Travel Blogging Part 2

A boggy meadow along my route to work

A boggy meadow along my route to work

A lot of people commented on the introductory Part 1 that they’d like to see more in depth information about blogging, so here it is! If you’re not interested in blogging, we’ll see you later in the week. 🙂

Picking a Niche

When there are a lot of people blogging about the thing you want to blog about, the best ways to attract your people are pick a niche and be authentic to yourself. IO is an RV travel blog in general, but I write advice for those who are pre-retirement, on a budget, and single – that’s my niche.

When I started the blog over three years ago, I visited a lot of RV forums and read other people’s blogs and I took a hard look at the questions people were asking about RVing. Over and over again, I saw questions about how much money was needed, how people earn a living on the road, and is full-timing safe for a single person. This let me know that there was a need for more information about these subjects that wasn’t being met and thus an idea was born: As I went through the process of going full-timing myself, I’d write about my experience to help others who wanted to do the same thing.

On a related note, make sure the niche you focus on is something that is true to yourself. For instance, I wouldn’t have done well writing about full-timing with a family, because it’s not something I have experience in. People wouldn’t be as interested in reading about it because I’m not an authority figure in that field, my advice wouldn’t be trustworthy because I haven’t done it myself. Write about things you have personal experience with, and what sets you apart from other bloggers in your field.

Building a Following

I already gave quite a bit of advice about building a following in part 1, under the “Writing” and “Launch time” headings.

To recap, visitors who don’t have a personal interest in you aren’t going to be captivated by a simple travel journal entries or long exposes on your life unless you write it like a story and make it entertaining to read. In fact, it’s a simple truth in life that people are more concerned about themselves than anyone else, particularly a stranger, so the best way to gain a following is to focus your blog more on them than on you. Figure out what they’re having problems with, and give them the solution (knowledge posts), allow them to step inside your shoes and imagine what their life will be like when they’re in the position you are (story travelogues), write about the adversities you’ve faced getting to where you are, and how they can be overcome (inspirational posts). What it comes down to, is that you want your blog to be useful to them.

But the most useful blog in the world still won’t garner an audience if people don’t know it exists.

In the early stages of a blog, just as important as writing good content is something the blogging world at large likes to call hustling. No, not like hustling for money on a street corner. Hustling for an audience.

You won’t be getting very many search engine hits on your blog when you start out, existing traffic and age of the site plays a big part in how Google and other search engines rank their results. People who search for your blog name will find you, but those searching for something more generic like “RVing” are going to find the plethora of other blogs and sites out there about RVing that have been around longer and have more traffic. You increase your odds of being found through search engines when you have a niche, for example if I narrowed down the above search to “RVing in a Casita”, IO is more likely to show up in the first page of results. But I was lucky to get five hits a day from search engines my first few months blogging.

So where will you find your first followers? Look at where they’re currently hanging out on the internet and engage them there.

For an RV blog, that’s going to be other RV blogs, forums, sites, and online communities. Make a special effort to be active on ones that have a shared interest with what you’re blogging about. For instance, I made an effort to be active on various Casita forums, and at the RV.net forums I responded a lot on the “full-timing” related topics because I figured those people would be most interested in what I was doing over at IO.

One other thing. Most RV groups frown upon you advertising your website directly in discussions, it’s seen as crass. The best thing to do is put your blog in your signature, or profile depending on what kind of site it is, and then be helpful. Answer questions people ask on the community group and build a presence over time. If you show yourself to be useful, you’ll start getting clicks to your blog and those people will be more likely to stick around because you’ve already shown them through your activity in their community that you’re a good person and worth the time.

The other thing you can do initially to start getting people to come to your new blog is to write guest posts. There aren’t many RV bloggers out there that accept guest posts but some do. Look around and find ones that have common ground with what you write about on your own blog. You can also write articles for RV websites. A couple times I’ve even been asked for online interviews, and I also accept these offers as long as the site seems legit because it’s free publicity.

Site Quality

Just a couple notes here.

You don’t need to be an English guru to start a blog, but do use the spell-check, use correct punctuation, and pay attention to sentence and paragraph structure. Readers won’t be as strict about errors on a blog as they would be in a book, but you still want to make it clear enough that the reader doesn’t have to decipher what you’re trying to say.

And second, when you’re picking out fonts and a color scheme for your blog, don’t get so fancy with it that it becomes hard to read. Some people have trouble reading stylized fonts or colors that are too close to each other and are hard to distinguish, so to appeal to the widest group of people, keep the text areas on your site to highly contrasting colors and simpler fonts.

