-type arrangements, etc. A very traditional and effective way of creating long-term wealth and passive income, which I wholly advocate and partake in myself.
The problem with the traditional route of investing is that it either requires decades of gradual accumulation to create large wealth (unless you happen to hit on a few home run investments at a young age) or a large initial investment of capital. For example, if I had $1 million in cash right now, I could easily find a mix of investments to generate $30-40 K a year pre-tax to live off of. Getting a hold of $1 million in cash is easier said than done, however.
This is where the power of the internet can come in to help replicate having a large portfolio of holdings without having the capital to actually own those investments. So, if I have a blog that generates $10 K a year, this is the equivalent of having hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of diversified investments.
A real world example to help solidify this concept, an investment in the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSMX), and no, this isn’t an investment recommendation. In 2016, one share of this fund payed out $1.024 in dividends over the year. In order to get paid $10,000 in dividends, I would have had to own 9765.625 shares, worth roughly $581445.31 at the last closing price!
Instead, I own and have owned websites or other forms of online income generators, that have sent me the same amount of $10,000 in pre-tax income (and much more) without having to spend the $581,445.31 to do so. Plus, this income grew and was stable over years just like having a good portfolio or pension plan. Thus, the power of the internet.
Again, I’m not shitting on long-term investments, I love them. Just that there are quicker ways to wealth and it’s always good to diversify where your money is coming from.
Before You Quit Your Job to Create Passive Income Streams
Consider the fact that in order to markedly improve your lifestyle or even just have the ability to take more trips, you don’t need to replace 100% of you current income level. Let’s say, that after taxes are paid, a blog you own creates $100 each month in passive income. Is that not enough to take a nice trip after one year? Or be used to pay one or more monthly bills (cell phone, gas, some groceries, etc.)?
Over time, more income streams, whether they be larger or smaller can be added to help offset the cost of living and to reduce the amount of time that one needs to spend working at a traditional job. This doesn’t have to be the case where you have to ‘get rich quick’ and then quit working forever. Hell, you might actually like your current occupation, and just want the extra income to fund your interest in seeing the world. Me too! I’ve been at this since 2009 and I still work for a company, albeit from wherever I am in the world on my laptop, and have no plans to give it up. Even though, I probably could and get by just fine.
With passive income, play the long game, and keep building things up so that you have the flexibility to do exactly what you want. You don’t need to chase some vague notion of ultimate freedom within a year. That can be a long-term goal but short-term, set goals like having your cell phone bill paid for strictly from passive income, whatever that source may be. Then, once you’ve accomplished that smaller goal, set another and another and another.
Compounding has been called the 8th wonder of the world for a reason. It simply works. Imagine, eventually having something like 10 sources of income flowing into your bank account each month. Some of that cash gets re-invested into other assets like stocks, bonds, real estate, online business,etc. Each of those investments then generates even more cash which compounds over time. Soon enough, one would have a hell of a web of cash generating assets, that are constantly churning and not just while you’re on the clock at your job.
If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. This isn’t the scratch off lottery, creating sustainable income streams does involve planning and plenty of time invested. How much depends on the method one is using to create that income stream. For instance, a travel blog takes a much longer time to set up and make money than does a Shopify store. In the latter case, the set up of the store itself is a breeze. Figuring out what to sell, the product sourcing, and marketing methods will also take some planning. Yet, it will still be faster than a blog at making money because you could utilize Facebook Ads to sell potential customers on your products and possibly turn a profit within days. This does require spending money, however.
Passive Income Sources (Starting with Non-Passive Income Options Online)
We’ve now have a basic working knowledge of what passive income is and how it can be used to fund lifestyle improvements. Let us now move into different passive income streams that one could consider pursuing. I am going to give a brief overview of each type and try to explain and point to the right direction. Although, it still won’t be enough to fully explain how to do each, as it would require really detailed explanations which have been done by others on the internet already. If one of these ideas seems like something you may want to pursue, I would recommend taking the next few weeks researching and learning everything you can about a particular avenue before launching anything.
Pretty much any question you may have or problem you cannot solve has already been encountered by someone else. Use search engines and forums as an educational source on creating passive income. Yes, it is more work, but it will help out immensely in getting a clear path forward figured out.
Selling Your Labor Online (Non-Passive, Obviously)
The very first way that I started making money online 8 years ago, wasn’t by creating my own websites or businesses. I would write articles for hire and also write articles for a platform and then get paid based on the amount of traffic it was generating.
The first method, I really hated doing. I would accept gigs to write articles for other people’s websites. Usually, it’d be around 1000 words of length and I’d get paid $5-10 based on that length. I distinctly remember having to write multiple articles about different types of swimming goggles. Thousands upon thousands of words about fucking goggles…
I did this while still attending college and having a job where I worked about 30+ hours each week. While, I only made a $150-200 a month writing articles in my spare time, one could make a lot more than that if they had more time to set aside. If you can write coherently, you can always make money online.
