With new year comes new expectations. A great amount of progress was made last year and the goal for this year is to continue to grow and diversify sources if income for my travel blogs.
I started these income reports because it was a great way to see how I did every month. Ive said it before, doing these is totally therapeutic. The other reason I put these together each month is really for you guys. If you haven’t noticed, the travel blogging community seems to have a little bit of an allergy when it comes to making money. For me, I don’t see any good reason in keeping things guarded which is why I share with you everything that has worked for me and what hasn’t.
Blogging is all about the journey and continuing to improve and finding those breakthroughs to push you to the top.
From everything I heard, I was told to expect a slow month in January just because the big push for a lot of advertisers come in December. January ended up being a slow month for me but with all that I had going on and the learnings I made and becoming a reality TV star, I was totally okay with how it all played out.
INCOMEAlright let’s dive straight into the income numbers for the first month of 2015.
Note that I’ve converted all numbers into USD just to make it easy.
THOUGHTS ON INCOME
Income wise, there’s no question that January was disappointing. I think the only bright spot in it all was the CopyPress payments coming through and display advertising picking up.
What really worked well for me in January in terms of display advertising was being able to focus on my top performers and finding two new hidden gems.
Ad Networks Removed
- SRAX – They just weren’t doing much for me so I cut them out in January.
Ad Networks Added
- The Blogger Network (TBN) – I love this network because it was designed purely for bloggers. What’s been so awesome about them so far is the fact that they’re so hands on. The onboarding process involved me chatting with a real person on the phone so I got to know their platform a lot better. Also during the past few months, my account manager has been extremely pro-active in tweaking the ad management for TBN and ensuring I get the most optimized use of my ad space. The catch is you need to have 80K page views a month to join. Luckily for me, during the holidays they made an exception for me which is why I was able to get in.
- Spoutable – This is an invite only platform as far as I know right now. The founder, Ryan, emailed me about it so I thought I’d try it out. What’s different about Spoutable is that their ads pop over your page upon exit intent. I liked this because it didn’t mean I needed to create more blocks of ads on my blog. Instead, it only shows up when it detects that someone’s cursor starts to move to the top right corner.
In one fell swoop, Spoutable came out of nowhere to rock January. I really didn’t have big expectations for this network as I was hoping it to just augment my advertising revenue a little but after requesting a screenshot of my January performance (their dashboard is quite horrible), I found out that I made more on this network than any other.
- Love the concept of augmenting ad revenue by capturing people on exit intent.
- Great design and love how they were able to customize it with my own logo on the top left.
- They also have house ads as well as part of their “Share Network”. You basically give them a bunch of blog posts you’d like them to display and when an space can’t be filled, a blog post in the share network will be displayed instead. The idea is that this will drive more traffic to you from alternative pages.
- If you’re looking to join, shoot an email to Ryan Bettancourt of Spoutable and tell them I sent you 😉
- With Spoutable blowing the rest out of the water, this one is looking super promising.
#2 The Blogger Network
Move over Google AdSense! You’ve been dethroned again. Of course it doesn’t help that the CAD -> USD exchange rate is bombing right now but TBN truly delivered on their promise that they’d perform better than Google.
Impressed with so far:
- Love the 1 on 1 service my account manager is providing me. They actually care how my ads are performing and will make tweaks to improve bidding for higher CPMs. I bet you this is the only network that does this.
- TBN actually uses the Sovrn network as part of the ads they deliver so the question is whether I should pull out Sovrn entirely as a dedicated ad block since TBN does such a good job managing and optimizing.
- TBN links up with a bunch of different ad networks which saves you the time from directly connecting with them.
- The analytics in the console are pretty good out of the box though I will admit a little bit overwhelming with all the colors, bars and lines.
- TBN was easy to implement. I just installed their special WordPress plugin and I was good to go.
#3 Google AdSense
Not a dramatic change in Google AdSense in January. In fact it was very close to December.
