Today, since Halloween is coming up, I want to throw on a witch hat and discuss something that is truly terrifying.
…. Travel blogging in 2018.
Hahahaha. ha. ha. ha. Just joking. … Sort of.
*rows away on a river of blogger tears*
Let’s face it – it has been one heck of a year in our weird little world. Algorithms have imploded, “influencers” have gained international notoriety, and even still – the industry gets more saturated by the second. What was once hailed as holy grail advice is now outdated, and gone are the days that a hobby blog with “good content” can get you far. In fact, in 2018, the success of your travel blog hinges as much on business savvy as it does on flimsy hats and shamelessness.
Aaaand if that freaks you out a little, I get it. Business is scary. Running a business is scary. And not realizing you might be low-key running a business? That’s the scariest.
I’ll be closing in on 2 years of full-time blogging soon, and one of the biggest, most terrifying leaps I ever had to make was going from “Hi I’m a blogger” to “Holy crap. I’m an entrepreneur!” Once I had that epiphany, everything changed. The way I worked changed. I bought a blazer. And my income? Wellll… that happily changed too.
And while a business mindset was once upon a time a mere asset and differentiator, the game has changed dramatically thanks to oversaturation. In 2018’s travel blogging industry, business savvy is now a necessity for survival.
So besides a 2007-esque Britney meltdown, what’s a blogger to do?
Well, we’ve got you, boo.
*Makes it rain champagne*
IT’S TIME FOR THE 3RD ANNUAL EDITION OF BLOGTOBERFEST!
That’s right, slayers – our signature series is BACK.
Just like last year’s Social Media Strategy series, or the No BS Guide to Travel Blogging the year before, we are dedicating the month of October to absurdly thorough FREE guides that will make you want to both kill us and hug us at the same time.
For this month, we’ll be casting aside cutesy pug-loving, pun-making LiaTina (a horrible couple name I just created), and instead we’ll be carting out BUSINESS LiaTina – the scarier, pantsuit-wearing, ass-whooping versions of our former selves. [With a smidge of residual pugs and puns] This year’s theme of course? How to bizzify your travel blog, and become an unstoppable travel blogging machine.
[brief pause for squealing]
Gosh, I feel like Oprah.
Anyways, over the next four weeks, Lia and I will be covering a range of topics that will help you uplevel your blog and turn it into a well-oiled business fit for 2018. That’s right – this month, we’re casting aside the creative aspects of travel content creation and focusing only on. BIZ. NESS. (Alt title: making money rain). Here are the topics we will be covering every Saturday in October (and spilling into November, but shhhh).
Oct 6 (Today!): 7 Mistakes That Are Crushing Your Travel Blog’s Success in 2018 (And How to Fix Them)
Oct 13: Income Streams and Monetization
Oct 20: Pitching and Landing Sponsorships
Oct 27: In-Person Networking for Travel Bloggers
Nov 2: Email Marketing
Think of this series as the virtual slap in the face you need to get things going. Like a motivational Facebook video, but aggressive. You know? Don’t worry, it’ll be chill, like this pug.
Let’s get started.
7 Mistakes Crushing Your Travel Blog’s Success in 2018
I need to clarify one thing before we start.
These mistakes are written from first-hand experience.
In fact, EVERY LIL THANG on this list is something that has guilted me into fetal position for years now. That’s why I want you to know we’re alllll in this togetherrrrr. Nobody is perfect, certainly not me, and even writing this was a reminder that I have a lot of werk to do.
So, rather than sulk in the overwhelm, take this post as a wake-up call, and let it fire you up for some gamechanging moves this month. If any of these mistakes resonate with you, please holla in the comments and share any breakthroughs! *heavy breathing* we love compliments.
Anyways… let’s get to it. 7 mistakes that are holding you back in 2018.
TELL US IN THE COMMENTS: What would you most like to learn this month from Blogtoberfest? And feel free to drop your blog links below so we can see who’s joining us!
Mistake #1: You’re confusing popularity with profitability
Repeat after me: popularity and profitability are two separate things.
