We Learned About Blogging As We Went
Our RetiredAndTravelling blog was started for our own enjoyment. We shared it and it grew. And along the way we learned about blogging the hard way – experientially!
As we hit 500 travel blog posts, we looked back on what we learned about blogging. It was a good time to reflect on why we started blogging. And why we kept doing it.
We Started Blogging To Better Record Our RetiredAndTravelling Adventures
When we semi-retired and started to travel much more, we needed a better way to record our travels than hand-written journals and unorganized digital photo albums. We considered a few options. But since I had a technology background, I figured I could learn out how to start an online blog. Boy I learned a lot!
Our initial RetiredAndTravelling blog was hosted on Blogger. This was a free platform. And was pretty easy to get blog posts published. This allowed us to have our travel notes and representative pictures all in one place. And since it was online, we shared our travels with friends and family.
After about a year of blogging, we decided that we wanted to continue. We wanted a platform that had more flexibility and options for design. And were committed enough to invest some money to pay for a hosted WordPress site with GoDaddy. Our first 3 year contract was reasonably priced. The renewal cost after we added some security measures including HTTPS was not as well priced. On our next renewal, we plan to shop again for hosting options.
We learned about blogging in very painful ways when we moved the Blogger posts to WordPress. Often new plugins or themes required re-work to every blog post. We were happy when we finally had the basic site configured. And we focused less on the technical operations and more on content creation.
We Built It And They Did Come
We were delighted when we figured out Google Analytics and saw that our RetiredAndTravelling blog actually drew readers. And it was very awesome when RetiredAndTravelling was selected for travel blogger awards for Baby Boomer, Retired and Canadian travel blogs.
We set up social media channels and an identity for RetiredAndTravelling. Although we were not early enough and our identity was not the same on all channels. And then we spent a lot of time using the social media channels to interact with other travellers. And to promote the blog posts. Over time, the blog traffic and quality of traffic we received from social media has varied by channel.
The social media acquisition numbers were also directly related to the amount of time spent on the various channels actually interacting with other travellers. Just dropping blog links was not successful. When we travelled, we often had little time or poor connectivity so did not spend hours every day on social media. And this was directly reflected in our blog stats from social media.
But it appeared that we were writing about things that other travellers were interested in. Our search traffic volume has consistently been very high. Some of our more popular posts draw in high traffic month after month.
Writing quality posts brought in readers. This was one of the things we learned about blogging very early in the game.
Opportunities To Make Money Have Come Too
We are NOT lucky to be able to travel when we want and in the style we want. There was no luck involved! When we started travelling almost 6 months of the year, we had a healthy nest egg built through hard work and setting our priorities on what was important.
But this meant we did not have to make a living while we travelled or really supplement our travel budget. We understand that many others run their blog and social media as a business. And many people need extra money to travel. But we have not had to sell space on our blog and dilute our messages.
Our RetiredAndTravelling blog is clean, content rich and uncluttered by in-line ads every few paragraphs. Our side bars are not filled with product placement ads. Every day we get many requests for product endorsements and external blog posts. They are all politely declined.
Our blog will occasionally reference products that we love and use all the time. A few times we have included a pass-through link to share a discount with readers. Or have linked to blog posts of other travellers that we found compelling. We would never post a product blog post for something we have never tried or could not completely endorse.
Often we got treats and upgrades when we travelled. We decided to focus on travel brand loyalty and built travel points and status. Our elite status rewarded us with many great travel experiences and perks. We disclose any extra special treatment or perks we get from our status or from having this RetiredAndTravelling blog.
But we have also carefully selected opportunities to take sponsored travel or enjoy travel experiences that were free or discounted. But only if it was something we really wanted to do. We disclose this sponsored travel. And genuinely believe that our blog posts always reflect our true opinions.
We found many ways to make money when our travel blog grew. This was definitely one of the things we learned about blogging after 500 posts. But we also learned that most people did not get rich from their travel blogs. A success blog business required a commitment to promotion and a work schedule that was beyond what most people sustained.
There Were A Lot Of Fun Times
We love our travelling lifestyle. We visited so many exciting spots. Many are on bucket lists for most people. We mix cruising with land-based travel. The cruises let us taste test spots that we might want to return to. But I must admit that very few places have come off the travel wish list. On our land-based travel we explored places in much more depth.
