This is the 2nd monthly post in the Growth Reports series.
It’s been another very busy month, and a bit of a mixed bag for the blog.
I ended up taking a week offline due to some travel plans that left me in the middle of a jungle with no wifi for 7 days (more on that later).
On top of that it was my birthday on the 22nd, so that was another couple of unproductive days right there.
I’m still pleased with what I’ve achieved this month, but I know that my time off will have hindered progress slightly. I guess we’ll see exactly how much when we get down to the nitty gritty with the traffic numbers later on in the post.
My week offline threw a bit of a spanner in the works, and I fell short of the 8 articles I had planned to publish this month (2 per week).
Instead, I only got 5 posts out this month. There was my first ever Blog Growth Report which launched this series you’re reading now, my hiking Acatenango volcano in Antigua Guatemala post and my guide to Lake Atitlan. After that there was my lighthearted write up of all the things you should know before you visit Guatemala and then I finished the month with a dip back into New Zealand and my 11 things to do in Wanaka post.
Travel Blogging posts took a bit of a back seat this month, and I’m considering a bit of a change for this section, which I may or may not introduce next month. More on that in next months Growth Report. I’m working on a big post which kind of related to this section which is packing heaps of value. If you’re in any way interested in that kinda stuff, stay tuned, I’ll be publishing it shortly. Or you can make double sure not to miss it by signing up to my email list just over there on the right.
I’ve made a few general site updates this month, and still have a huge ‘to do’ list here.
Pushing Subscriber Numbers
This month I’ve also been looking at what I can do to increase subscriber numbers across the site.
Specifically I’ve been focusing on email subscribers, since I see that as the ultimate endorsement from a reader for my content.
I have also implemented a plugin called SumoMe to make social share buttons available at the bottom of every post in a bid to increase shares there.
SumoMe is an awesome and very powerful set of blogging tools and it’s really easy to use!
Their support team is also pretty awesome. I had a small issue when setting up one of the tools and their support desk were able to help me fix it straight away.
As well as the social share buttons, I’ve also added in a small pop-up to capture more email addresses. This was a tough decision, as I know how annoying popups can be. But they’re also highly effective and convert well, so I’ve added one in on a trial basis and will be monitoring conversions vs the effects on user engagement.
I think the popup offers good value to the reader, and hope to see it converting well over the coming month.
For signing up, readers get:
- A free copy of my 9 page guide “All The Possible Ways To Make Money With A Travel Blog”
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New Services & Resource Pages
I have also been thinking about how I can expand my services a little, and have added an “SEO for the travel industry” page for interested clients.
Over on the travel blogging front, I’ve added in a Tools and Resources page, to act as a comprehensive list of all the tools I use to grow my blog. Going forward I’m hoping to develop some indepth tutorials for each of those tools to show you exactly how I use it to help grow my site and build my audience.
Improving Reader Retention
Another thing I’ve been looking at this month is improving internal linking and content promotion within the site to keep readers on here for longer.
Specifically, my goal was to increase the average time people spend on the site, increase the number of different pages they view when they get here and in turn decrease the sites bounce rate.
One of the tools I’ve implemented to try to help achieve this is a ‘recommended posts’ plugin.
There’s absolutely heaps of these plugins out there, so I thought this would be a relatively simple thing to do.
Unfortunately none of the plugins I’ve found so far have been able to do all the things I wanted.
I’m currently using the shareaholics one as it’s the best one I’ve found, but I’m still not 100% happy with it. Ideally I’d like more control over the parameters of the algorithm which selects the related content so I can fine tune it for more relevant results. Excluding certain pages/posts from its ‘pool’ is also a lot harder than it needs to be, so it’s not ideal. But I’ll stick with it for now and see what happens.
Earlier this month I set up a bunch of Google Alerts to help me monitor the web for places where I can get involved and add some value.
I usually like to use omgili.com to help with this too, but the site hasn’t been working recently and for some reason search has been disabled. I’m yet to find a decent alternative, so instead I’ve been relying on a combination of boardreader.com for forum monitoring and Google Alerts to cover the rest.
Here are the top travel forums I’ve found and the number of posts I’ve made in each over the month.
Tripadvisor: 0 (Technically 1, but that got removed by the mods. Oops.)
