Annette White is the person behind Bucket List Journey, a blog about documenting her journey on checking the world off her bucket list, one adventure at a time. Even though she works on the blog part-time, it brings in $4,500/mo in revenue.
Revenue of $4,500/mo
Email list size of 4,200
Founded in 2009
Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?
Hello! I’m Annette, I’m the creator of the award-winning travel and lifestyle blog, Bucket List Journey which began in 2009. I’m also the author of the book Bucket List Adventures and co-owner of the restaurant Sugo Trattoria.
The mission of my blog is to give every person in the world the tools and inspiration to live their bucket list — one checkmark at a time. My readers come from all over the world and typically are people who want to step out of their comfort zone, travel the world and/or live their bucket list.
I currently make around $4,500 per month running my blog part-time. There is no doubt that I could earn more if I went to full-time, but I also have a restaurant to run!
What motivated you to get started with the blog?
Initially, I was simply looking for a place to record my ever-growing bucket list and its progress. The pieces of scrap paper and random Internet files were getting out of control, so I decided to condense my dozens of notes into a blog. As time went on, the blog changed from being just a practical list-keeping spot to being a place for readers to get inspiration for their own bucket lists.
I went to college for a Communications degree, but really had little training in writing or blogging (though I’ve always loved bucket lists!). Luckily, I am a great researching and was able to find most of what I know now online.
I come from a long line of restaurateurs and, to no one’s surprise, in 1998 followed in the family footsteps by buying a little deli. Since there have been two more restaurant ventures and when I started Bucket List Journey I was the co-owner of my current restaurant Sugo Trattoria, a Michelin recommended Italian eatery located in my hometown of Petaluma, California. Throughout my food career, there was also something else tugging at my heart: the desire to travel the world and have new experiences. In 2009 I began to follow this passion by vowing to never let fear make my decisions for me and to start living my bucket list. One blog, 50 countries and a book later, I have successfully created a second career surrounded by everything I adore.
What is the revenue model for the blog?
As they say, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, so there are a few ways I earn money from the blog. About 50% comes from an ad network who places advertising on my blog, the rest is split up between brand partnerships, affiliates and sponsored content.
It was fairly recently that I started to go full-force with monetizing my blog, within the last 3 years. Before that, I make a few bucks here and there from Amazon and a couple sponsored posts. Now I concentrate on choosing great affiliate programs and creating content surrounding them. Also, a huge focus is keeping my blog numbers up (and consistently growing) so that I can earn more from my ad network.
One of my biggest mistakes I made when I began blogging was to not treat it like a business. If you plan on turning your blog into a career, you need to treat it like one. Also, you need to invest in your business. It would be hard to be in the place I am now without having spent some money on blogging guides, freelancers, marketing, etc.
What are some strategies you have used for building up the traffic?
Today, I’m getting around 250,000 unique visitors per month to the blog. In the beginning, I concentrated on commenting on blogs in my niche, networking with others, social media and an occasional guest post. This all grew my blog numbers very slowly.
Today, things have changed a bit. Currently, most of my efforts go into performing proper SEO on all my posts so that they rank in Google (and this is where most of my traffic comes from). By creating great content with information that people need, and then using SEO techniques, my blog numbers have grown continuously. Also, if it is possible, I never turn down the opportunity to do an interview—it doesn’t matter the size of the website’s audience. It’s not only a great way for people to learn more about you, but it also gives you a link back to your site and can be promoted on your social media channels to show authority.
My advice for aspiring bloggers would be to put your efforts into one or two efforts at a time. Master those techniques and then move onto another. Sometimes when you are trying to do it all, your efforts won’t be focused enough to get the return that you want.
How have you grown the email list?
My email list has just over 4,000 subscribers and, in all honesty, I do not put enough effort into growing or maintaining the list. There is a signup on the sidebar of my website, which brings a few subscribers per day, but my goal this year is to create a “freebie” ebook or guide to boost more new signups.
My newsletter is sent out monthly(ish). In it, I try to include a more personalized message and exclusive content so that my readers can feel more connected to me.
How do you write great content that performs well?
At this point, I have learned what style articles do well on my site and try to stick within those guidelines. Since my niche under the travel umbrella is bucket lists, most of my posts try to stay within the listicle format.
The posts that do the best for me are typically the ones that are destination bucket lists. Choosing what exactly to write about depends on my current clients, destinations that I’ve recently visited, inspirational content and/or keywords that will have a better chance of ranking.
My process is to pick a topic, find the appropriate keywords, write up an outline, add my personal notes to it and then send it to my freelance writers for extra research and cleaning up. Once they return it to me, I will add more personalized information, and set it up in WordPress with photos and proper formatting.'If you are not truly passionate about your topic, not only will readers see right through your articles, it will be tortuous every time you sit down at the computer to create a new post.'Click To Tweet
The biggest lesson that I have learned about writing content that performs well is to stay consistent and fill the needs of your reader. Most people come to blogs for information, so your post must answer their questions.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome with your blog? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
There have been so many mistakes and lessons learned along the blogging path. For example, when I first started I named my blog “mslistologist.com”. What the heck does that even mean? And who knows how to spell it? It took a couple years of people asking me to repeat the name and learning that having the term ‘bucket list’ in my URL would be beneficial before finally changing it. It was tricky, but I noticed an almost immediate jump in traffic once I did.
Also, in the beginning, I was so excited that anyone would want to work with me that I accepted partnerships with companies that were not in my niche or did not align with my brand. It would be like my Italian restaurant having a burrito on the menu!
One other thing that stands out is that I would always analyze the techniques of bloggers who were uber-successful, but this became very discouraging because I never thought I could possibly catch up to their level. Instead, I began to pick blogs that were only a step or two above me, this made it seem more feasible to reach their status, which kept me motivated.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Making a few close blogger friends, ones who will honestly share their struggles, techniques and triumphs, has been incredibly helpful. With that said, I have learned a little something from just about every blogger I have met.
It was also extremely beneficial to build myself as an authority in my field. I’ve done much of this through interviews, campaigns, commercials and collaboration posts. Plus, it has helped partnering with companies who are recognizable to my readers instead of ones who are up-and-coming (not to say some of those aren’t great too!).
One of the best blogging habits I have is to make a TODO list every day. Even on the days where it’s hard to find the time, I put some tiny goal on it. This helps me to stay on track and keep moving forward. I am one of those people who really doesn’t believe too much in luck, I think that the success of my blog has been earned by hard work, determination, passion and persistence.
What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?
There are a million bloggers out there (literally!) and a significant chunk of them focus on travel, so in order to stand out amongst the crowd pick a sub-niche under the travel blogging realm. This could mean specializing in a particular country or solely on family adventure or luxury destinations.
Whatever you choose, make sure you know you’re going to absolutely love writing about it. Maintaining a successful blog takes dedication and many hours of work per week. If you are not truly passionate about your topic, not only will readers see right through your articles, it will be tortuous every time you sit down at the computer to create a new post.
Also, read as much as you can in the beginning and throughout your blogging career. At least once a month I Google something like “how to have a successful blog” and read all the newest articles. You’ll start to see a lot of the information overlapping and that’s what you should focus on.
Where can we go to learn more?