Tips for Achieving and Measuring Success as a New Travel Blogger

Maria DiCicco Maria DiCicco
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Maria DiCicco, the owner and writer of Always Pack Tissues travel blog, gives tips on achieving and measuring success when you first start out as a travel blogger.

Tips for Achieving and Measuring Success as a New Travel Blogger

Find a Mentor or Role Model to Mimic

If I didn’t have bloggers like Laura from Mike and Laura Travel or Sharon Gourlay from Digital Nomad Wannabe, I think I would have floundered when I first got started blogging. Having a role model to mimic launched me in the right direction from day one.

  1. Research and review the competition.
  2. Note what you like and don’t like about other blogger’s sites and styles. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve researched something for my own travel planning benefit and come across a blog post that fell flat. I’ll whisper to myself, “I can do this better”. Cocky? Sure, but consider that I stumbled on that blog post for a reason, and I bet that post gets a lot of readers. If I can diagnose what I don’t like about the article, I’ve just paved the way for my article on the same topic to be even more polished. Obviously the same goes for what I do like.
  3. Note heavy use of ads that are a turn off, tonality of a writer, or styles and design ideas you like.
  4. Mimic what you like – it took me over a year and half to realize I could have a sidebar photo, bio and space for ads or recent posts. Just by mimicking what I liked about some of my role models, I was able to build it for myself and make it better on my own site.

Ultimately consider this: your blogging peers are the ones who are going to show you the way, whether that’s the way TO do something, or the way NOT to do something. You are a consumer of the same content you are trying to effectively “sell”. Just think along the lines of what works for you, then model it.

…BUT, Don’t Measure Your Success Against Theirs

A lot of bloggers have been in the game for more than 5 or 10 years, giving them a lot of leg up in the industry. You won’t be a smashing success overnight, so expect success to be a slow and uphill run.

Set goals for yourself and track them in a spreadsheet. Some may seem completely unattainable. Set that goal anyway. Reviewing these goals in six months, one year or later, you’ll be able to see exactly how much you have grown. Some example goals that I set for myself in the beginning were earnings goals (both from affiliates and publications), backlink goals, DA score goals, email subscriber goals, site visitor goals and even impressions goals.

If some of these things sound like gobbley-gook, then the next tip is paramount to your success:

Devour Information

Take notes, always. Watch videos, join blogging communities, participate in online classes. Do what interests you and soak it up like a sponge. The second it becomes a chore, you’re doing it wrong. Stop and refocus on a different style of information gathering that works for you.

Many may suggest dropping a downpayment on a house (so to speak) and really leveraging expensive online courses to get going, but I never did that. I devoured every piece of free information I could from reputable sources. I remember going back through some of the Travel Blogging Success group videos on Facebook and thinking, “oh my god…what the heck is a backlink?” I didn’t know about SEO, and I didn’t know a lot more, either. Piece by piece, I nibbled it up.

Try the courses on Travelpayouts, the SEMRush academy, and other online blogger videos. There’s loads of content out there. Once you recognize the ones to listen to (they’ll be showing up everywhere you look), then start devouring!

Bookmark tools to come back to — you will be ready for them all individually, someday. I have known about keysearch and other keyword tools since day 1, but they seemed scary to invest in until I became more “successful”.

I made the bigger investment on day one to launch the site and back it for three years. At the time it seemed like a crazy venture and I honestly wasn’t sure what I’d be doing with it. Little by little, as time went on, I invested in inexpensive or free classes and summits and really only bought into new tools when I was confident enough in my abilities to go to the next phase. I’d been using free SEO tools for awhile, but it was time for the next level stuff.

Learn the tools you need and invest the time to understand them. You get out what you put in.

Keep Your Mind Open and Don’t Be Afraid of Change

Keep changing, daily, weekly, monthly. I have overhauled my website design completely at least 3 times. I changed from image heavy, beautiful UX to something more streamlined because (back to point 1) I realized the other successful bloggers out there were doing simple white backgrounds with no frills. I also update my posts just as regularly, often making SEO changes, tweaking and improving content, and so on.

The world right now is especially terrifying for new bloggers, with swirls of negativity out there – “AI will take over!”, “Google’s Content Updates are killing my blog!” and so forth. I hear it all the time in the blogger forums and I understand how discouraging it must be both for established bloggers and for new ones. But, I let this information slide off of my shoulder like rain off of an umbrella. You simply CANNOT let the negativity in, or it will crush you. Instead, be open to the idea of change, without changing your core values and beliefs.

