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How to Make Over $1,000 per Month on a Cruise Blog — The Story of Adventourbegins.com

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Katarina has been working on cruise ships for a long time and decided to create a travel blog called Adventour Begins to share her experiences with tourists and crew members. Although the blog has not yet grown into a full-fledged job, it already generates a solid income. In this article, Katarina shares her blogging journey and provides tips on how to make over $1,000 per month through blogging.

How It All Began

I come from Belgrade and, even though I am a professor and have a master’s degree in French language and literature, I pursue my passion and have been working in the travel industry for over a decade.

It all started years ago when I received the offer to work part-time as a tour escort on river cruise ships for a French agency. This beautiful and fulfilling job allowed me to work and travel in Europe for several months. During this time, I explored the mighty Danube river and, later, Norway. At the same time, I was studying and finishing my master’s thesis, so a part-time seasonal job worked perfectly for me. After that, I switched companies and worked as a concierge for Viking River Cruises, which provided me with enormous experience in customer relations and the hospitality industry.

In 2016, I obtained a tour guide license in my home country of Serbia, where I worked as a tour guide for leading Serbian tour agencies. Finally, in 2019, I secured a job in the Shore Excursions department onboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ships, which allowed me to visit over 50 ports of call worldwide. This was a turning point in my career that I was so eager to pursue, until the COVID pandemic hit and severely affected the cruise industry.

It was during the lockdown that I started thinking about how to adjust to the new circumstances and use my knowledge in the travel industry in a new, alternative way. At that time, the world changed, so I reorganized my plans and priorities.

I was never into computers and IT before, but I started thinking about doing something online. Since traveling was limited and the cruise industry had practically shut down, my first thought was to create an online course in the French language.

I subscribed to an online platform and started learning about course creation. When I got to the part about building an audience, I realized I wouldn’t be able to sell my course to anyone if I didn’t have any readers or followers. So, I took a course on blogging as a way to launch a digital product. It was another turning point. I made up my mind and decided I was definitely going to become a professional, full-time blogger and live off of my passive income. That’s when my blogging journey began.

As I had saved some money from my previous jobs in the cruise industry, I had the luxury of not being pressed to find a real job immediately. As a result, I had a lot of free time and, in April 2020, I started doing thorough research on how to monetize a blog and turn this craft into a full-time job. 

I am an extremely organized, persistent, and dedicated person when I have a clear goal, so this wasn’t a major challenge for me. It took about two months of just doing the research. Every day, I would spend between six and eight hours in front of the screen, watching tutorials and attending webinars/courses from established bloggers (not necessarily from travel bloggers, but bloggers in general).

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My biggest inspiration came from:

  • Nomadic Matt
  • Adventure In You
  • Income School
  • Sophia Lee
  • Carly from Blogging Like You Mean It
  • As well as other blogs and platforms

During that time, I learned a lot of information from other blogs. It was my source of inspiration and kept me going through those tough times.

One common and highly motivating idea that I kept coming across was: Blogging is a long journey. Never give up if you want to succeed! Blogging is not easy. It takes time, effort, and lots of dedication. You’re going to face ups and downs, but the RESULTS WILL COME if you do it the right way!

I spent two months doing research and deciding on the right niche. My blog was going to be targeted at cruise travelers and people working in the cruise industry. More precisely, I was going to write about cruise ports, things to do, and shore excursions in ports of call around the world. In addition, I was going to write about jobs and life on cruise ships. The most important thing here was that I actually wrote about things I KNEW, things that were actually part of my job when I worked on cruise ships (practical information on ports and cruise ship life). 

I named my blog Adventour Begins, and have been blogging for a bit more than two years. That’s my only website so far. The main idea of my blog is to provide cruise travelers with valuable information on cruise ports around the world, such as information on cruise terminals, things to do in ports, popular shore excursions, as well as general cruise and travel tips. Part of my website is dedicated to crew members planning seeking jobs in the cruise industry. I also have a section where I write about the destinations I have visited (although I don’t focus on this, as the competition on Google is huge and those articles don’t rank easily).

Travel Blogging Journey

In the beginning, I faced many difficulties, from technical challenges to content creation setbacks. I guess the secret to being a successful travel blogger is that you have to have the right mindset!

If you are the type of person who quits easily, then you won’t succeed in blogging. You need to be aware that blogging is like any other job, with ups and downs. Only dedication and true passion for what you are doing will keep you moving forward.

As I had limited resources, I couldn’t invest a lot during the initial stage. I learned about SEO by myself and subscribed to the Keysearch tool, which I find extremely user-friendly, affordable, and useful.

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In the beginning, my content lacked structure. My first articles were written without doing proper SEO keyword research. That’s why I believe that it’s crucial to learn SEO from the start (at least the basics). Keysearch tool is perfect for doing just that, as it’s user-friendly and cheap.

As my knowledge grew, so did my experience. Eventually, I started restructuring my articles and providing useful information that couldn’t be found on any other competitor websites on Google.

