John Espirian of Espirian

2 weeks ago in Interviews

John Espirian calls himself the relentlessly helpful technical copywriter. Find out how he strategically thinks about his blog’s content and how he has been able to grow his client base because of it.

Revenue of $2,500/mo

Email list size of 530

Founded in 2014

 

Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?

I’m John Espirian and I call myself the relentlessly helpful technical copywriter. I’ve been working as an independent writer since 2009, when I left an in-house role as quality assurance manager at one of the UK’s largest internet service providers.

I started blogging at Espirian in 2014, writing mostly about how to write good content for the web, using the principles of content marketing. My strength is in explaining how things work, so I prefer to create how-to content rather than anything story driven. I aim the posts at people who are interested in improving their online presence through good content rather than via ads. Most of those who become clients tend to be leaders of small to medium B2B companies in the UK.

In the last 18 months, I’ve developed a keen interest in using LinkedIn, so many of my posts relate to this excellent platform for doing business.

The blog is the main way that prospective clients find me, and my web traffic has doubled in consecutive years, from 25K page views per year to 50K and now to 100K for 2018.

What motivated you to get started with the blog?

In 2014, I had agreed to give a conference presentation about how to set up a website. Although I had a website, it wasn’t based on a CMS and therefore I didn’t have a convenient way to run a blog. The conference preparation was my spur to sort this out, so I moved my content over to WordPress and decided to start writing content about writing along with some mildly techie tips.

As someone who had worked in IT for more than a decade and as an independent writer for more than 5 years, I felt I could produce something of value to people – though at that time I had very little idea of who my potential audience might be.

My business was already pretty stable at this point (well, as much as it could be as a one-man independent operation), but creating content has helped improve my visibility online and led to many more opportunities than I ever thought possible. My regret is not having committed to creating content much sooner.

What is the revenue model for the blog?

Most of my content is aimed at demonstrating a clear writing style and building trust with readers so that they hire me for website and blog copywriting work. This is my main income, though for some businesses I also write user guides and case studies.

The other main income stream I have is through 1-to-1 consultancy for those who want to improve their website, their writing or their social media presence.

As I write this, I’m also starting to offer a LinkedIn profile critiquing and consultation service – so this will be another revenue stream.

My approach isn’t to go for direct monetisation via my blog, so I don’t use ads or link to any of my own paid products.

What are some strategies you have used for building up the traffic?

Consistent, in-depth content creation has been the main vehicle for increasing my web traffic. Most of my content has been written for my own blog, but I’ve also created guest post content for other sites as well as doing written, video and audio interviews, all of which refer back to my site.

A standout achievement was writing a guest post about LinkedIn engagement for Social Media Examiner. The post was published in August 2017 and has received 10K shares in its first year, which has helped me boost traffic to my own site.

My growing Twitter and (in particular) LinkedIn presence has meant that my content has been travelling further via social media. However, about two-thirds of my web traffic still comes from organic search. I know enough about SEO to create content that tends to rank quite well, and this has a compounding effect on my web traffic.

A challenge for aspiring bloggers is not only to write good SEO copy but also to build a good network so that people are more likely to share and link to your content from their own sites. Such backlinks are still valuable and the lack of them often means that content won’t perform as well as it otherwise might.

I have experimented with ads for Google, Facebook and LinkedIn. All have returned very little in the way of results, and so I’m sticking with Plan A: sharing relentlessly helpful content.

How have you grown the email list?

I use a MailChimp-powered mailing list to reach a little over 500 subscribers, and I try to keep in touch with subscribers once a week.

I’ve found the list to be good for engagement, probably because I send no salesy content to the list. Subscribers respond well to this and often share my content and recommend me for work to potential clients.

I have tried enticing people to join by offering ebooks, but I tire of this approach by others and therefore have stopped doing this on my own site. Almost all of my content can now be accessed ‘ungated’. Also, I can’t stand popups, slideovers or other tactics that some sites use to build their email subscriber base.

While my list is growing slowly, I believe the engagement is better than average. I currently have a 47% open rate.

How do you write great content that performs well?

It all starts with the nugget of an idea. It has to be something that is relevant and valuable to people who will either do business with me or refer me to those who will do business with me.

Some keyword research helps to work out what the proposed content will be competing with, and then after that it’s all about writing a messy first draft. At this stage, there are no limits or filters.

Only after getting everything written down and leaving the text to rest does the real magic happen – the edit! That’s where I come back and ruthlessly cut the fat from the content.

Along with the edit, I spend time thinking about the call to action and the headline for the article. I don’t like sensational headlines, as these rarely deliver on what’s promised – and they tend not to be good for SEO.

My best-performing content tends to be that which answers readers’ questions – the ones they knew they had and the ones they hadn’t even thought of. I try to put a dash of humour into my writing. At least my blog is one place I know I’m safe to attempt this (because most writing clients tend to want serious rather than funny B2B content). 

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 use Bitmoji for my personal branding and I wish I’d done that sooner, along with better visuals in general. I’ve also relatively recently started using more personal video in my blogs, and again it would have been good to do this sooner.

Creating content takes time. I often spend 6–8 hours on a post, and that’s a huge time suck when you want to be consistent. One way to reduce the burden is to write satellite posts to support other posts that have done well in the past. This is quicker than creating completely fresh content, and yet the resulting posts often rank well.

If I had started blogging earlier, I would like to have covered more of the low-level content sooner, e.g. What is technical writing? How much does it cost? How does the process work?

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Building an engaged social network has helped a lot, as has joining the Content Marketing Academy and ATOMIC – two membership groups who help members with their marketing.

