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Each month, we share the story of a member of the DNW community that is making money from blogging. These stories share the blogger’s journey and tips about exactly how they make money and get traffic to their blogs. I hope you find these interviews inspiring and helpful in your own journey. This month, we are featuring Cathy Winston who is a Family Travel Blogger from Mummy Travels.
1. Introduce yourself!
Hi – I’m Cathy and I’m obsessed with travel. I’m a professional travel writer based in the UK and have been a journalist and editor for my whole career (it’s still my part-time day job). I started my blog, MummyTravels.com, seven years ago because of that obsession when I became pregnant and everyone told me I’d have to stop travelling.
To start with, I genuinely wanted to answer the question of whether it was possible to travel with a baby. Over my pregnancy and nearly seven years of travelling with my daughter, I’ve proved (I hope!) that you can, won several awards and managed to feed my own wanderlust as well.
2. Describe your blog(s)
MummyTravels covers everything to do with family travel, including tips and product reviews, plus practical information on destinations as well as details of our own trips. I want to tell stories as well as the fact-filled guides: the goal is to transport you to the destination through our adventures and photos, as well as letting you know everything there is to do, and everything you’ll need to know.
One thing which sets my blog apart from many UK family travel blogs is that I also travel solo with my daughter a lot of the time, so there’s information on how to manage that as well as proving that parents shouldn’t be put off (whether you’re a single parent or temporarily travelling without your other half).
We also cover a lot of different holiday styles, from UK days out to European city breaks and beach breaks, but also long-haul travel including everything from South East Asia to the Caribbean, the USA, cruise holidays and road trips. I love a bit of luxury but it’s not all five-star high end either, and we’re as likely to put together an independent trip as stay in an all-inclusive resort.
It’s important to me that our travels introduce my daughter to more of the world, whether that’s historic sites and museums or to different cultures, so you’ll never find us just lounging on the beach.
My audience is very similar to me – mainly women, mainly aged 25-44 and with kids, across both the blog and social media. They read it (and you should) because there’s something for every travelling family, for any style and budget, and because it’ll inspire you to see destinations you might not have considered… or at least transport you there briefly without having to leave your home.
I’m always transparent – I don’t hide press trips or sponsored content, I don’t pretend places are perfect if they’re not, but there’s plenty of positives to find in every experience.
3. When did you start blogging and why did you start?
I started blogging in 2012 through sheer stubbornness – when I got pregnant, I knew having a baby would change my life, but I wasn’t prepared for everyone to tell me that meant I’d have to stop travelling, something which has been my job and my passion for years. I was determined to show them that you can still see the world with a baby.
To start with, the blog was purely my own creative outlet and a motivator to get out there and live up to that promise – now it’s a significant part of my income, even though it’s not my full-time job.
4. What is the most rewarding part of blogging for you?
Having a corner of the internet which is purely mine to be creative with – as a journalist, I’m used to writing to other people’s styles and briefs. On the blog, what I write is up to me, and I love having that creative control.
It’s also so rewarding when the posts do strike a chord with readers, who get in touch to say they’ve been helpful or that they’ve been inspired to book a trip as a result.
5. What do you find the most challenging?
The fact that the creative side often seems to get the least time – there’s always social media to feed, SEO to research, technical problems to solve, blogmin to do, and an endless To Do list which is not all about the travel or the writing.
6. How much did you earn in the last month and how?
I earned $1,960 last month – $725 from sponsored blog posts, $445 from advertising, $525 from affiliates, $265 for paid social media content.
The amounts tend to fluctuate month to month – any brand campaigns push it higher, while affiliates are often lower outside school holidays. I also got a higher temporary commission rate from one of my best affiliates for part of that month as I’d been performing so well for them.
7. What tips do you have for bloggers trying to monetise their blogs?
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – if you accept sponsored blog posts, for example, it’s not uncommon to have months with no approaches. Equally, you might do really well on a social media platform, but there are too many stories of accounts being shut down, or hidden for me to want to rely on those.
It’s never too early to start monetising your content. Even if affiliate links don’t perform well to start with, it’s worth getting into the habit of putting them into posts so as your traffic grows, they can start earning without any extra effort.