The above article ads continue to dominate on my blog. I get twice the amount of clicks above article than in the sidebar despite being delivered 2000 times less. Food for thought.
No big surprises here. Canada climbed back up to second spot with a lot more clicks in January despite less page views than Singapore.
- What’s annoying about Sovrn’s reporting tool is that you can only get a dashboard view for the last 30 days so if you forget to do it at the beginning of the new month, there’s no way to get a full view of the previous month.
- The big slip in revenue is also the result of me dedicating more ad space to TBN.
- With Sovrn slipping to #4 and already getting coverage from TBN, I have to wrestle whether I keep or drop them.
- Q: I wonder if others can chime in. Does it make more sense to put all your display advertising eggs in one basket or is it better to diversify across multiple networks?
The biggest thing in January was me going to Affiliate Summit West for the very first time. In some ways I was overwhelmed with everything that I picked up there but I learned so SO much. I go into detail about all my lessons learned from my experience at ASW15.
With all this new ammunition to make affiliate marketing work, my plan is to take the next 3 months to revamp both of my blogs to optimize my posts and my entire blog for affiliates. Doing a big overhaul scares me a bit but I’m up for the challenge!
A really shitty January for affiliates just serves as a reminder that I really need to step up my game in this area.
Payments from CopyPress for the #HipmunkCityLove project have finally started to come in. *ka-ching*.
The opportunities have slowed down a bit as they haven’t looked to assign any new cities but in some ways I’m kind of glad because for awhile there every week was dedicated to at least one post for Hipmunk.
That being said, working with CopyPress was an incredible learning experience in terms of working with an editor, having tight writing guidelines and writing in what they call “Sharebait” style.
Seeing how well this worked out, I’m currently exploring the possibility of either writing for other blogs for brands. I will let you know if any of that pans out.
A lot of people have asked about my experience with IZEA so I thought I’d write an in-depth post about the platform.
There weren’t many sponsored opportunities this month to tell you the truth but a new thing I tried was something called Seeding Up, a platform where you can look for sponsorship opportunities. They can come in the form of links, banner ads or posts. One opportunity for a link on my home page popped up for me so I thought I’d try it out. It doesn’t pay a heck of a lot as you can see in my income below but it’s interesting to see that there are companies still buying links.
There’s been an opportunity to buy a contact list for sponsored post so I’m also debating about whether I want to go that route. It’ll be great short term gain but will do nothing for me long term.
TRAFFICTraffic is the lifeline of our blogs and so here’s a look at how January went for my two blogs and some thought behind how I can do a better job.
Going Awesome Places
I got a decent boost in traffic compared to December so that was nice to see. There were no particular spikes throughout the month.
My traffic has definitely gone stagnant for the past 6 months and so I really need to put some changes in place to improve this. For instance, I know one problem with my blog is that I don’t do a good enough job at driving users that land on my site to additional pages. Unique user wise, I need to diversify my traffic outside of just Google.
- Sessions (+1,183)
- Users (+996)
- Pageviews (-6,832) – Related to having two instances of GA tracking
- Bounce rate (+$23.36%) – ditto
Travel Blog Breakthrough
Travel Blog Breakthrough’s traffic was more or less consistent with December’s. I was hoping for a bit of growth with some of the new content I pushed out but that didn’t quite happen.
Traffic is a big concern for TBB right now and so I need to take a deeper dive into how I can improve things whether it’s from a Google SEO perspective or building up a bigger audience on social.
- Sessions (-153)
- Users (-39)
- Pageviews (-245)
- Bounce rate (-0.34%)
TOP 10 TRAFFIC SOURCES
Here are my observations for January.
- This month, I changed my ReviveOldPost frequency from every hour to every two hours and there was definitely a dip which is why it slipped into 4th place from 3rd.
- Facebook is really dying off for me. In December, I got 600+ referrals from FB and now it’s down to 300. Ouch. The question is do I continue to spend time and effort there or do I turn my attention elsewhere?
