One Year of Travel Blogging + Tips For New Bloggers
On the 1st of March I realized that we had reached our one year anniversary of travel blogging. I have to say that I’m a little surprised that we made it to the one year mark, outside of each other we both have a hard time committing to things. The thought of locking myself into something – things like rental agreements, phone plans, skype dates and even planning a month ahead makes me feel nervous.
However I’m so proud that we’ve made it to our one year anniversary of blogging. Prior to starting this blog I felt like I couldn’t love anything more than travelling (and Steven, of course) but since starting They Get Around I can honestly say that I love blogging even more than I love travelling – as weird as it sounds.
I love writing posts and stories, and I love editing videos and photographs. Most of all though, I love being able to have an outlet to encourage others to see more of the world and to create more memories in their lives. I feel like travel is one of those things that helps you create real moments – ones that are frozen in time forever, that you’ll recall fondly well into old age. You may have to work 48 – 50 weeks a year but come holiday time you can escape the grind and taste freedom.
Something I love in particular is capturing images and recording our lives on Youtube, the latter of which we’ve begun recently. I’m so excited to start an archive of memories to look back on when all of this feels like a distant memory. I guess you might say that 2016 (and our 2nd year of blogging) will be the year of video!
I’d like to apologise in advance, this is going to be one of our lengthiest posts yet, partly because I want to write something that was informative for new bloggers looking forward to their own 1st year in travel blogging, but also because so much has happened since we started the blog. Thirdly, it’s my turn to cook dinner and I really don’t want to, so naturally I’m procrastinating.
Our Year in Travel & Life
When we started off the blog we had already been home for nine months from my exchange and our backpacking trip in Latin America. We started our blog while finishing our degrees.
I, being the over ambitious dumb-arse that I am decided that to finish my degree early I would do more than the recommended amount of subjects in my final year. Not only that, it turned out that the majority of these leftover subjects were the advanced statistical and accounting ones. Come exam time I nearly had a breakdown of epic proportions with all of my exams scheduled in an 8 day period alongside a stressful event photography job. After two weeks of crazy lady crying (poor Steven) and the pressure of looking for an accounting job I decided to say “fuck that” and convinced Steven that we had to move to China after graduation.
Come October we left our house, gave away our cat to a loving family and moved to this weird place where children poop roadside.
Highlights of teaching English so far have been
- Watching small chinese children jumping up and down one after another yelling out the letters of the alphabet like dolphins at seaworld.
- Teaching my preschoolers to be birds (Scratch the above – there is nothing cuter than seeing a five year old girl with pigtails jumping up and down like a bird) and to be a potato (I like to throw this out randomly while playing “Be an.. animal”
- Living as an expat in a new country. We lived in Mexico for four months for my study abroad but in China we’re full on expats with grown up jobs. I can’t spend my days shooting tequila on buses here, but its good to feel like part of a community again.
- Squashing my assumptions of Chinese people. We have so many Chinese people in Australia so I thought I knew them quite well, but obviously I didn’t. I love living here and learning why they act the way they do and what the reasoning is behind it.
Just before we moved to China we made a stopover in Sydney where we made our first attempt at indoor skydiving in Penrith which was so much fun. I’ve always been terrified of skydiving so indoor skydiving was the best way to go for me – I’ll definitely be doing this one again in the future. Apart from that we spent our last few days in Australia chilling around the city before our big move. Sydney was much more beautiful than I thought it would be and if I didn’t want to stay in Brisbane I would totally move here.
Steven has really upped his photography game, and I can’t wait to show you all the pictures he’s taken as we explore more of China. On the other hand I’ve gone in the opposite direction and have become fascinated with IR photography – there’s a lot of pressure taken off me to get the perfect “normal” image now that Steven’s so good so I have time to focus on being creative in other ways. I’ve even converted an old account to be turned into my surreal travel photo Instagram filled with surreal / Infrared photography as its not mainstream enough to pop on our TGA travel blog Instagram.
Finally we spent our first holiday in China visiting Shanghai which was quite cool and I can’t wait to return and see more of this giant city. You can watch our Shanghai Travel vlogs if you’d like to see what we did there.
- Check out a new place in China once a month. We can only travel so far in our days off each week but I’d love to see more of the places near Yangzhou. After our successful trip to Shanghai I no longer feel that nervous about travelling in China, which was holding me back before.
