I’ve shared these resources for bloggers in separate sections for ease of navigation. Just scroll down to the sections that you’re most interested in. This really is a work in progress and will be updated as I get introduced to new resources. If you’re already familiar with the basic plug-ins and platforms for a self-hosted blog and would rather check out my social media or pitching strategies (all really just me sharing my experiences of what worked and what didn’t) click on ‘Tell Me More’ on the image below.
I began blogging as a hobbyist, and the transition to a professional blogger did not happen overnight. It’s incredible how much I’ve learnt over the past six years. Bloggers who are trying to transition from an amateur blog to a professional one, or hoping to make a career out of it often find it frustrating to deal with all the information. I speak from experience; it’s not that we don’t have the information we need; that is hardly the problem. It’s not knowing what information we’re supposed to be looking for and which advice is actually relevant to us.
I have so many amazing bloggers to thank for sharing these lessons and helping others like me to improve our blogs. There are tons of great resources for new bloggers such as ProBlogger, TBA and Travel Blog Breakthrough and they do a thorough job of helping blogs to build traffic and monetize, so I’m not going to get into details about the how to’s because frankly, they’re doing a way better job than I could. But as a way to pay it forward, I’m going to share the resources and platforms that I use and can recommend to others. Some of the links are affiliate links, which means that if you sign up using my link, I get a small fee at no extra cost to you. Every bit adds up to keep this blog up and running.
I’ve shared the information in separate sections so that this page is easy to navigate. Just scroll down to the sections that you’re most interested in. This really is a work in progress and will be updated as I get introduced to new resources.
Resources for Bloggers
I host my blog on SiteGround but I used to host it on BlueHost and while it started off okay, as my traffic increased, I found that my site suffered from major downtime. You know what that means? Wasted opportunities and people who will never want to come back to your site because it didn’t load the first time around. Plus, your hosting is the very foundation of your blog and it killed me to see how weak mine was.
Ever since I switched to SiteGround, my blog hasn’t had any downtime. I find that they’re really great and quick with service (way quicker than BlueHost)- something that is important to me as a non-technical person who learnt everything from scratch and built this site as a labor of love. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised when the day after I shifted my hosting to them, I received an actual phone call from a team member at SiteGround to welcome me and ask if I need support. In this day and age, when you get an international phone call and have an actual person ask you that, you know they really do care about their customers.
I’ve never had any issues with them and would recommend them to anyone who’s looking to move to a self-hosted blog. They’ll even help with transferring your blog over to them in case you don’t want to dive into the technical stuff. If you want to get an in-depth understanding of how blog hosting works, check out this resource by First Site Guide.
What I Do For Traffic
Every blogger worries about this one aspect that is seemingly hard to figure out at once. Truth is that understanding how to get traffic (hits, pageviews if you’re not familiar with the term traffic) is an important part of a blogger’s job and takes a while- time you spend analyzing data, experimenting and testing. It’s not something you figure out overnight and there’s no one-size-fits-all.
Where you get your traffic depends a lot on the type of content you create and your target audience. For example, if you create posts that are helpful and have a solid handle on SEO, your traffic comes from Google Search and this is always great because this content grows in popularity organically depending on how good it is. But if you write posts that are of a personal nature that a lot of your readers/friends/colleagues can relate to, then they’ll be found when they’re shared on social networks like Facebook which is great too because that’s the playground where all the kids hang out.
In this section, I reveal what has and has not worked for me. My advice: test out different strategies and find what works for you. Do NOT give up- traffic takes time and determination. One foot in front of the other, okay soldier? 😉
When I started, I avoided reading a lot of SEO articles because it seemed overwhelming. Of course, this was a big mistake and I don’t recommend any blogger to be as stupid as I was when I started out. It might seem scary but if you take the time to learn about SEO Optimization, you’ll thank yourself in the long-run. You don’t have to be a specialist (always great if you become one) but know basic things about how to optimize your content for SEO so that it’s easily found by search engines. SEO- Search Engine Optimization- is made up of many aspects- tiny little tweaks you can do to your post so that search engines like Google can find it easily- which means that people who’re likely to be interested in it or are looking for that info can find it easily.
At the minimum, get the Yoast SEO (linked under the Plugins section) plugin for your blog. It asks for information you need to input before you hit Publish on a post- that helps optimize your content at least a little.
I see so many bloggers talk about how figuring out Pinterest has been a game changer in their traffic situation. My own learning journey has always been a gradual one but using Tailwind has definitely helped me improve my monthly traffic by as much as 30%. The growth isn’t drastic and rapid as it is for other bloggers but obviously if I had more time to spend on it (which would only be possible if I had one more of me because I swear I am stretched to the limit), I’m sure I’d see better results. I find that using the Pinterest scheduling tool Tailwind drastically reduces the time I need to spend on Pinterest to get results.
Tailwind helps me schedule interesting content from other sites and from my own blog for the entire week in under an hour. I can set up the system to pin at regular intervals or at specific times which means that my Pinterest is always active and enjoys good visibility. I have the Plus membership which allows me to schedule as many pins as I like. If you don’t have a lot of time to spend on Pinterest but still want to see the traffic spike that you hear about, get Tailwind Plus, you won’t regret it!
