How Love and Authenticity Can Make Your Blog Succeed: The Story of Half Half Travel

Anastasia Kampov-Polevoi Anastasia Kampov-Polevoi
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After a chance encounter in the Big Apple, Dan and Becca discovered their mutual passion for travel and storytelling. They soon started running their Instagram Half Half Travel and, after seeing the blog take off, created Halfhalftravel.com. Initially, Dan and Becca wrote travel guides for places they knew and loved. However, major life shifts — the pandemic, and the expansion of their family — turned their blog into a thriving (and profitable) platform where the two share personal insights and practical tips for travelers worldwide. This is their story, told by Becca.

It all started one night at a bar…

We got the idea to start a travel blog in early 2017 after we saw how much people loved our story — we’d met in a NYC bar one warm winter night — and our unique Instagram content. 

We already owned the domain “Halfhalftravel.com” and thought it finally made sense to use Dan’s talents as a web developer and my love for writing travel tips to build a travel website. 

We knew from the start that our blog would be about travel guides. Our first articles were guides to places we’d been to, such as Hong Kong, Israel, Spain, Portugal, and Colombia. Pretty soon, we started writing travel advice articles, pulling from our own experiences, such as traveling as a couple or how to save money on a trip

This shift to writing advice was thanks to the pandemic — we realized that people wanted to learn about remote work while traveling, so we started writing about this, home offices, and working from home. After the birth of our daughter in late 2022, we began writing about traveling as a family and traveling with a baby.

We weren’t sure if anyone would read it, and we knew nothing about Google search or SEO. But our doubts were assuaged when, much to our surprise, one of our first articles — written about the best places to take photos in Hong Kong — became #1 or #2 in Google searches. This unexpected success taught us that you can achieve great results even without trying.

Nurturing and perfecting our blog

Despite our initial doubts, we’re excited to report that our blog traffic continues to grow year over year. We started with such small numbers in 2017, but once we began putting real time and effort into the blog in 2020 – 2021, we saw a spike in growth. This allowed us to explore and invest in fun strategies like affiliate marketing (more on that below).

Our main sources of traffic are Google Organic Search, Google Discover, Pinterest, and believe it or not, Bing! Travel blogging is full of surprises. But when it comes to promoting the blog and boosting traffic, social media alone isn’t enough. We started branching out into different channels, appearing on podcasts, acting as expert commentators on news and other publications, and writing guest articles on other blogs. You can visit About Us to see all the publications where our voices are featured.

More on Content

How do we pick what to write about? Sometimes we write an article because it seems like a great idea, one that we have personal authority with. For example, recent topics have been about traveling as a family or a relatable experience such as How to Get Global Entry for your Child.

Other times, we’ve used platforms like Ahrefs to determine if an article is worth writing, or to see if the topic is already too competitive. Sometimes, even though the topic may be competitive, we write the article anyway, and monitor its performance.

Here’s what’s hot right now:

  1. What to Know Before You Buy Mott & Bow Apparel 
  2. The Best Men’s Travel Pants For Every Type of Trip 
  3. Must-Have Travel Accessories for Long Flights
  4. 22 Best Travel Backpacks for Women (Tested & Reviewed)
  5. JFK, LGA or EWR: Which NYC Airport Is Best? (Local Tips)

We think these have become popular because they relate directly to our personal experience, and therefore, have a personal touch — we insert our thoughts and opinions to help the reader solve problems they’ll likely encounter. 

When it comes to the actual writing, it’s just me and Dan. We don’t accept guest posts, because we like to be responsible for all our content, but if we want expertise from someone like a subject matter expert, we may format an article like an interview.

How our blog makes money

Originally, we had no intention of making money from a blog. We didn’t know how to do it, where to start, or if we could make it work. But we nevertheless, we gave it a go.

We started with Amazon affiliates, recommending simple travel products in our articles and making a few bucks here and there. One of our best early affiliate product articles was actually “Best travel pants for men.”

We then moved into product sponsorships, recurring monthly sponsorships, and display ads with Mediavine. These ads have been the most helpful on our path to monetization. We’ve experimented with placements of Mediavine ad products, such as turning the univrsal video player for ads on and off. After seeing the positive impact this had on our revenue, we decided to stick with this strategy. 

Of course, our other form of monetization is affiliate marketing for every product or service we recommend. This includes Travelpayouts and travel apparel brands. As of last year, 65-70% of our monthly revenue was affiliate-related. Other sources (mostly ads) accounted for 30-35%.

Why we love Travelpayouts

Travelpayouts offers many benefits to us as bloggers. Above all, we find it easy to use and intuitive. Getting started took us less than ten minutes — way faster than with other programs we’ve tried.  

Then there’s the fact that it’s a single platform where you can find lots of travel affiliate partners. Having everything in one place not only helps us grow as a business, but also shows us what’s out there in terms of opportunities. 

Additionally, Travelpayouts benefits include its easy-to-read reporting and transparent commission rates, plus the widgets and the referral programs that make the whole thing worthwhile. 

We talked in depth about all the benefits in our review of Travelpayouts

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Learn, write, and be yourself

We learned most of our beginner content online, and honestly, that is the best place to start. There is an overload of information in so many formats — there’s something for everyone. While I prefer to listen to podcasts or read articles to learn new skills, Dan will read Twitter and sub-Reddits about SEO. He also spends time reading Google documentation in Google Search Console. As Dan tends to learn well by absorbing information and tips from videos, he watches a lot of YouTube videos.

We both recommend learning from other bloggers whose styles you agree with and prioritize getting a diverse variety of information. Otherwise, you’ll get your information from an echo chamber. All information is good information, even as you become an advanced and skilled blogger.

If Dan and I can leave you with one piece of advice, it’s this: Don’t wait. It’s easy to delay your journey by getting caught up in the plugins you might need or how your website looks. While that’s important, it’s more important to start publishing right away and sharing your posts on social media. 

Also, don’t forget to be authentic. With the way the landscapes of SEO and AI are evolving, people will be looking for your human thoughts and opinions. Facts are easy to come by, but it’ll be your unique insights and special spin on travel and experiences that will give readers value.

Think about what makes you “you,” and use that as a basis for everything you share with your audience. It can be like this list of tips from when our toddler got sick on a trip, or a reflection on a travel experience like this article.

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