I found this type of work to be tedious and hated the inane topics I was given to write about. On the other hand, it did help me to learn how to push through the boredom, and get work done regardless of my mood.
My other experience in this realm, was for a now defunct site called Associated Content. On this website, you were allowed to write about pretty much whatever you wanted, and then you got paid based on the number of page views it received. At my peak, I had published over 200 articles on the site, and was collecting hundreds of dollars in royalties each month.
Then, Yahoo bought out the site, and within a year or so it got shut down. This taught me the lesson about relying on one source of income and how easily it could be taken away. Even during that last year, despite the fact that I’d moved on to building my own websites, I was still getting direct deposits of $50-100 a month sent to my bank account.
Writing online, is a very labor intensive process, but you can make decent money doing it if you’re willing to do the work. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but if you want to make some quick cash you generally can. Though, in many ways it isn’t really passive, and you’re basically setting up other people’s income sources for them but getting paid one time yourself.
Again, there are a lot more sustainable ways to make money online, but i thought’d I’d mention it because it was how I got my start.
Another labor intensive option, is taking surveys online. I did this for a few months through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform. There were listings of hundreds of little gigs and surveys, which usually paid out between $0.50-3.00 each.
The trick was to identify potentially short surveys and try to bang out as many as you could. I figured out that when done well, I could make $7 an hour, which is terrible but when I was that broke, it made a huge difference. I would do an hour each day of this mind-numbing work just to get the extra $7 to pay for gas and food.
Fiverr and Other Freelance Service Sites
Fiverr.com is a freelance service marketplace. Meaning, you sell your skills to people who need them. If you go on there and explore a bit, you can get an idea of all the range of services that you can offer. Each gig, starts out at $5 a pop but you can add more advanced packages for much more.
The cool thing is, you can have a business on there selling services that makes hundreds if not thousands of dollars each day. In fact, there are certain gigs that if you have access to certain software, you can automate these jobs almost completely.
Now, I cannot get into specifics, having never sold anything on there myself. However, I’ve used services on there before and some people are simply raking in the cash. From writers to graphic design to social media follows and much more.
Still not really that passive, but it can get pretty close when done right.
The ability to sell your time and labor online is pretty endless in terms of possibilities but you will of course have to continually work in order to fund your travels and life. Now, let us turn to more passive sources of income.
Passive Income Sources
Blogging is akin to freelance writing except that you get to retain what you write for the rest of time. Meaning, you can continually profit from things you wrote in the past, and have a steady stream of income from it as long as it gets traffic.
There is of course work involved and a really good blog that is profitable in the long-term will be continually updated. An example, is like your travel blog that you want to start. You take a trip to Japan or wherever, write about it, and 5 years from now people are still reading about it. Hopefully, you monetized this hypothetical post well and let that money start rolling in.
One of the first websites that I ever created was a blog. It was about fitness/weight loss. This is a pretty easy niche to get into because there are always people searching for information about these topics. There is a lot of competition in this space, but with such a wide array of topics to cover, one could still get a lot of traffic over time.
I’m going to use a fitness site as an example on how to monetize a blog. I believe I only made a few hundred dollars from my first website attempt but then again, I didn’t know very much about it back in those days.
Methods to Monetize a Blog
- Ad Revenue
Google Adsense is the standard method in this space. There are other advertising platforms that I’ve used, but I found them to be pretty crappy for the most part. Adsense is extremely easy to install and probably the simplest way to monetize right off the bat.
Will it make you rich? Probably not. Unless you have massive traffic levels, it isn’t going to fund your lifestyle completely. I’ve been apart of the Adsense program for about 6 or 7 years now and it usually brings in a couple grand a year in revenue. You get paid per ad click and in many niches you might be only making 25-30 cents per click.
Still worth doing and become more and more lucrative as your traffic builds.
I’ll also note that once you get high levels of traffic, you can sell advertising space on your website to individual companies for a set amount each month. Your blog can become valuable real estate and you can get paid each month based on the size and placement of the ad on your pages. This kind of advertising can bring in thousands a month once everything is up and running.
2. Amazon Affiliates
Amazon Affiliates is such an effective program simply because of the size and scope of Amazon. An insane number of people visit that site each day, have accounts set up there, and routinely buy products for their daily lives.
How does it work? Let’s take our fitness blog example, say we have a post about the best workout supplements. In that post, we link to protein powders, creatine, or whatever for sale on Amazon’s website. When visitors click on those links, we get a commission on the products they buy within 24 hours. The percentage of that commission depends on the volume of sales that you generate each month and sometimes what category those products fall under.