Writing content and social posts is an education in itself. The more you do it, the better you become. I always say that you have to be bad before you can be good – so allow yourself the indulgence of making some mistakes as you tweet out to your 3 follows. Your following will soon increase as you learn your craft, so long as you’re providing something of value.

A great way for me to learn is to listen to business and marketing podcasts while I’m walking or cooking.

What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?

Commit to a plan of action and know that it can take time for you to see any results. My case study was in Mark Schaefer’s book KNOWN in 2017. In it he interviewed 70+ people who told him that it took on average 30 months for their content efforts to start returning results. No surprise, then, that people give up after 3 months and say ‘blogging doesn’t work’. The truth is that people quit too soon.

If you struggle with distractions and procrastination, I recommend reading Deep Work by Cal Newport.

Where can we go to learn more?

Head over to Espirian!

Marcie Hill of Marcie Writes

3 weeks ago in Interviews

Marcie Hill runs a blog, where she helps other freelance writers, bloggers and independent publishers by sharing her own past mistakes, successes and experiences.

Revenue of $1,000/mo

Email list size of 250

Founded in 2014

 

Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?

My name is Marcie Hill. I’m a writer, blogger, trainer and author. I left my job and 12-year career in Human Resources to become a magazine writer. Somewhere along the way I caught the blogging bug.

I created Marcie Writes to make the journey of other freelance writers, bloggers and independent publishers easier by sharing my mistakes, successes and experiences. I think people return to my site because I share information in an easy-to-understand and engaging manner. Also, I share tons of resources.

Currently, I earn a minimum of $1,000 a month as a result of my blogging efforts.

What is the revenue model for the blog?

I hate to admit that I was a late earner. I had probably been blogging for 5 years before I understood that my site was an online business. Even then, I didn’t fully understand the value of the content I offered and didn’t charge for it.

Today, I generate revenue from sponsored blog posts; freelance writing projects; ghost blogging assignments; speaking engagements; workshops and book sales. My biggest revenue generators are freelance writing projects and ghost blogging assignments.

My two pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. First, start your venture with a plan to make money and put that plan into action ASAP. Second, know your value and do not underprice your services.

What are some strategies you have used for building up the traffic?

Years ago, I had a monthly community newsletter that I sent to everyone in my email address book. That list grew to over 500 people because of people sharing my newsletter.

When I started blogging, my list grew through social media marketing and guest blogging. Twitter brings the most traffic because that’s the site I nurture most. I have a huge following here because I share article through social share buttons.

Here’s a breakdown of my marketing efforts that work when I work them:

  • Twitter – I have a WordPress plugin that shares posts on at scheduled time.
  • Blog – posting weekly on writing and blogging topics
  • Guest posting – Researching and pitching blogs that feature topics on writing and blogging
  • Friends/colleagues – I send emails and text messages asking them to read and share
  • Newsletter – I write a bi-monthly newsletter for blog subscribers
  • Events – I hold webinars and in-person workshops and panels
  • Participating in Facebook and LinkedIn groups

The only time my efforts don’t work is when I don’t work them.

For new and aspiring bloggers, I would encourage you to promote your posts consistently. You can you use tools like Hootsuite and Dlvrit to make sharing easier.

How have you grown the email list?

Currently, I have about 250 people on my email list, segmented by interests. Therefore, I have a list just for Marcie Writes. Another one for people interested in blogging, with a third one for events.

People on my Marcie Writes list gets a weekly email with recent blog posts and a bi-monthly newsletter. People interested in blogging gets a quarterly email. And I just started my events list.

Aspiring bloggers should have a way to collect email addresses as soon as they start blogging.

How do you write great content that performs well?

When I have a topic idea, I write it down. The idea could be a word; a sentence; a paragraph; or a draft of an article. All of my ideas are stored in a file for future reference.

My blog topics are selected by how I feel or what I want to share, but writing and blogging are my main topics. Last year I did a frustrated job seekers series (I notified my readers about the change in topic so they wouldn’t leave me).

I don’t really have a writing routine because I write when I feel like it. However, my blog creation process is to write a draft; flush it out; edit it; create a branded image; and publish it.

If you want readers to return, you have to create unique content that adds value. Try putting a different spin on a topic you’ve read. You should also include images; tell stories; and add personality to your posts. Consider audio and video posts.

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?

As I stated earlier, one of my biggest mistakes was not making money from my blog sooner. I didn’t understand that my site was an online business. All I knew was that I wanted to blog and I had a platform to do it.

Another mistake I made out of ignorance was not having a focus to my blog. When I created my community site, my topics were all over the place. I didn’t focus it until a year later. Marcie Writes started as a portfolio site, and that’s all it was going to be until someone told me to start blogging. I had no idea what to blog about, and it took a few years to determine my audience.

Learning WordPress took time to learn but I finally got it. I don’t have to hire people to install my plugins and get my site to working. I do need with design but I save on the technical aspects of WordPress.

I think the biggest obstacle for me, which I’m working to overcome, is marketing myself. I’m good at promoting other people but don’t do a good job for myself. This is a general challenge, not just a blogging challenge.

One of the craziest things I used to do was start a blog every time I thought of a new topic. After that excitement died, so did the blog. I’ve probably started at least 10 sites over the years, but I currently have three.

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Blogging for Dummies helped me get a better understanding of blogging and all the aspects of it. I attended a 1-Day WordPress training event that helped me understand the how the platform I used complemented by blogging efforts.

Sites that helped me become a better blogger include ProBlogger, BloggingPro and Growmap (general business).

Today, WordPress and blogging groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, as well local groups, are my go-to places to meet people with these interests.

