Authority Site Online Business Plan Review

Internet Business Plan: Making Money with a Travel Blog

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! 

Research, Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui. Thailand

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? 

Back Links beginners Build My Rank Paid Tools The Keyword Academy

Build My Rank Alternatives

I originally published this post in November 2011 pointing out that people really didn’t understand how to use link networks. I’ve now updated it = UPDATED: March 2012 after Google de-indexed Build My Rank 

OK guys apparently the world changed and some of you didn’t notice. Ironic really, I’ve heard plenty of people whinging about not being able to get good backlinks. Or asking for alternatives to Build My Rank because the BMR blogs didn’t look “real” and weren’t niche specific.

There are two really obvious things that are apparently from Google’s swipe at backlink networks. First obviously backlinks from these networks were effective (otherwise Google would have just ignored them) and, in future you are going to have to play smarter. 

Bamboo builds strong buildings; Pandas like bamboo; links build strong websites; Khao Sak, Thailand

Build My Rank was not the only network to get deindexed and devalued, it was probably just the highest profile one amongst the make money crowd. SEO Nitro, SEO Linkvine. The sites that have not got hit are generally keeping a VERY low profile. 

This is quite specific – Google isn’t targeting spammy backlinks from forums, automated bookmarking or the other stuff you can buy for $5 at fiverr.  People who have spammed the hell out of their own sites are reporting no drop in rankings and no nasty messages in Google tools about “unnatural links being noted on their sites” 

This is all about networks which insisted on 150 -odd words of unique content. Google has found them and taken them down manually. 

So what do you do now to rank – what are the alternatives to BMR? 

Alternative 1: Forget Manufactured  Backlinks Make Your Site High Quality 

Yeah I know I probably just lost 90% of you. And no I’m not saying you don’t need backlinks – what I’m saying if you write really good content, engage with your readers, and be genuinely helpful. You will then, over time get natural backlinks, when people link to and promote your content. Its a sound approach, which will take a while, but at the end, you will be mainly Google-proof.  Not entirely – because you’d be an idiot to trust Google after this week – but a lot more than if you just have a mini-site of thrown together content that you don’t actually know much about. 

If you want to learn how to develop a long-term, high quality websites – CLICK to check out the Keyword Academy

Alternative 2: Find a Few High Quality links

I started a new site – 3 weeks later it was a PR3 – nine months later its still  PR3 and on page 1 for its desired keyword? What did I do? I gave it one single link from a PR3 site which I controlled which was relevant to the niche and didn’t have too many outbound links.

It not rocket science, it hasn’t changed any time recently. Some links are more useful than others. When you have access to strong links you will find it easier to rank your websites. 

Getting just one really, really good backlink can do more for your rankings than a 1000 crappy links. It will also look more natural to Google. 

What is a good backlink? A link from an authority site? So WTF is an authority site? A site which ranks well in the same niche as you, a site which has an engaged audience who find it useful, a page which has similar or the same keywords as you want to rank for, a site with PR (this is the least important factor). 

How do you get those links? Well as I said above the best way is to have such an awesome site that people in the same field WANT to link to you. But you can hurry up the process a bit. Its not rocket science. Its called guest posting. Try to find a blog who will accept a guest post from you. You’ll have to write really good content. You’ll have to make it possibly even more useful than the stuff you would publish on your own site. And in return they will give you a link. And you know what – you might even get visitors from that link – there’s a thought! 

Its pretty tough finding guest posting opportunities. You’ll have to contact a lot of webmasters, and expect a lot of rejections – or ignores. I hate doing it.  On the other hand after a while you get to know a few people in the same niche and then its a little easier.

It probably all sounds a bit overwhelming – and I can understand if you are pretty discouraged after the news of BMR. But if you give up now – Google wins – and I HATE letting the bullies win!

Check out the Keyword Academy – really – you’ll be pleased you did – its also free for the first month – so no risk to you. Really check out my new  Postrunner V2 Review – a great opportunity for quality backlinks. 

Back Links Build My Rank Paid Tools

Build My Rank Is Dead – Long Live Links

Build My Rank has been good to me. They’ve ranked my sites for years. It was easy, it was hands-off (I used an outsourcer), it worked. Until some time last night, my time.  I woke to find this: 

Unfortunately, this morning, our scripts and manual checks have determined that the overwhelming majority of our network has been de-indexed (by Google), as of March 19, 2012. Read more here

I wasn’t having a good day yesterday – seriously questioning what I was doing online and trying to figure out a new direction. Wizzley wasn’t living up to expectations, I was stuck in a funk of self-doubt and analysis paralysis. 

