‘Live Less Ordinary’ first started in the Halloween of 2012 my first post on Halloween in Manila. Now roughly one year later I look back at what we have achieved in the past year of blogging and more importantly what we have learned. Our original aim for Live Less Ordinary was to document experiences while living in Bangkok and travelling in Southeast Asia and of course to share with those interested in similar. Now one year and 209 posts later my blog has achieved over 100,000 page views and should now (hopefully) grow a lot quicker. With current daily page views between 500 and 1000 (around 700) I hope to achieve close to 100,000 page views per month by this time next year (fingers crossed). Below show a number of basics stats for the year. While there was fast progress in the first few months; the past three took a hit with hosting complications, down time, and inability to publish (thanks Godaddy). Also too much travel didn’t help (I don’t blog while I travel). I now have the next month to correct problems and to start pushing stats back upwards. Also stats from the past quarter (90 days) shows 90% of page views were from organic traffic (Search Engines) which was my aim (I rarely network). I have also been hitting my five key target countries; the US and UK and the three prominent Southeast Asian countries all in the top 5. With my blog on track I will review progress and analyze the five essential factors for success and for making money from travel blogs.
So I started with little to compare with. I don’t read books, magazines, newspapers and certainly not blogs. I have therefore aimed my Live Less Ordinary towards people like me. Lazy people who Google what they need to know and no more. They read the article, take away required info, disappear. This shows in high organic traffic (Search Engines) and also a high bounce rate of 60%. So how do I value my writing. This year (2013) I won Wanderlust Travel Blog of the Year (2013) which for me is unthinkable. That being said I was writing about what I eat for breakfast, lunch etc. The article was on Bangkok street food and my writing was rewarded for “enthusiasm, as well as the depth of information”. So I only do well because of my unique position where I can write about things which others cannot and this I was I add to all my blogs. Playing to my strengths. So for reading and writing I have therefore given myself 9 our of 10. I am not saying I am a good writer I just expected myself to be ****. So while I do value writing highly it tends to be of little significance when it comes to making money from travel blogs. Taking a back seat to more important activities such as link building, networking and SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Ridiculous I know but it is unfortunately hard to rank websites on writing and content. I do however rank writing highly as it does have long term benefits like building influence and credibility.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
I am a bit OCD with SEO, spending too much time on keywords, precisely editing each image uploaded. It takes a lot of time but time I feel well spent. I feel it it has paid off with my high percentage (90%) of organic Search Engine traffic and my site ranking high in keywords such as Living in Bangkok (3rd), Living in Bangkok Blog (1st), Northern Irish Travel Blogger (1st) and a whole lot more. The keywords to push next are Travel in Southeast Asia. While link building and networking tops many blogger agendas they forget who actually needs to be pleased. Everything I write is geared towards Search Engine Audience and Google will always be my best friend. 7 out of 10.
3. Website Development
Another area which isn’t necessary for travel blogging with outsourcing by far the smarter option. That being said I do like to learn and be in full control of web development. Where possible I will fix basic problems before I resort to outsourcing. This tends to be from trial and error and help from WordPress forums. Therefore most Web Development was done by myself and this goes for my other upcoming projects. In total I will have spent no more than $100 on Live Less Ordinary this includes installation, design, essential fixes and even marketing. When starting I did use a WordPress template but I feel I have made it my own. While much of the design, banner etc. was only temporary I have never felt the urge to change. I like to keep my site as clean, simple and user friendly as possible. While I don’t have any intention to learn in depth coding I am happy with what I have learned and taken control of. 5 out of 10 for doing more than what’s needed.
4. Link Building and Networking
As an independent blogger this is the least of my interests. That being said it is the most important factor for ranking websites and making money from travel blogs. To date I have ignored it. All link building I show here; winning more awards and recognition than actual articles written (I’m just saying). The problem is with little transparency of actual stats and figures on websites; the easiest way to rank them is by how many people link to the website. If people like a website it must be good right? This has lead to a prevalent link building and back scratching culture which leads to a surge in low quality webjunk. A practice which will likely be regulated in the near future; the reason I always value writing and SEO much higher. If needed I can join the herd at any time. For now I am testing my own marketing strategies and niche. Incorporating the newer networks where I can gain ground faster over the more experienced bloggers (Instagram, Pinterest). Instead of targeting global travellers I have looked for a more valuable demographic. A quick example below using Facebook advertising (freebie) shows two weeks targeting Global Travelers / Backpackers and a third week targeting English speaking domestic and ASEAN travelers. The latter easily the more valuable market and a proving a whole lot more responsive and engaging. As Google Pagerank and Alexia fade away the real value created should be in content, SEO and concentrating on these factors should (hopefully) pay dividends. For link building I give myself 1 out of 10. I really don’t like it.
5. Making Money from Travel Blogs (Expansion)
Build influence, build advertising contacts, build websites, sell links, build more websites, sell links. I wrote about holding off on monetization of Live Less Ordinary before but this is now something I will look at more seriously. With new projects to get my teeth into (Little Girl Big Planet, Curry Fiend, Home Swap Asia) and my shelved projects to get back to I have to consider my options. While I have focused more on long-term strategy over short term profitability. I may now have to flip this. I feel I have achieved what I intended; I have built my influence and credibility as a travel blogger and after a year my blog is strong. I know of travel blogs making around $20,000 a month on lesser stats than Live Less Ordinary. This tends to be through prolific outreach to other bloggers for links and advertising contacts. I can’t speak for the quality of these blogs (I don’t read blogs) but I like to think that every cheap blog has a similar return but one great or innovative idea can dwarf a hundred of them. To date I have ignored the monetization of Live-Less-Ordinary and therefore I give myself 1 out of 10 for Making Money from Travel Blogs. I have easily broken even with affiliates but have ignored the serious money out there. In honesty I’m just not overly greedy or interested in money. If it weren’t to expand I would ignore it completely. The important thing is I love what I do and live happy everyday.