The best decision I made was to start blogging. It has helped me hone my writing skills; it has helped be consistent in writing; I’m more in tune with what’s going on around me; and it has given me the courage to speak my thoughts.

What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?

For bloggers just starting out, do a little research before starting your own site. Blogging is a lot of work and very time-consuming. Also, have an idea of what you want to blog about before you start. If you can come up with at least 24 topics, you can post at least twice a month. My book, Blogging Success for New Bloggers, can help you with this.

You do not have to post every day, but you do need to post consistently. You also need to be committed to creating, publishing and promoting your posts.

Make money as soon as you start blogging. If you see an opportunity to make money; take it. Even if it’s $10. You don’t have to have a huge audience, but you should have a strategy in place to grow it.

Your site should be easy to navigate; don’t make it too busy. Also, you have to tell people what you want them to do and make it easy for them to do it. For example, at the end of your blog post, tell people to subscribe to your newsletter and add a link to do it. If they have to do anything extra, they’re not going to do it.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can find me over at my blog or via Twitter or LinkedIn.

Sumit Bansal of Trump Excel

4 weeks ago in Interviews

Sumit Bansal runs Trump Excel, a blog where he shares excel tips and tutorials. First year, he made $0 from his blog. Find out how he turned things around and scaled to a profitable blog.

Revenue of $5,000/mo

Email list size of 22,000

Founded in 2017

 

Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?

My name is Sumit Bansal and I am full-time blogger from India. I’m run Trump Excelwhere I share Excel spreadsheets tips and tutorials.

I completed my graduation and was working with an IT company when I started using Excel spreadsheets heavily. I was learning so many new things every day. At the same time, I noticed that many of my colleagues were asking me the same kind of Excel queries. So I decided to create a blog and start writing tutorials to save time and share what I was learning every day. I started with a blogspot account and wrote my first 10 articles on it. A month later, I moved to WordPress self-hosted site.

Today, I make $5000 a month from the blog. I have an email list of 22K+ subscribers and it’s growing rapidly. My traffic is also growing and I get ~300K+ page views a month as of now.  

What motivated you to get started with the blog?

My motivation to start this blog was to share what I was learning about Excel spreadsheets. Since I was a complete newbie with no experience with blogging or online marketing, making money was never the motivation. I didn’t make any money from my blog for more than a year.

I was enjoying the response I was getting and the contribution I was making in helping people learn Excel. It was a perfect fit with my day job and I was any way learning a lot about Excel spreadsheets. Since I used to work with a lot of data, I was never short of blog ideas.

Also, I was quite happy with my day job. I was doing good work and had a good team. My Excel blog was a result of my passion to share my expertise, but since I was not aiming for money, I never focussed on any other idea.

It was after 2 years of starting my blog that I decided to leave my full-time job in 2015. At that point in time I was making half of what I was making in my full-time job. I needed to focus more of my online business and hence, decided to quit.  

What is the revenue model for the blog?

Currently, I make money through Adsense and my online courses. Each of these channels contributes about half of my monthly income.

I also create a lot of YouTube videos which further adds to my ad income.

I started making money about 1.5 years after starting the blog. At that point in time, I was already incurring some significant expenses such an Email automation tool and other related subscriptions.

Initially, it was only about $100 a month. But as my traffic grew, so did my ad income. The real boost came when I launched my first online course. That made me believe that I had a real business at hand. So I started working on my second course, and launched it right after I quit my job.

My advice to the aspiring entrepreneurs would be to niche down and focus on your readers/customers problems. Once you have a handle on how you can add value, identify how to monetize it.

What are some strategies you have used for building up the traffic?

I started out by creating a lot of good content. One thing that really helped me was the time I spent on discussion forums. It gave me the ideas of real problems people were facing and I could create content around it. Also, since I had lots of good content, I also left my links in the forums that helped me get referral traffic as well as improved my SEO.

Apart from that, I didn’t really focus on SEO until the beginning of 2017. Till then, I was already getting a lot of traffic. I was getting links from people who were quoting my tutorials in their articles. To further improve my traffic, I did a few guest posts.

I also automated my social media so that the tools posts on my Facebook Page, Twitter, and Google Plus page every day. I visit my social networks to promote my course launches or to share my new content.

How have you grown the email list?

I have an email list of 22K+ people and this is one area where I have worked a lot. I do a lot of A/B testing and find new ways to capture email leads.

I have created specific landing pages to capture emails. For example, I have a free online Excel training course that adds hundreds of new people to my list.

Similarly, I also create post specific lead magnets to get better conversion. For example, I created a tutorial on useful Excel macros, where I offer a free PDF of useful macros in exchange for the email.

I also keep my list clean by deleting anyone who hasn’t opened any of my past 20 emails. Over the years, I have deleted more than 15K people from my list. This allows me to keep my email automation tools cost in check and also gives me an engaged audience.

Since now I am using Drip, I have automated this entire process of deleting inactive subscribers.

I send one email every week, which is about the new tutorial(s) I have published in that week. My emails are quite short and to the point.

My advice for aspiring bloggers is to work on your email list from the very first day. My list is my most prized asset and allows me to build a relationship with them, nurture them, and eventually sell them more courses.

How do you write great content that performs well?

When I get an idea for a topic, I spend a lot of time creating an outline. I create headers and subheaders of the topics I want to cover. I research to see what all is available already and how I can create content that’s better that everything out there.

I also add a lot of images and videos to my articles. This makes sure that the dwell time is high (as a lot of people prefer watching a video over reading text).  

One of the things that work for me is to write for humans and not search engines. Even when I don’t have the keyword the recommended times, I seem to outrank my competitors (of course I need to make sure the basics are in place, but I don’t kill myself over-optimization).

