Creepy cats and facemasks. 2020 has been a horrible year for everyone.
“How do you stay motivated?”
It’s a question Lissette has asked me a few times lately. A few fellow travel bloggers have asked me the same. Some have mentioned to me that they are themselves contemplating just letting their blogs go dormant. Why bother?
When I wrote my post on the state of travel blogging in 2019 I was on a high. That was last September. We were getting about 1500 unique visitors a day at that time.
The last 9 months has killed that traffic.
September 24th was the first hit. On that date Google introduced a major algorithm change. Suddenly, posts that had previously come up on page 1 of Google were on page 4. And it was all the large companies that benefited. My post on hiking Lion’s Head was the perfect example. Previously #1 on Google search results, it fell behind reviews/descriptions on Trip Advisor, Wikipedia and Afar.
Overnight my traffic dropped about 40% to about 900 unique visitors a day.
It wasn’t the end of the world. Despite the drop in volumes, with a few tweaks I made more money on the blog than I had made previously. But that wasn’t the point. I measure success by traffic and interaction.
Then the pandemic hit in March.
My traffic dropped almost 60% from 900 unique visitors/day to an average of 400/day in April (the worst month).
This time it did affect revenue on the blog. Affiliate sales and sponsored posts dried up overnight. Mediavine ad revenues were suddenly a quarter of what they were previously .
But the worst was that you could hear a pin drop on the blog. People weren’t reading or commenting. When you’ve blogged a while you can “feel” when things are dead. For any blogger there’s nothing worse than writing into the void.
From 1500 unique visitors/day to 400 unique visitors/day in 6 months. The last time I had 400 unique visitors/day on the blog was mid-2015 when the blog was a little over a year old. To be going backwards and not forwards is depressing. Enough to give it up.
I’m not the only one.
I was surprised to see both Matt from Nomadic Matt and Kate from Adventurous Kate mention their financial issues on their blogs. Matt mentioned his site would go bankrupt by January if the current situation stays the same. Kate had to get a PPP loan to “keep my business afloat”.
Both are among the best known travel bloggers and both live off their blogs. I’m a little surprised about either going bankrupt considering how long they’ve been around and how much they dominate blogging circles. But it shows you that if they’re struggling then many others are as well.
On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve met quite a few bloggers in the last 6 years who were travelling on their savings and who’s future depended on being successful bloggers. As one said to me, “there’s no Plan B”.
I’ve said it before: don’t leave a full-time job to travel full-time unless you’re financially prepared. There are too many variables. And the last 9 months have brought the absolute worst case scenario that any travel blogger (including I) could have ever imagined.
In our case, we didn’t start blogging to make money. It was a hobby that I started in 2013, the year before we decided to leave Canada to travel full-time. When Lissette lost her job last year I decided to monetize aspects of this blog. It’s been nice having the extra income. But if it ended tomorrow it wouldn’t significantly affect our lifestyles.
Why Bother Blogging?
As frustrating and depressing as the last 6 months have been as a travel blogger I’ve never seriously considered quitting. Sure I might say “Screw it” and just not look at anything blog-related for a few days. But then I always end up somehow writing and posting something again.
An outlet for creativity. When I retired (I was in my mid-40’s) I needed to fill my time. That’s when I started working hard on the blog. And the thing is I enjoy it. I enjoy writing and I like taking photos (although most of the photos on the blog these days are Lissette’s). Having a blog has allowed me to be creative. If I stopped blogging tomorrow I really don’t know what I’d do with my spare time.
Community. We’ve met so many people through the blog, it’s opened up a whole new world. Through the blog we met Norah, an Australian expat who’s helped us through the Spanish Visa process and who’s allowing us to use her address as an official address. We befriended Anita online, a dear blogger friend who helped my mom tremendously when she was sick a few years ago when visiting Portugal. We hope to see Anita and drink some wine with her when we get settled in Spain. There are many more. It’s reciprocal: we’ve also helped out a lot of people who write us for advice. It makes us feel good to be able to help other travellers. We’ve met so many people – bloggers and non-bloggers – that have enriched our lives. Blogging has given us a community. That would never have happened without the blog.
Things will get better. Things might not get back to how they were for a while, but things WILL get better. Some of my traffic has come back, I’m up to 600 visitors/day. This week I had the first affiliate sales I’ve had in 2 months, making $80. My Mediavine revenue has recovered somewhat, I’m now at half of what I was pre-covid. It’s not much. Americans have lots of other things to worry about and aren’t travelling yet – but they will one day soon and that’ll mean better times for the travel industry, including bloggers. I’m also seeing a bit of life on the blog: there’s more engagement, more comments. People are starting to be more interested in travel even if they can’t go anywhere yet.
On that note: If you enjoy this blog please consider using our affiliate links when booking your next hotel, flight, car rental or tour. You might not be planning a trip anytime soon but if you keep us in mind for the next time it would be greatly appreciated. It doesn’t cost you a cent, we get a small commission, and I don’t get crap from Lissette when I’m up late writing my posts.
Hopefully we all return to better times in the not-so-distant future…
Related: Reasons why I don’t visit your blog
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