In 2018, many of us have forgotten this.
Particularly in the travel space, there’s this idea that social media (*cough* Instagram) popularity is THE holy grail of travel blog success. But I’m gonna let you in on a groundbreaking, ultra-confidential secret right now…
You… you can’t pay rent with likes.
Shock. Horror. Dismay. I know.
See, the problem with confounding popularity and profitability is it muddles up your goals, which leads to a poorly optimized usage of your time and resources.
Is a solid social media presence important? Absolutely, but let’s make one thing clear: followers do not = $$$ because popularity (in and of itself) is NOT a business model. Having a massive audience (authentic or bought) does not matter if you don’t know how to monetize that audience.
So, to kick off this series, I want you to detach yourself from the idea that you NEED to be popular in order to be profitable. Realize that there is a big difference between popularity and profitability, and that their relationship is CONFUSING. Sometimes, they correlate… the more popular you are, the more money you make. Other times, they have an inverse relationship – the more time you spend chasing popularity, the less profitable you become. The bottom line is there’s no one single route to success. Many travel bloggers may think that social media popularity = a one way ticket to champagne and caviarland, but it’s definitely not the only way.
So in sum, here’s what we want you to do…
ACTION ITEM: Write popularity is not profitability ten times on your arm. Jk. But like, repeat it. Remember it. Tell a friend. A tattoo might be cute. Thankkkkk you.
Mistake #2: You have no clue what your unique value proposition is
Blogging is like dating. We’re all just a group of weirdos who seek love and validation.
But do you know the key to capturing that love, attention and happily ever after? Knowing what YOU’VE got to offer, boo.
Like, you know what would grab my attention in a Tinder bio? “I’ve got four corgis and make a killer quiche.” Nnngh, yes, helloooo, quadruple swipe!!
Why? It’s simple: in a sea of emoji-laden bios and poorly cropped group photos, four corgis and a quiche make one heck of a unique value proposition.
Blogging is no different. To succeed, you need something unique to offer the blogosphere. Think to yourself, slayer: what is YOUR killer quiche?
Why should someone work with you, rather than another blogger?
Why should someone follow you, rather than one of the many other accounts out there?
*breaks down sobbing*
A huge mistake that travel bloggers make in the early days (or even late days, tbh) of their business is that they have no idea what their unique value proposition is. Lacking this means their content lacks clarity, which makes it much more difficult in the long run to a) create a loyal base of readers and b) create partnerships with any companies or brands. Given how saturated our industry is these days, this could be a huge blow to your business.
ACTION ITEM: Take some time to reflect on the unique value you have to offer. What is your unique perspective, your unique expertise? Write it down and keep it somewhere prominent.
On a related note, here’s a similar mistake that many travel bloggers are guilty of…
Mistake #3: You don’t understand your business’ “product”
As a travel blogger, you’re running a business, and like any business, you have a “product” or some value to sell. On one hand, your product is the content you produce for your audience. On another hand, you’re selling your audience and platform to potential brands and sponsors.
You with me so far?
Alright, now I want you to imagine a scenario for me.
Picture this: it’s a beautiful sunny day. You’re going out for an ice cream. You might even treat yourself to sprinkles because you put on pants today. Out of the woodwork, a strange man appears and asks you to buy his mysterious bag of treats. You ask him what’s in the bag, and he begins to stutter.
… WOULD YOU BUY THIS WEIRD MAN’S TREAT BAG?
Probably not. After all, the guy can’t even tell you what he’s selling.
Plot twist: in the world of pitching and blogging, YOU are ‘random treat guy’.
If you aren’t able to articulate what you’re selling, then your business will seriously suffer. This might sound simple, but the amount of times I see bloggers get stuck on the question “so what do you blog about?” is honestly frightening. If you can’t summarize your unique value in a sentence or two, then you’re in trouble.