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?

One of the biggest challenges that I have faced is the technical know-how of WordPress and running a business on it. For example, to host my course on my site was a nightmare. While the tools were available, I had a hard time getting everything set up.

If I start out today, I would reach out for help and outsource some of the tasks.

Another big mistake I made was investing in many new tools that I didn’t really need. This led to a huge monthly subscription cost that quickly became unmanageable.

After a few months of losses, I decided to cut down to the bare minimum and not invest in tools in anticipation of more growth or earning.

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I am extremely organized in my work and rely heavily on my to-do lists.

One habit that has done wonders for me is to select only three tasks for any given day. This allows me to consciously pick the top three things I want to tackle in a day. If I am done early, I don’t take up more tasks and give myself a breather.

'Big mistake I made was investing in many new tools that I didn’t really need. This led to a huge monthly subscription cost that quickly became unmanageable.'Click To Tweet

Also, I do this a night before. Somehow, this has a calming effect as I know exactly what I need to do the next morning.

Another change that has helped me is using a standing desk. I have been using one for 6 months now and I can feel myself a lot more productive and in a much better shape physically.

What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?

My advice for new bloggers will be to niche down when choosing your topic. For example, if you want to start a finance blog, choose a specific niche, instead of blogging about everything related to finance.

Another advice is to know where your audience hangs out. Make yourself available in those places and interact with them. It could be a Facebook group, or a Reddit community, or a discussion forum. Focus your energy on useful channels only and don’t try and be everywhere.

Where can we go to learn more?

My blog, Twitter, Youtube or Facebook.

5 Powerful Ways to Monetize a Blog

4 weeks ago in Blog

Can you really make money blogging? The simple answer? Yes, you can.

There are people all across the world who make a full-time living from their blogs. Some people run blogs about their kids, others document their travels.

Continue reading »

Caroline Caron-Phelps of Pickled Plum

1 month ago in Interviews

Caroline runs Pickled Plum, a blog where you’ll find hundreds of tasty recipes with a focus on health. Find out how she overcome the initial struggles of monetizing her blog and built an engaged following.

Revenue of $7,000/mo

Email list size of 10,200

Founded in 2010

 

Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?

 Hi! My name name is Caroline and I create recipes for my food blog Pickled Plum.

My blog consists mainly of recipes (over 700 and counting) with an anti aging section where I share beauty tips. I have also been writing more about blogging since many people ask me how I make money working online.

The blog currently makes around $7,000 per month and receives around 350,000 monthly page views.

What motivated you to get started with the blog?

I didn’t want to be stuck working in an office, it’s as simple as that!

I’ve always been a self starter and around the time I started the blog, I was going through a transitional phase. I had just moved to New York and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  

Then one day I was browsing the net and saw that a few people seemed to do well blogging about food. Since I was already spending many hours in the kitchen every day

I thought “why not give this food blogging thing a try!”

 I didn’t know what I was doing for the first two years and did a really bad job at posting infrequently. There were months when I would only post one recipe that contained one image and a paragraph. I didn’t realize I could make a decent living until I was in my third year.

Looking back I wish I had spent more time learning about the business of blogging and invested more time doing social media.

What is the revenue model for the blog?

I make most of my money from ads on the blog. I also earn money through third party affiliates, sponsored posts and photography.  On average the blog makes about $7,000 per month but I will at times make a lot more than that when a company hires me to shoot their products.

'Do not start blogging on a free platform, not if you want to make money!'Click To Tweet

As I previously mentioned, I was terrible at making money in the beginning! The first two years I was making less than $30 a month. But I fully blame myself for that since I wasn’t putting in the effort and took the blog for granted – a lot!

Then the third year I decided to work harder by publishing more often. This helped the blog get more exposure and I started making a few hundred dollars a month. The fourth year I really pushed SEO and that’s when I made my first thousand dollars. Since then the blog has been growing steadily and I’m quite happy with the way things are going. Blogging has become easier because I know how to deal with the good and the bad.

What are some strategies you have used for building up the traffic?

I’m getting around 350,000 monthly page views a month and most of it comes through SEO and social media.

I email a lot of publications to let them know about my blog (“hey! I have healthy recipes that would look great in your roundups!”). I have also become friends with other food bloggers which is great because we can help each other by sharing recipes and exchanging traffic that way.

I think if you are a beginner at blogging, the most important thing is to focus on SEO. It may be a pain in the butt to learn (so much stuff it will make your head spin!) but it’s totally worth it. Also, make sure you are visible on all social media channels and answer all the questions your readers have. Even if they just drop by to tell you they love your blog, always reply with kind words.

How have you grown the email list?

I offer a free ecookbook for people who sign up to my newsletter. I used to get 2-3 new subscribers daily but since I added the free ebook, the numbers jumped to 20-30! Offering a freebie in return for an email address totally works, so anyone who is serious about growing their mailing list should consider offering a free product. It doesn’t have to be big or complicated – my ecookbook only has 25 recipes that I have taken from my blog.

I also use optin boxes, the best converting one being the one that pops up on screen after a few seconds on my blog (I use Optinmonster).

How do you write great content that performs well? 

This is a difficult question to answer because there is no real way to know. Sometimes I will write something that comes from the heart and it will get lots of traffic. Other times I will create a recipe that I’m convinced is going to do well and rank first on Google search page only to see it tank.

 I follow the SEO rules every time and write long posts to raise my chances of ranking well. But at the end of the day I think it’s just as important to write about what you know really really well and what you love because people will always choose emotions over facts or numbers. If you can make them fall in love with you through the stories you tell, through the words published on your blog, you will have loyal readers for life.