We semi-retired early so that we could travel while we still had the health and energy to do the fun things we wanted to do. During our travels, we had some great close up encounters with whales and wild animals. We still love to scuba dive when we travel. Renting a boat for a high speed trip on the water was always fun. Helicopter tours over beautiful landscapes like Sedona in Arizona got our adrenaline up. And off road jeep adventures climbing rocks never caused us to bat an eye.
One of the great by-products of engaging in social media with travel groups was the chance to talk with a lot of great people who shared our love of travelling and adventure. As we travelled, we enjoyed the chance to meet many of these travellers in person. We always had a great meet-up when we got together. This chance to make new friends was a surprise benefit we learned about blogging.
But Also Lots of Work
One of the things we learned early about blogging was that it was a lot of work. And required commitment. Burnout was a regular risk for all bloggers.
We always travel with full bags of electronics so we can work while we travel. Whether it was writing draft blog posts or sorting photos, a part of almost every travel day included some blog-related work. Sometimes we do get the most amazing office views!
On top of actual blog work, we tried to post to social media as we travel. Sometimes time zones or internet connectivity made that challenging. But social media was unforgiving. We lost followers and visibility when we took large blocks of time offline.
When we were at home, our blogging work was a full time job. Friends were surprised when I told them I work at least 40 hours a week on travel blogging when we are home. That does not include David’s time on photos. When you shoot over 500 pictures a day when travelling, this drives a lot of time afterwards.
As we have increased our travelling, we spend less time at home. And one of the downsides has been getting behind in actually processing and publishing blog posts. We figure we could stop travelling for a year or two and we might finally publish all the blog posts sitting in draft.
And even with a hosted WordPress site, there was still time spent on the technical side of the blog site. The base software and plugins change constantly. And like most software, they are not always delivered bug-free. When a problem developed on the blog, it sometimes took days to fix it. Even with my technology background! Unless you pay for full support and trouble-shooting, you will spend time on things that have nothing to do with travel blog content!
Getting Good Traffic For The Blog Posts Required Effort
If you just write it, good blog traffic won’t always come. There are two points here – one is about traffic and the second is about good traffic.
As a techy geek, I built spreadsheets to track my social media and blog statistics. Trending numbers helped me to understand what worked and what didn’t. While pure visits was interesting, we wanted visits that showed that our content was valuable. We aimed for low bounce rates, high time on site and high pages per visit.
Getting blog traffic to our site required good content that people wanted to read. We had some great success with travel destinations or tips that people really searched for. We travelled for 4 weeks in Portugal as its popularity increased. And we found an insatiable demand for detailed information about all the reasons to visit Portugal.
But we have also been surprised when travel destinations drew little interest. We visited some of the most iconic sites in China – panda bears, Yangtze River cruises, Terracotta Warriors and the Great Wall of China. But two weeks after we returned and starting publishing our China travels, there were huge tensions with China. Many people lost immediate interest in reading about China. Maybe some day this content will be in demand.
Getting good traffic to our site required content that was deep and broad. Linking to other related content on our site kept visitors engaged for longer. And they came back to our site knowing that they got thorough information and tips. We don’t post lists with limited real information. And we don’t post about things we have not fully experienced.
Google can be a fickle friend to a blogger. But great content and a focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) brought readers to our site. The SEO algorithms changed constantly so we needed to constantly learn about what made good searchable content.
Constant promotion across social media channels tempted people. And reminded them that we have stuff they want to read. The social media channels also had groups that helped us promote our content. But the success varied.
We use Pinterest as a great social media channel to gather information about things we are interested in. And we get a lot of good traffic from Pinterest. But many of the Pinterest groups we joined to promote our content created high Pinterest traffic. But it was not good traffic. Bounce rates were very high, time on site was low and pages per visit stayed at one. People simply opened the blog post and left. This increased raw traffic. But it was not really the kind of traffic we wanted.
Facebook and Twitter have been good sources of high quality blog traffic. But only if we are spending time engaging on the platforms.
It has been a hard road. But building good content and promoting it properly was one of the things we learned about blogging.
We Now Travel Differently
Since we started RetiredAndTravelling, we find we may also travel a bit differently. We look at places to visit and think about what might be of interest when we prioritize destinations and things to do. It does not stop us from visiting places that we find interesting. But we are looking for things that we can share. And we have experienced so many new things that we may not have seen before we had the blog.
