About a year and a half ago, we decided to start a travel blog.
That’s not exactly the whole truth.
Even though I’ve been thinking about starting a travel blog ever since I read about long term, round the world travel years ago, I just started actually working on mine a year and a half ago.
I didn’t really have a clear direction for the blog at that time. Because I had dreams of travel but little travel experience to draw on, I felt I didn’t have enough content for a travel blog. Those fears, whether correct or incorrect, led me to write my first post– a review of “bulletproof coffee.”
Not at all travel related, but I rationalized it as being “yuppie-related” and thought that I could somehow get more traffic to my blog by riding some of the media frenzy wave surrounding the bulletproof coffee concept at the time. It’s an SEO concept that makes sense in theory, but not in practice, because my bulletproof coffee post ranks on page 13 on Google search results, and gets a whopping 2 views a month.
Gotta start somewhere, right?
Since then, I’ve become better at developing travel blog worthy content. Taking some cool trips has helped with that, but mostly I got better at turning my experiences abroad and backpacking at home into useful, readable travel blog content.
In addition to getting in the habit of writing regular blog posts, Nikita helped me structure and organize the content I already had for a better user experience, like our Destination Guide pages.
You have no idea how long it took to custom code those, and I am still in awe of his work.
Adventures in Travel Blog SEO
With any blog, sooner or later SEO is going to come up. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it’s how your blog, or blog posts, get ranked higher and attract new readers.
SEO is simple to describe, but difficult to make successful in practice because search engines are always changing, the internet of today is huge and it’s extremely hard to be visible on it, and because SEO is a lot of time researching and tweaking in addition to writing all of your content, to name just a few reasons. In a nutshell, getting to the first page is damn near impossible.
SEO also does not work in the way that you think it will. We like to think of technology as being infallible, when, let’s be realistic, shit breaks all the time.
While it’s hard to tell if something about your SEO is “broken,” you inevitably get mixed results with your efforts. For instance, one of our images is on the first page for a Google image search for “ebola spaghetti.” Our dumb pun in the image description ended up getting us ranked for nonsense.
When researching who the hell would even search for “ebola spaghetti,” I found a British comedy news review show, Russell Howard’s Good News, covering some dude in Texas on a satirical rant about the Ebola fears in the United States.
I mean… I did write a post about sickness and traveling during the Ebola outbreak of 2014 in hopes of getting some of that traffic, but this clearly wasn’t what I had in mind. Still though, it’s hard to argue with anything appearing on any first page. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, right?
The Panama You-Know-What Post
Despite my work on optimizing my blog, my individual blog posts, my images and more, the content that I want people to read barely gets web traffic at this point, and the stuff I wrote as an afterthought gets all the attention.
During our trip to Panama for Nikita’s Muay Thai event, we briefly visited a bar one night in Panama City that was known for being a place where prostitutes went to meet johns. We got a look at the local legal sex industry, and while it was interesting, it certainly was not the most interesting part of our time spent in Panama.
I did some research and wrote a post about it, thinking it would make for an interesting blog post on a topic that I have almost never seen on other world travel blogs (despite the prevalence of prostitution in many popular tourist and backpacking destinations worldwide). I wrote it, moved on, and forgot about it until a few weeks later, when we saw that it was picking up an abnormal (for us) amount of traffic.
Each week it picks up more and more traffic.
And now, for better or for worse, almost 75% of our organic (search engine based) traffic comes from this post. Our blog gets picked up for TONS of searches related to prostitution in Panama. The sad part is, some of the searches are probably from people trying to find out how to actually find and pay for sex in Panama.
Rethinking Our Travel Blog Name
About two months or so before we left to start our Pacific Crest Trail thru hike, we began to have serious doubts about our blog’s name, which was “Yuppies in Paradise” at the time. What was once cute and fun now seemed to us trite and we questioned whether it really suited us and our travel dreams.
After nail-biting rounds of brainstorming and second guessing, we took the plunge and changed the name of our travel blog.
Hashtag no regrets?
Second Thoughts and Doubts
The irony is not lost on me that our traffic is minimal, and I am essentially documenting our travel plans, stories and “tips” to a non-existant readership. I’m even writing this post right now about starting a travel blog, knowing fully well that barely anyone will read it.
We can’t even be sure that anyone will read it… ever. Especially in light of how we have been getting traffic, creepy, creepy, traffic, it makes us question whether we will be successful as a travel blog, or whether we’ll look back on this endeavor and laugh that we worked really hard only to become the web’s number one source for information about Panama’s legal sex industry.
I can’t whine too much about our traffic, because even though it’s super creepy, our blog’s overall analytics have been steadily increasing.
These are all typical doubts that anyone feels after starting any type of creative project. And whether or not our blog becomes “successful,” we’ll both be able to look back on it and appreciate the craftsmanship we poured into it.
Do you also slave over a travel blog, or any blog? Share your (mis)adventures in starting a travel blog with us in the comments!