And while you might not qualify for the bigger ad networks for a while, I regret not investigating the options between eg Google Adsense and Mediavine sooner – I joined Ezoic around four months before I qualified for Mediavine, which was the first time I had come across this option for blogs with over 10k sessions, and while it may not be for everyone, I am still kicking myself for the income I could have made for months (years?) beforehand.
Do get involved with Facebook groups – the best ones are full of advice and it’s useful to know what rates other people are charging and getting when you start to get approaches, as well as knowing which offers really aren’t worth it.
Do start learning about SEO. It might sound boring and I sat through too many conference sessions which were pitched way over my head, but there are great courses out there (like Sharon’s!) and focusing on that makes a huge difference to traffic – which then opens up even more opportunities to monetise.
8. How much traffic did your blog have in the last month and where does it come from?
Last month, I got 45,000 views on the blog. Around 75% comes from search traffic (Google) and 10% from social media (around 40% of that from Pinterest, 30% from Trip Advisor, 25% from Facebook).
My Pinterest was driving double the traffic last year until the numbers inexplicably dropped to near zero six months ago. It’s building back up, but this is one reason I’m wary of relying on social media…
9. What tasks do you do that have the biggest impact on your traffic?
Improving SEO – it’s something I’ve only been focused on properly for the past 12 months or so, and while my traffic had been growing, it’s doubled over that time. I’ve been updating old posts, optimising ones which already do well, as well as writing posts with keywords in mind (unlike earlier content) and posts to help improve my authority.
10. What has helped you the most when it comes to getting search traffic?
It’s a mix – good SEO always helps but I’ve also ranked well for destinations which aren’t otherwise well covered. Because I focus on family travel, there’s sometimes less competition for content on the destination with kids (unlike travelling to the destination in general). Although search volumes are smaller, focusing on a niche makes a big difference.
Constantly updating older posts also makes a big difference – ones which had originally done well and had started to drop out of the rankings have returned to some of the top spots after some basic updates and republishing, for example.
11. What are your main goals for your blog?
I’d love more passive income – at the moment, the time spent definitely outweighs the income created. I’d also love to make it a bigger part of my overall income – I do love my work as a travel writer, but freelance journalism is always a precarious job so being able to grow the blog further would be fantastic.
12. What are you doing to work towards your main goals? How do you work out where to prioritise your time?
I’m focusing on improving the existing content – I know I sound like a broken record stuck on the word ‘SEO’ but that is showing the biggest results. I have so many old posts (well over 1,000) that even driving a small number of extra visits has a big effect overall. Updating, deleting or merging the oldest ones, including those which don’t perform, has seemed to have a big effect on my Google authority – fewer posts with zero clicks, or thin content seems to have helped the newer, optimised content perform better too.
It’s always a juggle between updating the old, writing the new (including deliverables from trips and sponsored content) plus all the other tasks (not to mention my other work) so the balance is something I’m still working on!
13. What three biggest tips/pieces of advice do you have for other bloggers?
Blogging is a long game.
I’ve no doubt people could be more successful than me and faster (if I knew then what I knew now…) but it takes time to get traffic. So make the blog something you’re happy to devote a lot of time to, ideally something you love.
I always hoped to make money from blogging but I started because I love writing, because I had stories I wanted to share – and so it motivated me to keep going when I was getting a tiny number of views and when I wasn’t making a penny.
Find your tribe.
For the first couple of years of blogging, I was in my own little bubble. When I started to get to know other bloggers, I’ve learned so much, had so much support, been inspired so much – and made some great friends. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I had stayed in the bubble.
Make your blog your own.
There’s always a balance to find between doing what you want to do and the practical side – after all, you might write the most beautiful, creatively satisfying or useful posts ever, but you’ll still want people to find them whether it’s via search or social. But with more and more blogs out there, don’t get too caught up in following other people’s recipes for success – be inspired, be motivated by them, but don’t feel that because so and so is doing something, you should too.
Apart from anything, there’s no point being a watered down copy of someone who’s already a success – your blog is your space to be yourself, to share what’s important to you.
14. Where can we find you online?
You can find me in most places as mummytravels – the blog is at mummytravels.com, and you can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Trip Advisor and YouTube.
You can find more interviews with successful bloggers here and more posts about making money from blogging here.