Monetizing

This is a subject that whole books have been written about, so I hope you understand that what I’m giving you here is just an overview based on my personal observations.

There are several different ways to make money from a blog.

You could put advertisements up, like the little square one at the bottom left corner of my site. I use Google Adsense, which seems to be the most popular right now, but you can find others out there that do the same thing. How it works is ads are automatically populated for that little square based on the viewer’s browsing history and the type of site the ad is on (so you’ll see RV related ads in there quite a bit). You make fractions of a penny for every site viewer you get, but the real money comes when someone clicks on the ad (whole pennies vs. fractions).

As you can guess, in order to make real money you need to have a lot of viewers, and a lot of clicks. I’ve had Adsense active for about six weeks now, and I’ve made about $20 on it so far. That’s not horrible – it’s enough to offset the $13 or so a month that IO costs to run – but it’s nothing to write home about. I average 1,000 to 1,200 hits a day on IO right now, so that gives you an idea of the size of my viewership vs. the return from ads.

Now, to increase your revenue you could put up more ads, but you need to be really careful with this. Most people don’t like ads, particularly if it makes your blog hard to read or if they’re placed in such a way that they can be clicked on by accident. Never sacrifice the integrity of the community you’re building on your blog to make money, it doesn’t end well. If you upset your readers, they won’t come back. Also never click on your own ads yourself, and don’t ask your friends to click on them repeatedly. Google has algorithms in place and if they detect funny play, your account gets suspended.

The second thing you can do to bring in money on your blog is through affiliate and sponsored links. IO is a part of Amazon.com’s affiliate program. When a reader buys something on Amazon after clicking on one of my links, I get a small portion of the purchase price and the reader doesn’t pay anything more.

Note that for this type of monetizing, the reader has to actually buy, not just click. It may sound like it’d be harder to make money through a blog from doing this, but actually the majority of my IO income is from Amazon affiliate sales. I think it works better for RV blogs than other types of blogs because full-timers don’t have a home town to go shopping in, and a lot of them buy from Amazon so they can get their purchase shipped to wherever they may be camping at the time.

Amazon is also not the only game in town. A lot of different companies and products have affiliate programs. To use another example that might be familiar, some RV bloggers advertise the Frugal Shunpiker’s boondocking guides. Why would they put an ad up for a product they didn’t make themselves? Because they likely get a commission for every sale that comes through their blog.

Just make sure when you’re putting advertising for various products and services on your blog that you’ve tested them yourself and know that they’re high quality. If you advertise an inferior product and your readers buy it because you say it’s worth it, and it’s not worth it, they’re going to get mad at you and stop following your blog. False advertising is a no no.

The third thing I do to bring in money on IO is put up a Donate button through Paypal. This works exactly like it sounds, it’s not a very predictable way of earning money, usually Christmas time is when you can expect the most. Just be tasteful in how your word your donate message, people tend to frown on beggars.

The last thing you can do to make money in a blog is make your own product or service to sell – ideally you want it to be related to the topics your blog is about so that your readers are more inclined to buy/pay for it. I’ve written two e-books that I sell through IO, The Little Guide To Dreaming Big and Solo Full-time RVing On A Budget, and both expand upon the topics I write about regularly on my blog for those who want a more thorough understanding of how to live deliberately and go full-timing before retirement.

This takes more effort than any other method I’ll write about, but the rewards are the highest in my opinion. For starters, you get the entire cost of the product or service unlike advertising other people’s products where you only get a portion, and second it’s very gratifying to know that you’ve put together something with your own hands that will help others.

And that’s a very important point to make. If you’re going to write a book or knit a hat or provide coaching, you have to do the very best job you possibly can and price it fairly. There are a lot of books out there, a lot of knit hats, and a lot of coaches. To stand out from the crowd you need your product or service to be as useful as you can make it, just like I told you at the beginning when it came to your blog in general.

In conclusion, you can make money from a blog but never ever let the focus of your blog stray from your readers. When it becomes all about making money, the quality of your posts goes down and you lose your authenticity, and your readers will notice this. It also becomes less fun for you to keep up with it and you might find yourself resenting having to write, it’s become just another job. If your goal is simply to make money, blogging is not the answer.

Be helpful, be inspiring, be entertaining…. be the best you can be. Your readers will love you for it, and they’ll tell their friends and your following will grow. You’ll grow as a person too, because contribution is a very important part of the formula for happiness. When you help others without expecting anything in return, you help yourself as a byproduct. I write at IO knowing that the majority of my readers will never buy my book, donate through Paypal, or use my Amazon link, and that’s okay. I get comments and e-mails from readers all the time thanking me for all the help IO has given them, and that’s the best payment of all.

