While most of my blog audience isn’t interested in the business side of blogging, personally I love reading and talking about blogging, so I’ve started a blog series that I’ll be keeping separate from my regular content.
You won’t see these posts featured on my home page or shared on my blog’s Facebook page, but instead you can find them under “Blogging” in my navigation menu, on Bloglovin’, or you can subscribe to my separate blogging newsletter for updates.
The other day I was talking to a friend about how I had just recently gone full-time as a blogger, but then I realized that actually it’s already been nine months! And then of course we had to make the obligatory joke about what else I could have achieved in nine months, and were my blogging accomplishments as impressive?
Lol no, I didn’t grow any human babies, but it does feel like this blog baby of mine has done a lot of growing up in the past few months!
I’ve now been blogging for 4 years!
When I made the leap into full-time blogging I promised myself that turning my hobby/side income into my full-time job wouldn’t change anything. I’d still be the same blogger, and my blog wouldn’t suddenly get all gross and commercial.
But the truth is a lot did change.
I think mostly in a good way though! I just hadn’t quite anticipated how much my approach to blogging would alter once it became my sole source of income.
I’m working way less now
To be fair though, this wasn’t totally a conscious choice on my part. In fact, for the first four or five months of this year I worked an insane amount. But then at the start of summer I fell into a depression (unrelated to blogging – it’s just something that happens to me sometimes) and basically did not do any work at all for several weeks.
Being too depressed to work was obviously really scary – and especially difficult considering I had no boss other than myself to like, force me to go do something – but on the bright side, in the process of getting myself back to work I ended up streamlining my routine to make it way more effective.
After a month away from work I realized, well, firstly that my blog traffic and income will stay the same (in the short term) even when I’m not working, so I can probably chill out just a little. But even more helpfully, in getting myself at least to do the bare minimum to keep this business alive I realized how much time I used to waste on unnecessary blog tasks.
Now, if I were more ambitious I would have gone back to working all the hours once I started feeling better, but the truth is – I’m not sure if I should admit this? – I’m not terribly ambitious.
At least right now I’m very happy to do enough to give myself a comfortable income while also having the freedom to spend more time with my friends and travel when and how I want. Yeah I could make my blog better and my income higher if I worked harder, but I also want to enjoy life and the novelty of only answering to myself.
That probably makes me the worst business person ever.
I started focusing more on SEO
At the start of this year my blog was getting around 100,000 monthly page views, and less than a fifth of that traffic was coming from Google. But then other bloggers told me that the bulk of their traffic comes from search engines and I was like, whaat am I doing wrong, why am I spending all my time pushing stuff on social media?
So I signed up for Keysearch and spent a good 3-4 months optimizing old posts for Google – so boring, but so effective.
Now my monthly traffic is around 200,000 page views, and over half of my traffic is coming from Google. That actually means that my other referrals have gone down, but it also means that I’m just spending so much less time writing and promoting new posts.
UPDATE: A few people have asked me about Keysearch – yes, I absolutely think it’s worth the price!
You can search a phrase and Keysearch will tell you how many searches a month that phrase gets, a list of other related keywords/phrases you could try, and also the top 10 posts for the phrase you searched.
It also lists the DA and PA of each of the top 10 posts (and links to them so you can check them out), so you can quickly see if you’d have a chance to rank or not. And you can also have it track all of your website’s keywords, to see if your ranking is going up or down, and you can even look up the keywords for competitors’ websites to see what they’re ranking well for.
You can get 20% off your Keysearch subscription with the code KSDISC – click here to sign up.
Thinking more about search engines has also sort of changed the way I blog, and guys, I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.
I basically used to just write for people who were following all my new posts, so I tried to publish pieces that would be entertaining even for people who aren’t planning on visiting the places I travel.
Now, however, I’m thinking more about people who find my blog when researching a trip and trying to write stuff that would be useful for them. Which basically means that sometimes I’ll hit publish on a post that, while hopefully super helpful, is also just a bit dull – like this massive post on Mallorca that no one was interested in when I first published it, but now is one of my top articles.
I guess it’s like I’m writing the fun posts still mostly as a hobby, and then the more boring informative posts to make the actual money, as the informative articles tend to get more long term traffic (page views = money from display ads) and drive more affiliate sales, since people researching trips are actually looking to book or buy stuff.
Most of my income is passive
Back in January I put on my business woman hat and figured out how much I’d like to be earning by the end of summer, and where I expected that income to come from. I drew a little pie chart and everything! Super profesh.
But the weird thing is, one of the smallest slices of that pie has recently become the very biggest: affiliate income.
I always knew affiliate marketing was a thing I should be doing and would dutifully put in affiliate accommodation and Amazon links where I could, but I didn’t have any sort of strategy so never made more than a few hundred dollars in any given month.
But then last spring Monica added a new advanced lesson to her section on affiliate marketing in The Blogger Course (which I’ve raved about before) written by Becky of Global Grasshopper, who is a genius with affiliates. And it was a game changer. I totally revamped my approach to affiliates and watched dollar bills fall from the sky – or something like that. In truth it took several months before I starting seeing more sales, but it’s been a rapid increase since then!