The great thing is, it doesn’t matter if they bought any workout supplements. They could’ve bought a lawnmower and we would still get a commission. Heck, I’ve had people buy six laptops after clicking my links, and my website had absolutely nothing to do with computers or technology.
Amazon is great due to it’s high conversion rates and wide variety of products. I’ve seen some strange stuff pop up in my affiliate sales report, but I’m damn glad I’ve gotten my percentage of the profits.
People have built entire websites around Amazon Affiliates income. Though, putting all of you eggs in one basket is still hella risky. Some states are still not eligible to use Amazon Affiliates and it’s not available in every country either. You need to check out your area’s standing with them before signing up.
In terms of its ease of use, Amazon has the best affiliate program out there. It isn’t the highest paying but people will buy items off of that website so regularly, that it is really simple to make cash from it. For instance, one website I owned was getting really good traffic, and so I put product specific affiliate links to a retailer in that niche. Despite the fact that this retailer paid almost double the commission percentage that Amazon did, I still wasn’t make very much money from them at all. So, I switched to Amazon and within a week, I made more commission than I had in the previous month with the other retailer.
3. Affiliate Products or Offers
So, sticking with our fitness website example. What would be another way to monetize the site outside of just using Amazon affiliate links to sell supplements or exercise equipment?
Selling workout or diet programs.
One of the great things about creating a blog online, is that, someone probably already has a product related to the niche that you are writing about. The second great thing about this is, they’ll pay you a heavy commission to sell it for them.
Websites such as Clickbank.com, sell digital products in a large range of categories. Each of these products is available for promotion. In the fitness niche, this means workout and/or diet programs, that we could promote on our fictional website. Since there is basically no overhead costs associated with a downloadable product, the owners of these affiliate products are willing to offer 50-75+% commission rates.
How did I use this before?
I picked out a workout program from the website to promote and then began using the workout myself. While generating traffic through my other posts, I would also track my results for the reader and describe the pros and cons of the workout. My affiliate link would send any interested person to the product’s sales page and if they purchased, I would on average collect $35 a pop…depending on which package they bought. Sometimes, it’d be over $50 for a commission.
Do the math, if you can convert 1% of traffic into a sale, the cash can add up quick. At 1,000 visits per day, a 1% conversion rate would be 10 sales each day. If the product costs $47 and your commission is 75% of the sale, then your commission would be $35.25 x 10, or $352.50 each day! Even if you can only get one sale per day, it’s still pretty damn worthwhile.
Is that actually doable? Yes. Does it take lots of work and experimentation to get those sales? Also, yes.
Even though I wasn’t getting that much traffic, I would still bring in a few hundred in sales each month. Plus, the workout program was actually good, so I also got in shape in the process. This led me to the idea, that almost any pursuit that I take on in my life, I should find a way to get paid while doing it.
The funny thing about this was, I was still clueless on how to promote and get more sales. I basically just wrote about my success using the product and then linked to it. I should’ve given away free workout or diet guides in exchange for my website visitors email addresses and then marketed the affiliate product to them directly. I probably could have converted a lot more leads into sales, that way.
There are also affiliate offers where you might get paid for each lead, you send to the person selling a product. So, instead of a sale, you might get paid a few bucks if someone signs up for their email list. I’ve never really used these CPA offers because a lot of the one’s I looked into back in the day, just seemed kind of shady. Like, in the fitness niche, there were lots of ‘testosterone booster’ supplements being sold and offers to cash in on. However, I couldn’t bring myself to sell people on some kind of magic pill or some supplement that I had no idea as to what the ingredients were. Not only might it not work but it could be dangerous as well, so I passed on ever promoting that kind of thing.
There are more legit offers out there to help send affiliates clients and leads. Just do your due diligence before promoting anything and try to make it something that you actually believe in and use yourself.
4. Creating Your Own Products and Services
With a blog, you don’t have to solely rely on promoting other people’s products for a commission. You can instead, create your own products to sell or services to offer. In our ongoing example, this could mean selling fitness themed t-shirts or offering online coaching for clients, which is what a lot of online fitness personalities do.
In the travel niche, there are lots of bloggers who write travel hacking programs or offer blogging courses or things along those lines. I’ve also seen memoirs and travel guides available for sale on platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Store.
The upfront work on creating a product or line of products can be intensive, but also much more lucrative for the owner, who now has complete control over the rights of what (s)he is selling. As opposed to selling other people’s work for a commission. The sky is the limit, as to how much revenue one can generate through branding and creating products or services for visitors to purchase.
Moving on from just focusing on making money from a blog, I want to start with something that I mentioned in the last section, writing ebooks. While you can write and publish books related to your blog or website, you don’t in fact, need a website in order to make money from this method.