So, understand that if you are a travel content creator, you need to know two very important things:
A) What you’re selling to your audience (kind of like your unique value proposition) and
B) What you have to sell to potential partners, sponsors and brands
Nailing clarity on both these things will make your business life infinitely easier in the long run. This clarity will enable you to not only speak and pitch confidently, but also clarify who your target audience is, so you can do better at attracting them. We will cover this more in-depth in Pitching week.
ACTION ITEM: Take some time to clearly articulate in 1-2 sentences a) the value you offer to your audience and b) the value you offer to potential partners and brands.
Mistake #4: You’re chasing a million business models
So if you’ve spent any amount of time on the Internet, odds are good that some talking head Internet guru has told you the importance of “diversifying your income streams”.
… If not, hi! Here I am now! *puts on a fake beard* YOU GOTTA DIVERSIFY YOUR INCOME STREAMS.
(We are legitimately devoting all of next week to this, so don’t worry)
Now, I must supplement that advice with something conflicting and confusing. Diversify your income streams, but don’t overdo it.
The simplest way I can explain this is… No, you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket… but also, you shouldn’t have 50 freaking baskets.
A scary thing about living in our social media age is that we constantly feel FOMO. You might hear that ads are how everyone is making money, so you write a million posts to gain traffic, then you hear other people are going on paid press trips so you go pitch your butt off, then there’s whispers that someone is selling their kidneys and befoooore you know it…….
Listen, I get it. I mean, have you read Lia’s income reports?!
But here’s the problem: by spreading yourself too thin and working towards fifty million goals simultaneously, you are burning through your energy and not being as productive as you could be. So remember, while there’s a million and one ways to run a profitable travel blog business, your job is not to conquer all million and one ways, it’s to perfect a single one.
(Hypocritical advice from a girl who’s juggling approximately 1000 balls at the moment, but heyyyy I never said I was perfect)
ACTION ITEM: Write down your current income streams and decide how you want to prioritize your time and energy.
Mistake #5: You don’t invest in yourself
I don’t want to sound too much like a motivational Pinterest graphic, but YOU ARE WORTH MORE THAN YOU KNOW.
See here’s the thing: as entrepreneurs (remember Slayers, that’s what we are!), we often get stuck in this DIY mentality that we should be doing everything ourselves.
Blog post? LET ME WRITE IT.
Photos? I WILL PAINT THEM MYSELF.
Broken code? GIVE ME A HAMMER, SOME SCOTCH TAPE AND A BOWL OF TEQUILA – I WILL GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS.
… Sound familiar?
For some reason, a lot of us bloggers suffer from a weird money complex when it comes to our blogs.
For example, I used to spend hours a day participating in repin threads because I wanted to save money. But guys, those hours I spent doing (literally) the most mundane thing ever could have been spent writing killer blog content or producing an amazing product to sell, etc. etc. Since hiring a VA to take care of that stupid stuff, I’ve been a million times more productive and I’ve been able to recuperate my investment easily through the extra time I now use to work on money making things.
Remember, you are a business, and businesses require investment.
So, pay to learn new skills, pay to attend conferences, hire the right people to get you ahead. The sooner you start to identify things as opportunities to level up rather than scams to get your money, then the quicker you’re able to…. Well… level up. *cue Mario theme*
ACTION ITEMS: Identify the time suckers in your day that you hate doing, and assess whether or not it’s worth outsourcing them. Then, consider treating yourself to an experience that will help you level up, whether that’s a paid conference or course.
Mistake #6: You’re not making real life connections
I know what you’re thinking: “But bloggers are mole people. We live in blankets and subsist purely on Nutella and Google Analytics. We go outside only to look at dogs and do IG Stories.”
… We don’t “network”.
Listen up slayers, here is the sad and scary truth: it’s 2018, and if you’re not making real life connections, you are getting left behind.
PS: No scare tactics buuuut our free Facebook community is an epic place to meet likeminded travel creators. Join here!
I say this because in the past year, one of the biggest changes I’ve made to my “blogging routine” (if you can call my cycles of productivity and then crying into a cake a routine), is, against all odds and social awkwardness, I started networking.
And what I’ve learned is just how crucial networking is in this business.