- The insane thing is that Yahoo and Bing are on the rise. Bing came out of NOWHERE this month. I’ve had their webmaster set up for awhile but this is the first month where I’m actually seeing some return.
- Pinterest finally cracked the Top 10. I’ve been saying this forever but I need to put a serious action plan in place to continue to grow traffic from the platform. The good news is that I’m approaching 1000 followers on Pinterest so I’m getting somewhere…
TOP 10 KEYWORDS
No change here. Shanghai, One2Free, Dukorol and Bali continue to be my powerhouse blog posts.
Clicks are up compared to last month (8,103 vs.7,183) and so are click through rates (16.87% vs. 14.75%).
Here are ideas of how I can increase traffic to my blog
- Bring Pinterest up to the top 5 in traffic sources
- Strategic Facebook post boosting to existing fans (one of the things I learned at ASW15)
- Build more landing pages that summarize groups of blog posts
- Improve navigation on the blog to be able to find related posts and places to start
OTHER REFLECTIONJanuary was absolutely INSANE I tell ya. Between Affiliate Summit West, St. Pete, Orlando and Sinternship, I was barely at home and so the first two weeks was a mad scramble to try to schedule all my blog posts before I headed out. I managed to do that but once I was on the road, it was definitely extremely hard to keep up with e-mails and the daily social media frenzy.
As you know January was a little bit of a crazy month for me as I was pretty much on the road for half the month. The one thing I learned from doing all that travel at once is just how quickly things slip behind. It was hard to keep up with e-mails and social media. Writing was near impossible except for the two posts I started at the airport and finished during my free time while at Sinternship.
I don’t know if anyone else has this experience but while I love press trips and getting a bunch of comped experiences, it’s pretty stressful! Stressful in that during the moment, you’re constantly on the look out for great photography and now video. While you’re there you’re also doing a lot of interviewing and thinking about story angles. Imagine manning the iPhone for social media purposes, my M43 camera for higher quality photos and then two GoPro’s for video.
I really felt the stress when I came back home. With all this material, I busted my balls the next week and a half before my Quebec press trip in February to finish processing my photos, edit/cut/process my videos and then write the associated blog posts. Then top that off with following up with emails, biz dev and catching up on social. YIKES! I wasn’t kidding when I said INSANITY right?
So keep that in mind when you go on press trips. Maybe it’s just me that puts the pressure on myself to try to complete my promised assignments to CVBs and brands ASAP but regardless you need to be up for the task. It is work after all right?
Lesson learned: Space out the press trips. Put too many trips together only means a massive work overload when you get home. There are also a lot of preparation you can do prior to a press trip to help lessen your load. I’ll be writing a toolkit on that soon!
The reason why I worked so hard in December to record my podcasts was because I knew I’d have little to no time to do it in January.
I’m definitely feeling a lot more comfortable doing these as its coming off a lot more natural which makes editing a breeze because I don’t end up needing to make too many cuts.
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!
I haven’t done my big marketing push yet but YES my Udemy course is out!
For a limited time, I’m offering the course for $5 to all of you super fans. Use code TBBJANINCOME. There are only 20 codes and it expires Feb 28, 2015.
About the course: I go in depth into the 10 tools that all of you bloggers need to know about. I introduce the tool, talk about why it’s awesome and then show you how to set it up and use it as I would.
WHAT’S NEXTRegroup and refocus is the main goal for the rest of the quarter. Most of February will be focused on content creation for the 3 big press trips from January and February so look out for some epic photos and videos. Once those are pushed and scheduled, the plan is to stop writing for a month and do that major revamping that I’ve been talking about.
3 key takeaways from January
- There’s huge money in affiliates. Travel bloggers need to learn how to better exploit these opportunities.
- Above the fold ads are going to make more money so I need to figure out a way to leverage that.
- The Blogger Network is a big display ad network with great potential for us travel bloggers. Sign up and give it a whirl.