- See as much as we can from our Chinese bucket list (post coming soon). There is so much to see but we have so little time that we can travel while on contract – we’re going to try and be as resourceful as possible while still keeping costs down.
- Stay in Banyan Tree on the Bund. We we’re so close to booking this hotel for our trip to Shanghai over Spring Festival but decided to save it for a cheaper season so we could stay in the most amazing room I’ve ever seen. Its going to be a splurge but I can’t wait.
- By a drone and a better lens for Steve’s camera. We have a serious tech addiction but you know, the heart wants what it wants. Others have cars and nights out, we have photo gear. I’m not entirely sure if we’ll by the drone actually, due to complications with licensing and Youtube, but we’ll see.
- Scuba dive in China.
- Learn more Chinese.
Our year in blogging
On March the 1st 2015 I decided we were finally going to have a travel blog. It’s not like we hadn’t tried before, a year earlier while backpacking we had started a similar site but quickly gave up after a couple of months. This time however I was determined to make something I was both proud of and something I could commit to continuously updating. Thus They Get Around was born.
In the beginning, in fact up until around the six month point I was the sole writer and promoter for the blog as Steven didn’t see much point in it. Once it took off he hopped on board (cheeky right!?) and now he writes some of the articles and helps with other areas as well.
If I’m being honest I started this blog with the intention to eventually make some sort of income with it, my dream is to be location independent. I’d love to have the freedom to have more time with Steven and our future family (so, so future – no babies yet), that’s the sole reason. I didn’t start it to get all the “free trips” or to become ever so mildly internet famous or whatever other perks I could think of. I really just want to be my own boss and have the freedom to plan my own schedule and test my own abilities. It’s a big dream, but I’m young, with no responsibilities and a lot of time on my hands – if I fail then I haven’t sacrificed too much time trying.
Key Figures After a Year Of Travel Blogging
- Blog Posts: 110 posts
- Social Media Followers: Over 35,000
- Youtube Videos: 11
- Vlog related arguments: Atleast one per vlog, this is practically the only time we fight.
- Hours worked per day: Anywhere between 4 and 15
- Reaching 10,000 followers on Instagram (@theygetaround). We started to do quite well early on in our Instagram journey, something that was hampered later on when we started posting very haphazardly which kind of killed our progress. We haven’t gotten much better posting wise but we’re trying! Currently we’re sharing pictures of China.
- Having a viral post. Our first post to go viral was our travel quotes post, with over a quarter of a million shares to date (300,000+ now) and still growing. This post was the main reason we grew so quickly as it introduced a lot of new readers to our blog.
- Smashing our goals. After my research of 1st anniversary of blogging posts I had set a goal of 12,000 visitors a month by the end of the year – but by six months of travel blogging we already had 25,000 visitors a month which was amazing. Before this, I remember looking at other bloggers who had gone viral and feeling frustrated and thinking it would never happen to me. In saying that we haven’t gone anywhere near as viral as some people, but we’re grateful for the boost we had.
- Working with our first brand. I was very wary of working with brands until I was sure we could offer enough value. In our one year of blogging we have only approached one company and it was lots of fun. Apart from that we’ve worked with a few companies on written assignments, we don’t reach out for these however, we just pick the ones that land in our email that we think would be interesting for our readers.
- Reaching 1000 likes on Facebook. I didn’t think this was ever going to happen and to be honest I don’t care too much about Facebook as the new algorithm changes make it hard to actually reach your likers – but reaching 1000 was pretty cool none-the-less.
- Not making the effort with Instagram. We were on a roll early on and then we stopped posting which ruined it.
- Phone Issues: My iPhone decided to no longer let me access Snapchat, and Steven’s Chinese phone doesn’t seem to let us access it either. This happened just before our trip to Shanghai which was incredibly frustrating. My iPhone has been slowly dying so as soon as our foreigner officer isn’t so busy with the incoming teachers I’m going to get her to help me buy a new one. Snapchat is my biggest obsession so I can’t wait to be back on there soon.
Making & Breaking Goals
I wrote some goals when we reached the 6 month of travel blogging (see link at previous mention above) mark and we haven’t really met most of them. You can check them out in more detail by clicking on the hyperlink above.
- Reach 20k on Instagram – Failed – nowhere near it. We started posting very irregularly, which hurt our growth in a lot of ways.
- Post frequently on Youtube – Failed. We’ve been even more inconsistent here which also meant we haven’t grown.
