The many trials of an aspiring travel blogger

I hope that in the months and years to come I’ll look back on this blog post and laugh. Not because of how it’s written but because Man vs World™ will be far more successful than it is right now.

I’m still relatively new to the world of travel blogging, having launched the website that you read now at the end of January 2012. What started as a hobby, a way to keep my writing up to scratch, soon became an obsession.

How do I blog? How can I get more hits? How can I increase my page rank? Should I sell in-text links? These are the types of questions that now keep me up at night.

Me outside the London 2012 Olympic Stadium

Month on month I’ve seen nothing but growth, going from, say, ten hits a day when I was starting out (if I was lucky) to more than 300 in a day for my recent 30 nicest travellers to follow on Twitter blog post.

It’s nothing compared to the big boys, sure, and I rely on an awful lot of those hits coming from Twitter – but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.

And I even got my new job because of this blog, having demonstrated the kinds of skills worthy of a position as content editor for an online guide to New Zealand’s bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes.

You could say it’s all going swimmingly, except that it’s not. I want more.

I want more page hits, a higher Google page rank and, ideally, a little bit of money and a knighthood for my troubles.

The Mannequin Pis in Brussels, Belgium.Do I ask too much?

I run at least two blog posts a week – but that’s the easy part. I’m a journalist, not a professional blogger; I can write but I wouldn’t know the first thing about building a successful travel blog.

How do I deal with companies trying to give me free guest posts? Should I accept companies trying to buy links from my site? Are in-text links worth the potential Google penalty? And if they are how much should I charge?

I suppose I should be flattered that I’m getting these offers now (I am). It must mean my blog is on an upward trajectory (it is).

But it doesn’t make my life any easier.

The crushingly beautiful island of Nang Yuan

Funnily enough, what does make my life a little easier is the work of other travel bloggers.

I’ve covered some of my inspiration before, in my blog post about the most useful resources for new travel bloggers, but I’d like to shine the spotlight on a couple of travel bloggers who I’ve emailed directly for help in the past.

I like to think of these blogs as Man vs World’s big brothers. They are Packs and Bunks, The Road to Anywhere (we share the same WordPress theme!) and Wandering Earl (the nicest blogger out there despite the fact he won’t follow me back on Twitter!). There were others, too, but I want to wrap this post up.

I’m not saying new travel bloggers should start hounding these nice people; I’m simply highlighting the fact that you might be surprised how readily other travel bloggers will help you.

The Golden Gate Bridge

I haven’t cracked the winning formula to a top 100 travel blog yet. Hopefully in time I will.

In the meantime I’ve got to decide whether to risk compromising a blog post or two for a small payday.

It’s a long road to the top if you want to travel blog.

About Simon Petersen 309 Articles
Travel blogger, journalist, sports and movie fiend. Chronicling the life and times of a Kiwi at home and abroad.

34 Comments

  1. I’ve had WanderingCarol.com for 4 years now and I’m still dealing with the same issues you are! In fact, I’m just starting to care about them. Coming from a print background, I’d say was easier to break into the Chicago Tribune Travel Section than dealing with SEO. I got slammed by Penguin and Panda and my numbers are finally crawling back up. What did I ever to do you Panda? What? WHAT? I’ve got to say, though, I still am crazy about blogging, and love having no editor. Um, nothing against all my wonderful editors. Really.

  2. One day I’ll start getting traffic, things are improving, I’m on about 30/day now on a 2 month old site. It does get ridiculous though, I’ve been up since 1am trying to do some technical thing, the kids will be up soon, demanding breakfast. I’m glad I started blogging a long time before we set off on ths RTW with the kids, I can’t imagine figuring all this out while we’re actually travelling, so much to learn! You’re good at what you do Simon and thanks for supporting my Facebook page. Alyson.

    • No prob, Alyson – I wish you all the best! I feel kinda guilty finding it tough going when you’re doing exactly what I am but you’re raising children too!

  3. Welcome to the dark side bro!
    …keep travelling and enjoying your holidays as a priority! I much prefer skipping a few post in favour of a good party or a surf!

    • Haha, it sure does! And I’m way more obsessed with my blog than I ever have been with any work I’ve done as a journalist – I suppose that’s because it’s my face up on the banner!

  4. I feel in the same boat. I’ve been blogging for 18 months and still obsess over page views and get jealous when I hear of other bloggers getting tens of thousands of visits a month.

    I’ve taken a few easy pay days but I feel if you want to taken as a serious travel blogger you have to avoid the quick and easy money and look at the long term.

    Like you say, it’s a long road to the top!

    • Thanks Paul, you know I think you’re the first one here to mention the money! It’s interesting to get another perspective on that. The first pay day I had, I saw it sort of as a badge of honour – like I was a big shot. Now I can see that to be taken seriously, like you said, sometimes you have to turn them down.

