South America Living

Mistakes a Newbie Travel Blogger Made – That You Want to Avoid!

by Molly McHugh, Former Editor/Publisher of South America Living.     About the Author

This is one of those ‘don’t do as I did’ type of help articles i.e. the stupid things a fellow travel writer did (no need to mention names…) when starting a travel website and is willing to share so you can avoid them.

Two years after starting South America Living I am still having to correct errors from misguided thinking. Because of my past tech and travel writing experience I was overly-confident I would ace the online travel website game and be pulling in 30k visitors in no time whilst pulling in $500 – $700 USD per month or more in profit.

What happened in reality was I learned (over an approximate two years time) how little I knew about what I was getting into and kept pulling in under 10k visitors while making $30 – $50 USD per month. I had little understanding how search engines work plus received bad advice off and on.

Let’s start you off right in your new travel blogging/website venture, by making sure you do not make the following “Top 3″ website development errors I made when starting my website business.

Mistake #1I actually went and searched subject headings to see what was already out there so I could be oh-so-clever and brainstorm something new and different, stealing all the traffic from those already ranking high up in the search results.

This is exactly what you do not want to do. Why? Because all it will do is cause your pages to be listed further down in the search results. I didn’t understand that those who were already ranking high were not only far from stupid but also much more experienced than I and had done their due diligence. They knew to research keywords using an online tool and then name the article using the words that were already ranking high for the subject matter, or to develop a new story idea. To say I had a lot to learn is an understatement.

Keyword research is critical to the success of your site. Not for every page or everything you post, but for finding areas of interest related to your blog subject that there is already an online audience for (i.e. folks searching for that material) as well as how to title and develop an article idea you came up with on your own.

A great article explaining the basics for beginners in addition to listing various online tools you can use is: SEOMOZ Keyword Research.

Mistake #2Not understanding how important it is to set-up Google analytics correctly from the start.

After my site was live for around a year I asked more experienced travel website owners on Tom Brosnahan’s Travel Website Owners List to look it over and give critical feedback. I was getting 6,000 or so pageviews a month and discouraged, though my other site metrics were good; under 10% bounce rate, 4 minutes on site, 4-5 pages read, etc.

It was all doggie doo. I did not realize I had two sets of analytics code on my WordPress website that were screwing up the results – the original code put in the template by the developer and from the Google Analyticator plug-in I had installed.

A fellow travel website owner, Stuart of pointed it out in the thread and I passed the info on to my Web guy at the time but forgot about it shortly after.

A year or so later when consulting with Matt Kepnes aka “Nomadic Matt” and going over my stats he noticed the unusually low bounce rate and – thinking I was making the number up or lying – asked to view my Google analytics data.

Long story short, the original code in the template was finally removed, Google Analyticator plug-in deleted then re-installed and my stats started soaring, with the bounce rate changing to a more normal 30-50%. Bounce rate is not used by Google in its algorithms or ranking system but if yours is say, below 20% you may want to check your code and make sure you are drawing the stats properly.

Mistake #3Not spending enough time on social.

You don’t have to tweet ten times a day but you do need to make constant efforts at networking with fellow travel bloggers and at increasing your online ‘social presence’. Don’t have a Twitter account? Get one. Don’t have a Facebook page? Make one. Clueless about StumbleUpon, HootSuite or LinkedIn? Figure it out.

Besides making your online work time more fun, fellow travel bloggers can give opportunities for guest blog posts (to get a backlink to your site, that are crucial for SEO), like your facebook page so your fan numbers can keep inching up, help you problem-solve numerous issues and keep you in-the-loop with what’s going on outside of your own little Web box.

No one can be proficient in all ends of the business or keep up with every new trend, but a bunch of smart folks sharing information regularily can fight the good fight together for the benefit of all. A current group online you may want to join is Global Bloggers Network .

Lastly, be ready to figure out the latest and greatest new social online trend coming down the pike, and become an early adapter. That’s how you stay ahead of the game – what I’ve learned from those more successful than I. You need a bit of the ‘hang in there’, ‘I can do it’ type of attitude as well I think.

Being a professional travel blogger is far from easy and a lot of work for little pay (the majority of bloggers make little to no cash). Have low expectations at the start, enjoy yourself as much as you can and maybe you will become one of the few who hit the big time (no, I alas, am not one of them presently…)..

Here is an excellent interview with one of the big guys who is very successful (after many years of very hard work): Interview with David Lee of Full of great tips for newbie travel bloggers.

Cheers & best of luck.

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