David was always a great photographer. But I got much better since we started blogging. I learned a lot from David. And as I learned to focus on the story I am telling.
We must admit that we are those people who have to photograph almost everything. Is food really food if you don’t have a picture? Our friends and family often roll their eyes.
But when we got together with other travellers, everyone shared tips about the best way to get pictures. When we went wine tasting in Temecula, we met up with a great group of local travellers. We were sure that we drove the winery staff crazy as each of us made just one more adjustment to catch the perfect picture.
We do need to get better at just putting down the phone or the camera to enjoy the sights and sounds as we travel. A balance of sharing and enjoying is something we learned about blogging the hard way.
So Many Things Learned After We Started Blogging
After 500 blog posts, we have a RetiredAndTravelling identity. We both still pick up contract work when we are home for longer periods of time. However, we are most likely to introduce ourselves as travel bloggers and photographers. That is the business card we normally share.
The lessons we learned about blogging came experientially. We read a lot as we went. But many new learnings meant a lot of work to apply the learnings. And what worked one year, changed the next.
We are still excited to be publishing RetiredAndTravelling. It was hugely rewarding to find that others were interested in our travels and tips.
It was great when we found travel sponsors who valued the blog we built. And felt it was the right place to promote their products. We are happy we still have the financial capabilities to be able to choose how and when we monetize blog opportunities.
But most importantly, we love the chance to record our travels. And to re-live the travel experience as we work on blog posts and photos. The blog posts are memory aids for us as we age. When we return to a destination, we re-read our posts to remember what was still left for a return visit. And what we want to experience again!
There are so many things to learn about blogging. Our way may not be yours. But we hope a few of these tips will help if you are starting a blog. Or wondering if you should keep at it.
Do you have something to add to the things we learned about blogging? Did you keep blogging after you hit 500 blog posts?
PIN To Pinterest:
Thank you for sharing. It gave me a couple of tips… I enjoy blogging and after reading the above I came up with an idea… Would have been great to combine my blog with posts from travelling for people will less energy, and opportunities to energize at the same time… Something to consider … 🙂
Kari, I am glad this post gave you a few tips. We are still learning lots as we keep blogging. Linda
Thanks for sharing, my wife and I are currently traveling full time after we retired, my friends and family are always saying write a blog or a book about our travel, but I find that if I spend a lot of time writing and editing photos I enjoy travel less. I doubt that we will ever have a blog with 500 posts but I’m glad that yours is here. We enjoy reading your posts and hope there are many more at least another 500.
Glenn and Maria (currently in Portugal)
Glenn, I am so glad that you and Maria are enjoying our blog posts. And enjoying Portugal. It was one of our favourite spots to visit. I understand your comment about writing and photo editing taking time away from enjoying travel. That is probably why I am so far behind in getting my posts up. There will likely be another 500 blog posts !! Linda
I loved reading your journey, you made some amazing steps in the right direction and always keeping your goal in sight, learning along the way and most of all, having an absolute ball! Keep doing what you’re doing 🙂
Vanessa, Thanks for your encouragement. It was interesting to look back and ponder the things we learned. Are we are indeed having a ball! Linda
Congratulations! 500 posts is a great accomplishment. As a new blogger 500 sounds a long ways away, but I love your drive and the goals you have shared. Goals of having in-depth content to drive your traffic, keep readers on your page, and really reading. This is so different from many other “starting a blog tip list”; it is nice to hear another perspective. Thanks for sharing your journey! Here’s to 500 more.
Laura, I am glad some of these tips resonated for you. It has been a long haul to 500. And we certainly had much too much experiential learning. But we have had some fun along the way. Linda
This was very fun to read. My blog is still pretty new, and it is definitely more work than I expected when I started- but I do love it. SEO is certainly a challenge! How wonderful that you can work remotely and enjoy your retirement. I love the photo of you blogging by the pool!
Leah, I am glad you enjoyed this blog post. It has been an interesting journey as we took our blog to 500 posts. And we did learn along the way. But I am glad that readers are still getting value. You will have good and not so good days as you blog. As long as it still brings you more joy than pain, keep at it. Linda
First of all congratulations on 500 posts. That is quite an achievement. It has been amazing seeing you change and grow and I know that your posts help so many. Another thing – I applaud you for staying true to you. For not filling your blog with ads and for only promoting that which you truly believe in. I hope that you continue in your success and sharing your amazing travels with us. Keep up the hard work it is appreciated by many including me.
