Back in January I talking about business planning – and at the time I expected to do several follow up plans which would detail business plans for several of my bigger websites. But it never happened. Why not? Frankly – I was stuck! I couldn’t figure out a business plan for my favourite niche – my main travel blog. So I did, nothing.
Well I did think – quite a bit, and thought of and discarded dozens of plans. Now, several months later, I do indeed have a plan. If you just CLICK HERE I will tell you how to make $997,999 in the next 7 days while planning your next vacation. Nah sorry – but I’ll tell you what I’m trying to do – who knows it may even work out!
Travel Blogging Is Tough
My first website (it wasn’t a blog) – was in travel – it never made a cent. I still have the domain, now it makes a few cents with Adsense. My first blog is long gone (I have the content somewhere on the hard drive). It was the classic: this is what I’m doing type trip diary. Then I discovered you could get paid to write posts about specific companies – then I lost all my page rank and also all the well paying posts. Lesson learnt – don’t blog for cash!
Then I discovered Internet Marketing – found out just how highly competitive most keywords were, and how little interest I had in writing about “Disney hotels with kids club” or “luxury Alasakan cruises” and dropped the whole idea of making money from travel.
For a while.
But I do really, really like travelling. And I’m good at it – I’ve done a lot of it. I am the go-to travel agent for friends. Unless of course they want to know about Disney hotels or Alasakan cruises!
Every year or so I’d look at it again. I learned a whole lot about SEO – it was a tough niche – don’t think that Expedia or Tripadvisor show up in the search listings by accident!
I figured out that long-tails in travel could add up to decent traffic. But still I did very little about it – why? Because traffic won’t pay the bills – traffic is a requirement for a successful website – but you need to figure out a way to monetise that traffic. And I hadn’t.
Travel Blogging – Where’s The Traffic From?
Today I answered a thread over at The Keyword Academy forum – someone had around 7000 visitors and month and not a single Adsense click. I asked simply: where was his traffic from? It was social. He’s worked hard to get this traffic (spread over 3 niches and only in a few months) – but basically the instant he stopped tweeting, facebooking, g plus oning, and pinning – the traffic disappears. And although he may eventually make money from the traffic – it won’t be for a long time, and it won’t be from Adsense.
I’ve seen travel bloggers hesitate to travel – because they thought the destination in question didn’t have good Internet connectivity… Anyone see why that is deeply wrong?
Which brings me right back to the most reliable form of traffic I know – Google. Yeah I know their are plenty of people saying diversify, diversify – but at the end of the date whether I publish this post in the next hour or in 3 months time – will make very little difference to this blog’s traffic. Most of it comes from Google, and most of it comes to posts that are years old.
But bloody hell the competition is flipping fear in travel. I’d looked and looked for “green keywords” in travel. Never found any. I was scared off.
I kept buying toys and playing. I particularly enjoyed playing with Ton’s Keyword Researcher tool. I threw a few terms in around Thailand travel. It came back with some nice long tail phrases. I tossed some of those phrases into Fraser’s Keyword Strategy tool – to give me the search volumes (could have done the same thing with Keyword Academy‘s Niche Refinerary but would have taken longer). Right so – Google is telling me that the terms that Google GAVE me have no searchers. And the terms made sense, and were similar to questions I’d seen asked in travel forums. I built a couple of pages. I interlinked them. I added some backlinks.
Up until a week ago I hadn’t posted on the site since October. I hadn’t built a link since before Christmas. I had 1000 uniques in the last month, 85% from Google, and 20% of the visitors were for search terms which had no search traffic according to Google!
And that 20% of terms that had no search volume? Most of them were variations of the terms from Keyword Researcher! (I’ve been fairly on the fence about Keyword Strategy – but I do REALLY like the way it gives you rankings for all the obscure one off search phrases you get).
Travel Blogging: How To Monetise
This has been my stumbling block – forever – with travel blogging. How the heck do you monetize it? The standard ways to monetize blogs seemed to involved either:
- promoting the blogger’s brand in order to launch that career of public speaking or writing: see The Art of Non-Conformity or NomadicMatt. Problem: I loath public speaking and I don’t live in the US or Europe so my chances of getting on the conference circuit are zero. If you want to write books these days I see no point in doing anything except self-publishing.
- Getting freebies for press trips, promoting certain hotels or travel companies in return for goods and services: see yTravel or GoBackpacking. Problem: I’m not single, and have zero interest in travelling my own country. Travel freebies never include the airfares – so suddenly I’m paying to travel solo somewhere I may or may not have wanted to go to – and this is the killer -in a GROUP. Yuk no thanks. I’m sure there was a point in my life when the thought of free trips and 5-star hotel stays would have been very exciting. But no longer.
Which left me with
- Adsense – most of the topics I am interested in don’t give great CPC’s
- Affiliate programs via hotel and airline booking sites. Again awful commissions. On the other hand if this post is right – there is money to be made in hotel affiliates with the right traffic.
- Selling my own products. I wrote a book. I have 3 or 4 others – 1/2 finished. Then I got confused – should the content go in a book or on my websites? Both?
- Selling ads. There are of course ads and paid links. Paid links are awful, terrible, a blight on the landscape of the Internet, and very popular in the travel niche. Ads are just that – ads. The difference? Add the no-follow tag to a link and its an ad. This monetization method still seems to work for many in the niche.
And then suddenly I realised – I was overthinking it.
I need traffic and I need the social stuff – because advertisers use both to determine what a site is worth to them. There are enough monetization options to worry about the fine details later. Those options are not trivial amounts of money either – for example see Kirsty’s earning reports – almost all of her income is from direct advertisors and all her sites are travel sites. And she spends most of her time volunteering in places that don’t have great Internet.
I’ve redone the site. I’ve now got a “travel blog” separate from my distinctly keyword focussed content. I will silo the keyword focussed content even further (also making it more attractive to future advertisers). Thanks to the magic of Catalyst I didn’t even need to get another theme, just changed the skin and did some different layouts.
Oddly the whole BMR debacle has really energized me. As they say in New Caledonia plus ca change, plus c’est le meme chose. I think I just narrowed my focus down from about 30 sites to two – but apart from that – its all business as usual LOL!
What about you? Are you changing your business significantly after the recent Google changes?