The problem I’ve found with forum posting, is that it takes a long time to write each reply. Since I only want to get involved if I can add value somehow and genuinely help someone, writing out customised replies to peoples travel and itinerary questions eats up a lot of time and isn’t really scalable.
So I guess I’m wondering whether the forums are really a good use of my time, or whether they should take a bit of a backseat for the time being, since my to-do list isn’t getting any smaller.
I’ve also been making more of an effort to comment on other travel blogs whenever I read a cool post during my research or find somewhere I can add a bit of useful info. This is something I’m very keen to continue, as it’s a good way to network with other travel bloggers and hopefully start getting my name out there a bit.
I could probably also call this section ‘Competitor Research’. But I’m a glass half full kind of man, so I prefer to think of it as uncovering opportunities.
Here’s how it played out…
I grabbed the domain names of a few other, more established travel blogs.
I then went over to SEMRush and loaded them into there one by one.
SEMRush has heaps of cool features, most of them way too opportunity packed to properly explain here (watch out for a dedicated followup post on this in the near future).
But one of the really cool features it has for bloggers, and website owners in general, is the ability to list all of the webpages and domains that link to the domain you entered in.
So if I put in www.lonelyplanet.com the tool would show me all the sites on the internet who link to www.lonelyplanet.com.
Pretty cool, right?
And you can try it out for yourself with their free trial just here.
But how’s it useful?
Well, if all these sites already link to your competitor, there’s a good chance you can convince them to link to you too.
So, after doing this with a few well established travel blogs and sites, I now have a big list of link building possibilities.
Now it’s just a question of sorting through them to find out why those sites are linking to my competition, and what I need to do to be in with a shot at grabbing a link too.
I originally did this to look for guest posting opportunities, and it worked great.
Now I just need to get moving with some outreach! Easy.
In addition to the posts I wrote for this blog, I also completed another post which I thought would make a great candidate for a guest post.
I’ve got a couple of potential sites in mind where it would be right at home, and I’m working on some outreach to get it placed.
I’ll update you on that one again in next months report.
In The Real World
As I mentioned earlier in the post, the blog did end up taking a bit of a back seat for a good chunk of this month, which has meant that progress has fallen a little behind schedule.
We ended up signing up for Spanish language classes in Xela, Guatemala for a week long crash course.
It turned out to be nowhere near enough and we wished we could have stayed longer. But it did give us a good grounding in the language and it should help making the next few months a little easier and more enjoyable now that we can actually communicate a little. We’re planning to be in Central America for the next 3 months or so, so figured a week out to get to grips with some conversational basics would be time well spent.
After that, we spent 3 days hiking from Xela to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, followed by 4 days at an eco hotel up in Semuc Champey with no wifi connection.
Not great for the blog, but pretty great for the soul and we had a brilliant week of offline relaxation and getting back to nature.
After Semuc we followed the sun and hot footed it through to Belize for some Caribbean fun to see out the month.
We’re now down in Honduras being destroyed by mosquitoes, which is where I’m writing this post from.
Here’s where subscriber numbers are at the end of month two across all channels.
Twitter: 1,232 (+677 from last month)
Email: 3 (+1 from last month)
So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
What did all this do to the blogs traffic?
Overall I’m fairly happy with that.
I’d expected traffic to drop slightly after I took that week off, but for sessions to remain the same is a bit of a result.
The real winner for me though is the fact that pages per session, average session duration and bounce rates have all improved on the previous month. So even traffic was the same, the people that did come to the site generally stayed on there longer and explored more of the site while they were here. I’ll take that over 10,000 visitors that don’t stick around any day.
Here’s a breakdown of my most popular content for the month:
A real mix of different content types in the top 10 this month, and it was interesting to see last months growth report featuring in there too. Looks like I’ll be continuing this feature, since you guys seem to be enjoying it.
I was really happy to see traffic levels remaining the same this month despite my week of no work.
Next month I’m hoping to get content production back on track and keep pushing forward with promotion through blog commenting, social media and hopefully landing my first guest post.
Thanks to all of you who follow along with me on this journey.
Have you recently started your own blog? What have you been up to to grow your travel sites this month? Let me know in the comments below 🙂
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