What do I mean by this? For instance, I’ve seen bloggers take drastic measures to adhere to new Google desires – scrapping websites, changing domains, shifting from SEO to AI only focus, and so on. Whether or not it is yielding success, is it true to their brand? I would feel icky using AI to write my content. But that’s just me. Am I being stubborn? Not adapting to changing times? Not necessarily. I’m staying the course, staying true to myself, and biding my time to see how the blogosphere shifts. 

Get In Bed With Your Content

Not literally, but get intimate with your work. Massage it frequently and give it the love it deserves. Take your time, and step away if you need a break. 

Don’t fudge your knowledge. People know when you’ve researched something versus done it yourself. Share only what you know.

Get intimate with your stats, too. Understand the trends in your work, what is performing well and what needs more attention. Check them daily and really spend time analyzing the intent of your readers. Are they focusing only on cruise destinations? Warm weather locales? Think about what your reader is spending time researching and where your content fits in. Be the place with the answers by analyzing exactly what people are Googling. Adjust your content to fit the mold.

Remember, It’s About Quality, Not Quantity 

When I shared a win about my DA score going up on Facebook, someone asked me, “how many posts did it take?” I think that this kind of mindset is very limiting. Whether you have 1 or 1000 it shouldn’t matter. Take Laura from Mike and Laura Travel as an example (she tells this tale within her Facebook community) — she created a website that she subsequently abandoned for months, and she got four affiliate sales. This new website had only 1 affiliate post out of 9 total posts. She didn’t have thousands, she had ONE. Let that soak in!

Seek Feedback, Give Feedback

My email list is growing, but still small and that’s ok. I receive feedback from peers, folks I collaborate with for writing work outside the blog, and of course family members, and it is their positive feedback that is really uplifting for me. It helps me to remember that I’m not just writing for me, I’m writing for them. Remember to listen constructively. I have made a lot of positive changes in my work based on both positive and constructive feedback. Always be willing to keep your eyes and ears open for how you can improve.

Also, be willing to help. I’m all over the Facebook communities learning, providing feedback from my own adventures in blogging, and building my brand out while doing it. The more you get your face and name out there as being a helpful participant in the ‘blogosphere’ as I call it, the more recognition you will get. Again, more recognition, more brand build out. 

Learn the Hard Way, and Find the Silver Lining

The other day I noticed that my site storage was getting low so I started deleting a bunch of old photos from my earliest posts. I didn’t connect the dots in my mind that those photos, if removed from storage, would poof — vanish — from my blog posts as well. OF course, because I’m super savvy I deleted them permanently from my trash can as well, to get that extra bump of storage space freed up. (I need the face palm emoji here). 

Luckily, I got bored of the activity quickly and only deleted about 0.5 GB. The entire next two days I painstakingly had to go in and locate these old photos in my Google photos, download them, reupload them, retag them, and so on. Oy! The silver lining is — in doing so I was inside the bowels of those old, pretty crappy posts, and I got to spend the time needed to work those pieces back into something I could be proud of, not something I had abandoned as being “one of my earliest posts”. 

Another thing that I know many people are still upset about is the Amazon images changes — where virtually overnight all of my posts needed to switch to link-only Amazon affiliate links, versus having photos of the products. I researched the API choices for building out the new platform strategy, and ultimately decided to go around my house and take photos of all of the products I’ve bragged about on my blog. And there’s a lot of them! It was a painful couple of days, and in doing so I also removed ALL the old images from Amazon products, cleaning up what would otherwise look like broken site pages. 

The double whopper on this is that I was also able to remove the garbage click-baity posts where I rounded up products that I’d never used before, simply because they looked like something I would use. My website and my authority was improving and I didn’t even realize it. Using my own images and weeding through the fluff boosted my DA within a couple of months from a modest single digit to double digits in no time.

Measuring Success in Happiness, Not Dollars

This is an interesting concept for me, and one I find feels a little hollow until you hear me out. How many stories in blogging start with ‘it was a personal diary of my travels and turned into more’? For me, I was struggling with happiness in many areas of my life from work to marriage and health. In the nearly two years since I started my blog, my happiness has bounded beyond what I thought was fathomable in my lifetime. I thought I’d always be a Project Manager in a tech company, and that I’d always be striving for the acceptance of my family members by sticking in a career that I felt little joy in. 

Instead, two years in, these people support me, are proud of me, and I’m exceedingly proud of myself. Dollars are coming in, yes, but the value of my happiness is immeasurable. I’m doing what I love, and I got here with hard work, a paced approach that I knew I could handle, and a good attitude. People can sniff through fear and doubt. It comes out in your work, and in your social branding. Don’t be afraid to make a huge impact in your life. You just have to take the first step. 

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