In a digital industry where we hide behind computer screens, nothing beats developing a face to face connection. One recurring theme that kept coming up during my face to face meetings with brands was this: they are inundated with pitches. Every day. Email after email, they have no idea how to get through this white noise anymore, and much prefer meeting in person. A few notable tourism boards even told me they now work on a referral basis, accepting only influencers who have collaborated with other tourism boards they know. Isn’t that absolutely terrifying?
So yes, in-person connections are crucial to success. Increasingly so. Which is why we’ll be doing a full week on it!
And don’t worry – it doesn’t have to be icky. Last year I actually went on one of my favourite press trips ever simply because I made an excellent pun during a face-to-face meeting. Real effective networking hinges on relationship building and rapport, not awkward LinkedIn invites.
So if you want to learn how to network in a way that feels “right”, we’ve got you.
ACTION ITEM: Think about ways you can bring offline connections online, whether that’s inviting a connection out for coffee, joining your local Travel Massive chapter, attending in-person conferences or meet-ups, etc.
Mistake #7: Know to value the numbers that matter
Last but not least, let me tape your ears open for this final mistake because I need you to hear my cryptic wisdom.
Slayers: “Numbers don’t mean anything unless they’re meaningful numbers.”
In the world of blogging, numbers get thrown around a lot. “I JUST SURPASSED 200,000 MONTHLY VIEWS” shouts one blogger, foaming from the mouth. “I JUST HIT 12.1K FOLLOWERS” shouts another, fists full of cake. I swear, blog wins get more arbitrary every time I log onto Facebook. And while I’m all for celebrations and patting oneself on the back, it’s very important, from a business perspective, that you are tracking the numbers that actually matter.
Let me clarify this with a few examples.
100,000 pageviews a month. Sounds great right? Come at me, sponsors! Get the limo ready cuz Christina is ready to buy new jeans!!!
… except, just the number 100k doesn’t mean anything at all, really. If all your views come from, say, tweenage girls in Sicily, then it’s effectively a dead-end audience for any brand who’s looking to reach an American market, or a middle-age male market, etc. Do you get what I’m saying? Numbers aren’t good enough. Do you see now why it’s important to not just have numbers, but also an idea of what those numbers mean?
You might think “duh, that’s so simple. Why is Christina breaking my ears with this straightforward nonsense?”
Because this nonsense isn’t so straightforward.
The amount of times I’ve heard my peers blindly chasing likes, follows, pageviews, etc… without considering why those numbers matter…… *trails off mumbling*
I mean, I’m definitely guilty of it!
But these days, I know better. I now realize it’s not necessarily the pageviews that matter – it’s about getting eyeballs on the right posts, on the posts with affiliate links, the posts loaded with ads, from an audience that’s likely to buy. Whereas once upon a time, I stalkerishly breathed over my Google Analytics every night, I now look at other metrics that actually matter to me: my ad and affiliate income.
To sum things up, it’s not enough to chase numbers or stats. You need to focus instead on the numbers that actually track the value you’re pursuing.
This is the difference between vanity metrics and actual ROI.
So, yes, chase those numbers. Aim for goals… but always be tactical with the numbers that you are chasing. Quality > quantity.
ACTION ITEM: Reassess the metrics you’re measuring and see how they align with your goals. If they don’t, looks like you’ve got some werk to do.
… Is anyone still here…?
Anyone besides my mom?
Oh HEY!!! You made it to the end. What a trooper. Or maybe you scrolled to the end. Either way, kudos. You’ve earned a virtual thumbs up from me, which I’m sure is noteworthy to no one.
The good news is this: you now get a full week to recuperate from all 3000 words of this post. If you find yourself mentally limping from this knowledge vomit, make yourself a nice cup of tea and put on some Lionel Richie. We’ve been told that cures all.
We’ll be back again next Saturday with a value-packed blog post dedicated to monetization and income streams. Our goal? Blow your mind with value… and make you laugh so hard you pee a little.
We’ll see how we do.
PS: Let us know in the comments what you’re looking forward to learning this month!
Until next week,