I think the most helpful part of Becky’s lesson is that she wrote it as a travel blogger, whereas everything else I had read about affiliate marketing was written by bloggers blogging about blogging.
So they’d be like, I make tons of money from affiliates and you can too if you buy these tools and this course, and I’d be like wait though, does that mean I also have to write about those tools and that course to make affiliate income?
Instead Becky makes her affiliate income from travel posts, so I finally got an understanding of how to effectively use affiliate marketing as a travel blogger.
Uh though, this is awkward, I do have some affiliate links in this post about blogging – I promise most of my affiliate income comes from hotel bookings and car rentals!
Anyway, being able to make a solid income from affiliate links and display ads (Mediavine continues to be awesome!) means that I no longer bother pitching for campaigns and sponsored posts. Of course I still accept the odd sponsored post or paid campaign that lands in my inbox, but for the most part I’m sort of enjoying taking a break from working with loads of brands.
I’m saying no a lot more
This one also came as a surprise, since a big reason that I decided to quit my part-time job and give my full attention to this blog was that I was really bummed about having to say no to so many campaigns.
Except once I was finally in a position to say yes all the time I realized that I often don’t want to. I have planned some really cool trips with a few destinations (one of which is coming up next month!), but I’ve also gone on a lot more independent trips where I didn’t even try to arrange comped accommodation.
Maybe I just need to get more comfortable working with brands and figuring out how I’m comfortable collaborating, but for now I’m finding myself happier to travel and work independently, putting more of my energy into building up my passive income streams.
I am forcing myself to make videos
I really, really want to make more videos, as I personally love watching travel videos, but ah making them is such a struggle! I think it’s worth it though, so right now that’s probably my main blogging goal – get better at making videos.
I’ve made seven so far this year (you can watch them all here) and um, I still have some learning to do, haha.
And that’s probably enough rambling for now! I would love to hear your thoughts on all this blogging stuff – in fact one of my biggest complaints about living up in the Norwegian mountains is that there are no other bloggers around for me to chat with!
Julie Dawn Fox says
I hear you on preferring to be independent rather than work with brands on campaigns. I rarely do that kind of thing now and although I’ve only been with Mediavine for a couple of weeks, I, too am well impressed. If I can maintain my passive income at this level (or grow it), that would be great.
Best of luck to you and your reduced workload.
Seriously, passive income is so great!
I definitely don’t think it makes you a bad business person at all – you know what your idea of success and happiness is and what you want from your blog. I really enjoyed reading this post – I’ve definitely neglected SEO a fair bit, though I must have paid attention to it a couple of years ago because there’s a lot of posts that are about two or three years old that get loads of search traffic. I need to get back on SEO.
It’s always funny seeing which random posts from the past accidentally had really good SEO, haha. You should definitely get back on it though – it’s kind of like magic how well a bit of optimization works!
Sónia Justo says
I love your blogging style. And I’m so happy that you are being successful about full time blogging.
I have a blog too but I’m still managing a full time job in another company. And most of the time I think that I would do much more things if I just had the blog, but you are very right and I think you became even a better blogger when you start to think as a full time blogger, and that can also mean to work less hours or in a different way. Congratulations for the good work and for being an inspiration 😊👏
Ooh that’s so sweet of you to say! It’s funny how in a way I think about my blog less than I did when it was just a hobby, I guess because now I have to draw a line between work and the rest of my life.
Thanks for this post, Silvia! One question – how dose Keysearch compare to Google AdWord’s free tool? My SEO has been stagnant for YEARS and its driving me crazy!
Oh my goodness you need to get Keysearch! It’s sooo much better than google adwords (also, does adwords even work anymore?). You can search a phrase and it will give you the search volume, a list of other related keywords you could try, and also the top 10 posts for the phrase you searched. It also lists the PA and DA of each of the top 10 posts (and links to them so you can check them out), so you can quickly see if you’d have a chance to rank or not. And you can also have it track all of your website’s keywords, to see if your ranking is going up or down, and you can look up the keywords for competitors’ websites too to see what they’re ranking well for. I’d at least try it out for a month – plus if you pay for a month then you’ll HAVE to do some SEO work so you don’t waste your money, haha. At least that was my reasoning for signing up for a full year, ha.
Silvia, I’ve been following you I think for your whole four years! Congrats on figuring things out, and if you ever want to chat, come for a visit here in Germany! Cheers.
Wow, that’s pretty crazy to think about! And I would looove to visit you guys in Germany – I’ll have to let you know next time I’m headed down there.
I’m doing Monica’s course right now (thanks for your recommendation!) and love it! I guess the biggest obstacle for me to get over is that things take time. Like I’m bummed if I spent a month writing what I think are super creative and super helpful posts but then at the end of the month my pageviews are where they’ve always been. I’m just so impatient! I guess I also need to go through my archives and do the boring stuff – I know it pays off in the long run but I’m never quite motivated to do it…
PS: I hear Stavanger is really gorgeous and not too far a drive from Telemark if you need someone to have a chat… 😉
Yesss I’ve actually only ever driven through Stavanger, so I should definitely plan a weekend there and we can hang out! And yeah, I think one of the main reasons I never bothered with SEO was that I couldn’t see any results quickly, but now that I’ve been patient and seen its effects I want to optimize way more articles. Monica’s course helped me loads too!