For example, the structure of one of my last articles about Las Palmas was:

  • Intro
  • Structured information is divided into blocks with plenty of headings and bulleted lists
  • Conclusion

In the introduction, I clearly indicated what exactly the person will learn about. Then, in the article itself, there are many photos and tips based on my first-hand experiences. In conclusion, I started with the main idea so the reader could immediately understand what awaits them. Then, the reader could delve in to receive high-quality content without spending a lot of time searching for the right answer.

I invested in redesigning the website, which didn’t cost me much, as I already had an idea of how to organize it. I have a friend who is a web developer and helped me with the design process. Once I learned how easy it was to work with WordPress and Elementor, I started making changes myself. 

One year ago, I switched from Bluehost to the Name Hero hosting platform. This was one of the best decisions I made. Name Hero has an amazing support team, so whenever I had a technical issue, they were there to solve it for me.

Traffic

I use Google Analytics to track my website metrics. Due to my SEO efforts, I can proudly say that over 90% of my traffic is organic. My audience mainly comes from the USA (around 65%), the UK (20%), Canada, and Australia. Two years since its launch, Adventour Begins now attracts around 35,000 pageviews per month.

I am aware that social media is important for travel bloggers, but I didn’t have much time to focus on that as I was doing my best to create as much valuable content as possible. So far, in two years, I have written around 140 high-quality, SEO-targeted articles (ranging from 2,000 to 7,000 words each). A large number of these articles already rank on Google’s top search results pages.

I put a lot of effort into growing my social media presence in the beginning, especially on Pinterest, which didn’t pay off for me. Instead, I should have focused on SEO. Luckily, I realized this after the first year.

Unfortunately, in the past year, my time was limited because I found a part-time job (obviously, I am not a full-time blogger yet). As a result, I didn’t have much time to write articles and focus on all the other aspects of growing my business. That will surely change in the near future, because Adventour Begins already generates a decent income, so it’s time for me to move to the next phase.

I’ve recently invested in a course made by leading digital marketing experts in the Balkans. I intend to use the information in this course to grow my social media presence and create a digital product to grow my passive income. I do have Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as a Pinterest profile, but they have never brought me any significant increase in traffic because I didn’t dedicate the time and work to properly utilize these platforms. I hope to change this in the future.

Also, a year ago, I made a lead magnet to attract subscribers to my email list, which has grown past 1,100 subscribers. I work with Convert Kit and I like them; however, I haven’t monetized my email list yet. One of my top priorities in the next few months is to create an e-book and email marketing strategy.

So, in a nutshell, SEO has worked best for Adventour Begins so far. Email marketing, growing my social media, and brand collaborations are the three things I will focus on in the future.

Content Creation

I am the only copywriter and editor of Adventour Begins. In the beginning, I also hired two of my ex-colleagues to write some articles for me about ports of call that I had never visited (such as those in Australia, New Zealand, etc.) I also invested in some website enhancements, but I continue to make my own content.

I write about cruise ports around the world. I’ve visited a lot of them during my time working on cruise ships, so the information I provide in my blog is from my own knowledge and experience.

For example, there is no other place on Google where you’ll find the information that passengers need regarding the 10-minute walk to get out of the cruise terminal in Lisbon or about how the gangway at the Zeebrugge cruise port is extremely steep. The information I provide is extremely detailed and specific, which makes Adventour Begins stand out from competitors on Google. 

In addition, since I worked in the cruise industry, I know exactly what kind of information passengers are seeking. Knowing your audience is key, as well as niching down your website to match the specific needs of your audience.

Monetization

Before I launched Adventour Begins, I thoroughly researched ways to monetize my blog. I started monetizing my blog after approximately eight months, but it didn’t bring me any significant revenue, not only because my blog was new, but because the cruise industry was shut down and cruises weren’t operating.

I joined the Ezoic ad platform in January 2022 and my traffic started to grow by April. Cruise ports reopened and cruises restarted, so logically people started searching for information on ports and finding my blog on Google. With that said, I noticed that the traffic decreased in August and is still lower than in the previous months, so I guess it’s related to seasonality and possibly the changes that Google recently introduced.

My main income sources are:

  • Advertising: ~$700-800 per month
  • Affiliate Marketing: ~$200-300 per month
  • Sponsored Content and Brand Collaborations: ~$150-200 per month

My income level also varies based on the season.

Affiliate Marketing

I generate income with Travelpayouts, especially through Viator and GetYourGuide. My experience with Travelpayouts has been amazing so far. The platform is simple and user-friendly, especially compared to so many other affiliate platforms. As a result, it’s easy to navigate for blogging beginners.

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Besides Travelpayouts, I am also affiliated with Booking, World Nomads, Amazon, Kayak, CJ, and a few other affiliate programs; however, I only generate decent revenue from Travelpayouts and Amazon.

How to Add Affiliate Tools

In the beginning, I used to insert many affiliate links from different advertisers and my articles were over-stuffed with links that didn’t really add any value to my content. After some time, based on my revenue, I saw that the major platforms my readers are interested in are Viator, GetYourGuide, and Amazon.

Now, I insert only targeted links within my articles and even removed the links my readers were not clicking (actually, I am still in process of testing some advertisers). Coming up with a strategy that gets my readers to click on affiliate links and book tours was my biggest affiliate marketing challenge.

