How do you grow your blog traffic? This was the question I asked myself in 2018. I joined Facebook groups looking for answers, and bit by bit started building my travel blog.
From a modest beginning in 2018, reaching 100k in one year, to successfully building a strong readership to the site, I will share my travel blogging journey here, plus tips and lessons that I have picked up along the way.
Disclosure: This site uses affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you use my links and make a purchase without incurring an additional fee yourself.
My Blogging Journey (Blog Traffic Growth)
It is important to know my travel blogging journey so that you can understand my personal situation, skills, and how I used various courses and tools to succeed.
- 2015 – 2017: I bought my domain, and was blogging for fun on WordPress.Org. I didn’t invest in any course, I was blogging as a hobby, and only wrote 6-7 posts a year
- 2018: I moved to self-hosted and signed up with Siteground, and I have been super happy with them ever since – no downtime, and super secure and fast hosting. You can check them out here.
- That year I also started writing more content (wrote about 20 posts or so), my interest that year was with Instagram. I signed up for a $350 course and worked on Instagram. In retrospect, I feel I could have better used that time in building my blog or my email list (more on that later).
2018 introduced me to the many Facebook groups that existed, and how people/bloggers are finding success everywhere doing what they LOVE most.
I was impressed.
I am a big believer in training, and courses (online or in-person) – I am a trainer myself in my professional life. So it was an easy buy-on. Courses provide all the information, steps, and worksheets for you – all you have to do is read it, apply it, and tweak it as you go.
I have taken courses ranging from PDFs, training videos, one-on-one coaching, membership sites, you name it, to learn all about SEO, affiliate marketing, email list building, and Pinterest.
I should also add that I worked full time during those blog building years, and work in a very dynamic workplace which keeps me busy. And not to forget the long commute times.
With limited time on hand, I had to find a good framework that helped me set goals, and crush them!
Taking SEO courses to build my blog
By October 2018, I had already taken some basic courses plus PDF guides to understand SEO, but I was not happy with the results.
In November 2018, I decided to sign up for a robust SEO course, and learn everything from setting up the essential blogging pages to understanding categories and tags to mastering keyword search and ranking higher on Google.
I learnt SEO, and started implementing it right away. SEO takes time, so it is important that I kept at it.
In December 2018 I took a good stock of posts, categories, and tags that I had on my site from 2015.
- I deleted a ton of posts that were not getting any traffic (or were thin content). I didn’t redirect them as it didn’t match with the blog branding or niche.
- Then I made a list of posts that I can improve upon, with SEO knowledge
- Also signed up for Key Search for keyword research. You can sign up here, and grab a 20% off discount today! Use code – KSDISC
In early 2019, my traffic skyrocketed. I started with around 9k in January and by May 2019 I was able to apply for the coveted Mediavine ad network (at 27k sessions, and was approved in the first try. As of June 2020, Mediavine increased the required session to 50k sessions).
Pro-tip: In February – March 2019, I wrote my first affiliate post with Amazon. And around this initial phase, I focused heavily on content creation. You need blog posts to bring in traffic, especially in those early set up stages. At this time, I only had about 45-50 posts. By the time I reached my 100k+ pageviews, I was at 140 posts.
With SEO (income by ads), and affiliate marketing, earning a steady income was possible.
In May 2020, I launched my second site (regional travel site), and in June 2020 (just a month after) this baby blog with 12 posts was already ranking on page 2 for multiple posts. In November that site was approved for Mediavine as well.
Using Pinterest to boost traffic
In 2019, I ditched Instagram, and started focusing on Pinterest. I did have a Pinterest account in 2018, but I was not paying any attention to keywords, or pin designs.
I started learning about Pinterest from scratch. Took different workshops and courses to learn about keywords, board descriptions to pin designs.
- In January 2019 I started implementing 1 new pin a day strategy and started tracking my results. Just like SEO, Pinterest takes some time to show traction as well. I started at 100k monthly views, with 3000 pageviews to the site.
- In June 2019, the account reached 1.1 million monthly views, with 25k+ page views to the site
- This has just grown over the months, and at the time of writing the post, I am at 2.6 million monthly views (August 2020).
I created a checklist, and started designing new pins for all of my older posts, and saw great success. I love to experiment with pin designs, and do not stick to one single format.
