Type to search

Blogger's Corner Travelogues

The journey of travel blogging

Yay! I did it. I survived a year of travel blogging. 13th May 2018 was the day I published my first blog post – An evening in Paris. We are a year old now and feel upbeat about the year to come. My blog’s birthday was rather uneventful as I was busy with the launch of my first ebook which happened on the same day! What a coincidence isn’t it? I feel humbled by all the love I have been showered to the blog in the form of messages, comments, shares, and subscriptions that have I have received in the course of one year. To say it wasn’t easy would be an understatement. It has been tough, and it still is for me to constantly battle with time and manage to nurture my blog like my first child. This post is not just to celebrate the anniversary but also to share my journey for everyone out there who struggle to keep their passion alive.

How it all started

It’s a personal achievement for a person who started another blog way back in 2010 and dumped it in the grave despite the overwhelming support from the friend circle. To know why you may need a background story. Now when I look back, 2010 was the perfect timing to take this seriously and make something out of it. I discovered this amazing tool to give an outlet to my creative energy. I was just out of college and had a lot of time to put into it. My friends were many and had a lot of time too to read all the crap and appreciate it. I rekindled the blog again when I took a career break to pursue higher studies and published our Bhutan travel story. Yay! I was overwhelmed by the comments pouring in soon after I shared it on Facebook! This should have breathed in a new life to my blog, but alas. The queen of procrastination let it down once again. “Spectrum of Life”, as the blog was named was forced into hibernation mode yet again.

Fast forward 2018. I was spending most of my leisure time outside work binging on TV shows, youtube videos and simply imagining what life would be if I was a content creator. But years of struggling against my natural inclination towards art and making an (arguably) successful career in analytics had taken a toll on my writing skills. I could no longer put words into my thoughts with the same flair I did it with when I was in school. Yet, when I created this blog on the free Blogger platform I expected a similar response. Well, I was in for a royal disappointment.   Eight years down the line most of us are busy with our personal lives, almost lost touch except that one time when I made a comment on politics and turned a friend into a foe.

Sorry to interrupt. If you like what you are reading subscribe to never miss a post or free downloadable from Backpack & Explore.

The struggle to stay afloat

It was difficult to find readers for my new blog apart from my mom, even within my social circle. Facebook moving to the “pay to play” model didn’t help either. I didn’t have any strategy to promote my blog. I just thought that I would share on Facebook and comments would pour in just the way it did five years back. I was wrong. In the ocean of content creators, it’s hard to get noticed. Everyone is a content creator to be fair. Anyone who decides to share their views of the platform, or simply create a photo album is a creator. Every content piles on top of the other none of them get their fair share of time to be on the forefront unless you do something about it. And who wants to read blogs anyway. If it’s social or political there’s a natural tendency to open it because it affects your life. Travel, not so much unless maybe some favorite celebrity is posting it.

This is where I took the best decision a newbie blogger can take. I refer to myself as a newbie because one look at my dormant first blog will tell you that I was doing nothing with it. I joined an online community of travel bloggers, quite a few of them in fact. These were communities where people openly discussed their problems, challenges, and even insecurities bloggers. Bloggers were encouraged to support each other. Collaboration over competition is what I learned. Someone taught me about Pinterest, someone told me what DA is, someone pointed me to Canva which is now a tool I feel handicapped without.

Blogging can be a lonely journey, especially if you don’t have natural social skills. I read somewhere that most bloggers become inactive or just quit blogging within 6 months. Lack of motivation and support is the primary reason for this. So if someone is starting off or on the verge of quitting, I will refer them to a blogging community.

A quick shoutout

This picture is dedicated to all my favorite blogging communities. The first 3 of them are travel blogging groups in Facebook, next 2 are facebook groups for all bloggers to discuss ideas, and the last one is a website which teaches a lot about writing, blogging and social media (especially Twitter).

Fears and Let-downs

You know that you are serious about it when the fear of losing kicks in. Sounds like a bit of relationship advice but it holds true about blogging. Most start off as hobby-bloggers but get serious with time. If I take into account the amount of time I spend and stress that I take for this baby of mine, I can’t look into the mirror and say that it’s still just a hobby. It’s not a business either. For me, it’s a passion to create something that people would love to consume. It’s just the yearning to be seen as an actor, to be heard as a singer or to be read like a writer.