Joella, Thanks for your support for the blog. I am glad you are finding the blog helpful. It has been an interesting journey. And we do love sharing our travels and tips. Here’s to 500 more blog posts! Linda
Enjoyed reading this post. Things We Learned About Blogging After 500 Posted was full of motivation and valuable tips!
You are an inspiration to all bloggers. Congratulations on your 500th post.
Thanks for the feedback! I am glad this may prove helpful to you. It was a good time to pause and look back. Linda
How do you get around the Schengen Laws.
Donald, While we travel about 6 months of the year, we have never been close to staying 3 months in the EU countries. Normally we travel to a wide variety of places. But a long EU trip might create issues. We have a spreadsheet to keep track of our travel for a rolling 12 months. The two things we pay more attention to are: 1) not staying too many days in the U.S. and having to pay U.S. taxes 2) not being out of Canada so long that if affects our healthcare. This spreadsheet helps with EU days as well. Linda
Thanks for sharing your experience as a blogger. It’s always interesting to hear what fuels other people’ interest for blogging. My website was also born out of my passion for writing and traveling, but I don’t mind having ads on it if they bring in some money. After all, we all work so hard for keeping our blogs afloat. Why not rip some rewards?
Anda, Blogging has been a great learning experience. It is great if you can make some money from your passion as you go. We will do it – if the opportunity is right and it fits with the brand. Linda
What an achievement! 500 posts is no mean feat. I wonder how long it would take me to get to that number. As i read what you wrote, I found myself nodding along. I too jumped on the travel blogging wagon late in the game. I normally also stop writing and posting once I am on a trip as I want to focus on being present too. You are completely right in how much work it goes into blogging. I am happy to hear from your experience , it turns out rewarding as well.
Adele, I am delighted to know you were nodding as you went through this blog post. Blogging turned into so much more than a passing fancy. It brings tons of work. But also rewards. Good luck as you keep blogging. Linda
This was a very intresting read. First off congrats on reaching 500 post. Second, we are the same i started my blog just to document my solo travel adventures and i am just happy i found a niche. Lastly it is true that going full time blogging is hardwork and while i also want to earn more with blogging what your post reminded me is to never forget why I blogged in the first place- the passion for writing and having fun while on travel.
Eric, It is so great when you can make money doing something you love. Glad that your niche has proved successful for you. Travel is a wonderful way to have fun and work too. Linda
Congratulations on your 500 blog post that is amazing! You’ve found your niche on retirement travel and your stories always gives a lot of helpful information.
Wishing for more travel opportunities for you both!
Blair, Thanks for your comments. We definitely hope that we are providing content that is helpful to our readers. While we may be “retired”, we often travel to place and in ways that attract a broader audience. Trying to keep young as we explore. Linda
Wow! Congratulations on this new milestone on your blogging journey. I admire your decision to be selective with the opportunities you take and the product you endorse. This has been my dilemma a couple of weeks ago when I was received a great offer in exchange of endorsing a vape brand. This is something which I do not really support as I believe it is not healthy. So, I had to decline despite the attractive compensation.
After reading your post, I am happy to get the confirmation that I did the right thing. Thank you for sharing this. Thank you for reminding me that we should also make a stand to keep our posts reflect our true opinions.
Clarice, Thanks for your feedback. I do understand the challenge sometimes to turn down revenue opportunities. But for me, my brand means a lot and I want my readers to trust when I am recommending something. Linda
I do a horrible job at SEO. I have no excuse. It’s a great idea to track the type of traffic coming in from social media
Sherianne, It is a lot of work to get the SEO right. And it keeps changing. But it does help with organic growth! Linda
I just discovered this great blog. I also blog but only up to about 250 posts. I started mine because I got tired answering, “Where did go? Where did you stay? What did you think?”
Steve, I am glad you like our blog. We are loving sharing our travels. Good luck with your blogs too. It is a great way to remember all your travels. Linda
500 posts! Wow that is a great achievement guys. I had to restart my travel blog back in November 2018 and is growing very quickly but I never did the SEO side of things before, so I am learning it all the time and the traffic is now getting bigger. It takes time but its fun and there is always something new every day we learn about blogging. Great post guys and here is to another 500!
