Happy New Year everyone!
2014 marked a great year of progress and I’m so grateful for all of you that have stuck by me along this journey.
I’ll share with you a quote from a fan that I just got today that really made my day.
A big thank you for your travel blogger toolkit series, they are THE most useful thing I have read over the last few months
In reading that, it really brought me back to my original purpose of helping all of you out. It’s all about pushing that needle forward and if I can give you the knowledge, power and strength to do it, then I will keep going!
So how did I fare in the month of December?
REFLECTIONDecember went by faster than ever. I may have gained a few pounds and had a little too much to drink on some occasions but on the whole I actually got a lot done. While income started to come in from previous month’s work, traffic took a bit of a dip. Here are some thoughts about some of the main things that went down in December.
December was definitely the month of CopyPress and the #HipmunkCityLove project. After many months of going back and forth and not being assigned anything, I finally set up and then the flood gates opened. As a result, one of the reasons why December was uber busy was because I was constantly trying to keep up with the tight turn around times of the articles I was assigned.
CopyPress has been an interesting because it’s the first time I’ve done freelance writing and had a specific set of writing guidelines and also the first time I’ve been paired with an editor. I’ve really had to adapt my writing style to the requirements.
Lesson 1: Persistence pays off. If you don’t hear back from someone, whether it’s a writing gig, press trip or sponsored work, always make sure you follow up in a friendly manner. Even if it’s a “no”, you’ll at least know what’s going on instead of being in the dark or missing an opportunity because someone drops the ball on the other end.
Lesson 2: Clearly I never learned about the Oxford comma because every single editor harped on my commas (or lack thereof). I also learned that I may have grown up learning the wrong number of spaces after a period of a sentence. I grew up learning to add two spaces after the period but some editors insist on only one. Now I’m just totally confused! Any English majors here?
Sponsored work continued to be the big driver of income in December. IZEA came through again with another high value campaign and getting paid by them was a nice top up for the month.
If you haven’t signed up for IZEA yet, there are some decent opportunities up there still. Snazzy Traveler was one I convinced to set up an account on there so you’ll see them there now.
I’m not sure if it’s all been a fluke but I hope I continue to get opportunities but who knows how 2015 will be!
December was an exciting month for podcasting. I had the chance to do 3 recordings in the month and with everyone that I did, I felt more and more confident at what I was doing. As a result, each podcast seemed to require less and less editing.
The plan is to stick to a bi-weekly schedule for TBB Podcast and post them on Mondays at 7AM Eastern (EST).
I don’t want to spill any secrets for the upcoming podcasts but I can’t wait for you to hear them! My interview with Chris of One Weird Globe just came out last week and the next two that I recorded in December are going to impress.
Open casting call: I’m still looking for more guests on the show so if you’d like to be on just give me a shout!
The biggest thing that dropped on my lap in December was when I decided to take on the challenge of creating a Udemy course in 30 days.
This was quite the ambitious task I soon realized and I would say that the last 3 weeks of December was almost entirely dedicated to putting the course together. The funny thing is that I thought this was be a relatively easy task as I picked a not-so-complicated topic.
My kitchen at home turned into a make-shift studio since it was the only spot in the house that had a large white wall. I also had to learn how to use Camtasia to record the screencasts.
When things are ready, I’ll be sure to make an announcement so you can check it out on Udemy.
INCOMEAlright let’s dive straight into the income numbers for the last month of the year of 2014.
A new thing I’m trying to visualize in this report is whether there was an increase or decrease so see those numbers in the parentheses.
Note that I’ve converted all numbers into USD currency just to make it easy.
THOUGHTS ON INCOME
As I predicted, as a few places finally came through on payments, December definitely picked up. Here are a few thoughts on how various main forms of income performed in December.
November was a month of a ridiculous number of ad platforms. This month, I cut most of them out.
Ad Networks Removed
- Media.Net – Cut out December 17, 2014 and you can tell with the huge dip.
- Superlinks – I forgot to remove it until January came around
Ad Networks Added
- SRAX – One platform that invited me to their program was SRAX and so I thought I’d give it a shot. Looking at its performance over December, it looks better than Media.Net and Superlinks but still not as good as Google AdSense and Sovrn. SRAX probably won’t last but I’ll probably end up testing it for another month.
- December was a down month for me but hope it was just due to the holiday season.
- What’s interesting here is that although the Sidebar gets way more impressions and clicks than everywhere else, it’s the Above Article ad that drives in the most money despite having 10,000 less ad requests.
- Below Article ads don’t seem particularly effective and that might be because there are too many things down there so maybe it’s time to take it out but if I did, would I be losing out on income from that space?
- I’m not getting much action from Footer mainly because I’ve set it up to back-fill on ads from Sovrn.
- I didn’t set up the middle of the page ads properly so they don’t show up for December.
- US continues to dominate as expected, bagging in more income than last month.
- Australia dropped to 4th while Canada climbed a little higher.
- It’s insane to see that Singapore has more pageviews than the US. Just think about the size of Singapore compared to the US for a second. *mind blown*
- Sovrn is still my #2 when it comes to ads.