My mom has been my biggest support in the journey reading every single post and giving her feedback on them. But even she is worried at times that I am overworked and overstressed. My husband has been a constant companion but things don’t help when after a long day at the office you have to give time to your blog. After all that hard work there’s still a fear – who is reading my blog. Is it just travel bloggers like me? I love being read by the well-traveled writers and getting their feedback, but I want my reader-base to be broad. I want to inspire people to make time for travel. How can I inspire the already inspired?

The other dominant fear and guilt are – “am I letting down people”? Am I not giving enough time to the people around me, the time that they deserve. A rather pragmatic fear that also kicks in is regarding my well-paid full-time job. What if I falter on my job? What if my performance suffer and I get stranded in the zone of mediocrity in both the fields?

I can’t count just how many times I got overwhelmed by all this and wanted to give it up altogether. Maybe I’ll start afresh when I retire I thought. Or maybe I will just write on Instagram, Quora or Tripoto. I cannot manage a blog on my own I thought. Thanks to the support from my dear ones, I actually did hang on to it. I hung on and I kept learning.  At least today I feel secure. I am still trying to strike a work-life balance and make time for a workout, but I am getting there. Let me share some of the lessons I learned on the journey.

Valuable lessons learned

Okay, so the first lesson for new bloggers is to join a community, which thankfully, I figured out early in my journey. But there are many more things which I wish I knew one year back when I started blogging. I took the time to learn these lessons, and I keep learning every day. Sharing a few of these to help out budding bloggers.

  • Invest in your blog to get results

It’s not important when you are doing it as a hobby I thought. However, I had spent many years of my childhood and my parents’ money to learn singing, dancing, and painting. What were they if not hobbies? Even during my first year in Bangalore, I spent quite a significant sum of money on learning the contemporary dance form. I can’t do a single move from the routine without looking like a rolling panda now. So even if it’s a hobby, it’s ok to invest money in it and just do the things you like to do. In my income report in the next section, you can clearly see my expenses. I don’t know if I will be a successful blogger, I don’t know what lies in the future. I know that I am creating something and I’m loving it. I am ok with it for now.

  • Self-hosting is the way to go

I started with a free blog on Blogger platform. I bought my domain in July 2018 but remained with the old platform.  I spent a lot of time in trying to optimize the speed of my Blogger-based blog only to end up making it look crappy. I finally pulled the plug towards the end of November and took advantage of the Black Friday-Cyber Monday sale to switch to Siteground. If you are looking for a free host go for WordPress.com only. Do not start with Blogger, Wix, etc.

  • Get some help

You cannot do it all, especially if you have a full-time job. I spent an obscene amount of time trying out different layouts on Blogger and editing (and messing up) HTML codes. I am an Indian girl who has been raised in the era of feminism to believe that she can do it all. Then I went on to do B.Tech and then MBA, so I thought there’s nothing in blogging that I can’t manage alone. I spent an obscene amount of time trying to edit the HTML codes on a free blogging platform (Blogger) and messing it up. Blogger doesn’t support plugins so everything from drop-down menus to table of contents needs to be done by editing the code manually. So when I finally decided to move to a self-hosted platform I found someone to help me with the transition and setting up my blog on WordPress. I took this plunge in December last year. That little one-time investment saved me so much time.

  • Quality over Quantity – Always

Unless you really want to be the blogger who needs to publish and promote every day for success, don’t focus on the number of posts. Focus on quality. I prefer writing short verses on my Instagram posts. My blog is for the longer meaty posts. Sometimes I try to be the answer to people’s queries on a search engine, in which case it is all the more important to take your time and be the “best answer in the world”. But even when I don’t target a keyword, I like to pour it all out in a clean structured way. I think of it this way. As a reader what is it I would prefer? Reading three related things on a single page, or click-baiting me into reading about 7 wonders of India and telling me to keep clicking on the next page. Or worse, I end up on a page which has 5 sentences about one place and tells me to come back tomorrow for the second place! If this reminds you of some site, ya, that was intended. I wouldn’t do what frustrates me as a reader.

