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I love sharing the stories of members of the DNW community that are making money from blogging. These stories tell 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 Isabelle Hoyne who is a Travel Blogger from Cultured Voyages. She is also a Build Blog Freedom Fast Track student. Like Shelley, she also got serious about travel blogging since the pandemic started and has made it work!
1. Introduce yourself!
Hi, I’m Isabelle – or Issy for short – and I’m a travel blogger from Ireland. I have a full-time job at a tech company, where I spend my days dealing with pricing strategies, negotiations and contracts. Every spare minute I have around this (lunchtimes, evenings, weekends – you name it) I spend working on my blog!
My parents instilled a love of travel and an appreciation for different cultures in me from a young age and I have had a fascination in all things historical for as long as I can remember. I have this never-ending curiosity in me to explore new places in order to learn about their cultural heritage and what makes them unique.
A path into travel blogging has probably always made sense for me, even if it’s taken this long to realise it. I’ve been taking photos since the days of disposable cameras, from the age of about 8 years old and I have always had a love of research and creative writing. It’s probably about time at this point to combine all my passions and try to make a proper go at it!
2. Describe your blog
Issy’s Escapades is a luxury travel blog for culturally curious travellers who like to lay their heads down in unique, luxurious properties at the end of a day’s exploring.
The blog borrows elements from a number of different styles of travel which primarily include luxury, cultural and culinary travel. I know people say that the travel niche is oversaturated, but the blog was partially born from my own frustrations in finding an intersection between all of these areas. While there are some great blogs out there covering cultural travel, luxury travel and culinary travel as solo topics, I couldn’t find a complete and comprehensive resource that dealt with them all together.
Google Analytics tells me that core readers are culture loving travel buffs with an affinity for art, theatre and literature. They like to splash out on hotels and dining out and many are health and fitness enthusiasts who love the outdoors, with an interest too in sustainability. This describes exactly the group that I set out to help, so I am delighted that these people are finding their way to my content and that it is reflected in my readership.
Primarily, I produce heavily researched, long-form itineraries and guides that appeal to cultural connoisseurs and lovers of beautiful scenery and architecture, together with highly curated recommendations of higher-end places to stay and foodie hotspots.
When outlining places to visit, I always try to impart a little bit of history and outline the cultural significance of somewhere, so readers can understand exactly why something is worth taking the time to visit, and if it’s something that appeals to them or not.
A recent example would be this 4-day Rome itinerary.
3. When did you start blogging and why did you start?
Originally, my blog was born out of my love of photography. In June 2016, I created a second Instagram page to share pictures of my travels and excursions. I grew my account quite quickly, but soon grew disillusioned with chasing likes, didn’t know how to monetize it and I let it fall to the wayside.
In 2017 I created a site on WordPress, where I wrote travel stories and again, shared photos. I have always loved storytelling and writing, so found a real creative outlet in this. However, as with Instagram, I soon ran out of steam when I wasn’t getting any returns from the blog, either by way of pageviews or revenue. I had zero clue about SEO and don’t think I’d even heard of affiliate marketing at that stage!
I let my hosting lapse and my domain expired around a year later – which was a grave error as my site was essentially wiped of all content and I had no backups made.
I have to credit my boyfriend Andy with encouraging me to take blogging back up again. When we started dating and going on trips I would produce these incredibly detailed itineraries (which I loved putting together) and he made the point that I should be sharing and monetizing them somehow.
When the first Coronavirus lockdown happened in Ireland in March 2020, I all of a sudden found myself with way more free time on my hands. My commute to work disappeared due to working from home and with not a whole lot else to do in my free time, I dedicated myself to learning as much as I could about blogging.
This time, however, I decided to approach it differently and I made it my mission to discover how it was that people made money from blogging and how I could do it too.
4. What is the most rewarding part of blogging for you?
Firstly is the fact that I can make an income from doing something that I genuinely love. I have slowly been realising that I want to be my own boss and create and grow a business of my own. Blogging offers me this path.
Secondly is receiving feedback from readers to say they’ve found my content useful and have used it to plan their own trips. I aim to be seen as that friend in the know who knows all the best spots in a destination, so nothing thrills me more to hear positive feedback from readers.
I received an email recently asking for advice, along with the statement “I’m asking you because I trust your taste” and that for me was the biggest compliment ever!
5. What do you find the most challenging?
I suffer from what is sometimes crippling perfectionism, and this has often stopped me from getting stuck into things as I feel put off by the enormity of the overall task in its entirety. However, I’ve recently conquered this by breaking larger tasks into much smaller ones of about 20-30 minutes each and I constantly remind myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day! This has helped massively in getting things done.
I also have a very demanding day job that uses up a lot of mental energy. I’m often exhausted by the time I get around to working on the blog and find it tough to leave the stresses of the day behind me.
I’ve sort of built up more of a stamina for this as time has gone on though and again, have to remind myself constantly that I’m pursuing my passion and that it will all be worth it in the end. It’s definitely not easy, though.