- Made slightly more this month ($2.35) but nothing to write home about.
Nothing to note here. Hopefully after going to Affiliate Summit West in Vegas in January, I’ll have some better ideas about how to kick some ass here.
Sponsored work continues to be the biggest driver of income. I’m proud of the content I’ve put together so far in that I’ve been able to inject my own experiences and personality into them as best as I can.
My goal with sponsored posts is two fold:
- Write it in a way that it’s pretty hard to tell from reading that it’s a sponsored post (i.e. natural and fluid)
- On top of getting paid for it, write it with SEO in mind so that the article itself will become a driver of traffic down the road
TRAFFICBelow are a few screenshots taken from Google Analytics. Click on them to see larger versions of them.
I still haven’t quite decided how I’ll do this for both Going Awesome Places and Travel Blog Breakthrough but this month, I’m introducing the overview screenshots for both blogs.
Going Awesome Places
Sessions and users dropped roughly by about 2,000 this month. It’s hard to say but that may be the result of the holidays.
The big drop really came into play for pageviews and a jump in bounce rate. The reason for this was that I discovered that I actually had Google Analytics defined in two spots – one with my theme and the other with the All In One SEO plugin. As a result, I was doubling the pageviews for everyone coming in. Once I made the change, you can see the dive my pagviews and bounce rate took while everything else remained roughly the same.
- Sessions (-1,735)
- Users (-1,810)
- Pageviews (-22,419)
- Bounce rate (+$48.77%)
Travel Blog Breakthrough
Travel Blog Breakthrough’s traffic has been growing month over month. November was roughly at 800 sessions and December jumped up to 1,245 so that was nice. A lot of the spikes you see are really the result of when toolkits and podcasts go out.
Podcasts in particular are a great driver of traffic because it typically means I get double exposure – promotion from my own end and also on the guest’s end.
TOP 10 TRAFFIC SOURCES
No real surprises here this month. My top traffic drivers are still the same and Google dominates all. With that though, I still want to diversify my traffic in 2015 so I’m not completely reliant on search.
- Facebook referral dropped but that is probably because I used FB ads in November.
- Yahoo is slowly rising up the ranks I’m noticing so watch out for them!
- I got all these clicks through Google Ads. I’m still trying to figure out who that’s from because it wasn’t me.
- Does anyone know what this doradar forum thing is? From what I’ve read it’s some sort of spam.
- Pinterest has gone on the way side again. I really need to get back at it.
TOP 10 KEYWORDS
Comparing to the previous month, the “dukorol reviews” search term has really jumped up out of nowhere. That can probably be attributed to the number of people planning tropical vacations to the south.
My post on the Top 10 things to do in Shanghai continues to power me through search. Even though it’s a really old post at this point, it continues to rank well. Weird!
WHAT’S NEXTThis totally wasn’t planned but somehow January just became ridiculously busy and now I’m scrambling to try to get everything in place so that when I’m on the road the last 2 weeks that I’ll have content ready. Here’s a few things that I’m working on for the month related to TBB.
AFFILIATE SUMMIT WEST
I’m really not sure what to expect, this being my first conference and all but hoping to make great connection with other bloggers and learn new strategies for affiliate selling.
I will be reporting back!
LAUNCH OF UDEMY COURSE
The “Top 10 Tools Every Blogger Needs to Know About” course is in its final approval stages and will be coming out soon in January. I’ll be giving out discount codes for it soon so if you’re interested look out!
OTHER AD NETWORKS TO TRY
- The Blogger Network finally accepted my application and I am testing them out as they claim they’ll blow everyone out of the water.
- Yellowhammer.IO is just plain horrible with communication. I’ve tried to get things rolling with them for MONTHS now but still nothing.
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
FUNNY GOOGLE SEARCHESI‘ve always wanted to go through a list of all the queries that come in that lead to Going Awesome Places. Here are some eyebrow raising results that caught my eye.
- “your name (without space between letters and words)” best lingerie stores online – Haha I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I don’t even think I’ve used the words lingerie in my blog posts…or have I??
- get to suvarnabhumi airport from just about anywhere. if you’re planning to stick around in bangkok, there are plenty of ways to get into the heart of the city once you’ve landed. – Wow that is one long search term
- shannondell at valley forge activities affordable excitement residents unmatched – I don’t even know how my blog came up in this search
- yolo java to bali – Yolo is right! Though that ride from Yogyakarta to Bali is quite the adventure…
- +”dr. safety” – I do try to keep things safe
- food poisoning subway – That’s going to be one smelly subway
I know I tend to go on and on with these reports so I’ll end off with this.
3 key takeaways from December
- Breaking $50 for any one ad network is tough so if you’re looking to get into display ads, that’s the field you’re playing in.
- Make sure Google Analytics isn’t set up twice on your blog otherwise you artificially boost your numbers. I really should’ve known something was wrong when my bounce rate was so low. Travel blogs should hover above 85% bounce rate.
- Aside from all that Udemy craziness I was knee-deep in, the holidays were a great time to not think about blogging all the time! Spending time with friends and family with the various parties throughout the month were a welcome break from the daily grind we’re constantly in.