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 started on Blogger, which is a free blogging platform. That was a big mistake because I had to move everything over to a paying host eventually. I wasted so much time learning about 301 redirects and having to look at all my posts to make sure they weren’t missing anything.

I would tell myself to stick to what I know, what I’m good at which is healthy, Asian food. But because I could see that the bigger food blogs all posted similar stuff – fatty foods with cheese on top – and did extremely well at it, I tried to go down that route. And I failed miserably because I don’t enjoy that type of food. And I think it showed through my lack of excitement toward it.

On the other hand, give me a salad and I will talk about it forever while making you drool over leafy greens!

I wish I had been less stingy about spending money on classes that would have greatly helped me understand the blogging world. It’s only when I started to invest in classes and ebooks such as Neil Patels Advanced Content Marketing Summit and Create and Go’s Six Figure Blogger (I considered these business expenses) that I saw some big improvements. 

What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?

Do not start blogging on a free platform, not if you want to make money! There are plenty of cheap and good hosting companies out there that are affordable.

Don’t sit on ideas for too long, just write and hit publish. It’s more important in the beginning to develop discipline and publish consistently than to create great content. No one will come to your blog during the first few months so it’s a good time develop healthy habits that will down the road be crucial for the success of your blog.

Experiment with your content. Finding your voice can take time so have fun writing different types of content and pay attention to the ones that are making you feel accomplished and happy.  

Where can we go to learn more?

Visit my blog or connect via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Cory and Gergely Varga of You Could Travel

2 months ago in Interviews

Revenue of $4,000/mo

Email list size of 1,450

Founded in 2016

 

Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?

We are Coralia (Cory) and Gergely (G) a married couple from Bristol, UK who now travels the world full time. We quit our day jobs in February 2014 to focus on our digital agency in the UK. This enabled us to have the financial freedom we needed to be able to travel the world.

Cory is a law graduate who started working in the digital industry in 2011. She is a self taught UX designer, a path which led her to be a Creative Director.

G is a computer science graduate who worked as a software engineer for the past decade. She is a technical geek who seeks to adopt the latest technological advancements and implement them on our website.

We met in Bristol, UK in 2013 and later that year we co-founded our digital agency, 42droids. We started traveling together in 2014. Our blog, You Could Travel, was created in April 2016 as a way to document our adventures abroad.

You Could Travel is a soft adventure travel blog geared towards inspiring others through information packed articles that revolve around travel guides, recommendations, and tips.

Less than 2 years later, You Could Travel now receives over 130k monthly pageviews with 75% of its traffic coming from organic searches. We worked with world leading brands including Emirates, Universal Pictures, Ali Express as well as many tourism boards and small businesses.

Our blog is read by 25-34 years old couples from USA, Japan, UK and Australia who seek mid-range options for their upcoming, off the beaten path trips. Our readers are extroverts who love to experience the world and keep their friends and family updated about their adventures abroad.

Since we provide honest, comprehensive guides and itineraries, we are a trustworthy travel website which doesn’t write the usual fluff. As such, our audience is loyal and is happy to book flights and accommodation based on our recommendations. Through our blog, we now make an average $4,000 a month.

What motivated you to get started with the blog?

In December 2015 we went on a long trip to Japan. When we arrived, we realised there wasn’t enough information online about the country. We started taking lots of pictures of things we found interesting and unique and made notes of all the things we searched for online but couldn’t find relevant answers for.

Upon return, we decided to design and built our blog, You Could Travel, which focused exclusively on Japan. We wanted an informative blog targeted at couples interested in soft adventures. Basically, we were our own target audience. We wrote exactly what we would have wanted to find online to help us plan our trips.

One month later, we landed our first sponsorship which gave us the needed push to create an actual business plan. At first, it was a little difficult to juggle both full time jobs. Both, G and I were in charge of running the Creative and Technical departments at 42droids on a full time basis, whilst also trying to run a full time blog. Our digital agency was our main source of income, so naturally, it had priority over creating and promoting content on our blog.

In February 2017 we started focusing on SEO for our blog, and by June, the blog’s pageviews boomed. We created content and affiliates strategies and by the end of 2017 we were already close to 120k monthly pageviews which exceed our initial estimations and milestones.

What is the revenue model for the blog?

We make money through affiliate income and strategic partnerships on our blog. We have various revenue streams for You Could Travel, including sponsored posts, media creation and branded campaigns. We also sell our beautifully crafted guides via our blog.

Because we have digital agency experience, we love working with brands and tourism boards to create targeted promotions to increase their sales. The goal of a branded advertising campaign is to favorably develop brand image and awareness. We love doing this, it’s our professional background and we speak marketing.

We got our first sponsorships in month two of blogging. It wasn’t paid for, but the total package was worth $800 which was an incredible success given the age of our blog. We started making actual money from our blog in August 2016.

Through our blog alone we now make an average $4,000 per month and as we grow, we expect this to increase steadily.

The best advice I can offer is to treat your blog as a business. Make a business plan from day 1 and figure out who your target audience is. Have an end goal and continuously check your progress by measuring your milestones. Implement A/B testing and stick to what works. And hey, don’t forget to celebrate successes!

What are some strategies you have used for building up the traffic?

It’s super important to have a plan and focus on SEO. The more your domain ages, the more you write and the more you invest into your website, the more traffic you will get. Make sure you keep your website user friendly, have a good, mobile friendly theme. We picked  great hosting from the start to, ensure our website is super speedy and invested time into making You Could Travel into a recognizable brand.

