In 2007, I had no idea blogging would become a large part of my career. I was happily tapping away at guidebook work, writing copious amounts of content for magazines and online outlets like TravelChannel.com and Forbes Traveler, and ignoring every request for advertising because, really, who had the time?
all imagery in this post by Joe Hendricks
In 2008, I won my first Bloggie for “Best Travel Blog.” In 2009, I won it again. In 2010, I won it a third time and was retired to “Hall of Fame” status. I continued focusing primarily on print work.
At the beginning of 2011, SVV took a leave from his contractor job that resulted in a full year of travel for us—first, around Northern California, then across the West, then around the world via Semester at Sea—and started answering the emails I’d been ignoring for years asking about advertising space on my website. That’s more or less when this blog became a team effort and something that proved to have legs.
All that to say, none of my blogging success came overnight. It was years until this became even a small part of my career.
We’ve never gone about advertising the traditional way; SVV and I both always wanted to keep this site devoid of banner ad eyesores, even though I’m sure we could make decent money incorporating that model. We turn down the majority of offers at free products and requests for reviews unless it’s something really cool or makes sense for me to cover. We don’t really mess with affiliate sales much, other than the occasional Amazon or rewardStyle link to something I’ve bought personally. We’ve always sought to have a smaller, curated stable of partners we adore who we wind up working with time and time again throughout the years, rather than team up with every marketing agency who approaches us with an offer of a one-off project.
This is just our preferred style; it might not make sense for everyone, but it’s how we roll.
It’s funny going back and reading how this space has evolved in 10 years. I’ve started a much-needed site audit with an SEO professional out of Holland, and through it, I’ve been going back and deleting handfuls of old posts because they’re either a) wildly embarrassing or b) irrelevant to what I do now. Still, it’s also been a fun walk down memory lane, not to mention encouraging to see how my writing has improved.
If I had to give tips for new bloggers based on 10 years of being in this crazy world, it would be this:
- Don’t do it for the money. It should be about the love of your chosen topic, the passion about content creation and the want to share your knowledge. Once you’ve built out a body of work and accumulated a following, then you can start to think about monetization. But I’ve seen far too many bloggers launch a site in search of making bank, which should be an after thought and is also much easier said than done.
- Focus on quality, not quantity. So many people ask me what the ideal amount of posts per week is. That’s a tricky question; I know style and fitness blogger who post their daily musings, but for a food or travel blogger, putting together a piece of content can take hours (if not days). So it’s all variable; you don’t want to put out a rush job, so figure out what’s best for you that also allows you to maintain a high standard of work. I try to post two to three times a week, but often life gets in the way and that doesn’t happen.
- Stay true to yourself; don’t be concerned with what others are doing. So many of my peers write for SEO, and sure, I could probably employ that tactic and double my traffic. But do I want to? No. Would it bore me to tears? Probably. Standing out as a unique and marketable product will always win out over being a clickbaity content farm (unless, of course, Google AdSense is your entire advertising strategy).
I’ve hit a few milestones this week that come at the perfect time: 100,000 unique monthly visitors + 20,000 Facebook fans. I’ve never been one who has based my brand’s value on numbers or traffic—for me, it’s all about the community—but as a former mathlete, I do love me some nice, even, round numbers, so this was synchronous timing.
And in 10 years of blogging, I’ve accumulated a number of memories, which I thought would be fun to share here…
Most cringe-worthy moment: the fact that one of my very first blog posts in 2007 chronicled me getting my first Brazilian wax in New York (*face palm*).
Craziest moment: when Ella got recognized in Golden Gate Park as a wee pup back in 2010 by a blog reader’s daughter who was visiting San Francisco from Arizona. And then getting spotted by a reader at a temple in Kyoto in 2011 but not learning about it until she Tweeted me later that night was equally as wild!
Favorite blog posts: I’ve been writing more itinerary-style posts as resources for those of you who may be traveling to the same spots as me, but I’m not going to lie, my favorite type of writing is more essay, experience-driven or narrative style. Of all the posts I’ve written, numbering in the thousands, my posts “Friendship Without Borders” (about a chance meeting on a flight) and “Murder in Cambodia” (about the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge) are two of my favorites.
Coolest opportunity: too many to count! The iHeart Radio Pool Party in Miami was pretty awesome, but so were every one of the content campaigns I’ve been hired to do through this blog—from South Dakota to West Virginia, Grand Cayman to Britain. It’s crazy (and humbling) to think that I get hired to go to all these amazing spots and write about them.
Biggest LOL: the fact that I named (and even had a photo!) of my crazy former roommate, who we will refer to as The Evil, with no thought of privacy or her finding it (this is one of the many posts that has since been scrubbed). Blogging in 2007 really was the Wild, Wild West in comparison to the more PC age of Blogging in 2017.
Some cool media hits: though I’m a journalist and have written for more than 50 magazines, my blog has also been featured in several pubs. To name a few, Marie Claire, The Nest, Glamour, Huffington Post and a national newspaper in Greece.
Post that went viral: my recent musings on brain-picking. It even usurped my popular “What You’re Worth” post from 2011 as my all-time most read post. And it’s also a topic I plan to dig much deeper into in the future, so stay tuned if you’re into that kind of thing.
Best part of blogging: hands down, all the friends I’ve made. From Jade and Alex and Kent and Caanan, to Beth and Team Mayhem, some of my lifelong BFFs have been as a result of this blog. And blogging has enabled me to become even closer with other pals like Angie, who I originally met through a PR-journalist working relationship. Still, there have been so many others of you out there who don’t even have blogs (hi, Briel!) that I’ve gotten to be pals with because you’ve been so kind to stick with and support me all these years.
And that right there is the reason to get into blogging, in my opinion: not for the money, not for the fame, but for connecting with people around the world who you might not have crossed paths with otherwise. It’s been a most excellent 10 years, and I hope I’m still doing this a decade from now.