I’ve already published one Kindle book in a non-fiction category and have a second and third in the works, related to that topic. It was simply something that I knew I could write about, had plenty of potential readers, and which I could branch out from and create as many tangentially related books as I wanted to. All of this would be under the same ‘brand’ or author’s name, so once I’d gotten hundreds of sales and enough positive reviews, it wouldn’t take much for people to buy my next book..trust would be developed.
If you’ve got the ability to write and something you’d want to write about, it is essentially free to do (note: it’d be wise to pay someone to create a nice cover for your book, it helps with sales). On the flip side, you could shell out some money and hire a ghost writer to write the book for you.
The great thing is, that you could sell a book on virtually any topic that you want. If you like writing fiction, you can self-publish your work, and find an audience for it. There are tons of people who have done this and are making really good money each day, just off book royalties. The romance novel niche seems to be really popular (and competitive) and very lucrative.
As of now, if you sell a book for under $2.99, Amazon gets 70% of the sale. At $2.99 and up, you get 70% of the sale. I’m sure you can see, how easily this could be scaled up. If you eventually have five books for sale, you are getting commission on each sale, and if each book sells multiple copies per day…it starts adding up pretty quick.
The key to selling on Amazon, is getting positive reviews. Thus, you need to be able to get your book downloaded enough times, so that you can actually get those reviews because most people don’t write reviews. One common method, is to give away the book for free for a few days, and then promote the book on online forums, email lists, or to any potentially interested party. Once you have some good reviews, it becomes sooo much easier to sell your book. Trust me, it was much more of a pain in the ass to sell when nobody had reviewed my book. I got hundreds of people to download it for free and only then did I start getting reviewed.
Another big source of sales is getting put on other book’s pages. You know, the “Customers who bought this item also bought…” section on Amazon’s product pages. Once your book is linked all over the place on Amazon’s own website, you can start getting many more ‘random’ sales, that you don’t have to do any promotion or marketing for. All of this does of course, take time to build. Over time though, you can generate a nice income each month from your own publishing empire.
YouTube, Social Media
Social media sites, such as Instagram or YouTube, can of course be used to generate an income. It all strikes me more as a branding tool that you can use to generate sales or other sources of income.
On YouTube, upload videos and get paid through advertising directly. This then becomes passive income, as once the video is up, advertising revenue will trickle in as long as that video is getting views. I’ve experimenting making YouTube videos in the past and still get revenue in the form of Google Adsense out of the videos that I posted.
Honestly, the ad revenue isn’t all that attractive unless you’re getting massive amounts of views. Plus, you’re at the whims of YouTube, who can cut off that stream of cash at any time. However, YouTube is still an attractive option because it can be an amazing way to reach an audience and build a brand.
In terms of the travel niche, this can be a fast way to grow an audience, get traffic to a blog, and convert that traffic into some kind of monetary gain. Not only getting ad revenue from views but also being able to promote an ebook you wrote or a course you’ve created or getting email subscriptions from people you can market to later. Also, you can used paid advertising and target people who’ve already viewed your channel cheaply, and get them on an email list or sales page for whatever product(s) you’re promoting.
Instagram, is along those same lines as well. You can create your own audience, reach them on a daily basis to get them interested and build trust. There are also promotional opportunities available once you get a large enough following. For example, those ‘Instagram Models’, who promote BS weight loss supplements or other crummy products…please don’t do that if you make it big, promote something that’s actually useful.
If you can become adept at the social media game, you might be able to blow up your travel blog pretty fast…but of course you still need to create content, which means traveling, which means money to do so.
Having your own eCommerce store isn’t passive though, right? Not necessarily. It can of course involve tasks such as answering emails but it doesn’t have to be as laborious as it would seem at first.
Having a traditional retail store, involves having a physical space to sell and store your items. Beyond that, it’s a constant grind and you need start up money to fill your stock.
An online store, on the other hand, can be outsourced mostly or entirely depending on how it is set up. For example, if you were selling a digital product, really all that would be needed is for you to host the website and post the products. The transactions could be completely handled by a company like Paypal or some other service like the aforementioned Clickbank.
OK, but what about actually selling physical products? What if I want to operate a clothing line? Wouldn’t I need to store my items and ship them out myself?
Again, not necessarily. There are print on demand suppliers who will create a t-shirt (or some other items, ship out the package to the customer, and even handle customer service (if they don’t, you can outsource it to a third party). They get paid a portion of the sale for their services and you don’t have to pay for holding stock of the items you have for sale, up front. Most of what you would need to do is procure designs and set up a Shopify store and do any necessary marketing to get the brand off of the ground (or pay someone to do it but that lowers the profit margin). The physical labor and shipping side of things, can be completely automated.