Thanks Danik! There is indeed something new to learn every day. And it keeps changing. But we do love to share our adventures. To another 500! Linda
It’s great to hear about your blogging journey, which can be different for everyone. I don’t have ads either because there is just seems to be no way to present them in an aesthetically pleasing way. Possibly and financially reckless decision but I’d prefer my readers to have an uncluttered experience. Good luck with the next 500 articles.
Paul, I waffled on a lot of blog decisions over the year. But keep learning as I go. I am happy to not have ads. But understand why others choose to do so. Love clean easy to read blogs like yours. Linda
Congratulations on your 500 posts. Its quite an accomplishment. Loved reading about your journey. It wasn’t easy but your passsion and drive keepy you going. Blogging is definitely a full time job. Love the statement you made – blogging is the memory aid to us as we age.
Pooja, It is amazing how quickly you do lose the details of trips. Especially when we are travelling a lot. So the blog helps to record the memories for us. Linda
Loved reading your achievement and living a life of blogger and that too after retirement. It is the best way to spend life after retirement as traveling and writing your own personal experiences are the greatest way to spend time. Good to know that you have published 500 blog posts. Also it is good that you had many fun times while having wine tasting tour or having a helicopter ride.
Yukti, It has indeed been an interesting adventure since we started to blog. But we are enjoying sharing our adventures. And love that people are reading our posts. Good luck on your blogging journey. Linda
First of all would like to congratulate you for the great work and all the effort you have put into this. I am personally learning as I go about and just like yourselves stumble upon new learning all the time. It is certainly not as glamours as people think it is but I enjoy this and the hard work. Good to learn from some of your experiences and yes most people start of just as a hobby or to record their travels and then you just get sucked into it. Hope your journeys continue and you reach the 1,000 milestone soon. Until then keep travelling and keep sharing your experiences.
Thanks Amar! Some learning you just have to experience to understand why some things are important. It is a lot of hard work. But we still find it rewarding enough to put so much time and love into it. We are hoping for 500 more for sure! Linda
Congratulations, such an amazing milestone! I love that you decided to take advantage of your health and evergy for traveling with a semi-retired plan. You have clearly poured a lot of love into this blog. Such an inspiration.
Thanks Kate! We have got a lot of pleasure out of sharing our travels. Glad people enjoy what we are writing about. Linda
Great job!! Congratulations on being selected for one of the best bloggers within babyboomers, that’s means that you have come a long way. I am so glad that you mentioned how blogging requires patience and hard work, often my work load surpasses the load I had while I had the commercial job but what derives me is that in the end it still something that I created from scratch.
Daniel, Many people start off blogging and don’t know what hard work and dedication it will take. But as you said, rewarding to know you started it from nothing. Linda
This is such an inspiring post. You have given a new meaning to life, post retirement. What can be better than traveling, having amazing experiences, recording those experiences on your own blog, being able to choose what to do and what not, and make some money too. Blogging is definitely lots of work and I am glad you have acknowledged it. I have been blogging from last 10 years and I feel this is the best thing that happened to me.
Manjulika, I am glad to read that this post resonated with your. We were lucky to retire early when we could still do all the travelling we wanted. And recording it as we go is such a bonus. Linda
500 blog posts, wow! That’s quite an achievement in my opinion and congratulations for making it. Of course there had to be ups and downs but you made every experience a lesson and that’s why you have survived and prevailed in the blogging world. I know it looks very glamourous, life on the go, and a lot of people think that it’s a piece of cake and a smooth ride but I know it is not. Happy at your success and truly inspired by it!
Medha, It has been a challenging and rewarding journey. But as you say, not a piece of cake. We will see how the next 500 goes. Linda
Really interesting reading this & finding out your perspective. Like you I started blogging with a passion for sharing what I love & hope that it resonates with people. I didn’t realise how much hard work it was to make it a success! My progress has been slow & I am still trying to build up traction with followers. Similarly I don’t need to chase the money but have yet to make a penny from my blog & I would like to do partnerships soon. I agree that quality content is key & I find it distracting to see ads fly in from all angles. I don’t want to have to be a slave to all that either. Very interesting & thanks for sharing.
Sue, I sure didn’t realise how much work blogging took when we started. Between writing, pics and social media it is more than a full time job. I like to hear from like-minded people who are sharing great content. Linda