The highs and Lows of travel blogging – where to from here
February 4, 2016
There are hundreds of articles out there telling you how to become a travel blogger and nearly as many telling you how nearly impossible travel blogging is. This is my frank account of my first 15 months as a relatively unsuccessful travel blogger and where I want to go from here to turn all that around.
I started a travel blog for two reasons. I wanted to improve my writing by setting myself a regular schedule and taking feedback from a wide range of sources and I love travel. Not in that “if you’re not interested in travel there is something missing in your life” kinda way but come on if you’re not interested in travel……Ok maybe three reasons. I also wanted to grow a profile to support my first book. Yes me dyslexic self-published author extraordinaire wrote a book, two actually but the first one Stress Free Adventure Planning was all about planning for travel and it’s a damn good book. Don’t get me wrong it pretty much failed miserably but that does not mean it’s not a good book packed with all my years of travel experience, tips and tricks.
This is not a sob story, I don’t feel bitter about its failure, I know more or less the main reasons it didn’t sell. Firstly, there is too much info in the book, it is trying to be all things to all people and in doing so doesn’t appeal to any one audience. Secondly it was my first book, I poured my passion and knowledge into the book but the first addition was lacking in formatting and editing (each edition is improving as I learn) and I designed it to work on a phone or kindle specifically so it would be useful on the road. Lastly because I am an unknown self-published author with no following and friends who are not my target audience. Maybe one day I will re-write the book in a way it will be able to reach and help all those new travellers that first inspired me to start writing.
The point is I have a huge passion for both writing and travelling and started writing this blog as a way to express that rather than to make money. After I had been blogging for around six months, I felt like my writing had improved and I had found my voice. I would occasionally read articles on how to turn your blog professional and think, one day when I build up my stable of articles and a following I might give that a go. But still I was writing for myself and for all those searching for the answers to the same questions that I was when I started travelling.
I have now been writing posts every week for just over 15 months. I have 20 subscribers and between 200-500 page views a month. Sooooo yeah not exactly successful. Recently it has gotten to the point where I am just going through the motions. I still research, write, promote and share interesting articles on travel and reading on social media. This alone takes me at least a whole day every week not counting any of the other writing I am supposed to be doing. But I have slowly stopped my quest to evolve my blog, the AdWords and Facebook advertising has fallen by the way side, as has the web site improvement, special promotions and a whole range of other strategies I was working on to enlarge my network. The fact is it costs me time and money to continue and I get very little return for all of this work.
In fact the single most soul destroying thing about this endeavor has been realizing how little support I am going to get from friends and family. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not dissing my amazing friends or my lovely family, I just genuinely didn’t realize going into this how hard it would be to build a network and that even getting my existing friends to take simple actions like liking and subscribing was a multi-level strategy worthy of Sun Tzu. Put it this way I had no idea how to build a following and this has been a far bigger handicap than my dyslexia ever was in sharing my work with others.
There have been days when I have seriously considered throwing in the towel and then someone will send me a message or comment on a link I have shared. Someone I don’t know well and had no idea even knew I was blogging and their small words of encouragement and appreciation remind me all over again why I wanted to write this blog in the first place, to help answer all those questions I had when I first started travelling. This was never about profit, helping even a few people makes it worth all the hours of writing and researching.
So for the time being I am going to continue blogging, there may come a time when I think it is no longer working for me but right now is not that time. See I believe I am not special, I am just like everybody else and that means that if I work hard, I have just as much chance at making a success of this as any of those who are making it work right now. In a perfect world it would be nice to have the blog pay for itself, by that I don’t mean making me a full time living but at least cover my time and expenses working on it and to do that I need to make some changes.
I see four major flaws in my current strategy:
1. Branding, my blog doesn’t have a name, it is simply Ann K Addley travel blog and I think this will need to change to make it more easily identifiable.
2. Topic, I have noticed that most of the articles in the top twenty travel blogs center on what to do at a location. This may be a handicap for me but frankly these articles don’t interest me unless I am about to head to that specific location. Travel stories and general problem solving articles are what I read personally and what I am going to continue to focus on to keep my passion strong.
3. Networking, I can be terribly antisocial and find networking seriously difficult. If I want to grow my audience I need to do the following; Engage influences on social media, not just like and share but speak to them. Attend author/writing events to enlarge my network and improve my writing and lastly write guest blog posts and submit them to popular sites to help reach new people.
4. Self-doubt, my business model says that if I can persist through this period of the unknown, of never knowing if you are doing the right thing in the right way, of just keeping on producing, success will come to the last man standing. Oh but this is hard. To try and improve my chances of making the right decisions I am going to look for a mentor, not someone I have to pay or someone to go through and “fix” my business, just someone who has been through this process that I can talk through ideas with from time to time.
I am not counting spelling/grammar/style as one of my problems which is new for me, these are in ongoing evolution and I hope are slowly improving every day.
So that’s about it. 15 months of travel blogging has had its ups and downs but despite my mediocre level of success, I believe that this blog has improved me as a writer and certainly grown my knowledge of the writing business from website development to Facebook advertising. If you have any feedback or ideas, if you would like to see more or less of anything in future posts please email or PM me I always welcome your feedback on my efforts. For now I just hope you enjoy my posts and if you know any struggling bloggers feel free to share this post so they know at least they are not alone.