- Design a mega menu – Achieved!
- Reach 500 views per snap on Snapchat – Achieved.
- Increase our visitors: Achieved.
- Increase site speed – Achieved.
- Write more about Photography – Achieved.
- Grow our Australian readers – Achieved, we quadrupled our Aussie readers, although its still nowhere near equal with our US readership.
My Goals For Year Two
Again, the accountant in me is frothing at the thought of setting goals so here we go.
- Become full time bloggers (you know, that same dream heaps of bloggers have). This is a little vague dollar wise but I guess this depends on how much our travel expenses are. This sounds hard but TGA isn’t our only website with a decent amount of visitors so we have an edge over those with just one blog.
- Partner with more companies. I feel a lot more confident about the value we can offer now, I’d love to partner with some brands we love and tourism partners in our second year. I really held off on that in our first year, pitching only once as I wanted to be confident that we could actually provide ROI for companies. I feel like so many bloggers make the jump before they have a big enough or engaged audience which really doesn’t help show the influence of bloggers. I didn’t want to contribute to that problem for the sake of a few extra freebies. I’d love to organise our first independent press trip this year to one of the many countries we’re planning to visit. However I’m not sure we’ll do this until after we leave China so this might turn into a goal for year 3 instead, depending on when we leave the country. I’m not in a rush on this one.
- Youtube – upload one video a week. I’ve finally gotten better at recording our travels but since we’re teaching English in China we don’t have too many opportunities to travel. I have a backlog of footage to edit so I’m going to try my best to get through that so we can start uploading videos more often. I love vlogging so much and I’m over the self consciousness I had in the beginning. I get stared at all the time here in China because I look different and it used to really bother me (hell, it still does every now and then), but it’s made me less susceptible to being shy. Hence I no longer care if someone is staring at me while vlogging. It just feels normal. Once our contract ends in late October and we’re travelling full time we plan to upload 3 times a week though – we thought about being daily vloggers but it seems like a bit too much work to take on alongside everything else.
- Reach 2,500 Youtube subscribers. This was our 6 month goal so lets try this again.
- Instagram – Reach 30,000 followers and post daily. Considering we failed spectacularly at our goal last year, this is probably a terrible goal, but hey I like a challenge.
- Change our Design. This one has been driving me insane – about a month ago we bought the perfect theme to help showcase our photography, and make the blog look more professional. However no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get it to look anything like any of the demos. This is single handily the most frustrating thing I have ever encountered EVER. I’ve never struggled so much with a theme before – but a re-design is coming as soon as I figure it out.
- Guest Posts. I’m determined to start once our redesign has been completed.
- Make blogger friends. I would love to meet (e-meet or otherwise) some other bloggers around my age. I see bloggers talking all the time about how great it is to have blogger friends to catch up around the world with and I’m so jealous. I want a piece of that pie (I’ll take actual pie as well)!
- Snapchat (triple our views per snap). I don’t see us reaching this until our contract ends and we’re travelling full time near the end of the year.
- Triple our visitors! Because I like the sound of an over ambitious goal. When we leave China I’d love to take a lot more of you with us as we explore some amazing destinations.
- Write more posts with our personality / stories. I struggle to find the right mix between personal and entertaining / informative posts, I really want to figure that out this year.
- Write about our Central & South American travels – seriously, how haven’t we written more about these?!
- Improve my videography skills. I’m really not great at this so I need to practise until all the choppy movements and dodgy editing is a thing of the past.
My advice to new bloggers
Here I share tips from what I’ve learnt from over 3 years of blogging – obviously only 1 of those years was with travel blogging.
In the first months of becoming a travel blogger I remember scouring the internet for the elusive one year of travel blogging post. I was searching for some sort of bench mark of where to rank my goals.
How many visitors did I need to be considered a success in my first year? How many social media followers and how much income did I need to be earning? Why was it so hard to find other bloggers first year posts?
Last month I tried again to search for other articles in search of a guideline on what to write on our one year anniversary post. Needless to say I found very little bloggers willing to divulge their statistics from one year of blogging unless they had done exceptionally well. This can have two main effects – firstly it can inspire you to achieve a lot in your first year of blogging, or it can make you feel terrible when you fail to reach the same numbers.
Hence I’ve decided to base my tips on general advice to help you across the board in your first year of travel blogging. I don’t want to tell you how much traffic you should have received, or how many social media followers you should have garnered as to be honest I don’t know what is normal. If you don’t hit 5, 10 or 30 thousand visitors a month in your first year don’t feel bad or like you’re failing. You’ll only hear about the success stories online so I suspect many bloggers get a lot less than that in their first years. Apparently most bloggers quit within a year so you can be proud of that in itself. Anyway…
Here are my tips
1) Learn SEO and advanced social media promotion techniques if traffic is your goal. SEO for long term gains and stability, social media for early traffic. Sharing to your own channels is not enough in the beginning, you have to chase your potential readers via paid means or through plain old hard work.
2) Viral doesn’t stay (as) viral. Your numbers will rise but then they will fall – don’t feel discouraged. When our article went viral we had a big high and then evened out at a number a little smaller (but still much higher than we started with). At first I felt bad but after tracking what happened to other bloggers after they went viral I realised it was normal. Kicking arse at point number one will soften these losses and get you back up and beyond those numbers in no time.
3) Find one social media that you’re awesome at and learn as much as you can to get better. Then move onto something else once you’ve almost mastered it for the sake of diversification. You don’t want all of your new traffic coming from one location, but its best to build your knowledge on one thing at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. I started with Pinterest, then started learning how to increase my traffic on other networks.
4) ROI is real for brands, so don’t chase sponsored anything until you’re certain you can provide value. I put off trying to work with brands for a long time, in fact it wasn’t until we were around 25,000 a month before we even reached out to our first brand. Sure, its great to have numbers but you need to make sure that you actually weild some influence over those numbers, and that those readers visit more than just your most popular article before leaving and never returning. Check how many of those readers also check out your home page and click on your new articles. You may get 5, 10, 20 thousand readers a month but if only a couple hundred of them read your new articles you’re not ready yet. Think about how many of your readers will read the posts you write for the brand and if you are happy with that number and genuinely think it will provide value for the brands, then you should go ahead.
5) Your first time working with a company is exciting and weird at the same time. I remember walking into the building for our first sponsored activity and feeling so nervous, but quite excited. The most important thing to remember is to make sure you do everything you promised – photos, videos, snapchatting, whatever you said you’d do you need to make sure you’re doing it while you’re there. But also, remember to enjoy it – find a nice balance. Relax, don’t be weird, don’t expect to receive special treatment – and afterwards send them links to your coverage.
6) Build a traffic base prior to travelling. We weren’t travelling much when we started our blog but had heaps of travel stories from our backpacking trip and other ideas. This way we had more time to focus on building our traffic and creating a nice base of content. Its very hard to build a blog while you’re already travelling, you’ll have to choose between putting the hours into building your audience or actually enjoying the places you’re in.
7) You don’t have to be embarrassed of your blog because most of the people you tell wont check it out anyway. I still struggle with this, I always try to change the subject when our blog comes up or I’ll down talk it to the point where it sounds horrible so the conversation changes. But the thing is most people wont look at it anyway unless you bring the blog up for them, so I really shouldn’t feel so awkward about it (and neither should you). Actually I’m not sure why I still feel awkward when it comes up, I’m really proud of what we’ve created but talking about it in public just seems weird. I think I’m just too used to having others be critical, if I don’t talk it up they can’t cut it down can they?
8) Be consistent. We weren’t, and I think we could have grown much bigger on certain platforms if we had been. It doesn’t matter if you post somewhere once a day or once a week, just make sure you don’t stop for long periods.
9) Don’t compare yourself to others. Every blogger no matter how successful they are has another blogger that they wish they had the success of. I definitely have mine, and to be honest it just doesn’t help you appreciate what you’ve achieved on your own blog. Instead of feeling down because you don’t have their numbers, use them as motivation for improving your blog. Celebrate your successes for what they are instead of in comparison to someone else’s success – you’ll never be happy otherwise.
10) Set goals. Use those bloggers you compare yourself with to help you set goals for your blog. Accept that you might not achieve their numbers or engagement in the same time frame but use them to set your benchmarks in a realistic period of time. Setting goals is a powerful tool to motivate you to grow your blog and by using real examples you know that its possible. They also give you accountability, especially if you have posted them online – and you feel accomplished once you reach them.
So that was our first year of travel blogging. Tell us about your first year of travel of travel blogging below in the comments – or if you haven’t reached it yet, let us know your goals or if you found this post helpful!