Tosh Bene says
I love this post and like you, I LOVE reading about blogging and tips on how to make it into a career. Reading the success stories are awesome and gives me major inspo. I’ve also recently kicked myself in the butt and started SEO’ing the crap out of all my old posts, photos, etc and I definitely have noticed an increase in traffic. I’m still only in the early stages obviously, I just had one one year blogiversary at the end of AUG and I’m happy to say I still love doing it, even if it is just a “hobby blog” right now! I’m glad you are in a good place with your work/life balance and I’m glad I stumbled on your blog a little less than a year ago. Been fan-girling ever since LOLOL!! 😉
Whoa, that’s crazy that you’ve only been blogging for a year! I really wish I had known anything about SEO that early on, so you’re definitely at an advantage!
Tosh Bene says
Aww YAY! That kinda makes me really happy to hear you say that! LOL I think working in advertising industry for the last like 10 years helps a bit too 😉 We get those terms hammered into our brains daily! hahaha
As someone new to the travel blogging world I am constantly trying to get up to speed with boosting traffic and creating evergreen posts. It’s so difficult to discern what is important and what is not with regards to becoming successful. It’s crazy what is similar and what is different from home decor blogging to travel blogging. It seems like everyone is making videos! So intimidating! Thank you for the perspective.
Yeah videos are definitely getting more and more popular – I’ve found making them has at least become less intimidating the more I’ve done. And now you’ve reminded me that I really need to check how my site speed is doing again haha.
I love this post Silvia and can relate to so many of your learnings. I also did Monica’s course recently and realised I was spending a lot of time on content that was fun to write but not so smart for SEO. I’ve just begun a massive SEO overhaul of old posts, it will probably take me months too, but I really hope it pays off in the long run. I *think* I’ve got good advice there it’s just buried under an offbeat title haha. I’m also trying to work on my passive income as my biggest earners are freelance writing and campaigns that are time heavy. The thing I’m struggling with is knowing whether I’m making the right changes though as it takes time for the effects to pay off. Fingers crossed!!
It is so exciting when you actually do start to see the effects, but it does feel like a bit of a gamble when you’re making the changes! That’s part of why I found Becky’s lesson in Monica’s course so helpful, because she gave a clear strategy to follow, so I felt a bit less like I was just making blind guesses, haha. I hope your SEO overhaul ends up paying off – it will be exciting to see the changes in the coming months!
Omg, I SO feel you on the “I could work harder…but I just don’t feel like it” mentality. As a freelancer my work is less dictated by me and more by my clients, but still, I COULD be working harder to get more clients and projects…I just don’t feel like because I kinda wanna live my life and have fun instead? Hahah whoops!
I also totally relate to the feeling of writing less exciting, but more SEO-effective posts. It’s hard to find that balance, because I feel like I get more engagement on the highly personal storytelling posts yet WAY more traffic from the structured posts. Ugh, the struggle!!
Oooh I’m so happy to hear that you feel the same! I feel like most of my blogger friends are so disciplined and such hard works so I always feel like such a slacker in comparison, haha.
Thanks for the honesty about blogging, what it takes to blog successfully, and how to monetize your site. As one starting out in the travel blogging world, seeing the ups and downs, pros and cons of the many facets from experienced bloggers is truly helpful. It’s nice to know that we all have those moments. Thanks for sharing!
We definitely all have those moments! I agree, it’s so nice hearing from other bloggers and not feeling like I’m just a bit crazy, haha.
Camila @ Adventitious Violet says
This was a really interesting post to read. I’ve been trying to get better with SEO and going back to older posts too so good to hear it actually pays off!
It definitely does, it just takes some patience!
kristin addis says
I love reading posts like these from other bloggers! I feel like we have our similarities, too. Or maybe that’s just because we both hitchhiked in China! Lol.
I, too, have started working less. I used to wear the crazy hours I worked like a badge of honor but now I’m realizing, I didn’t choose this lifestyle over my corporate one so that I could be chained to a desk. It’s all about making my time more efficient. Reading and listening to Tim Ferriss and reading Essentialism were both really helpful for this. Keep it up! I’ve always enjoyed your blog.
It sounds like you’ve found a really good balance – I need to watch and learn from you! And it’s funny how those badges of honor change over time. I used to feel so proud to say that a post or trip was sponsored, and now instead I’m proud that I’m paying for most of my travel myself these days.
Going full-time after 3 years of blogging is such an amazing achievement. I love that you work less and are more picky, that’s a dream! I’ll have to check out Keysearch as you suggest and rework my old posts 🙂 Thanks for sharing Silvia 🙂 x
Charisse D. says
I see your SEO is working. I Googled “blogging full-time” and that’s how I found you. I enjoyed this article. I’d really like to connect with you. I’m a full-time copywriter at an advertising agency and I’ve been considering launching a blog so I can travel. Do you do any coaching? I’ll follow you on Facebook and if you have some time let’s talk.