Doing collaborations with other bloggers and networking is also very important as getting quality backlinks plays a major role in optimising your content for search engines.

We started by creating good content and promoted it on all social media channels. We also got in touch with various tourism boards and asked them to give us feedback on our posts. This ensured our content is accurate. Some tourism boards shared our content which created a snowball effect for our social accounts and led to various partnerships and an increase in brand awareness.

We find guest posts to be an important strategy, one which we still apply to our blog today. We like networking with like minded bloggers and create long term partnership and friendships.

One thing we didn’t do well, was to grow our subscribers list! This is something we just started implementing and so far it’s going well. This was an oversight on our part, but we now created landing pages to capture subscribes.

Nothing happens overnight. It took us almost two years to get to where we are today. Give it time and patience, and it will happen. And as already mentioned, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a plan in place.

How have you grown the email list?

Unfortunately, here we are, 2 years later with only about a 1000 subscribers on You Could Travel. This is not something we focused on until recently, when we finally created a strategy around it. We now have dedicated landing pages to capture subscribes and it’s going well. We will continue to tweak our ideas until we find what works best.

As we are quite new to this, the best advice we can offer is to create a persona for your email list and figure out who would subscribe and why. Reverse engineering the process works best in these cases.

How do you write great content that performs well?

We have a whiteboard with our upcoming subjects and places we want to write about. Once we pick a subject, we do our research to ensure there is a gap in the market and a need for our article. Ultimately, we want to add value to our blog.

Once we have a title, we create the h tags for our article so we have a structure in place, then we start filling in the gaps. We write informative guides from our own perspective, and include small stories and adventures as they happened to us.

'Try to be yourself and treat your blog as if you would tell your friend a story.'Click To Tweet

We try and make sure our content is not just information heavy, but catchy and emotional where needed, so our readers can connect with us.

At the beginning of any writing career, it’s natural to want to imitate a successful voice or a successful blogger. Try to be yourself and treat your blog as if you would tell your friend a story. As you write more and more, you will inevitable find your own voice and find that something which makes you unique.

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?

The biggest challenge was finding time to run two business in just 8 hours a day. It took us a few months to balance our personal and work life. Of course, if I could go back, I would focus on growing our email list from day 1.

We didn’t start networking until month 6, looking back, we probably should have started a little earlier.

As with every business, every day is a learning opportunity, something which we really love. It also poses various challenges but it’s part of the process, so best to embrace it, do the best you can and learn from any mistakes.

The key to achieve the end goal is to stay focused and follow your business plan.

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Joining relevant Facebook groups has helped us a lot as we could network, find out about new opportunities and keep track of current trends.

We are fortunate enough to have digital agency backgrounds which meant we know exactly how to create business plans and target the right readers right away. If this wasn’t the case, we would not hesitate to invest in courses or pay for one on one coaching. We believe that every business requires investments to become profitable.

In terms of our content, we focused on a great niche, Japan, just as the Tokyo 2020 became a done deal. This means that hopefully we got in front of everybody else and will already be a well established voice just in time of Tokyo 2020, so readers will prefer us over our more recent competition.

What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?

What nobody tells bloggers is that time is the most valuable asset, so it should be used wisely. Basically, don’t do anything which is not to your business advantage and don’t work for free.

There is no such thing as free lunch. As bloggers we never get anything for free but work very hard to deliver. In fact, at the beginning of our careers, we overdeliver and undercharge.

I would say that bloggers should do their research and consider their real value before they pitch.

When creating a blog, find a niche and figure out if there is a gap in the market for your blog.

Where can we go to learn more?

Check out our blog, Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram.

Ali Garland of Travel Made Simple

3 months ago in Interviews

Ali Garland runs Travel Made Simple, where she helps people plan their vacation and travel smarter. Find out how she has been able to grow it to $6,500/mo.

Revenue of $6,500/mo

Email list size of 1,200

Founded in 2012

 

Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?

Hi, I’m Ali Garland, and I’m originally from the US. I’ve been living in Germany for almost 7 years now, in Berlin for the last 3 years. I’ve been blogging since late 2009, and I started Travel Made Simple in 2012.

After blogging for fun for a few years, I decided I wanted a site specifically aimed at helping new travelers plan their trips. My readers are mostly people who take traditional vacations (not long term travelers) and people who don’t have much travel experience. I often get questions that start with “this is my first international trip…”

These days I’m earning an average of about $6,500 per month from my blog. It took me several years to get here, but at this rate, I should earn more this year than I did at my last office job!

What motivated you to get started with the blog?

When I lived in the US, I worked in aviation insurance, which I didn’t really like much. I started blogging as an outlet and a way to enjoy travel when I couldn’t actually get on a plane. A few years later, when I started Travel Made Simple, I wanted it to be more informative and helpful, and not so personal since my other site, Ali’s Adventures, is a much more personal travel blog.

In 2012 when I started the site, I was taking an intense German course 20 hours a week, and my husband was supporting both of us since I was on a spouse visa that didn’t yet allow me to work. I wanted to eventually make money with my blog, but I didn’t have a clue how.

Eventually I started making some money from freelance writing, but the blog was only earning about $50 a month for the first few years. In 2015, I also started doing VA (virtual assistant) work for other blogs. By then, my site was earning around $500 a month, but still not enough to live on, and I still didn’t think it was possible for me to earn a full time income from my blog.

What is the revenue model for the blog?

My site earns money from a mix of advertising and affiliate marketing. But a few years ago, I didn’t think it was possible because it seemed like only the really big sites were earning money that way, and most of the successful travel bloggers I knew were making money from PR trips and tourism board campaigns. I hated those kinds of trips, so I assumed I’d go on making a little bit of money from ads and affiliates, but that I’d have to earn most of my income from freelance writing and VA work.