  • Build quality backlinks through guest posting and collaborative posts

I am not good with social media, maybe because I am a socially awkward person, to begin with. I’m like Ross from F.R.I.E.N.D.S or Amy from Big Bang Theory, without their brains. Every time I try to promote my work through Instagram there’s a deep voice within me that says “what the hell are you doing, who does that?”. I shut her up and proceed mostly but I understand that social media cannot be my strategy. So I started focusing on this thing called S.E.O. Which is why I worry about backlinks. The best part about getting good quality backlinks is that more often than not, all you need to do is write good stuff. Write amazing materials on your blog that others want to link to, write guest posts for awesome bloggers and joint collaborations.

  • Do not sell short

So you created some good content, battled against the tide on social media and built those valuable backlinks. One fine morning you open your mailbox to receive your first un-solicited message saying how great your blog is and how your audience would benefit from a link to their site. You are happy that a stranger discovered you, but you can’t bring yourself to ask “what’s in it for me?”.  Some companies can reach out to you for sponsored posts, offering you money for publishing a post on your site. Value your work and the authority that you have built. Just because it takes two minutes to publish a guest post someone sent you doesn’t mean it’s worth 2 pounds. This is why it’s important to learn about the business of backlinks and learn how much companies value a good quality backlink. Be very cautious with emails asking for backlinks or sending you a full-blown article for publishing.

A collaboration with Cleatrip – Best Summer destinations in India

  • Value your brand

I’m not bragging when I say that I receive offers for a guest post all the time. I have a very standard policy to work only with brands I can personally recommend to my friend. Even in that case, I do not accept sponsored guest posts as the quality is not up to the mark. I write the posts myself (and charge for writing +product placement) or offer to provide product placement on an existing post. I turn down 9 out of 10 offers I get, but that’s much better than the risk of losing authority.

Tune in to Instagram tomorrow at 7 pm to attend my first Insta Live! I will be talking about blogging, answering all your questions and telling you a bit about my new book which is still available for free download on BlogChatter Library.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sinjana Ghosh (@backpacknxplore) on

Blog Growth Report

Finally, I come to the numbers. As you can see I have disabled Google Ads on my website. I tried it out for a month but it slowed down my site, and my SERP rankings seemed to slip. Rather my rankings dropped which I blamed on the page-load-time, which in turn I blamed on the ads. I wasn’t getting enough traffic to earn through ad clicks anyway. I have now shelved the thought of enabling it for later when I cross the target of 10,000 MPV. So that’s one of my blogging goals for this year.

Oh, by the way, you can pin the image below to save our post if you like it.

First Year Blog ReportI cannot show the Google analytics trends because the setup was wrong for half the year resulting in double-counting. That was another side-effect of me writing long HTML codes on Blogger without any proper control. It was handled when my developer moved the site to WordPress, but it broke my heart to see my pageviews nose-dive.

Quick check: If your bounce rate is anything less than say 75%, then go back and check your google analytics setup.

So let me call out a few things below.

  • Currently, I am averaging at about 3500-4000 unique page views a month
  • Over the last couple of months I have cut down my social media time, and organic traffic has become my top source.
  • My impressions on Google has increased by 20 times since July (which is when I bought the domain)
  • I got 980 views from Google organic search in the last 30 days. In the whole month of August last year, it was just 70.

image

image

So here is the money-talk, how much did I spend and how much did I make? Note that this is only cash income through blogging and not the payment in kind like free products. I am yet to break-even, but most businesses take time to do so. As a part-time work or rather a hobby, Rs.16,200 is not that big an annual income to spend on doing what you like.

 

image

In Conclusion

So that was my blogging journey so far. I guess I have stuck long enough to not give up. Travel blogging can be lonely and frustrating, while at the same time being satisfying and rewarding. Maybe that’s the taste of any self-started venture no matter how small and insignificant that is. If you are an aspiring blogger, I hope this post has given you some clarity on what to expect when you start blogging. If you are a seasoned blogger you might have some advice for me and others. If you are none of the above, I can’t just thank you more for reading this all. Hope you got a sneak-peek into the life of a travel blogger. In conclusion, the journey goes on.

Feel free to comment and share the post. 

32 Comments

  1. Anwesha Guha May 24, 2019

    Its a great achievement to start a blog and go all these miles. Congratulations!!

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh May 25, 2019

      Thanks a lot Anwesha. I don’t think I have achieved anything in numbers, but I found a job that I love doing.:)

  2. Julie May 25, 2019

    Congratulations Sinjana, wonderful achievements and wonderful blog.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh May 25, 2019

      Thanks a lot Julie for your support

  3. Brent Robillard May 25, 2019

    Good, honest post. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh May 25, 2019

      thanks a lot!