When I read the post above I expected myself to freak out. Oddly I didn’t. I know this means I’ve probably lost two sites which I’ve aggressively used BMR on – the same two sites which I’d just received the dreaded “notice of detected unnatural links” message in Google Webmaster Tools. 

Or maybe not. 

The more I think about this the more I see the opportunities. I finally know what I’m going to be doing over the next few months. 

First I’m not going to be doing anything Google would like me to do – so I will NOT be: 

  • I won’t be removing “unnatural links” to my two sites. 
  • I won’t be asking Google for reinclusion so they can run comparative stats and see which sites I removed. 
  • I won’t be removing content from BMR for the same reason.  

I’m not a conspiracy theorist – but I firmly believe that Google is playing a really two-faced game these days. Google does what Google needs to do to make it, not your or me, money. Although I don’t like this guy’s taste in MMO products – he’s spot on in this post about Google’s hypocrisy. 

I'd call Google the elephant in the room - but I like placyderms

Google Still Counts Links 

The mass de-indexing of BMR PROOVES that links still matter. I mean why deindex something that makes no difference! In fact THANK YOU Google for de-indexing BMR – now I know those links weren’t working (which I was beginning to suspect). 

So all Google’s huffing and puffing about social indicators and quality content – yeah may help – but links is still where its at!  I can’t believe they actually de-indexed the network though. Crazy – they could have just quietly devalued the links – would have been far more effective! 

Build My Rank Does The Right Thing 

And thank you the people behind BMR – because you are nice people. You’re not the first network to be hit – but you are the first that I know of who is offering pro rata refunds for the current month, will pay out affiliates before shutting the doors, and, this is the biggie – are offering to return user’s posts! Hell, some networks who have been de-indexed have even kept on trading! 

If you are a BMR member this is what you should do: 

  • cancel your subscription with Paypal for BMR (BMR can’t do for you AFAIK); 
  • keep an eye on their blog for when they release the tool to download your articles (unless of course you kept a copy of all your BMR posts on your hard-drive – yeah me to!); 
  • give in a few weeks and then quietly use that content either on other networks, or on your own network. (After all, its de-indexed now – not duplicate content!) 



Sorry – Its Been A While

Bad, bad blogger. What can  I say – as soon as I get some traction going on this site – I don’t update it for 6 weeks, and don’t even manage to get an income report out for my email list! I guess this is why I need to have too many blogs – so I can ignore them on a rotational basis! Why am I ignoring this one? Well, really, because I have nothing new to say.  Mum did say, if you’ve got nothing nice to say, say nothing! 

Nothings much changed. Wizzley is doing OK, but not spectacularly. It would probably do better if I’d manged to get more than under 80 articles up there though! And yes that is my entire output for the year pretty much.  

Wairarapa, near Wellington, New Zealand

Far from surging ahead my income is stalling and slowly declining (thanks HubPages). I will need to pull money out for the flexiloan to pay tax next month – upsetting that. 

I feel like I am flying blind without Market Samurai. Traffic Travis – is the best of a poor set of choices for monitoring sites. It does OK, its a bit slow, and you will probably need to pay for proxies to keep it running.  I leave it running on a back screen and its doing the job. 

Looking For a Rank Tracker For Web 2.0 Sites

I was using Keyword Strategy to track Wizzley articles – but Fraser has just dropped a whole lot of his functionality – so I now have no way to track Wizzley articles – anyone got any ideas on that one people? I find it very useful to see where articles bounce too on initial release – if they show up on page 5 or 6 or higher I know its going to be easy to rank them. Its a far more reliable, in my experience than worrying about competition metrics. 

I am so tired of Google killing good tools! (Oh yes I really sure that the only reason Fraser has dropped this functionality is from pressure from, I mean is it a bloody crime to want to know which articles are worth promoting and which aren’t? Apparently! 

Build My Rank is still working just fine, despite rumours to the contrary. And also despite me redirecting my contractors efforts away from them for over a month, the ranking I have are holding just fine. It just seems that Adsense is not paying as well these days. 

No, I still haven’t done anything with my main travel site or my eBook site. I haven’t done any promotion, and I haven’t written any more eBooks. 

Where To Next

Well now I am flying blind with Wizzley – I think  I will switch my attention for the moment. I’ve noticed one of my sites I last posted on nearly 6 months ago, and last built a link to 3 months ago – is suddenly getting some traction. Watch this space – and no you won’t have to wait another 6 weeks for the next article 🙂