At some point, a few posts started gaining more traction, and my income went up with them. I started focusing more on testing things to see what worked best, and over time, the things that worked really started to work. I mostly focused on figuring out how to get more clicks and conversions on my affiliate links, as well as improving SEO.

Another big thing for me was ditching Adsense and signing on with AdThrive, an ad network that only takes sites with at least 100,000 monthly pageviews. Their rates are so much better than Adsense that I immediately started earning more than double. Now I earn 8-10 times what I used to earn with Adsense.

Last year I finally switched from a basic hosting plan to a premium web host, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I should have switched much earlier because basic hosting can’t handle larger amounts of traffic, but better late than never. Simply switching gave me a big bump in traffic, plus they were able to make a lot of improvements to my site to increase speed.

My traffic has really improved over the past 6 months, and now I’m reaching 250,000 to 330,000 pageviews a month, and I’m averaging about $6,500 a month. About 60-70% is from advertising, and the rest is affiliate marketing. Most of my affiliate income is from Amazon, but I do earn $100-500 a month from other affiliates such as hotels, tours, and a few other things.

My best advice is to find out what works for you. Don’t blindly follow what everyone else is doing. I’m not a very social person, so doing campaigns with tourism boards or brands where I’d have to be very active on social media all the time isn’t my thing. Even if I could figure out how to make money that way, I’d be miserable. There are tons of different ways to make money from a blog, but it takes some trial and error to figure out what you feel comfortable with.

What are some strategies you have used for building up the traffic?

The internet changes a lot, and quickly, so what worked a few years ago might not work today. In the early days of my blog, I was able to get a decent amount of traffic from Twitter, but that hasn’t worked for me in quite some time, so I don’t bother with it much anymore. Social media is still important though, so you have to publicize your posts on as many different channels as possible, and then monitor the results to see where it’s worth spending your time.

Guest posts and interviews are a great way to get in front of more people. I did a lot of this in my first few years of blogging, and it helped bring in a few more readers each time. Plus getting backlinks from those guest posts and interviews helped build my credibility in Google’s eyes.

Eventually I focused most of my efforts on SEO. Social media can be fickle, and I don’t like spending lots of time on social media, so finding ways to get good search traffic really appealed to me. I started writing longer, detailed posts, trying to be as helpful as possible with the information I was putting into the posts.

I also wrote several posts around related topics to show my readers and Google that I really know about that topic. I looked at what kinds of things people were searching for that fit into my niche, and I wrote posts that answered their questions. Over time I learned more and more about SEO and keywords, and I started tweaking old posts to improve them.

These days I don’t worry about continually publishing new content. This is the exact opposite of what many other bloggers do (and I wouldn’t recommend it as a new blogger) but now that my site is established, I focus more on improving what’s already there. My traffic keeps going up, and while I do have ideas for more posts I want to write, I’m very conscious of keeping the focus of my site narrow.

If you’re new, I think it’s important to figure out your goals and the type of site you want, and that will partly dictate how you focus on building traffic. Some goals depend more on building a loyal readership and following, and you’ll probably want to publish more regularly and be more active on social media. But as I have discovered, not every blog has to work that way.

How have you grown the email list?

My email list is probably one of my weakest points. I’ve had one for years, and so many people rave about how their newsletter is their best way of earning money, but I have struggled to figure out how to capitalize on mine. I have a little over 1,200 subscribers, which feels pretty small considering I started my newsletter about 4 years ago.

I have a small free ebook that I giveaway as an incentive for people to sign up for my list, but it’s probably not good enough. I should have several different ones to attract people with different interests, but I haven’t made this a priority yet.

I also have an email series that new subscribers get in the first few weeks after they sign up, but beyond that, I don’t send out newsletters regularly. I struggle with figuring out what to write in my newsletter, and it’s definitely an area I need to put more time into one of these days.

My best advice is to start your list as early as possible, even if you don’t know what to do with it. It’s the one regret I see many bloggers mention often, that they didn’t start collecting newsletter subscribers earlier.

How do you write great content that performs well?

When I write content for my site, I focus on a few different things to help it perform well. I try to give as much detail as possible so the person reading my post can get the answers to all their questions on that topic. I’m always thinking, how can this be more helpful? I also research the keywords that relate to the topic. Besides being good for SEO purposes, it also means I’m finding out the actual things people are searching for, which means I can be sure to include the information they want.

As I’ve mentioned, I put a lot of focus on SEO. Like most things, it’s always changing, so I periodically go back to old posts and update the information. Sometimes that means certain keywords are more or less popular, and I can rework my post with that in mind.

This helps my post show up higher in search results, which means more traffic. But I only go after keywords that truly fit the post and work with my own knowledge and the audience I’m going after. I wouldn’t optimize a post to go after a “traveling with kids” type of keyword because I know nothing about traveling with kids and those aren’t the readers I’m going after.

I also write my posts in a way that is easy to read. I try to stick with short paragraphs and clear, useful headings. Again, the purpose is to make it as helpful as possible, and a huge wall of text isn’t helpful to most people. Pictures are great too, especially for a travel blog since people want to see the places they’re reading about and visualize themselves on the trip.

I choose my topics based on a combination of my own experiences, what people are searching for, and what fits well on my site. Since I mostly aim at newer or less experienced travelers, I have a lot of tips posts that might seem like common sense to a veteran traveler, but these are questions my readers really need answers to.

As for destinations, I stick to places newer travelers might be interested. Someone who has never left the US before is unlikely to go to Kosovo as their first international trip, so I would write about something like that on my other site, but not on Travel Made Simple. 