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Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

35 Comments

  1. Diane on June 14, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    Becky, I have been following you for some time now, as a matter of fact I read your post about Clinton Lake in Lawrence , KS. We live in Kansas City and was bummer to hear that you were in our neck of the woods and didn’t know it. Would have been great to meet. I remember thinking how brave you must be. We are working towards fulltiming for a least a year …..hopefully longer. We have a website and my husband has posted a number of blog entries. He is a professional writer. I just completed by first blog post ( should be on our site soon) . I couldn’t have done it without my husband’s encouragement and your inspiration. You’re awesome. I do hope we can meet someday. Keep us in mind if you ever travel through kansas City.



    • Becky on June 15, 2015 at 11:17 am

      Aww, too bad! I’ll think of you guys next time I go through Kansas City, although by then hopefully you’ll be on the road yourselves. 🙂

      Best of luck to you, and have fun with the blog!



  2. Bob Wells on June 12, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    Great post Becky, very helpful! As owner of cheaprvliving.com you know you have a standing invitation to do a guest post on my blog anytime you want! But I want all your readers to know that I also welcome guests posts from anyone who wants to submit a post. There is a pretty good chance it will drive new traffic and readers to your blog so it may be worth your time.

    However, I’m picky about guest posts so there is no promise that an unsolicited post will be published. That’s a chance you just have to take. Rejection is a part of every writers life!

    Also, if you have a brand new blog, you should wait to submit guest posts to other blogs until you build up at least a few dozen posts, the more the better. The reason is that when you get a rush of new readers you want them to find some interesting posts already there, otherwise they will come and go and you won’t retain them.

    Beyond that, the more you write the better you’ll get so sharpen your skills before you start submitting guests posts to others.

    We’re all one tribe, if we don’t take care of each other, who will?!
    Bob



    • Becky on June 13, 2015 at 9:34 am

      Thanks Bob, it’s always a pleasure to write for cheaprvliving.com.

      To all the new bloggers out there, I can say from personal experience that guest posting for Bob’s site has brought me new readers. You can get in contact with Bob at http://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/, look for his e-mail in the “Stay Connected With Me” box near the top of the page in the column to the right.



  3. RiverCat on June 11, 2015 at 10:36 am

    Nice Job Becky! I really enjoyed your Purple Mountain post and featured it on http://www.journeylinks.blogspot.com . I’m impressed to see a younger lady get out there and live this incredible lifestyle. Keep up the good work…
    RiverCat recently posted..7N7 : Episode 3 : Pictou to EugeneMy Profile



    • Becky on June 11, 2015 at 9:46 pm

      Thanks River and I’m glad you’re enjoying IO. 🙂



  4. Linda Pierson on June 10, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    I so appreciate your blog and I appreciate the time you spend writing it. Just figured out your link to Amazon. Hope I can help a little bit by doing my shopping through your link. Just checked and in the last 6 months I have over 70 orders with them so maybe I can contribute a little bit financially to your endeavor.



    • Becky on June 11, 2015 at 9:45 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying IO Linda and thank you very much for using my affiliate link. It does make a difference in my bottom line . 🙂



  5. Jodee Gravel on June 10, 2015 at 7:49 am

    Another helpful post Becky! Two things that turn me away from a blog are 1. too many ads and/or videos that takeover the story and take too long to download – since I don’t go back, those ads aren’t earning any money from me, and 2. a home page with too many options just to find the blog – and the blog is called something else, buried in a dropdown menu.

    Your comment section, with the addition of the commenter’s last post, has brought readers to my blog – and thanks a bunch for that!!
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..We’re Free!My Profile



    • Becky on June 11, 2015 at 9:44 pm

      You’re welcome Jodee, and congrats!



  6. Andy on June 9, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing the info on making money with your blog; your description of Adsense revenue was pretty much what I always thought it would be but that piece of information isn’t part of Google’s “sales pitch”. Great info!
    Andy recently posted..Visiting Little Talbot Island State Park and Fort ClinchMy Profile



    • Becky on June 9, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      I’ve known people who’ve made an absurd amount of money through Adsense Andy, but they have thousands more views a day than I do. Still, $15 a month is $15 a month. 😛



  7. Cindie Brandt on June 9, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    Excellent post! Even though I am not a full timer, and probably never will be, it was a very informative post. I agree with what was said earlier, “the stories of your journey keep me coming back to absorb more”. Keep entertaining us!



    • Becky on June 9, 2015 at 10:19 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying it Cindie, thanks for reading.



