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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 Ingrid Truemper who is a Language Learning and Travel Blogger from Second-Half Travels.
1. Introduce yourself!
In 2016, I took early retirement from my job as a software engineer at age 43 to pursue my passions for travel, language learning, and writing. I love to combine language learning and travel. My goal is to learn a new language to at least conversational level every two years.
The first two years of retirement I focused on getting my Spanish to fluency through travel and study in Spanish-speaking countries. Last year, I began tackling Portuguese with trips to Brazil and Portugal.
When not traveling, I live in the laid-back US state of New Mexico, which offers spectacular scenery and a low cost of living.
2. Describe your blog(s)
My blog covers language learning and travel from the perspective of an early retiree. I started with travel posts but then pivoted to language-learning content: Spanish, Portuguese, and to a lesser extent German and Russian. I still occasionally publish travel posts related to my language-learning trips, but I’ve found pure travel blogging to be highly competitive.
The majority of my audience are language learners from the US and UK. It helps that Spanish is such a popular language to learn in the US and worldwide.
3. When did you start blogging and why did you start?
I started the blog after taking early retirement in January 2016 as a way to document my travels and language learning. However, it got virtually no visitors apart from family and friends until I began taking SEO and traffic-building seriously in late 2017.
In 2018 I took Sharon Gourlay’s Build Blog Freedom course, and the SEO techniques I learned turbocharged my traffic. The blog now consistently receives between 125K and 150K monthly pageviews.
Since I had already retired from one stressful career, I wanted blogging to stay a fun, creative part-time gig. I did work close to full-time part of last year while getting the blog up to speed, but now I’ve cut back. I do almost no work while traveling and about 10 hours a week at home.
4. What is the most rewarding part of blogging for you?
I enjoy checking my traffic and income numbers daily and watching them grow. I especially love getting reader feedback, and have received many sincere comments and emails thanking me for the information I provide. That makes me feel really good!
My language-learning posts are often linked from high school and university pages, and it’s rewarding to know my content is being used in education.
The blog is also a huge creative outlet for my writing and photography.
An additional unexpected blessing has been the new friends blogging has brought into my life, both readers and fellow bloggers that I’ve connected with online or in real life.
5. What do you find the most challenging?
I find photo editing really tedious, and writing has always been like pulling teeth for me. I’m such a perfectionist that I rewrite everything dozens of times.
Improving site speed is also frustrating, since there are so many complex factors involved as well as possible fixes.
6. How much did you earn in the last month and how?
I earned $1500 in total, with $1475 from Mediavine ad income and only $25 from Amazon affiliate income.
My Mediavine income could be a lot higher, but I have ad levels set to low for both mobile and desktop. I also add lots of div tags in my content to keep ads from breaking up sections I prefer to keep together, so that reduces ad placement too.
Since I’m not personally a fan of ads, I keep them set to low to avoid negatively impacting user experience too much. I’m lucky in that I don’t require a full-time income from my blog since I’m already retired. Rather, blogging is a fun hobby that generates a nice part-time income. Bloggers who need to make a full-time income should adjust their ad levels accordingly!
Note that Mediavine revenue varies considerably by season and month of the quarter, with Quarters 2 and 4 the highest earning, and the beginning of a quarter much less lucrative than the end.
My Amazon affiliate income is low because I haven’t yet put a lot of effort into creating high-value buying guides. Currently, I have Amazon links sprinkled throughout my content to highlight related products like books I truly recommend.
Usually, people don’t even end up buying the products I link to; rather, I get commissions from their other random Amazon purchases — everything from car parts to kitty litter!
7. What tips do you have for bloggers trying to monetise their blogs?
Invest in SEO training and a good keyword research tool right away, otherwise you’ll waste a lot of time with rookie mistakes. Learn about affiliate marketing and how to create strategic product guides that are truly beneficial for your readers.
Seek out online blogging communities to support and inspire you. There are many highly active blogger groups on Facebook like the DNW community, and members can be incredibly generous with their time and advice.
Be patient; blogging is a long game. Making money takes time while your blog’s content ages, increasing its merit in the eyes of Google, so use that wait time effectively to educate yourself and create quality content written to keywords.
