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I love to share the story 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 Shelley Marmor who is a Travel Blogger from Travel Mexico Solo. She is also a Build Blog Freedom Fast Track student.
For many of us in travel blogging, the last couple of years have been incredibly difficult. In my own case, Malaysia has still not opened their international borders and, as omicron explodes around the world, it can feel further away than ever that my blog will be back. This experience made me extra excited to read about how Shelley’s blog has grown during this time and to share it with you here. All is not lost in travel blogging 🙂
1. Introduce yourself!
Hi, my name is Shelley! I started my first blog in March 2020, when we went into lockdown in Mexico, where I live. I didn’t know what would become of it, but I thought it would be a funny story one day to tell people “I started a travel blog during the pandemic.”
Before starting the blog, I was working on another online business I started, but had zero passion for. I thought the blog would help me creatively, as I used to be a travel magazine editor and have worked on websites before — so I thought, Why not make a pretty website and start writing again?!
2. Describe your blog
I have two blogs now, one is a general Mexico travel blog and one is a niche site about Mérida, Mexico, the city I live in. The main site is the one I’ve had since March 2020, and I started the niche site in July 2021.
My first site is called Travel Mexico Solo, because before officially moving to Mexico from Miami, I traveled around the country by myself for about a year. I intended to inspire other women to travel solo in Mexico, dispelling the myth that Mexico is unsafe, and encouraging solo travel.
Fast forward about a year, and my analytics tells me more than half of my readers are men! Needless to say, I focus a lot more on general Mexico travel, but still have a passion for solo travel, and am working on ways to come back to that as a focus.
I started my second site because the city I’ve called home since 2019, Merida, is a very up-and-coming travel destination here in Mexico — and there were no travel websites dedicated to the city. As anticipated, it has grown much faster than the larger Mexico travel site.
3. When did you start blogging and why did you start?
My last full time job was for a Miami travel magazine, which shut down in late-2018. I did an online blog for the magazine from about 2011-2013, when I stopped because I kept hearing blogging was dead!
I started my Travel Mexico Solo blog in March 2020, which I have since monetized. It was a passion project, but the more online networking I did with bloggers and blogging communities, the more I saw people were making good money with blogging.
I invested in myself by purchasing a few courses, and decided to be one of “those people” who turned their passion into a job.
4. What is the most rewarding part of blogging for you?
Getting messages from women who say I helped them find their confidence. It’s a bit cliche in the solo travel’sphere, but solo travel really did change my life. I always say it’s the quickest form of therapy I’ve ever done.
I learned I can do anything (even things people say I can’t do), solve any problem (even those that seem unsolvable at first), and gracefully navigate any situation (while having fun doing it) after traveling by myself. I love getting messages from other women who have done the same.
5. What do you find the most challenging?
The hardest part is when I start a new type of task… like right now, I am really switching my focus to making digital products, so I’m brand new to the digital products world.
Being the only person working on my site, I’m always switching my focus — first it was learning how to do social media, then I had to re-learning website layout (the last one I made was in 2015), then I had to learn SEO from the ground up.
For me, it’s hard to be “new” at something, if that makes sense.
6. How much did you earn in the last month and how?
December was a big month for me, and 1.5 years into blogging, I feel like things are starting to come together! Here is a breakdown of my earnings, which includes both blogs. Mediavine ads – $5384.14; Affiliates – $5703.27; TOTAL – $11087.41.
7. What tips do you have for bloggers trying to monetise their blogs?
I feel like I have a lot of tips for small things like pick a fast theme, and size your photos correctly… but the biggest tips I can offer are these:
1) If your blog is a business (or that is your goal), treat it like a business and know you will have to invest in it, or it won’t grow — at least not anytime soon. I always say things cost time, or they cost money, and if this is a business, you have to be onboard with the “spend money to make money” part.
2) Learn SEO! If there was one surefire blogging strategy that works for 100% of bloggers, it’s learning SEO, which is the language Google speaks. If you can speak to Google, your posts will rank.
3) Accept that nothing will happen for at least a year. Like: NOTHING! I earned over $11K in December 2021, but in December 2020, I earned $0. I had almost 110K in traffic in December 2021, and 2,800 in December 2020.
8. How much traffic did your blog have in the last month and where does it come from?
In December 2021, I had 109,728 sessions (132,879 page views) on my main Travel Mexico Solo site. Of that, 86.4% was from Google (To reiterate: Learn SEO!), 10.6% was direct search and only 2.4% from social (mostly Pinterest).
9. What tasks do you do that have the biggest impact on your traffic?
SEO! It takes me 2-3 days to get a post published, because I do a ton of prep work to get a solid outline, then write it, then cross check that I have used a whole lot of keywords, then do a few more checks and tweaks… and then I publish.
While this strategy is time consuming, and I watch other bloggers publish way more than me — my strategy does pay off because 75% of my posts (I only have about 90) are on page 1 for my main Mexico site. On my niche site, every single post is on page 1.
10. What has helped you the most when it comes to getting search traffic? SEO! When I first started my blog in March 2020, Pinterest was still all the rage, so I paid for a Pinterest course. Fast forward just a few months, and they did their big algorithm change which basically ended the days of getting a ton of free traffic from Pinterest.
From that, I learned you’re always at the mercy of someone and some platform, but that Google was the most stable of them all (and even it’s not!). If I hadn’t switched my focus from Pinterest or social media, to really learning SEO, I’d be nowhere.
11. What are your main goals for your blog?
My 2022 goal is a six-figure year (net), 50K people on my email list, and creating 5 digital products.
12. What are you doing to work towards your main goals? How do you work out where to prioritise your time?
I will be hiring a full time employee in March 2022, which is scary, but clearly the only way I can accomplish my goals. I plan to hand off a lot of blogging tasks, so I can switch gears to creating my digital products.
I stay focused because I only do 1-2 things per day… I have read enough articles to fully understand humans aren’t actually capable of multi-tasking, so I don’t try. Also, I joke that I was born holding a planner, so I’m organized by nature (yes, my closet is color-coded).
I have come to realize my “best” hours of the day when I’m most productive are from about 8am-3pm, so I really only work during those hours. Beyond 3pm, I’m not able to get much actual work done, so I don’t try to force it.
13. What three biggest tips/pieces of advice do you have for other bloggers?
Think like a businessperson if you want your blog to be your business, and Listen to podcasts about blogging — there are some great ones out there, and they are the best way to get free blogging info.
14. Where can we find you online?