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?

The biggest mistake I made with my blog was not treating it like a business right from the start. I created a second site specifically because I wanted it to be more serious, more business-like, and because I wanted to make money with it. But I didn’t have a clue how to make that happen, and I didn’t take the time to figure it out. I just wrote blog posts and hoped that some day the big money-making secret would just fall in my lap. It doesn’t work that way!

Now I realize that if I had taken things more seriously and done the research from the beginning, I’m sure I would’ve started making money from my site much earlier. So if you’re new to blogging and you want to make money from it, you have to treat it like a business and really put the effort into it.

'The biggest mistake I made with my blog was not treating it like a business right from the start.'Click To Tweet

I’ve learned that there’s a lot to learn. Blogging is not a quick way to make money, and you can’t expect things to fall in your lap. I had to read tons of articles on different topics, like SEO and Pinterest, to learn techniques to improve my blog. I had to test different things to see what works and what doesn’t. And realizing that what works for one person might not work for another is huge.

If I could go back in time, I’d learn whatever I could about SEO from the very beginning. I’d research ways to make money from a blog and evaluate which ones might work for me. I’d make short and long term plans for how I was going to make money with my blog. In general, I’d be more proactive in my approach to blogging instead of waiting and hoping for things to work out.

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

In some ways, it was really helpful for me to block out what other bloggers were doing. A few years ago, I didn’t think I was really ever going to make more than a few hundred dollars from my blog anyway, so I stopped paying attention to what other bloggers were doing, and I just did my own thing.

Focusing on myself and my own site meant I could figure out what worked for me, not what might’ve been working for other people. I wasn’t so distracted by all that other noise. My blog kept improving, and eventually I realized I really could make some decent money from my site.

On the other hand, one of the most helpful things to me has been getting involved with a few blogging-related Facebook groups. I know that really conflicts with what I just said, but I think what I really needed was the ability to separate comparing myself to others from learning from others.

Being in these Facebook groups has connected me to other great bloggers who can help me with things I might struggle with (and I get to help them too, which I actually quite enjoy) and together we can help each other succeed. I just have to recognize when it starts feeling noisy to me again and take a break.

Another thing that was really helpful to me was a course on affiliate marketing that Michelle Schroeder-Gardner teaches. I was already making decent money from affiliate marketing, but her course really helped me fine tune a few things and learn a few techniques I didn’t know before. My Amazon affiliate income is now 2-4 times what it was before I took her course. For a beginner, I imagine it would’ve been even more helpful.

I also think timing played a part in my success. I have several posts on my site that are about topics I couldn’t find a lot on years ago, which is why I wrote them, and those posts do really well for me now. Getting ahead was a huge advantage for me, even if I didn’t think I was doing anything ground-breaking at the time.

What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?

If you’re just starting out with blogging, one of the most important questions to ask yourself is, why do you want to blog? And I don’t think “to make money” should be your number one answer. It seriously helps to enjoy blogging and to have an interest in the topic you’re going after.

Blogging isn’t a get rich quick scheme, and if the topic you choose bores you, you won’t be able to stick with it for very long. So while I think it’s great to know that you want to earn money from your blog, you should also figure out what your why is aside from money.

Once you know you do want to make money from your blog, figure out how you want to make money. Some methods will fit well with your personality, but others won’t. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t enjoy being on social media all the time, so I don’t pursue income streams that would require me to do a lot of that. I also value my flexibility, so anything that would require me to be on someone else’s schedule is unappealing.

But maybe you love interacting with people all the time, so offering consulting services or leading your own tours or going on sponsored trips would be a great fit for you. Bottom line, don’t pursue things that will make you miserable.

'Blogging isn't a get rich quick scheme, and if the topic you choose bores you, you won't be able to stick with it for very long.'Click To Tweet

Don’t expect to be making lots of money or getting tons of free things right away with your blog. I see so many new travel bloggers expecting to get free hotel stays or free tours after only a couple months of blogging and with only a thousand pageviews a month.

When you’re new, you don’t have much of an audience, so you don’t really have much to offer a hotel or tour company. They want to know what’s in it for them, what kind of value you can offer in exchange for that freebie. Be patient and focus on building your audience first.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can find me on Travel Made Simple, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, as well as my more personal blog, Ali’s Adventures.

11 Proven Ways To Grow Your Email List

3 months ago in Blog

Having an email list is one of the most valuable tools to you as a blogger. Whether you want to promote your latest blog post, publish a New York Times Best seller or sell your course, having a list of people who are eager to hear from you is crucial.

The biggest myth around email lists is that you need to have tens of thousands of email subscribers to see the benefit. The truth is, no you don’t. Even if you have a tiny email list of 100 or 200 people who are eager to hear from you, it can do wonders for you.

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Blogger Outreach

3 months ago in Blog

Have you ever seen blogs come out of nowhere and grow rapidly? In most cases, it’s not because they got lucky, it’s because effective blogger outreach. In fact, this blog’s traffic & email list skyrocketed for the same exact reason.

The benefits to blogger outreach are endless, including:

  • Guest posting opportunities
  • More backlinks to your blog
  • More social shares to your articles
  • More opportunities for joint ventures

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10 Things To Do After You Publish a Blog Post

3 months ago in Blog

You’ve worked hard and published a blog post. Now what? It’s time to drive some traffic back to your content. Smart bloggers know that quality content is crucial, but getting the word out about your posts will make or break your blog.

For some of us writing comes naturally, for others it might the promotion aspect. Finding a fine balance of the two will keep you ahead of most bloggers out there.

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