  4. Candy May 25, 2019

    Thanks for sharing your journey! Like you, I had a blog several years ago that I stopped when it wasn’t fun anymore. I just started a travel blog a couple of months ago and boy things have changed! I’m enjoying it and your post gives me hope that the numbers will come. Thanks again!

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh May 25, 2019

      Thanks Candy. Numbers will surely come up, just hang on to your passion.

  5. Jerserry May 25, 2019

    Thank you for sharing this amazing journey with us, and Congratulations :3
    so proud.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh May 25, 2019

      Thsnk you so much for being a part of my journey

  6. Ellis Veen May 25, 2019

    I am in a similar journey like you. I have had my blog as a hobby for quite some time, but since 2 years I am more serious into blogging. A lot of what you wrote is so recognizable and I really enjoyed reading this post.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh May 25, 2019

      Thank you so much. I admire your passion for travel and writing.

  7. Bianca May 25, 2019

    Congratulations on the blogger anniversary. I started my blog around the same time as your first blog. If only I had know about all the things I know now about blogging. I may have chosen to take it more seriously sooner. Well done on the milestones and to many more.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh May 25, 2019

      Thank you so much! Incredible that you have been blogging for so long.

  8. Karen May 25, 2019

    Congratulations. I recognise much of what you say about the investment of blogging and after three years we are still learning and growing. There is always a new lesson to learn. Great to hear your story and keep on writing.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh May 25, 2019

      Thank you so much for your encouraging words.

  9. Kristy Bullard May 25, 2019

    Thanks for sharing your blogging experiences with us. I think we all feel insecure at times since we are putting our lives and innermost thoughts out there for the world to see. I think you are doing an amazing job! Keep going!

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh May 25, 2019

      Thanks a lot. Humbled by your message.

  10. Lisa May 26, 2019

    Well done on reaching the 1-year milestone. Blogging is a slog, and there’s no easy way to making it a success. You need to find a balance between still enjoying it, and being informative. Good luck on achieving your next goals.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh May 26, 2019

      thanks Lisa!

  11. Kavita Favelle May 26, 2019

    I celebrated my 10th blogging anniversary last month and I congratulate you on your first annual milestone, I hope it’s the first of many to come. For sure, as we get older, it’s hard to find the time to put into a blog, when there is so much else to take up our hours, but the creative outlet is a huge boost to my mental wellbeing, and building an audience who appreciate it is an extra boost to the ego too!

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh May 27, 2019

      sure it is. Thank you!

  12. Bhushavali May 26, 2019

    Super happy on the 1st year anniversary. Congratulations.
    That’s some impressive numbers! Excellent job done.
    Yes, it is not easy to do everything by ourselves. We do need to get some things done by others.

    Reply
  13. Paula May 27, 2019

    Congratulations on a “blog birthday” and for your achievements. Even though blogging gives so much, it also takes a lot. Mostly, a lot of time, but it is also easy to start doubting yourself if you are following a road path. I would say, being truly you is the best way to go! You listed some really great tips here.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh May 27, 2019

      thank you!

  14. Clarice May 27, 2019

    Wow! Happy Anniversary. I have dreamed of being a travel blogger but I guess I had more time to write about other things.

    Thank you for sharing your journey and experiences. It is very inspiring.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh May 28, 2019

      Thanks!

  15. Diana May 27, 2019

    Congrats on sticking with it and not giving up even when the going got tough! You really do have to be passionate about blogging to be able to stick with it because there are so many hurdles that pop up along the way. Congrats on celebrating your one year blogversary!

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh May 28, 2019

      Thank you so much.

  16. Cecilia May 28, 2019

    Wow this was incredibly helpful and also motivating. As a new blogger (relatively speaking) I am currently experiencing many of the challenges you mentioned. It can be frustrating and lonely and disheartening but I think the thing about joing a blogger community is key. I’m not part of any, but I can definitely see the benefits. Again, reading this was super encouraging thanks!

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh May 28, 2019

      Thanks a lot. Humbled by the fact that it encouraged a new blogger like you. All the best for your journey

  17. Supriya May 30, 2019

    Congratulations for your not giving up spirit. Thanks for sharing your amazing blogging journey. I learnt many things from you. Kudos!

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *