This guest post is by Brooke Schoenman of Brooke vs. the World.
I write for two blogs that are both travel-themed, yet very different from one another. Brooke vs. the World has been my personal travel blog for the past four years, while WhyGo Australia is more of a travel guide blog which is part of a larger travel network, and focuses on making money. Because of their different natures, I approach the way I write and promote each of these blogs in a different manner.
Brooke vs. the World has been around for a while now, and since I have a bit of clout in the online travel community, it does draw the attention of advertisers and has various avenues of making money. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to come to terms with whether or not I want to take it a step further to a point of it becoming a real money-maker. In considering my options, I’ve realized that this process would involve overcoming several challenges.
Prioritizing commercial topics over personal topics
Most personal bloggers choose to write about topics that only pertain to them, and do it in a way that requires them to talk about themselves. This approach can help build a following of people that truly can relate to you and what you’re doing, but it’s likely that focusing more heavily on broader topics that a more general audience can relate to from time to time will mean you can monetize your blog more successfully. There’s also the need to choose topics that fare better for SEO and purposely cause discussion. In other words, if you monetize your personal blog, you might have to blog about topics that aren’t as near and dear to your heart all the time.
For example, on my personal blog, I’d find it a bit bland to write an article on the “5 Best Budget Hostels in Antigua, Guatemala.” I’d much prefer to talk about my experiences with meeting new people there, perhaps in an article called, “The Amazing Friends I Met in Hostels in Guatemala.” Obviously, the first topic is going to appeal to a larger audience, maybe perform better with the search engines, and produce a better way of introducing affiliate programs with direct calls to action (think: “book your stay now”).
Censoring personal feelings
If you’re like me, you might use a personal blog as a way to vent and share your personal feelings. There’s nothing wrong with that—in fact, it can be a good way to connect with readers. However, if you monetize your blog, times may arise when it is best to not show your deep-down honest feelings—perhaps when you really dislike something. That’s a factor that can change in a blog when it starts to become a business: being openly judgmental can drive some potential advertisers away.
I let my personal feelings about traveling in New Zealand slip out on my blog last year. Sure, there were plenty of reasons why my feelings on the subject were negative, but by not censoring myself, I may have killed any chances of landing a media-related trip to New Zealand, or of working with New Zealand-themed advertisers in the future.
Broadening the horizons
Along with prioritizing commercial topics, the personal blogger looking to monetize their blog may need to broaden their scope. Talking about travel experiences and telling travel tales is one thing, but to gain a larger audience, you may try to provide experiences and tales for more than the countries that you’ve visited yourself. In addition, tackling list-style posts and easy-reading type articles can be a great way to draw in different types of readers. But are they your thing?
I think Darren touches on this point by talking about how his video posts do better when he has both the video and the transcription together. There are simply different kinds of audiences: some are visual (preferring photos or videos); others like to read about it. Some visitors are looking for a personal tale from a travel blog, while others want to know how exactly they can do the same things you did in a step-by-step guide. Each of these visitor types means that you may gain by branching out from your normal style. But personally, I find list posts and how-to guides feel less personal and unique (the majority of the time), and video blogs time-consuming.
Opening it up to others
Although it’s not necessarily essential, opening up a blog to focus more on others (another step in broadening the horizons) is beneficial when it comes to gaining more interest from your audience. You can achieve this by writing interviews, accepting guest posts, and linking more frequently to outside resources. Any way it happens, it will draw more attention to your blog. Yet it is a task that can be difficult to do smoothly if, so far, you’ve been focusing solely on your own story.
Brooke vs. the World, for example, has been a blog about my personal journey; the title pretty much says so. The objective has always been to share my travels, so the thought of adding another voice to the mix through guest posts would seem to break the continuity of what has now been years in the making.
Getting over the fear of selling
If a blog doesn’t start out to make money, it can feel as though the blogger is selling out by changing their focus to monetization later on. I think this is my number one issue with taking my personal blog to the next level—the fear that what I do and say will be only taken at face value, instead of genuinely. So, while I may feel strongly about the benefits of a certain product I’m writing about, I often fear making the initial call to action to achieve the response I’m looking for.
The fact that I struggle with this aspect could be all in my head, or it could be because the selling tone just doesn’t fit in with my personal blog’s voice. I’ve tried several times to write articles that are focused on the sale, but it just sounds out of place and inauthentic. I often worry that people will think that I’m only saying that I like a specific tour or travel product because I’m hoping to make some quick money from the sales.
Getting over the fear of selling yourself
Self-promotion is essential for making yourself stand out in a crowded niche such as travel, yet for many people, it’s not easy to do. You have to be able to tell people why you are interesting to follow and, most importantly, how they can gain from it themselves. Otherwise, you’ll be just another fish in the big Internet sea, swimming around waiting to be discovered.
Part of the process of drawing attention to yourself, however, can feel like bragging. Since most personal blogs have just a person behind them, there’s no business name to hide behind. So selling yourself seems very much like talking yourself up to others, which is what we were raised to think is impolite and annoying. I’m sure there is a fine line here, but I often find myself questioning whether it’s worth the risk of crossing that line.
I generally have no issues doing any of these activities with WhyGo Australia, since it’s a part of my job and I’m backed by a really awesome independent travel company. Overcoming these challenges with my personal blog is another story—and one that I continue to struggle with.
Have any of you felt the same when it comes to trying to make the change from personal blog to money-maker?
Brooke Schoenman is a long-time traveler and full-time travel blogger, originally from America but now in the process of becoming an Australia expat. For travel inspiration, subscribe to her feed at Brooke vs. the World, and for Australia travel tips be sure to bookmark WhyGo Australia.