  8. Jim at Growing Faith on June 9, 2015 at 9:47 am

    It looks like a nice route to work 🙂

    I wonder what your commute was like before you became the Interstellar Orchard. Perhaps a multi-lane highway? In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the author (Robert Pirsig) called it a funeral procession, the drive to and from work. By the way, the book is not really about Zen or motorcycle maintenance, in case the title makes you not want to read it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen_and_the_Art_of_Motorcycle_Maintenance

    Thank you for another helpful post. I’m glad the comments make you feel good. Your posts create a lot of happiness for your readers.
    Jim at Growing Faith recently posted..Freely GiveMy Profile



    • Becky on June 9, 2015 at 10:18 pm

      My last “real job” commute took me 28 miles (one way) along rural coastal South Carolina. There was salt marsh, live oak, spanish moss, often beautiful sunrises, and even historic ruins along the route, but I was never able to fully enjoy it because I was always in a rush.

      I’d gaze at it all longingly and wish I could keep driving and skip the turnoff to work. The day I left with the Casita and retraced that route and kept driving past work just as I’d always dreamed was very zen. 🙂



  9. Ed@Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets on June 9, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Great pieces Becky. My greatest challenge pre- being on the road full-time, is writing and posting consistently. It seems to me that while having at least one foot in the “normal” everyday lifestyle, there are too many distractions that prevent consistency. For now, my niche is the getting ready part of a fulltiming lifestyle, and I actually have valuable information to offer or write about. It’s the consistency part that is missing.
    Ed@Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets recently posted..Retirement…finallyMy Profile



    • Becky on June 9, 2015 at 10:09 pm

      That’s where scheduling and treating it like a part time job come in handy. There is some sacrifice involved in keeping a blog up regularly but the payout is worth it… at least to me. I spend a good 15 hours a week on IO between writing, comments, and e-mails. That’s 15 hours a week I could be hiking, sightseeing, or sitting outside reading, but I prioritize IO over even those things.

      Maybe if you can’t afford 2 days a week right now, just pick 1 day a week – whichever one you have the most free time on, and try to hold to that for a while until you have more time. There’s been a couple months during IO’s 3+ year run where I’ve intentionally only posted once a week because other commitments (job finding usually) kept me from writing.



  10. Bob's Gotta Bus! on June 9, 2015 at 8:25 am

    You and I have very little in common. I don’t live on the road full time, and don’t plan to, I don’t own a trailer (OK, I have a 35 foot diesel pusher), I am not female nor single, and I’m way older.

    Your blog fascinates me because you write well and you take me places. The stories of your journey keep me coming back to absorb more.

    Thank you.

    -Bob



    • Becky on June 9, 2015 at 10:03 pm

      You’re welcome Bob, thanks for reading. 🙂



    • J. Dawg on June 10, 2015 at 9:36 pm

      There’s lot of great stuff in this post, but Bob, you make a great point. Its not always crucial to have a niche, to monetize, or to create a following. Its great if you can do those things, but many people blog as an outlet for self expression. I just read a great statement about blogging that said “if you have one reader, and your blog made a difference in that persons life, then you have a successful blog.” Your comment just reinforced that statement. I follow the IO for the same reasons as you.
      J. Dawg



      • Becky on June 11, 2015 at 9:42 pm

        Thanks for following J. Dawg.

        I wrote this post to be more in depth for the serious travel blogger who’s looking to for more than just self expression – I wrote it for myself 3.5 years ago basically, haha. No, a blog certainly does not need to do these things, and I covered the basics in part 1. 🙂



        • J. Dawg on June 11, 2015 at 10:14 pm

          Interesting to here you say that. I think that’s the place one should start when writing or doing anything – it should please oneself. 85% of the time, I’m writing for myself and my family. Stephen King’s first rule for writers is to write for yourself first, then worry about the audience.



          • Becky on June 11, 2015 at 11:11 pm

            Hmm, I’m trying to decide if we’re just misunderstanding each other, or if we have different philosophies. Some of it may have to do with how IO started.

            I wouldn’t be writing at IO if I didn’t enjoy writing of course, so you could say I do it to please myself. But I have always written with the reader in mind, and from the start it was never about my family and friends I had living stationary.

            When I started IO back in 2011 I told nobody in my family and only a couple of my friends, because they all would have thought I was crazy for thinking of quitting my steady job and becoming a gypsy. It was so much easier to wait to tell everyone until I hit the road in 2012, after I’d successfully hit the road so that their doubts and fears wouldn’t weigh on me.

            So I started IO with the idea of finding and helping other people like me: younger folks dissatisfied with the status-quo who drastically wanted to change their lives. For me it was less self-expression, and more networking to find new like-minded friends.



