William Tang runs Going Awesome Places, a travel blog that makes 3,000/mo. Find out how he resdiscovered his passion and true calling after studying electrical engineering and working as a consultant for years.
Revenue of $3,000/mo
Email list size of 3,800
Founded in 2012
Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?
My name is William Tang and I’m the travel blogger behind Going Awesome Places. I studied electrical engineering in university and worked as a consultant for a number of years but travel has always been my true calling.
My passion for travel started when I was young as my parents were always keen on planning road trips in Canada and the US, and also taking those infamous Chinese tour buses.
Things really stuck when I went on exchange in 3rd year to Lund, Sweden where a group of us backpacked all around Europe. There was no turning back after that.
Going Awesome Places is a travel blog that is all about my travels but I focus in on helping inspire others to go to the awesome places I’ve been to and at the same time help readers plan their own trips through all the knowledge that I gain while on the road.
Currently, I’m working on the blog full time and while it’s hard to say what I’m going to make the next month, on average, I’d say I’m making around $3000 a month.
What motivated you to get started with the blog?
Honestly, what you’ll find with a lot of bloggers out there is that you never start it for the express intention to make money out of it. For me, it was something that I thought would be kind of a fun thing to do while travelling after I quit my job back in 2012.
A friend had suggested to me before heading off that I should start a blog. I didn’t think about it too much but the idea stuck with me so much that by the end of the day, I had purchased a domain, got hosting, and set up something basic on WordPress.
During my 4 year jaunt around Asia, I very much used the blog as a diary for my day to day stories. I really just wanted to keep my friends and family up to date.
It wasn’t until I came back and started to pay attention to the analytics when I realized that random people were coming to my site. That’s ultimately what gave me the drive to continue with this pet project.
What is the revenue model for the blog?
Making money blogging is HARD. It’s hard because:
- The industry is constantly changing
- The influencer part of digital marketing isn’t always well understood or at least
- Brands aren’t necessarily willing to pay
- In travel, we face the big challenge of competing against other bloggers that are willing to work for free
- There’s no single path to success
So how do you make it all work? For me, it’s been really a journey of experimentation and diversification. As I kind of eluded earlier, you really have no guaranteed paycheck with this job and you know that when you sign up for this. With that, you have to get really creative with how you make your money and know that you can’t put all your eggs in one basket.
If you take a look at some of my old income reports on Travel Blog Breakthrough, you’ll see that I’m really all over the place. To summarize, you’re looking at driving in revenue from areas such as:
- Affiliate marketing
- Freelance writing
- Sponsored Posts (link game)
- Sponsored Campaigns (working with brands, Twitter Chats, etc.)
- Advertising (i.e. Google Analytics)
If you’re looking to start a travel blog, the advice I’d give is to first and foremost focus on the content first. None of this monetization stuff works if you don’t have a reason for people to come back to your blog. Focus on building your brand and as voodoo as this may sound, opportunities will come to you.
What are some strategies you have used for building up the traffic?
Taking a lot of inspiration from the startup world, building up traffic at the beginning was very much about growth hacking strategies.
There was this new and wonderful world of social media out there and so through automation tools like Tweepi, the follow-unfollow game, and sharing groups, I managed to grow a decent sized following that would also click on my links to my articles that I shared. That’s how a lot of the early traffic came from.
The other true part of the success for the blog came by accident and that’s where SEO comes in. I had kind of read about it here and there but I was never the kind of person to do all the serious things like keyword searches or anything like that. What I did take away from it though was how I could format my posts in a way that would be optimized.
I learned how to leverage headers the right way and meta descriptions to include as many relevant words as possible. It was about also thinking about article ideas that ultimately were what people were searching for.
All of this SEO-ing I was doing must’ve done something because over time there were a bunch of articles that started doing really well organically. That’s when the traffic started to lift off. When I look at those 10 posts that have done really well, it’s really been about answering people’s key questions which are “what should I see/do” and “how do I plan a trip to XYZ”.
For someone new, I’d give a few pieces of advice:
- Don’t obsess over the analytics.
- Again, focus on content
- Think SEO from the start. It’s a shift in mentality that really does have to start early.
- Leverage multiple channels to drive traffic to your site. To name a few, think social media, forums, and guest writing
How have you grown the email list?
I suck at this. Only in this past year have I truly made traction on building my e-mail list.
The key is honestly two parts:
- Get in your reader’s face about signing up because people are lazy
- Offer something free that people want
It sounded easy and I knew this from the early beginnings but I was always too lazy to implement it. It wasn’t until I did my latest redesign of Going Awesome Places when I told myself that I needed to make this work. That’s when I subscribed to Optin Monster and Ninja Forms. This is also when I started creating resources for travelers to some of my most visited pages. This is also when I recognized that people cared about deals and so I gave them a reason to sign up.
How do you write great content that performs well?
I think about articles that have performed well for me and it comes down to these “keys to success”:
- Write content that people are searching for – This is the SEO mentality that you have to take to heart. Think to yourself “If I wanted to go to place X, what would I type in Google?”
- Share that content on social media – Pinterest is by far the next great source of traffic. Learn how to leverage it.
- Give people a reason to come back – This is where your mailing list comes into play
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?
I’m not sure if I could do THAT much different if I started all over again mainly because this whole journey has been a learning process.'Don’t give up if you don’t see results right away, continuously hone your craft, don’t be afraid to try new things, ask for help, and carve your own path.'Click To Tweet
I’m an Engineer by trade and so the tech part of it was easy to pick up but writing, social media, pitching, and all of that was brand new to me. I’ve made a TON of mistakes along the way and there’s still a lot for me to learn but it’s really about not being afraid to fail.
If I were to start all over, I’d do a few things differently:
- I would have put more thought into how I could properly build a mailing list and invest in the right tools to do it
- Start thinking about affiliate marketing strategies earlier and how I could better from a passive income perspective
- Perhaps it was too ambitious to start Travel Blog Breakthrough when I should’ve just focused on the travel blog.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
As ironic as it sounds, blogging can be a lonely venture. As much as travel bloggers make it look like we’re constantly on the road, the reality is that we’re behind a computer more often than not. It’s easy to feel like you’re alone on an island.
That’s where networking, local travel events, and conferences come into play. Not only is it a great way to make connections with others that are doing the same thing as you, it’s also a great way to build contacts in the industry that may help you land a gig in the future.
Local organizations like Travel Massive have been instrumental for me in terms of making local friends in the community that have helped me throughout this journey. It’s also been a source of work as well as there are many members from tourism boards, destinations, travel brands, agencies, and PR that I’ve been able to link with over the years.
What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?
Don’t expect instant success. I think a lot of bloggers get involved thinking that it’ll be easy to make money in no time but the reality of it is that it’s a long-term investment that requires serious focus and determination.
Don’t give up if you don’t see results right away, continuously hone your craft, don’t be afraid to try new things, ask for help, and carve your own path.
Where can we go to learn more?