This is a series of posts about my life as a travel blogger and how Dream Travel Magazine has grown into the successful blog it is today. Be sure to read Part I – The beginning of the site, Part II – the travel conference that changed my life and Part III – my very first FAM trip. In this post I will talk about those first opportunities that landed in my inbox that every travel blogger dreams about!
My Travel Blogging Life – Part IV
I see this all the time in the many travel blogger groups I’m a part of, the moment when a new blogger gets their first email opportunity and they don’t know what to do. So they write a note in Facebook asking anyone who will reply “is this a good thing and should I agree to it?” It was the same with me when my first email requests for advertising rates came through. The idea that someone will pay me money to advertise on my site was so foreign but I learned the hard way there is a wrong way to do this and a right way.
Not All Opportunities are Created Equally
When you are working on a blog and spending hours and hours at a time going through photos, processing them, writing posts, fixing your site, updating social media accounts and learning about all the things you should be doing that you are not, there is an immediate appeal to making some money. What you need to know is that you want to build links into your site and you will be posting links out of your site to potential sponsors or tourism boards, however, links that go into or outside of your blog that are not related to your blog’s content is a huge red flag with Google!
Don’t Piss off Google
This seems simple, but learn from me! Shortly after the travel blogging conference, when I started to do everything right, apply everything I learned about blogging and when legitimate opportunities started to come into my inbox that is when Google slammed my site with a Partial Manual Action. Suddenly site traffic started to drop and all I had was an email written in Google language about “unnatural links” and I had no idea what to do. It took me a year and a half of begging people with bad sites linking back to me to remove the links, or for their site domains to be abandoned before Google removed the action against me. It is a crushing blow to see all your hard work get penalized – so listen to me and learn. These are the biggest mistakes you can make as a blogger:
1. Don’t Guest Blog on Bad Sites
A lot of bloggers will write articles for other bloggers for free and ask them to give them a link back to their site. The problem is, that not all bloggers are created equally and if they are doing shady things on their sites and they have a link into your site – well you are Google Guilty by association. So when you are in a Facebook group and eager bloggers are asking for content make sure you know the site. Make sure you know this blogger is committed – because if they give up and abandon the site that link back to you is going to be very bad! If their site is filled with crap Google will judge it and again you for being connected to it! Many bloggers have a very short lifespan – they give up on all the work, because it is not something they are passionate about, or because they realize that you can’t really make a tonne of money doing it! Sure maybe your blog goes viral, you get a TV gig or Oprah mentions you – but it’s like winning the lottery the chances are slim!
2. Don’t Accept Advertising or Sponsored Posts from PPC
For those of you who are starting out this is especially important for you! Stay away from PPC advertising – Pills, Porn and Casinos. These are almost always the first advertisers that will come to you and offer you money to put a link within a post or on the sidebar of your site. Some will offer $10 and others will offer more – but whatever they offer, trust me, it isn’t worth it. I say this because after I had to rewrite a post about playing airport bingo to kill time in the airport I realized – I sold my soul to the devil. Luckily sponsored posts have a 1 year shelf life and the junk sponsored posts are all gone now, but I know the appeal to make money on all the work your doing and trust me you don’t feel good about publishing posts like that.
3. Don’t Try and Grow Too Fast – Let it Happen Organically
Another mistake bloggers make is they try to do everything all at once. Building twitter followings, guest blogging to as many sites as they can in the shortest time possible. This is another flag for Google! Too much content, too many links, to much sudden growth of traffic will alarm them and chances are they will think your site is spam. Building a blog or a website takes time and numbers are important but just having big numbers is not going to get you great opportunities.
What Does it Take To Be a Successful Blogger?
In my next post in this series I will talk about the things you SHOULD be doing to get your blog noticed by the RIGHT opportunities! But for now focus on this – good quality content, honest work – let your blog and you grow naturally!