I share my content on several Facebook groups. These might be specific interest groups or blogger/ travel writer/ influencer groups. I don’t get a whole lot of traffic from here, but you never know who could find it and like it enough to share it or comment on it- so it definitely does not hurt. I’ll be updating this section with the exact groups I use.
I know that not many bloggers do this and this is something I started doing just last year (2015) and saw fantastic results. Simply put, whenever I publish a post about a certain country/city/town, I look for Facebook groups and pages who might be interested in that content and would like to share it. Then, I shoot them a private message introducing myself and the links to the content asking if they would be willing to share. Most times, they’re so pleased and happy to share- which means a nice traffic bump for me. Look for pages and groups that share other people’s content instead of only their own, you’ll have better luck.
Apart from Facebook, I share all of my content on Twitter and Google Plus.
Here’s a list of WordPress plugins I use and how they help. This list is a result of trial and error and I hope it helps you. My advice is to experiment, understand what works for you and then decide if you want to keep it or not.
AddThis Smart Layers You see the nice little vertical social sharing tool on the left that lets you share my posts to Facebook, Twitter and other networks? That’s AddThis Smart Layers and I love how it looks.
Akismet Protects my blog from comment and trackback spam.
AutoChimp Keeps MailChimp mailing lists in sync with my WordPress site.
CommentLuv I use this for comments on my blog because it allows the commenter to display their latest blog post, resulting in good blogging karma for all!
Favicon by RealFaviconGenerator You see that icon for my site that looks like a B in your address bar? That is a favicon and I think it’s a nice touch to personalize your blog. If you don’t have a custom favicon in your theme, then the default WordPress favicon comes up in the address bar. With this plugin, you upload a custom favicon image and voila!
Google Analytics because how else are you going to track the important statistics? As a professional blogger, you need insight into how well you’re connecting with your target audience. Google Analytics provides you with numbers such as Page Views, Unique Visitors and other audience information such as demographics. It lets you create custom reports in your dashboard to analyze and compare your stats over different periods.
Google XML Sitemaps Sitemaps help search engines like Google and Yahoo to better index your blog and search through posts, pages and categories.
MailChimp Forms by MailMunch I use this for the pop-up sign in form on my blog. It’s really customizable to suit your theme and personal preferences about when and how often you would like to have your form pop up to a visitor.
Revive Old Post Helps to tweet out old posts from my blog from time to time.
UpDraftPlus-BackUp/Restore Periodically takes backups of my site including all back end data.
W3 Total Cache This is a great performance plugin that improves the speed and user experience of my site by adding browser, page, object and database caching as well as minify and content delivery network (CDN) to WordPress. If this all too confusing for you, just install the plug-in by following the instructions and you’ll see the difference in the load time.
WordPress SEO by Yoast For all my SEO needs such as on-page content analysis, XML sitemaps and much more.
WP Facebook Share Like Button So you can Facebook like my posts.
I’ve signed up with a number of platforms but find that the ones below are the most useful for monetization. Some of these also offer affiliate programs where you can earn a small fee for referral.
Cooperatize is a platform that connects your Google Analytics, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media to their interface and makes it available to brands looking to work with influencers. Their newly launched Crossroads platform is a good place to look for sponsored posts for your blog or other social media.
Grabr is a really cool platform that lets travelers earn cash by delivering goods across borders. I actually recently discovered it and I think it’s great to make cash on the side when you’re already visiting a destination. You get on the platform and search for grabs, i.e. someone in Barcelona might be looking for a traveler to bring them the latest iPhone from Dubai and be willing to pay $60 for their effort. If I’m already planning a trip to Barcelona, I bring them their iPhone (for which they’ve paid through the system) and make a cool $60 for little effort. Using my Grabr invitation, you get $10 off if you’re a shopper and membership is free for travelers.
The MidGame is a great tool for Social Media Influencers. You can connect your blog, Facebook page, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and YouTube channel and browse opportunities from Sponsors who’re looking to hire an influencer for their campaigns. The campaigns pertain to different products, apps and services, so this isn’t just for travel influencers but influencers of any kind. It’s easy as browsing the list of campaigns and applying to those you’re interested in.
BloggersRequired is a free blogger outreach service that connects bloggers to brands. Various blogging assignments are posted and new ones are available daily. You check their site everyday and apply to those that you find relevant. This is specially great for US and UK bloggers because a lot of the assignments are offered to them, and it’s not just travel related. There’s everything from fashion to fitness.
Seeding Up is a digital content marketing network that offers you different options to monetize your site, such as text links, banners ads, video marketing, advertorials and infographics. You can choose the types of advertising that you’re comfortable with and accept individual offers as they come.
Yonderbound is a platform that helps you monetize your travel expertise. Users create Yonderboxes, like travel scrapbooks recommending hotels fitting a certain theme or destination. If you’re an expert or well traveled, your tips and ideas are what make your Yonderboxes unique. For every booking through your Yonderbox, you get up to 70% of the net revenue in the form of Yondercredits, which you can then redeem while making your own bookings on Yonderbound.com.
GoodBlogs Paid blogging opportunities are available from time to time on GoodBlogs and you can sign up for their newsletter to receive an email each time a new opportunity is posted. Their topics cover a variety of niches and I imagine it is more useful to those who write on different topics versus someone like me who writes mostly about travel.