  11. Bodhi on June 9, 2015 at 6:22 am

    I have been following a few other bloggers for some time now and they list their monthly finances. The amount of Amazon income they are pulling in really surprised me. Also, one blogger is retired and from the listed income vs.expense worksheet, there is a lot of saving going on. If they were to work as a camp host or as seasonal help at an Amazon distribution center or for the the USPS… WOW!

    Anyway. I really enjoy your blog. It is the closest to my idea of how full timing should work for people. You get out and do a lot even though you are working. You seem to be frugal, yet not impoverished. It is very clear that… THE WORLD IS YOUR PLAYGROUND!

    Right on!



    • Becky on June 9, 2015 at 10:02 pm

      I’m sure you’ve already seen my Income and expenses post from a couple months ago (if not, you can find it here: https://interstellarorchard.com/2015/04/10/a-revised-look-at-my-costs-as-a-full-timer/)

      I’ve only been breaking even since I hit the road, I have no retirement income to rely on and while my falls in Amazon’s CamperForce pay well, my summer national park jobs are essentially minimum wage. That being said, I do have a lot more fun than I did working a “real” job!



  12. Aeta on June 9, 2015 at 3:32 am

    I agree with you that you have to write about topics that people would be interested in. I’ve seen a lot of R.V. blogs and YouTube videos out there, but most of these sites are either trying to sell you an r.v. or only talked about specific personal experience as RVers–which may or may not appeal or apply to everyone.

    My wife and I are nearing retirement age and we can’t seem to find a consistent source on the internet that will walk us by the hand and answer all of our questions on how to get started on this new lifestyle, without risking our retirement nest eggs by getting into it mentally blindfolded. We’ve even signed up for some of the r.v. forums, but most of the topics posted by experienced RVers are way over our head. I’m afraid I might ask the wrong question and make myself sound like a fool, or appear to be just dabbling with the ideas whether rving is for us or not.

    This is why a down-to-earth blog about rving is much better for both the bloggers (especially if they’re willing to break down their answer to naive questions like ours) and the readers (who are still “wet behind the ears” and can be easily intimidated to the point they’ll talk themselves out of the rving idea).



    • Becky on June 9, 2015 at 9:57 pm

      Well I’m glad you’re finding IO helpful Aeta, I wish you both the best of luck. If you look under the “Useful Stuff” tab at the top of my blog you’ll find links to a lot of the informational and how-to posts I’ve done over the years. Going RVing is a complicated process and I’ve done what I can to explain it, but as I’m sure you’ve already discovered there are as many ways to go RVing as there are RVers so finding consistency between blogs forums can be challenging.

      You’ll likely find, as most of us on the road have found, that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and you’ll need to borrow bits and pieces from multiple different RVers to cobble together a plan that works for you.



  13. Jerry Minchey on June 8, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    With your books and the blog following you have, you will soon become know as one of the experts in the RV world on the topics you blog about.

    Then you can be a speaker at RV rallies. This will give you another income stream. You probably won’t get paid as much as Bill Clinton does, but $2,000 to $3,000 per weekend is a typical rate, so get busy writing another book or two to help you become a recognized expert in your field.



    • Becky on June 8, 2015 at 11:19 pm

      Eeep, dunno about public speaking. I’m much better at communicating through writing than the spoken word. 🙂

      Hope you’re having a good summer so far Jerry.



      • Jerry Minchey on June 9, 2015 at 12:15 pm

        You could think of it as giving a talk instead of making a speech. The talk could be short and then have a long Q&A session. Just a thought.



      • Dawn on June 10, 2015 at 6:32 pm

        A long time ago I taught a class on public speaking for people that didn’t think they could ever talk to a group. It’s very possible, and you’d be sharing great information that people are looking for. You know as much or more about your topic than anyone else in the audience. Practice your talk out loud alone, then maybe in front of a friend or two. You’d be really good at it. You’re personable and really know your topic. I say don”t throw the idea away totally!



        • Becky on June 11, 2015 at 9:37 pm

          Eh, it just doesn’t interest me much Dawn, but I’ll think about it. 🙂



  14. Ron on June 8, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    Be helpful, be inspiring, be entertaining…. be the best you can be. Your readers will love you for it, and they’ll tell their friends and your following will grow. You’ll grow as a person too, because contribution is a very important part of the formula for happiness. When you help others without expecting anything in return, you help yourself as a byproduct.

    Your words above describe you well, Great job again. Ron



    • Becky on June 8, 2015 at 11:12 pm

      Glad you liked this Ron. 🙂



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