I’m proud to publish Andy’s Travel Blog 500th post today, just a couple of weeks before the blog’s 4th birthday. Normally for milestones like this I like to do something fun and take a look at cool statistics, but I kinda just did that earlier this month. So today I want to talk about travel/photography blogging and what I’ve learned over the past 500 posts.
1. Blogging is hard work!
What you typically see on a blog post is text and pictures (hopefully good pictures!). In reality there’s much more that goes into a blog post. I use WordPress with the Yoast (for SEO) and SNAP (social network auto-poster) plug-ins and typically follow this workflow:
- Deciding blog post topic
- Researching as necessary
- Taking pictures
- Writing the post
- Editing images and formatting for web
- Inserting images, making sure each one is tagged properly for SEO (search-engine optimization)
- Proofread the post
- Write excerpt
- Decide on post title
- Add internal links to other posts on the blog as relevant
- Categorize and tag the post based on the content of the article
- Use Yoast to optimize the post for SEO (adding keywords, refining meta description which shows up on search results, etc.)
- Decide on featured image (the one which is displayed on the front page before you click the article)
- Check how the post will appear on social media (using the SNAP plug-in) and adjust where appropriate
- Publish the post!
- Reply to any comments that people leave
There’s probably a lot I could automate, but I like tinkering with everything myself, makes me feel like I’m in a bit more control of everything. Honestly, though, this stuff wears me out sometimes. And I don’t even post that consistently! There are wonderful blogs whose writers I know and they post anywhere from 3-12 times a day! I’m lucky if I get a few posts out in a week, but I’m trying to change that, although I’m not sure how they find the time to do it as well as they do.
2. You MUST find your “voice”
Just about every list or article on How to Blog will tell you “find your voice”. I’ve struggled with defining what “my voice” is but I finally realized it was much simpler than I was making it: do my posts sound like they were written by me or by someone else? I’m proud of the simple, conversational tone I’ve settled into and I’ve been fairly consistent, so that’s good. I like to write as if I were explaining it to someone in person and I think it makes the articles a little more approachable.
A word of caution, though: the voice of this blog sounds like me because it’s named Andy’s Travel Blog. I’m narcissistic-ly the main subject of this blog, so writing everything from my viewpoint makes sense and is expected. If I were more of a breaking news blog then that voice might not be appropriate.
Having a consistent voice is very important to me because it helps me realize if something sounds out of character as I’m writing it. When I notice that I can either rewrite a post, explain to my readers why I sound angrier/happier than normal, or decide not to run a post altogether. My voice is like a little editor on my shoulder, if you will.
3. “Building an audience” looks a lot like “consistent hard work”
Some of the BoardingArea blogs I read most often are View from the Wing, One Mile at a Time, and Rapid Travel Chai. All of these men have tremendous followings and they have one big thing in common: they post quality content consistently. You can tell their heart is in what they’re doing and they’ve made choices which have allowed them to blog while potentially sacrificing in other areas of their life. When I look at my numbers and they’re not where I want them to be (which is most days) I ask myself three questions:
- “Are you posting consistently or taking time off when Real Job and Real Life get too busy?” If I’m posting consistently it means my readers know I will be there for them with new content which is hopefully interesting and relevant to them, otherwise why would they keep coming back? The times I’ve had the most consistent traffic are when I’ve been posting quality content consistently. If I want to increase my traffic (I do) then it has to be on purpose, it won’t happen accidentally.
- “Do you ask people to stick around and add comments and subscribe?” I usually don’t do this, hence the reason my comment volume is relatively light for a blog with the size of audience I have. I need to get better at this, particularly with something like a newsletter. I have a subscription link on the sidebar of my blog, but most of my traffic is via mobile devices these days so this will need some work.
- “Why should people keep coming back?” This is the question where I have to take a hard look in the mirror. Sometimes the content on this blog isn’t very good. I’ve authored 496 of these 500 posts and I know there are some stinkers out there. If I’m content to put something in front of my readers that isn’t my best why should I expect them to invest time with me? I’m trying to get better at this, I know not every post will be a home run but I at least want you to be happy you came by, even but for a moment.
4. Blogging is an easy way to earn a little bit of money and a hard way to earn a lot of money
It’s not hard to make a little bit of money in blogging. By “little bit” I mean a few dollars per month. There are numerous ad services like Google’s AdSense who will monetize your site and throw you a few shekels every month, and affiliate services like CJ or the Amazon Affiliate Program will pay you a commission for sending customers to their sites.
It’s hard to make a living with a blog, especially one in my segments (travel and photography). There are thousands of blogs out there writing about the same things as all of the other blogs. It’s tough to get enough attention from loyal readers as well as first-time visitors to make a ton of money from this. You have to love what you’re blogging about first, the money’s simply not enough to be the main goal of a blog. If you someday amass a huge following and are bringing in thousands of dollars a month so much the better, but it will most likely take a very long time to get there (I’m certainly not there yet).
5. I’m thankful every day that I get the opportunity to blog
I’m a proud member of the BoardingArea network of travel and points blogs. They have an amazing support team who puts up with my wacky requests and design change ideas. I couldn’t do this without them, they free me up from a lot of the technical things with running a website and allow me to simply just blog. I’m not where I want to be yet but I’m thankful for the over 300,000 readers who have given me grace and time to figure out some of this stuff. My goal is to bring you higher quality content more often, content you’ll be proud to share with your friends and will inform, entertain, and inspire you.
So what have I really learned after 500 posts? I’m just getting started.