You could also do it another way, in which you have the items you want to sell, manufactured. Then, whoever manufactures the products either stores and ships them directly to a customer or they forward them to a company such as, Amazon, who ships the order out to the customer.
Yes, you can create your own ‘Private Label’ branded products and sell them through platforms like Amazon, and not have to really do much besides secure a supplier and work out shipments from them. If you go to aliexpress.com, you can explore a huge variety of products from manufacturers around the world. They will slap your logo on them and Amazon will store and handle the shipping of the products.
As I’ve already mentioned, this is a simplification of the process, if you are interested in pursuing this sort of thing, take the time to research and learn what needs to be done from every angle. When dealing with physical products, there are a whole host of costs which need to be accounted for before you can generate a profit. This is one of the most difficult yet potentially rewarding methods of generating online income.
Let’s now move into travel blogging, specifically, and how we can make such a venture a success. To me, when it comes to blogging, there are two methods:
- Home-run swings
- Overwhelming Force
Swinging for the Fences
Home-run swings, are blog posts which target keywords with heavy traffic. For instance, if one had the first result on Google for the phrase, “Las Vegas hotels”…it’s immediately a massive money maker, overnight. Cash would be rolling in by the thousands, without breaking a sweat. Obviously, if you have one breakout success such as that, you’re set (hint: this is a very extreme example and in reality you won’t be getting anywhere close to the top for that result without a huge bankroll and time).
Aside from bloggers who don’t seem to have any direction, the most common thing that I see, is people just going for the biggest fish out there. They build their site based on the most obvious results of keyword research, the biggest search in their particular niche, and then get frustrated when their site really doesn’t get much traction. If you’re only going after the most competitive keywords, your results are probably going to suck, at least in the short term.
Long-term, you may actually begin to move up in the search results and start getting traffic for these big juicy keywords. However, it also is probably still a few years away, and in the travel niche, particularly crowded. You may in fact, never even rank for the most popular searches in a given category. One site that I own, doesn’t even make it on the first three pages of the search results for the most common searches in that category…yet, it still gets a ton of traffic. How?
Long tail keywords
What’s interesting about learning SEO and how to make a successful blog is how much you only pick up by doing and analyzing analytics data. While those ‘popular searches’ can get tons of traffic, the vast majority of traffic comes from long-tail keywords.
Long tail keywords are basically lengthier searches for a specific topic. So, if you wrote an article about weight loss, the main, most popular, and competitive result would be: ‘how to lose weight’. This is what a lot of people target and try desperately to get traffic from. But it’s insannneelllyy hard to reach that top spot.
A long tail keyword search would be along the lines of: ‘how to lose weight for my wedding in six weeks’ or even more specific than that: ‘keto diet meal plan to lose weight fast in six weeks for brides’. These kinds of searches are going to make up the bulk of the traffic that your blog gets from search engines like Google or Bing.
Luckily, one can build quite a heavily trafficked website with just long-tail keywords, and ignore completely the main searches. I would actually advise doing both, write the posts that target the ‘big money’ searches (just not too impossible to get like ‘Las Vegas hotels’ because you’re competing with mega travel companies and actual hotels) while creating the backbone of your site with long-tail keywords. Once you do develop some authority in a niche, you can often get really damn good rankings with just about anything you write.
You might not be able to compete with the big boys head on, however, you sure as hell can pluck traffic by writing posts that target keywords which aren’t even on their radars. With this strategy, you write many posts that target low competition keywords within a niche and sort of envelop and eventually overtake your competition, without them having even a clue it’s happening.
It’s a mix of writing lots of blog posts and going after low competition searches. This combined gives you a broad base of traffic and helps to build authority within a niche. It’s a solid way to gain a foothold when just starting out and can actually create hit posts which generate thousands of page views each month.
Across multiple websites, my most popular posts, are low to no competition posts and my main competitors seem to have no idea that they exist. Posts that have generated hundreds of thousands of views over the years and just continually crank out money each day. Low competition doesn’t always mean low traffic.
How do we find and rank for these searches?
Writing quality material can go a long way to helping you build a huge audience and helping you get ranked better on search engines. Search engine algorithms, take into account how long someone stays on your pages, and how they interact with it. If on both accounts, you score positively, you do get a boost to your rankings. By the same token, quality posts will also be enjoyed more by an audience and shared more…thus more traffic. This would be the ‘professional’ part of being a pro travel blogger.
Quality doesn’t necessarily mean length. At times, there is only so much you can write about a topic, and so it’s fine to produce some ‘quick hit’ posts. In those cases, I would target very low competition keywords, and get pretty granular with what I was writing about.