  5. Best of luck and continued success. You’ve got a great blog, and the numbers will come.

    I’m lucky, I guess, that my blog is a hobby and not something I ever see being a career. I like seeing my numbers climb, but I’d do it even if I had no numbers.

    • Thanks, Erik. A career out of this would be nice – but I think I’m the same in that I’d probably continue even without that many readers. But don’t go anywhere – I still want readers! Haha

  6. Rising in the ranks of blogerdom takes time and perseverance.

    If you can continue to keep up your efforts and produce quality content (and perhaps increase frequency) you’ll get where you want to be.
    .

    • Thanks for the comment! I’m trying to keep the quality up (it’s just not in my nature to do anything half-assed) – because there’s nothing worse in my mind than reading a blog that’s poorly written

  7. As an experienced journo who’s just got into the travel blogging thing I’m in a pretty similar position to you Simon – although somewhat further behind.

    One of the hardest things I’m finding – apart from getting exposure – is writing “authentically”. I’ve been a hack for newspapers so many years writing hard news, relaying the views and opinions of others, I find it difficult to write subjectively from my own experiences – speaking for myself.

    I keep finding myself writing in this perky “travel writer” voice instead of the irritable, cranky bastard that I’m pretty sure is the real me.

    Anyway, suffice to say I relate to how you’re feeling with all the stats stuff too. I look forward to following your progress. Cheers.

    • I know exactly what you mean. I feel like I’m still trying to find my voice a bit – maybe I’ll just embrace being really positive on here even though my normal writing voice is probably much more sarcastic.

  8. I wrote a similar post last week – I found that the desire to make it to the top in travel blogging was starting to affect how I write and how I travel. My conclusion was pretty much consistent with the advice you’re getting in the comments – focus on the writing well and writing what you want, and the accolades will follow (hopefully). That’s my plan – we’ll see if it pays off.

  9. You’re too good a writer to just play the numbers game Simon. I know it’s easy for me to say because I don’t give a toss about SEO, but write what *you* want to write about. I have a sneaking feeling that those are the posts readers connect with the most, which is ultimately the main goal of blogging, right? 😉

    • Thanks, Rachel – that’s kind of you to say! It doesn’t make it easier having a job now… but you’re completely right.

  10. Thank you Simon! I am just starting on this road and it is full of speed bumps! Your post made me realise that there are others out there with similar concerns. Ultimately I believe in the power of travel and I know that being true to myself will help me work out the best way of negotiating this tricky but fun road. Thanks again 🙂

    • Yeah, there’s tons of us out there in similar situations. And we’re not really in competition with each other – so we should help one another if we can. Good luck!

  11. As a fellow travel writer, I know exactly what you mean, Simon!

    There’s this tendency to get caught up with numbers and stats, but the problem with that approach is that there isn’t much “heart” in it. I find that its much more gratifying to put my focus on connecting with my readers in an authentic way. That doesn’t mean I don’t try to be mindful of keywords, but it does mean that people come first. 🙂

    • I hear ya, mate. I’ve been trying to do a combination of both types of posts, ones that are more colourful and ones that are more about SEO, but I know which ones I’d rather write!

  12. It’s never as easy as most people imagine and I agree with what Dean said…when I stopped checking my stats it was the best thing I could have possibly done. Get rid of that worry, get rid of that frustration and just continue concentrating on being your own unique, genuine self and writing posts that are useful or entertaining. If you can give that your full attention without worrying about the numbers, that’s what will help your blog grow faster than any other method (in my opinion of course!).

    • What I like about your blog, Earl, is you don’t seem to write blog posts purely with SEO in mind. You do have a unique voice and you do simply write interesting stories and observations. Thanks for the follow on Twitter – but I was just being cheeky!

      • Also be aware of “empty numbers” aka fluff traffic that strokes the ego. They say traffic is vanity, conversions and actions from your traffic is sanity.

  13. Thanks for the mention mate, you’re doing great! Blogging is a funny thing. I still have no idea what I’m doing most of the time, and sometimes worrying about how many visitors you’re getting can affect the quality of your posts. The most important things are your readers and the content that they come to your blog to read. Also, a hell of a lot of patience is required! 🙂
    Cheers and keep at it!

    • Thanks mate, good advice. Just wanted to say thanks for emailing me back when I was asking questions about the Graphene theme, because I can’t remember if I ever emailed you back (rude)!

  14. Poor you – I would say ‘screw it’ and just travel, enjoy it, stay away from the abstract page-rank-hits-crap and sleep well. 🙂

    Writing a good story (not some best of and top to do ones, please) with your own voice – cranky, moody, overwhelmed, surprised, annoyed, informative with a different angle… – will do magic too.

    You wrote you are a journalist, okay, then imagine the thing YOU like to read in a magazine or paper. Cool. Then look at your posts and think again.

    Anyway, travel bloggers are tossers. Ha!

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