When it comes to selling and getting readers to click on my links, the most important thing is strategy. First, you need to have high-quality, valuable content, gain trust from your readers, and be strategic about placing links in your content. My first articles were badly structured and I used to place links all over them. However, I realized that this approach was counter-productive and changed my strategy (although I still haven’t edited some of my old articles). 

Now, I insert links within my articles only in the places where they fit naturally. For example, if I write about the 10 things to do in Santorini for cruisers, I list those 10 things and, after each paragraph, insert an affiliate link so the reader can check out the tours being offered.

My favorite and most productive tools are text links and widgets. I prefer the GetYourGuide widget to the Viator widget, because you can target a specific attraction or city highlight, while the Viator widget only allows you to choose the city and randomly gives you a list of tours. You can access both of those widgets by joining the Travelpayouts partnership platform.

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Where you insert links mainly depends on your website’s theme and content. It is important to ensure that links don’t come across as pushy or unnatural. I personally insert links only within articles, in places where they fit naturally. If you place links randomly, it will only deter your readers and, eventually, they will lose interest and trust in your blog. It’s very important to be tactful and strategic.

Travel Affiliate Programs

Most of my affiliate income in travel comes from tours and activities affiliate programs. I chose to work with Viator and GetYourGuide because I know that cruise passengers use their services. Viator and GetYourGuide are established tour booking platforms and cruise travelers trust them, so naturally they will be interested in booking their tours. 

On the Travelpayouts platform, you will find 12 affiliate programs to earn on Tours & Activities, among them are Viator, GetYourGuide, GoCity, Tiqets and others.

When cruise ships are in port, passengers usually go out and explore. Some of them book tours with the cruise line, while the majority of them prefer to do their own thing or book tours with independent tour operators. 

In addition to Tours & Activities affiliate programs (which work really well), I also tried several other affiliate programs, such as hotel-booking platforms, car-rental platforms, and travel insurance platforms; however, none of these niches have worked out for me so far. That’s likely related to my audience. 

When cruise ships are in port, cruise passengers mainly look for how to spend their day on that location. They don’t look for hotels because they already have everything provided on the ship. I guess it also depends on the cookie policy of each affiliate program, but I am not really familiar with how that works, so I can’t tell you any more about that.

As for the TripAdvisor affiliate program, in the beginning, I did place some of their links within my articles, but my experience showed me that my audience prefers to book tours through Viator and GetYourGuide. I may place more TripAdvisor links in the future, we’ll see. If you want to succeed in affiliate marketing, you should definitely consider your audience’s needs and the brands they are used to booking with. 

Future Plans

I am at that point now, as I am starting to see significant results and definitely want to make blogging my full-time job in the following months.

Currently, I am not facing any major difficulties, but I am thinking of ways to grow my business. My next step is to create a digital e-book. I also purchased a course in digital marketing because I plan on growing my social media presence and building a larger audience. 

One of my other goals is to connect with other bloggers from the cruise industry and start doing brand collaborations. Getting backlinks from relevant and established travel websites would also help me rank better on Google.

In addition, as my knowledge of SEO is pretty basic, I plan to learn more about SEO in the future. I still need to grow my knowledge in affiliate marketing as well.

Given that Adventour Begins is still not my main source of income and I have another part-time job, I have mainly focused on content creation and inserting affiliate links, which have been proven to work for my audience. In the near future, I intend to expand my knowledge in affiliate marketing and edit my articles to better suit the needs of my readers.

Key Takeaways

  1. Write about things you know. For example, write about the things that were actually part of your job. This way you can create content that is better than your competitors. 
  2. It’s important to have decent writing skills. You should also know your audience to match their specific needs.
  3. The key to success is to be disciplined, persistent, and passionate about your niche. When you enjoy doing something and truly put your heart into it, then you won’t see it as an obligation or work, but rather as a hobby or enjoyable activity. 
  4. You have to maintain the right mindset. If you are the type of person who easily quits, it will be hard to succeed in blogging.
  5. Be conscious of the fact that you will face many challenges and downturns on your journey. When you face difficult times, stop and take your time, but always bear in mind that it’s normal to burn out and that it’s part of the process. We’ve all been there. 
  6. Blogging is a long-term game and it takes at least a couple of years to start seeing the results. 
  7. It’s very important to conduct thorough research, especially into SEO keywords, before you start writing about a specific topic. Before writing any article, it’s important to check your competition and do keyword research, so that you can write a better, higher-quality article than the ones found on Google’s first search results page. 
  8. It’s necessary for every blogger to test which affiliate program works for their niche. This largely depends on your readers and topics. For example, just because Viator works for one person’s audience, it doesn’t mean it will work for somebody else’s. 
  9. Travelpayouts offers a wide variety of travel affiliate programs, which makes it easy for bloggers to find everything in one place.
  10. The most productive affiliate tools are text links and widgets.

Want to share your story? Travelpayouts welcomes all bloggers with any travel-related experience. Write to us at an@travelpayouts.com with the following subject: “Story for the Travelpayouts Blog”.