8. How much traffic did your blog have in the last month and where does it come from?
Last month, the blog got 131K pageviews. Of those, 95% were from organic search, and 4% were direct, meaning users typed in the URL directly or returned from a bookmark. So the blog relies on SEO almost exclusively for traffic.
I’ve never been very motivated or good at social media for the blog. While I did create accounts on all the major social platforms, I have few followers and generally only post when I have a new publication.
It’s a relief to realize I can make a decent passive income without the pressure of generating Pinterest traffic or maintaining multiple social followings. Organic search has been the best and easiest traffic source for a part-time blogger like me.
9. What tasks do you do that have the biggest impact on your traffic?
I frequently update and improve my most popular posts, checking that their content still beats the competition.
Keyword-optimizing old posts written before learning about SEO has given new life to forgotten content. Updating existing posts usually pays off more than creating new ones, since aged content ranks higher and faster.
Link-building from other sites is key. I participate in lots of collaborative posts and occasionally write guest posts.
With each new post, I update the blog’s internal links to interconnect related content. I use my most popular content to funnel traffic and link juice to new posts and related older posts.
One really nice side benefit of achieving the top spots in search results is that external link building starts to happen naturally as people share your posts in forums, on social media, and on their sites.
10. What has helped you the most when it comes to getting search traffic?
Without a doubt, keyword research for new posts and optimization for older posts. The average top 10 post on Google is two or more years old, so older posts are SEO gold. But they require regular TLC in the form of keyword and content updates to ensure they stay relevant.
11. What are your main goals for your blog?
My goals are to express myself creatively, help others have meaningful cross-cultural experiences through language study overseas and at home, and to earn a part-time income that covers my travel expenses.
I achieved my financial goal this year as the passive income is now enough to fund my travels as well as the costs of the blog (hosting and software fees add up!).
My goal for the next year is to reach 200K monthly pageviews and make $2,000 a month.
12. What are you doing to work towards your main goals? How do you work out where to prioritise your time?
In blogging there are so many competing demands on your time, so it’s essential to focus on the tasks with the highest impact.
This means identifying the blog topics that bring the most traffic, enhancing existing posts on those topics, and writing new related ones. It also means taking away energy from pursuits like social media platforms that simply aren’t bringing any traffic.
Sometimes applying the 80/20 rule conflicts with my personal desires, and I have to balance self-fulfillment with financial reward. For example, some of my popular posts no longer align with my language-learning interests, but I continue maintaining them since I know they are helpful to people. However, I occasionally write about new topics I’m excited about, even if keyword research shows they won’t receive as much traffic.
13. What three biggest tips/pieces of advice do you have for other bloggers?
Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself.
Many bloggers are reluctant to spend any money on tools or education, leading to a lot of wasted time. Blogging is like any other business; you need to invest money to make money.
If you consider how much university education costs in the US, blogging courses are a bargain in comparison. Spending money on education is a valuable investment in yourself.
The second most important investment is a good keyword research tool. Keyword research makes or breaks your SEO strategy; without it previously, I was just stabbing in the dark.
Identify traffic trends for your site.
Find out what topics Google likes you for. Pay close attention to which posts get you the most traffic and see if you can spot common themes. Consider making these topics the focus of your blog.
Remember the 80/20 rule: 20 percent of the content gets you 80 percent of the traffic. It’s typical in blogging for a handful of posts to bring the lion’s share of traffic. For example, my top five posts bring 74 percent of the traffic! If you can identify those posts and build on them, you’ll have a successful formula.
Provide high-quality content written to keywords.
Less is more; think quality over quantity. It’s better to have fewer, high-quality posts than a lot of low-quality posts.
As the world’s slowest writer, my blog only has 50 posts total, yet gets up to 150K monthly pageviews. I regularly revise and enhance high-performing content, adding more keywords using Sharon’s technique.
Always put your readers first. How can you solve their problem or provide insightful information in a better, more complete way than the competition? When planning and writing new posts, keyword research is the best way to find out what your readers are really searching for.
One thing that helps me a lot is to have an ideal reader, or reader avatar, in mind when I blog. It makes writing easier because it becomes like sharing advice to a friend.
In my case, my reader avatar is a real person, a friend I met on my travels I admire a lot and consider my ideal reader. Keeping her in mind as I write helps me decide what information to include and what to leave out.
14. Where can we find you online?