I will say though, writing lengthy and detailed posts, can absolutely improve your traffic and rankings. I have one website, where I have routinely made the posts be over 2,000 words each, and it has gone a long way in getting Google to give it respect and a proper placement. I knew that a lot of the other sites in that particular niche were kind of shallow and often spammy, so if I just focused on quality, I would have a consistent money maker. It worked. Even just from the length of the posts, I get so much random traffic because single phrases in my posts get picked up by the search engines.
- Writing original posts
- Having useful info
- Using pictures, video, and inviting reader engagement
The other pillar of creating lots of traffic to a blog is keyword research. Simply put, knowing what people are searching for in the travel niche, and writing topics related to those searches.
This can be done through writing on the blog or by creating YouTube videos. As I’ve said, YouTube is quicker to build an audience and get more views, but don’t discount the power of the written word. Having a nice YouTube channel in conjunction with a well thought out blog, can be easily built into something special, like a popular brand.
Focus on creating specialized posts. So, if for instance you’ve traveled to Kyoto, Japan…figure out what questions people commonly have about travel to that city. What are some cool things to do that people don’t know about, do you have photos and videos to help give them a visceral reaction to their trip, etc. Think of as many post topics you can about that place and get to creating. If you need to create a mix of thirty posts or videos simply about Kyoto travel, do so.
Where can you get ideas?
- Travel forums-look what people are asking and talking about
- Google search- use instant search results to see what queries are related to popular travel keywords. I’ll spend an hour doing this at times for my sites. Just typing related keywords and seeing what queries people are typing into Google and then formulating some posts based on that.
- YouTube videos- What are the most heavily watched travel videos on YouTube about?
- Google Analytics- once you have traffic, you can see what people are looking for before they come to your site and what your most popular posts are. How can you write another one, that gets the same kind of traffic numbers?
- Other popular sites in your category. People will often have archives you can dig through or ‘popular posts’ for the website that can help you to generate ideas about what works and what doesn’t.
Don’t go flying into creating a website blind, without having a clue as to what topics you’re going to cover. Take the time to create a list of 100 possible posts that you can write about and/or YouTube videos that you’d like to create. If you’re going to go the video creation route, think about what kind of shots you want to capture before you leave on your trips, and maybe even have a theme for the video. This way, you can have a coherent narrative and not just throwing crap together at the last minute.
Planning things out can be a huge boon to your ultimate success in any venture, this is especially true in building your own website and sticking to it. It’s easy to get excited about launching a blog or YouTube channel in order to document your travels but once that initial thrill wears off, it’s time to get to work, and having a plan of attack keeps you on the path of where you want to go. On my websites, I’ll keep 50+ post ideas in the queue, so that I can just log in and not have to think about what to write about and just do it.
Beyond researching what to write about, you should also be researching marketing tactics, traffic growth strategies, and exactly how to use different monetization sources correctly in order to maximize your eventual income.
Having Your Own Voice
There’s a lot to be said about getting lots of traffic from the usual suspect topic in travel blogging: reviews, travel guides, photo blogs, etc. However, with so many people already writing within this niche, there needs to be at least a little something that sets you apart from the pack.
Years ago, I read a marketing book, The Blue Ocean Strategy which broke down finding your businesses niche in an already crowded space. So for example, in the last decade-plus, energy drinks have become popular and many start up companies beat out the major beverage companies like Coke and Pepsi to the punch in this market. If they had tried to compete with them head to head in the soda business, these start ups would’ve been massacred. However, they found their niche, and established their market share.
This is what you must also do in the travel niche. Create your posts from a certain point of view, voice, or type of travel. You don’t have to follow the herd, in order to be successful. Persistence can pay off, as well as going your own way with things, as long as you have a legit strategy to keep things growing.
I don’t mean to say that, every single post has to be unique and earth-shattering. BUT, try to figure out what you’re going to bring to the table that will have people enjoying your work, and coming back for more. Remember, this is your website! Do what you want with it, make it your own, and actually have fun while you’re working on it.
Your entire presentation can determine what sort of audience you are going to gain. If you’re looking to build a website with more universal appeal, obviously the language and subject matter is going to have to be toned down to meet a general audiences sensibilities. Meaning, if in the future you’re looking for specific opportunities with corporate sponsors or want everyone to enjoy your writing, you’re not going to be able to go too hard on certain subjects or use certain language.
This site for example, I don’t particularly care whether or not it is marketable to all audiences. When I really get down to working on this and traveling more often, I’m going to write about and use whatever language, that I feel like. It may end up being a lot of narrative pieces, sort of like Hunter S. Thompson’s, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved”. In the end, part of this website could become very niche, and lack all appeal to a more generalized audience. That’s my choice, but if you want the opposite, you have to play by certain rules of what is generally deemed ‘acceptable’.