I publish a lot of new pins and try out different designs. It is important to remember that not all pins will take off, so experimenting is key to understanding your account.
I opened a new Pinterest account for my second site in June 2020 and already got over 1000 pageviews, with 138k monthly sessions (in 23 days of launch).
Using Tailwind to automate pinning
About Tailwind: I didn’t use Tailwind until January 2019. It has really helped me to automate pin publishing (while I am busy doing other tasks).
With recent changes in Pinterest, I limit my Tailwind use. Like I no longer use tribes/Tailwind Community or SmartLoop, and I only add about 50 pins a day (which includes others content as well as my own).
Along with writing SEO content, and generating traffic from Pinterest, I also paid close attention to earning an affiliate income.
Affiliate marketing is all about promoting the products/services you love and use via blog posts, or social media. You have to apply for affiliate partner networks for approval, and once approved you can add ‘trackable’ links to your content.
As content creators, it is important to understand what an audience wants, and how can you better serve them. I implemented affiliate links on my main site in late 2018, and improved upon it through 2019.
It is important to have some traffic to understand what is resonating with your audience, and most importantly where they are based. As a travel blogger you can use tours, hotels and travel insurance to share with your audience. For the most part, major affiliate networks (like AWIN, Share-A-Sale, etc) will have a merchant that you can apply for, and they are super global ‘currency’ friendly websites.
Problems come in when you promote products. Take this, for example, I use ‘The North Face products’ (jackets, shoes, backpacks and have used them over the years). I live in Canada, and some of the items were either purchased online, from Sport Check or MEC. Imagine if I link it to these stores and if my (majority) of the audience lives in the USA – how frustrating will it be for a reader.
So it is important to understand those finer details, it is not enough to just make a personal recommendation. You have to make it easy for them to click, add to cart, and buy it.
Many of the affiliate networks listed in this post are applicable for various niches like – lifestyle, home, finance, business, etc.
These are the affiliate networks I use on my main travel site
- GetYourGuide – My favorite affiliate partner. We personally use them, and love their customer service and affiliate support!
- Avantlink: If you are a travel or outdoors blogger, you need to sign up for Avantlink. It is free to sign up, and by doing so you can get to work with merchants like REI, Patagonia, Backcountry, Pacsafe. Their affiliate commission is higher than Amazon, ranging from 5 to 10%.
- Amazon: Because I have readers from Canada, and the UK, I always provide Amazon as an alternative so that a reader can easily purchase similar products. Their commission rates are not the best in the world, but from a reader’s standpoint, I offer that as an option.
- Booking.com – For hotels.
- Nomads Insurance
I didn’t invest any time in email list building until January 2020. I took Amy Porterfield’s List Building Course to learn how to build my email list. Her course is easy to follow and is perfect for newbies.
Before taking the course, I had MailChimp on my site (from the theme I got way back in 2018).
MailChimp was not user-friendly, at least for me. So I didn’t focus on list building in the past 2 years. But when I took the List Building Course, I followed the tutorials and was impressed by how easily I could use opt-ins, sign-ups, and widgets on my site.
I am currently using ConvertKit and I LOVE it, for all the features it has. I can tag my list and segment them according to interests. (This is handy, especially because I talk about so many topics on my site).
I have also started list building early on my niche site, and you should too.
I am on a paid plan with ConvertKit, you can try it for free below. I did have a few subscribers in my old MailChimp account, and it was transferred/imported to Convertkit seamlessly.
Everyday Blogging Resources
- SiteGround: For my web hosting for both sites, I use and rely on SiteGround. You can also add a site security component for $20/year. Click to sign up here
- Keysearch: For keyword searching for posts, use Keysearch, sign up here, and use discount code – KSDISC to receive 20%
- Convertkit for email list building/marketing system: Click to grab a free account for up to 1000 subscribers
- Tailwind for automatic pin scheduling: Click to try out Tailwind!
- Canva: I like the designing bit for Pinterest. I use Canva for designs for pins, e-book covers, optins, and more. I have the Canva for work subscription as it allows me to use my own fonts, re-size, and access a photo library for all of my pin designs and graphics. Click to see what you can do with Canva
I hope this post has inspired you to take the leap forward and start your blog. If you have any questions or need guidance in growing or monetizing your blog, don’t hesitate to contact us.