6. How much did you earn in the last month and how?
Last month, I earned $1,270 from affiliates and advertising. This can be broken down further as follows:
- Ads: $226
- Accommodation affiliates: $925
- Tours & tickets affiliates: $85
- Travel & logistics: $15
- Amazon: $19
7. What tips do you have for bloggers trying to monetise their blogs?
Firstly, if you’re not on a complete shoestring budget starting off, I’d very highly recommend investing in a good course that teaches you how to monetise – the earlier the better. I started Build Blog Freedom Fast Track last May and through implementing some of what I had learned, I started earning some money by June – before I had even finished the course. While things were just starting to click with me then, it had taken me over a year to start getting to that point and my learning curve (and thus lead up time to begin generating revenue) was greatly shortened when I did the course and I picked up so much from it.
Also, really focusing on your analytics and getting a monthly reporting system up and running will help massively. It doesn’t have to be hugely complicated either. In particular, I’ve focused on a ‘revenue per session’ metric that I track each month.
Every action and task I set is linked to this – i.e. will it improve this metric – and that in turn helps me focus predominantly on only those tasks that are directly linked to generating income. This really showed me the benefit in optimising existing content I had written for affiliates and once those posts started performing better, it has helped guide how I write new content now too.
Thirdly, is the importance of diversification. Each month has surprised me, in that one or some of my affiliate programs will perform much better than others and what is good one month might fall off a cliff the next. I’m trying to combat this by focusing on a good spread – for me that is accommodation affiliates, tours and tickets, logistics and Amazon.
8. How much traffic did your blog have in the last month and where does it come from?
Last month, I received 16,761 page views. 46% was organic traffic, 41% was from Pinterest and 13% was direct.
9. What tasks do you do that have the biggest impact on your traffic?
Writing to keyword plans and what people are actually searching for has helped massively. I spend a lot of time researching keywords. I really hone in on making my posts the most thorough out there too, while still being relevant to the topic, which leaves lots of room to add related keywords.
Writing new posts and publishing content has really helped as well. I’ve been posting a little more consistently over the past few months and it has resulted in a nice little bump in traffic.
Also, a really simple pinning schedule of one pin per day has generated a decent level of traffic for me while starting out.
A lot of the destinations I’ve written about to date are popular topics on Pinterest and I enjoy making pins. I batch create and schedule pins once a week and it doesn’t take too much of my time, so I don’t mind doing it and it’s worth it as it currently provides over 40% of my traffic.
10. What has helped you the most when it comes to getting search traffic?
The non-glamourous stuff is unfortunately the only thing really that makes a difference!
It all comes down to following those keyword plans and nesting less competitive related search terms within those posts. I write very long content – often anywhere between 7,000 – 10,000 words, so while I produce less posts than many, within those posts I can place lots of related keywords and a lot of my traffic comes from ranking for lower volume, less competitive keywords that are related to my main keyword.
It’s also probably no surprise that posts which have been optimised to the max are the ones that rank better – I spend a lot of time writing alt tag descriptions and other on-page SEO tasks before publishing.
In terms of off-page SEO, quality backlinks really do help for ranking – with restrictions on my time though, I find it hard to keep up with building them regularly and this is something I’d like to improve on.
11. What are your main goals for your blog?
I have one primary goal, which is income related and that is to be generating consistent €10k+ months by mid 2023 and be either earning, or well on the path to a six-figure year for 2023. To break that down further, I have two other goals that I feel are crucial in reaching this:
- Get my ‘revenue per reader’ figure up to €0.10 (excluding ads). If I can do this, I feel I will have gotten the formula right and have a good blueprint to follow as I grow my blog.
- Add more revenue streams. I plan on developing an email list this year and will explore creating my own products. I’d also like to sell my photography and work with more tourism boards and hotels.
12. What are you doing to work towards your main goals? How do you work out where to prioritise your time?
This is where getting really granular on my goals has helped. I am a big fan of the DNW 5 Day Goal Setting Challenge and found it great as a starting point.
My ultimate goal is revenue-related and when I break it down, the following four things will have the most impact on me reaching it:
- Create new content
- Optimise existing posts (for keywords & affiliate income)
- Grow traffic (with a focus on Pinterest & backlink building to improve rankings)
- Education and self development
Each month, I break out several sub-goals that align with the above – so that could be something like write two posts, optimise two posts, build a certain amount of backlinks and complete a particular course or self-development book.
Then, I schedule daily tasks that tie in exclusively with my monthly goals which will each take somewhere between 15 – 45 minutes to complete. Depending on how long I think they will take, I could have anywhere between 3 – 6 tasks on my list for the day. I have to pare this back a little if I am working late at my day job, but I find this approach really helps keep momentum going.
13. What three biggest tips/pieces of advice do you have for other bloggers?
- Be patient, and then double it! It can often feel like you’re hitting your head off a wall and there is literally no way to predict when Google/Pinterest etc decides it likes you and starts showing your content to more people. Also, in terms of revenue, while you might accrue a certain amount of revenue in terms of commissions for accommodation or tours, you often don’t get paid out on that for many months (and people can also cancel bookings) so nothing is a certainty until the money actually hits your account.
- Don’t be afraid to get ads up and running early in the process. I applied and was accepted for SheMedia at 6k pageviews. It got all the fiddly bits out of the way early and my RPMs have now levelled out to a decent amount. This means that I’m now in a good place to take advantage of any surges in traffic should they come.
- Set aside time to look after yourself and your mental health. Your self beliefs and self talk are crucial to your ability to keep going and remain motivated. Focus first on yourself and set aside time as part of your plan for activities like education, self improvement and self development (on both an emotional and intellectual level). I can’t emphasize this one enough!
14. Where can we find you online?