How to Start a Successful Blog in the Post-COVID Era – The Story of

Sarah and Matt Sarah and Matt
Reading time:  8  min.

Despite only being in the travel blogging field for around two years, Sarah and Matt have already generated a profit and gained a loyal audience. In this article, Sarah and Matt shared their blogging journey, how they started living nomadically and traveling across the country, their monetization strategies, and practical tips on how to make money on tours and activities affiliate programs.

How It All Began

Sarah grew up in Virginia, while Matt is from Boston. Outside of our blog, we both work standard 9-to-5 jobs. Sarah works for a medical device company, while Matt works in the organ transplantation field.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we both worked full-time in the office. However, once COVID hit, we were forced to work from home. After about one year of working from our apartment in Virginia, we decided to sell most of our belongings, pack up what was left, and hit the road. From there, we lived in different places each month, while we traveled and explored as much as possible.

We always loved sharing travel insights and swapping tales of our epic outdoor adventures, so we figured that we might as well put our thoughts in one place and try to make some money from our passion. Hence, we started our blog in November 2020, just before we started living nomadically and traveling across the country.

More than anything, we simply love to see people using our blog and the information we provide to experience amazing adventures! We’ve been very fortunate to be able to live a life that allows us to travel, adventure, and do all sorts of crazy outdoor activities. This is why we love sharing the information, lessons, and details we learn along the way to allow other people to share in the same experiences.


The main idea behind is to inspire people to do things outside of their comfort zone and provide them with all the information they need to do those things!

We believe that life is about pushing your boundaries, taking risks, enjoying nature, and doing whatever makes you happy. We hope that our website will not only inspire people to take more chances and pursue their dreams, but will also give people the information they need to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations and live life outside the norm!

Right now, we do everything ourselves. There’s no team here—it’s just the two of us. Sarah does all of the behind-the-scenes work, like SEO optimization, keyword ranking, and general blog planning. She also takes and edits all of our photos. Matt is the main writer, but Sarah also writes plenty of blogs as well.

Travel Blogging Journey

We’ve learned so much since we started our travel website! Starting out on the absolute ground floor with no website design or blogging experience, we had no idea how difficult it would be to gain an audience and turn our blog into a legitimate, trusted source of information.

The biggest challenge we’ve faced is simply growing our audience. When we started blogging, we were attracting a handful of visitors to our website each day. It stayed like that for a while! But then, we started learning more about SEO and how to optimize our website to rank for specific terms.

After becoming more knowledgeable about SEO, we didn’t just write about whatever we wanted. Instead, we choose specific blog topics based on optimized keywords, which has definitely been the most effective way we’ve improved our website over the years. 

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When we first started blogging, we placed a ton of broken links all over our website. Be careful and make sure you do it correctly!

Editorial Note: install Travelpayouts LinkSwitcher and check for invalid links on your site. This tool automatically changes links to Travelpayouts affiliate links in seconds. It also analyzes URLs on your webpages and displays any invalid links in the LinkSwitcher section of your Travelpayouts account. Read more about LinkSwitcher in our article.


We only write about things that we’ve done ourselves. If there is a guide, recommendation, or insight posted on our website, you can be sure that it is something we’ve experienced personally. As such, our content is primarily driven by our own experiences. 

That being said, of course, we don’t write about everything we do. To select specific topics, we utilize KeySearch to find keywords that have a high search volume and we think we could rank for based on our domain authority. We have an ongoing list of potential topics and prioritize those articles where we think we have the highest chance to rank compared to the anticipated traffic volume. 

We faced so many challenges when we first started, but at the most basic level, the largest challenge we faced was growing our brand, especially in terms of SEO. 

Naturally, when you start a blog from scratch, no one, not even search engines, knows who you are. Because you’re the new kid on the block, you’ll have very little domain authority and search engines will be unlikely to rank your articles, no matter how comprehensive, well-written, organized, and SEO-optimized they are. You’re simply too new to be trusted!

But with time, we improved our domain authority and kept creating high-quality content. As a result, slowly, our ability to rank improved.

Persistence makes a successful content creator different from one who fails. No one starts a blog and is successful overnight. In fact, most people won’t start seeing a return on their investment of time and money for many years. It’s a long haul and you have to be patient.

But, if you are persistent and continue to create high-quality, SEO-optimized content, in time, your traffic will grow and your blog will become successful.


Most of our traffic from search engines is organic. 

The single most important thing you can do to increase your blog traffic is to utilize search engine optimization. Having a website that is optimized to rank within different search engines and focusing your content around optimized SEO keywords is absolutely critical to your blog’s success.

The most important metrics we pay attention to are our daily and monthly views. While other metrics are important and can provide insight into other aspects of your website, to us, it all comes down to views.

Within the umbrella of SEO, keyword research and optimization are definitely the most important tools. In the early days, we’d just write about anything we did recently. But the website really started growing when we conducted more focused research to find keywords for which we knew we could rank and that would drive traffic to our site. 

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We don’t rely on social networks to drive traffic. That might seem a little surprising, but we’ve found that it’s easier to drive traffic to our blog organically than through Instagram, which is our primary social channel. While we love posting on Instagram and it is a great way to engage with our audience, we don’t find that many of our Instagram followers visit our website through the app.

We also get a significant amount of traffic from guest posting on other websites.


