My first month travel blogging is at an end. Thank Christ.
Here’s a rough summary of the kind of traffic I’ve been seeing during my launch month, and my thoughts on what worked and what didn’t.
I started writing this blog back in August, as a way to work through my annoyingly constant wanderlust, and occasional nostalgia for places I had once visited or lived. I’m working in Beijing at the moment and whilst my job isn’t terrible, I do find my mind wandering and before I know it I’m Google Image-ing far off places and imagining a more jet setty lifestyle than I currently lead. That hasn’t been helped by the fact that it’s approximately -100 degrees outside. The whole digital nomad thing appeals.
I first picked the name Roaming Sheen for the blog (hence the URL), but soon decided Adventures of Sheen was marginally better. I’m still not over the moon with the name – I want something a little bit more punchy, like What Doesn’t Suck, or Where Is Noodles or World Ahead, Home Behind but I’m stuck with it for now.
GoDaddy was the first choice for me in terms of hosting, though a lot of people say Blue Host is the way to go. I picked GoDaddy purely because I’d used it before and if you’re not majorly technical then the two seem to be much of a muchness. WordPress was an easy choice, because it seems to have more flexibility than programmes like Square Space. I didn’t want a drag and drop system, I wanted to get in behind the scenes and fiddle about with the coding like a hacker in a poorly informed Hollywood movie.
Once the site was set up, it took me another month to get some content on there, fix a couple of bugs and get it looking all pretty. I set up a Twitter account, and tied my Instagram account to the site. At this point I was getting at most 2 visitors a day, simply because I wasn’t promoting it anywhere and I hadn’t yet registered with search engines.
Things improved once I promoted the blog on my personal Facebook page – there was a brief spike, which then dropped back to the 2 users per day. However, since then I’ve been promoting my posts a lot more on Twitter and even gave the notoriously rough crowd of Reddit a go.
The biggest struggle for me has been to keep writing, fixing glitches, promoting and editing whilst there’s so many other things going on in my normal every day life.
Page Views: 1, 125
Bounce Rate: 79.10%
Organic Search: 6
Pages per Session: 1.94
Above is a snapshot of the kind of traffic volume I’ve been getting. Only it’s not too accurate. I’ve been having some problems with ghost spam which has been skewing my analytics, so subtract about 100 from the 3 numbers in the top rows and you get a clearer picture.
So – about 1,000 page views, 350 monthly visitors, and close to 500 sessions. That’s not bad for the first month, right? My bounce rate could certainly be improved (again, not helped by ghost spam). I read post over at One Step 4Ward where travel blogger Johnny Ward said he was getting round about 250 visitors for the first few months. Since early travel blog stats are pretty hard to come by, I’ve been using this as my benchmark.
One extremely low figure here is Organic Search. I just haven’t got my act together with this yet, despite the many hours I’ve spent educating myself about SEO and Google Search Console. I think the problem lies in my site map where I’m having some real difficulties. Unfortunately, even after a few weeks, Google hasn’t really taken the bait yet and picked up my site.
In terms of what’s proved to be the most popular content, my post on 10 really useful Chinese phrases scored far and above the rest. This got a good reception on Facebook and on Reddit, where I posted it in the r/travelchina thread. The volunteering in Latin America article I also posted on Reddit. London’s Best Alleyways and my guide on what’s happening in Burma did fairly decently, but it’s made me think that people probably want to learn something from travel blogs so I’m going to focus more on these kinds of articles in future. The rest seems to be all ghost spam and duplicates – can anyone shed some light on why pages sometimes duplicate like this in analytics?
Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how the first month has gone down in terms of traffic.
Twitter Followers: 548 (+486)
Instagram Followers: 102 (+26)
I deliberately haven’t signed up to anything more time consuming than Twitter and Instagram for now, my thinking being that in the first month it was important not to spread myself too thinly.
I’ve especially focussed on Twitter, and it seems to have paid off. One of the first things I did was sign up for Buffer, a free programme that allows you to schedule your tweets. It has a few more capabilities in terms of analytics that I haven’t really explored yet, but I’ve made sure that I always have a week’s worth of tweets lined up and ready to go. I try to engage with people on my lunch break, retweeting and favouriting and liking to my hearts content. Twitter is also the main place where I seem to receive any feedback on my blog so far; a few of my articles have been picked up and promoted by other bloggers.
Reddit has also been a bit of a blessing for me. I know from hanging out with enough Redditers that they’re notoriously hard nuts to crack, so it was a conscious choice not to post on any of the larger sub reddits. I chose to post my “The Only 10 Chinese Phrases You Need To Know” on r/travelchina, as mentioned previously and “7 Amazingly Cheap Ways to Volunteer in Latin America” on the r/volunteer thread. There was a huge peak in traffic for a few days, and a continuous stream since.
Goals for next month
- Clean up analytics, ensuring no ghost spam or fake referrals are present
- Keep a consistent posting schedule, with 2 – 3 new posts each week
- Improve Google rankings
- Sign up to Pinterest, and become an active contributor
- Write first guest post
- Be on track to have 1,000 Twitter followers by the end of the year.
Are you a travel blogger and, if so, how’s your traffic holding up? Was your first month also a struggle? Please send your motivational words on a postcard, please.