Setting Up the Travel Blog
I’m not going to delve too deeply into the technical side of setting up a website, as there are already complete tutorials out there on how to do so, step by step. It’s really outside the scope of this post, is actually really easy to do, but having me try to explain it through text wouldn’t be such a hot idea.
You are going to need (this all costs less than $100 a year and actually can be done for under $50):
- A domain name to register
- A hosting company to host your website.
Before you dive into registering a domain name, take the time to give it some thought. It his going to be your ‘brand’ from here on out, so it probably shouldn’t be basic or unmemorable. What are you trying to convey with your brand name? Is it something that’s catchy? Can you have a logo developed around it?
Once you have some ideas or a name that you’d like to go with, check to see if the domain is available, and if the name is available on social media platforms such as Instagram. It’d suck to have a great idea, buy the domain, and find out that someone else owns the social media names associated with it.
You can usually purchase the domain name and host your website with the same company. I have used either Host Gator and Go Daddy for most of my hosting needs in the past. Both have been really easy to deal with, which is why I keep them around.
Now, I’d say starting out that you should just purchase the single domain, and a basic hosting package. Once, the website grows larger and the traffic gets to be too much for the basic level package, you can just upgrade to the more expensive plans. For now, just go with what you need.
Okay, so, once you’ve picked out a domain name and have gotten set up with a hosting plan, it’s time to install WordPress on your domain. WordPress is simply a blogging platform which allows you to write, upload themes, install apps, and just create content in general for your blog. How you install it will depend on which host that you end up using (the aforementioned Host Gator or Go Daddy), BUT it is very simple to do with any host. Just run a quick Google search of how to install WordPress using whichever host you have purchased and you’ll get step by step instructions on how to do it. It’ll literally take less than 5 minutes.
Also, don’t worry if you don’t have any technical or coding know how when starting a blog, as WordPress is extremely straightforward to use and other people have created plugins that you can download for your website, and will automate sooooo much of what you need. I’ve been doing this for years and I only have familiarity with HTML code, every other coding language is gibberish to my eyes.
Once you’ve gotten WordPress installed, sign in to your blog using the name and password that you chose while going through the WordPress installation process. This is what you’re going to use to sign into your blog each time, so that you can get to your WordPress dashboard and begin creating content.
When you’re signed in, it is time to choose a theme for your blog, the theme is how your blog is going to appear. Initially, your blog will have the same default appearance, that WordPress chooses for you. It can take some time to find the right look that you want, so, you might just use a free theme for the time being and maybe buy a highly customizable theme once you’ve gotten your blog going.
Try to choose something that is ideal for photographs and is mobile optimized, as many visitors will show up on their phones nowadays, and they need to be able to view your content with ease. Fortunately, most theme options seem to be mobile compatible now too.
What plugins should you download? It kind of depends what you’re going for with your blog, but I like to use:
- All in One SEO Pack-Very helpful tool to write the blurb that appears in search engine results about a given page.
- An XML Sitemap generator- this helps search engines index your content
- A plugin like Quick Adsense, to put up my Google Adsense code in specific places for advertising revenue.
- Anti-spam plugin to help ward off fake comments and spammy links.
That’s the baseline of it and I may download other things based on my needs. Remember, if you don’t know how to do something with WordPress, someone has usually created a plugin just for that situation or task.
Now that we’ve gotten some ideas of what to write about and the blog itself set up, the next steps would be content creation, monetization, and marketing.
The interesting thing is, nowadays, you can wrap all three of them into one single format. For example, a YouTube video is both content and marketing for your travel brand plus you get the added benefit of being able to make money from ad revenue and other sources.
Deciding Which Way to Go First
Again, if you want to go full speed ahead with the traveling documentation, and get an audience very quickly…there isn’t a quicker way than YouTube. Of course, not everyone wants to be on camera and document their life and travels, as if it’s a television show. Soooo…there needs to be a decision about which singular path you want to pursue at the start or if you want to combine both written blog posts and YouTube videos/vlogs for maximum exposure in a short period of time.
If you don’t wish to be a YouTuber, the written word can still get your the results that you want, it is just going to take a longer period of time in all likelihood. That isn’t to say that you couldn’t have a viral post, that brings you an audience quickly, it just probably won’t happen that way.
Understand the mediums that you are working with, video is much more labor intensive with the filming and editing, than is just sitting down and banging out a blog post. On camera, you have to be entertaining in order to hook most people in, while writing you can have a bit more leeway towards being informational.
Understand that for the first month or two, search engines like Google aren’t going to rank your website very well (or at all in the very beginning). This is known as the ‘Google Dance’ where your blog posts are jumping up and down and out of the search rankings because your site is an unknown quantity. Don’t sweat it, this is just a temporary thing, but you need to know that you cannot rely on search engine traffic for the first few months of your website and it will build gradually from there.
One hint to use to get pages to rank faster in Google, is by submitting your URL directly to Google, after you publish a post. Many times it will be in the search results within 24 hours. New websites will still go through the Google Dance but it will definitely help out.
This should pose no problem to you, since you’ve taken my advice and have created a list of blog posts to write about, right? It’s during this first month or two that you should really go hard and establish your blog. This can either be by creating new posts on a daily basis or a mix of shorter posts and then longer authority posts. Either way, you should be writing everyday. No joke. If you cannot get yourself to write 1000 words per day, then you’re going to have an uphill battle, trying to have a go at a blog based website. Sure, it’s an arbitrary number, but it should take you long enough to write that amount and know that you’ve put forth good effort for the day. Plus, you will get lots more organic traffic, the more you can produce viable content.
For the first two months, see if you can create a new post on a daily basis to get yourself established. Or, do longer authority posts such as this one, on a not so daily basis. Just do the damn work! If you can get 30-60 posts up and running on your website, you will almost assuredly have a good flow of traffic within a few months. This way you can establish a beachhead and have plenty of content for you audience to read through.
If you decide to take the opposite tact and go down the YouTube creator path, don’t half ass it with lame videos. Either, do daily vlogs during your travels (there are plenty of entertaining examples of people to gather ideas from) or create really well put together videos that people will appreciate for the amount of time and skill that went into it.
No matter what, keep on creating new content, and expanding. I know it gets frustrating from the start, when you spend all of this time writing but not getting any traffic. But things start to turn around when you find yourself with hundreds of posts on your website and traffic trickling in around the clock…that’s when the money is made, you just have to get yourself there.
Monetization of a Travel Blog
You should start thinking about what type of monetization methods that you are going to use on your travel blog, as soon as possible, but you don’t have to implement them right away. It’s always good to have a plan or path to follow from the start, so you can just get it done easily, when the time comes.
The quickest way to make money (even if it’s just a trickle, at first) is by putting up Google Adsense ads within your content. I know that some bloggers and readers feel like it’s intrusive and opt out of seeing ads, but I don’t personally think it’s too much to ask to see three static image ads on a website. Pop up ads, get on my nerves, but I’ve never been bothered by regular image ads. But that’s your call for your own blog.
Secondly, is Amazon affiliates. That’s the easiest to do and now that they’ve begun to include UK and Canadian customers as a part of my earnings, instead of just folks from the US, it’s even better.
Reference the list from earlier in the post when deciding how you’re going to generate money from a travel blog, it might be best to stick with the easiest stuff at first but to have a good idea of where you want to eventually take things. Then, when you’re up and running you can write your book or design a product or whatever.
Marketing the Blog
I honestly don’t do too much marketing of my websites, and in fact, don’t do any for some of them. You can still get a lot of traffic by just writing posts and relying on search engines to direct people to your site. On the other hand, you can grow faster and diversify your traffic sources by doing even some basic levels of marketing.
Social media is of course a great way to retain your audience and gather new readers over time. Though, it can be like having another job, having to update all of the time and even create secondary forms of content just to get people to pay attention.
Then, there is guest posting…you writing articles on someone else’s blog in the travel niche and getting new readers from their website. As well as a nice link back to your website to help your search engine rankings. I’ve never actually gone out of my way to do guest posting, I’m kind of a lone blogging gunslinger, but if you reach out to other folks within the travel niche, you can of course find people to work with you.
Paid advertising is something a lot of people seem to be afraid of (because they don’t like spending money) but it is also one of the fastest ways to get traffic and generate cash (when you have something to sell). Running ads on Google and Facebook can get you as many people as you can afford . Not only that, the remarketing opportunities to people who have already visited your website or follow you on social media or have viewed your YouTube channel are endless.
Imagine, you’ve written a travel book or have created some form of product. Now, imagine utilizing ads to tell anyone who has visited your website in the past 3 months about it. When done well, you can see rates of return in the 4-8x range, of what you spend (depending on how well you can market).
Or you can just use it to boost your content, if you have amazing content, you can specifically target people who love to travel with your ads and have new fans coming in from that. You have to be willing to spend money at times, not when you’re broke obviously, but at some point during your journey.
Wrapping Things Up
At over 10,000 words at this point, I think that I’ve said plenty about the topic of becoming a travel blogger and making money online. I will try to update this post as I see fit or whenever I feel like there is even more to say on a particular point.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the scope of this project. Starting a blog is really easy, the real work comes with sticking with it and making it a professional occupation (if that’s your goal). Take things step by step. Write down a plan of what you want to accomplish, where you want to travel, and how you’re going to create content, monetize, and promote your blog.