Seasonality has not had a large impact on our earnings. At the moment, we make about $500 per month from our website. Our two monetization methods are affiliate marketing and brand partnerships. We’re hoping to be able to put ads on our website in the near future, which we expect will boost our overall revenue.

We make the most money from affiliate marketing. This is also the most consistent source of revenue from our blog. Brand partnerships are less consistent and make up a smaller portion of our overall revenue.

Affiliate Marketing

We joined several travel affiliate programs through the Travelpayouts partnership platform, such as GetYourGuide and Viator. We love that Travelpayouts is easy to use and allows us to work with multiple companies on one convenient platform.

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We also joined some other programs outside of the Travelpayouts platform. Here are some of the brands we work with:

  • AvantLink
  • Amazon
  • Expedia
  • VRBO
  • REI

Avant Link has a plugin that can be added to your browser, which makes it super easy to grab links and incorporate right into our website.

The biggest challenge we’ve faced with affiliate marketing is balancing the conversion rate and payout rate. For instance, we have links to many outdoor products that are available from different retailers. People are more likely to make a purchase from certain retailers, but those retailers might have a lower payout percentage for us. 

It’s always a challenge to figure out which retailer we should link to for a particular product based on the likelihood that someone will purchase that item from that retailer while also keeping in mind the payout we’d receive. 

Tours and Activities Affiliate Programs

We’ve joined the GetYourGuide affiliate program and recommend their services to our audience. We’ve often used GetYourGuide in our own travels and we know that it is a reputable and reliable company.

Up to 10% reward
$100+ average price
31 days cookie lifetime
The GetYourGuide Partner Program
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We’ve also tried using Viator, but have found that more people are familiar with GetYourGuide and are more likely to book through them. 

We include links to tours or activities that we have done and would recommend to other people. We often place these affiliate marketing links in our guides to specific places (i.e., things to do in a city). For example:

We’ve found that the most effective way to make people click on our affiliate tools is by drawing their attention to them by formatting them in a summary box or other graphic. You don’t want to bury a link deep in a body of text or in a place where it won’t get much attention.

We always try to highlight our affiliate links with graphics or special formatting. 

The biggest red flag is when someone is promoting a tour or activity that they clearly haven’t done themselves. Similarly, we don’t link to GetYourGuide if we know you can book the same tour elsewhere at a lower price. Our highest priority is being open and honest with our visitors, so we always seek to recommend the options that we would choose ourselves. 

The worst place to add an affiliate link is probably to bury it in the text at the end of a blog. The best place to place a link is in a logical, but noticeable spot (i.e., related to the content around it). For instance, if we’re writing a list of ten things to do in a city and one recommendation is a specific tour, we always add a link to the tour right there. In addition, we typically create a special formatting box or place the link in an image to draw attention to it.

If we notice that an affiliate tool isn’t working well, the first thing we do is re-evaluate its formatting and location within the article to make sure the article is set up to draw attention to the link. 

In addition to tours and activities affiliate programs, we earn on the hiking items. We are avid hikers and much of our content is focused on hiking guides and gear. We even have a dedicated category for hiking.

Because hiking is fairly gear-intensive and we are aware that many of our readers have questions about the gear we use, we typically include a list of our favorite items in each article about hiking. We also have articles specifically about hiking gear, which include affiliate links to our favorite items.

Future Plans

The biggest challenge we are facing now is the same challenge we’ve been facing since we started our website: growth. While we’ve grown considerably since we began, we still aren’t where we want to be in terms of the number of visitors per month.

Our plan is to continue to develop high-quality content that is optimized for attainable keywords for which we can rank and utilize all of the SEO tricks we’ve learned over the years. We’ll admit, it can be frustrating to see growth stagnate or fluctuate, but we really believe in the quality of our content and hope that our hard work will continue to be rewarded.

We’d like to utilize Google Discover more in the future, which we think has significant potential to increase traffic.

Key Takeaways

  1. The key to success is providing honest, organized, and insightful information to your readers. If they can trust the information you’re providing, they’re more likely to trust your recommendations for tours, activities, or gear.
  2. It is so easy to tell when someone has written an article about a place or experience they never actually did. Why would you trust someone who recommends things they haven’t even done!? You should write about things you really experienced and know well.
  3. Invest your time in tracking different affiliate programs. Make sure you understand the conversion rate, payout rates, and where your revenue is coming from. Use this information to drive even more revenue!
  4. Persistence makes a successful content creator different from one who fails. Be ready and prepared for the long haul. You must be patient. 
  5. Search engine optimization is the single most important thing you can do to increase your blog traffic. It is absolutely critical for your blog’s success to focus your content around optimized SEO keywords.
  6. No matter how comprehensive, well-written, organized, and SEO-optimized your articles are, you may face difficulties with ranking. If your domain has low domain authority, work to increase it.
  7. Guest posting on another website is a great way to build additional traffic sources. Also pay attention to Google Discover, which may have significant potential to increase traffic in the future.
  8. Join the affiliate programs of brands that your audience is familiar with. 
  9. Share affiliate links in the place where they are logically expected and draw attention to them by formatting them in a summary box or other graphic.
  10. If an affiliate tool isn’t working well, re-evaluate its formatting and location within the article to make sure the article is set up to draw attention to the link.

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

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