Travel blogging for money is today’s chimera. Who has not dreamt to spend the life travelling and writing and/or photographing the world. Can you actually do it? Is it possible to live a life on the go, as a digital nomad?
The short answer is YES you can, you can definitely make a living . The long answer is that it is not that easy. This post is an analysis of an important characteristic of a blog, traffic.
It will be probably easier to monetize your travel blog if you have a good amount of traffic. However having lots of traffic is not synonymous of lots of money. Skills in monetizing the traffic are as important as in writing content, if you are after an income from it of course.
I am a very analytic person and I believe that taking inspirations from successful websites can only help. This is why I spent a considerable amount of time in the last few weeks analysing the traffic of 50 well known travel blog websites in the world.
By the end of this article you will discover:
- how much time a visitor spends on a travel blog website and how many pages he/she usually reads – is it an important factor to make a living?
- where the traffic is coming from and what is the best formula to make travel blogging money
- do you need a niche for your travel blog or a general one will work? This is a myth that will be busted by the collected numbers!
- link exchange does not help but being linked by other website it does help. Is it another myth? We shall see with the numbers
- if you want to live with blogging your travels do you need a popular Facebook page! Is this the best social source of traffic? What is the king of the travel social environments?
- what is the country generating the most traffic in travel blogging
- what are the most popular keywords used by the top 50 travel bloggers
- what are the most popular referring and destination websites
- and of course which ones are the top 50 travel blogs by traffic
50 popular travel blogs with high traffic
Here is the full list of the blogs. It is based on a traffic analysis conducted on the website SimilarWeb.com. It’s a great traffic comparative website. There is a limited free access that helps to understand the basic numbers.
Don’t take SimilarWeb data as a bible but just as an indication, unless the website is directly connected to Google Analytics (this is usually stated in bold characters).
I have NO AFFILIATION with SimilarWeb. I like it as a tool and it is currently used by some major companies as Travelocity, Google, PlayBuzz, KPMG, eBay and UBS
Please note that travel blogs may be seasonal. For example if a travel blog has most of the posts on Philippines than the website may experience less traffic during the rainy season as the country does not have that many visitors.
I took a sample of 50 blogs with a considerable amount of page views. The list below has not a particular order. The most important thing was to have an understanding of the business model than a comparison between websites.
I have added also a column with the niche of the travelling blog. However this niche does not have a real demarcation; as an example, a blog may start as a Cheap travelling/Backpacking but it may evolve into a a different niche or a more general one. Sometime because we grow up and tend to do different things, other times because there is a limit to the niche you talk about.
Is there a winner niche? No, there is not. Do you need to have a niche to have more traffic? Based on this data, not really, this is a bit of a myth. There are 18 travel blogs out of 50 that can actually be categorised as general ones. I personally think that a niche may help in the beginning of the travel blogging life.
Lesson I learnt: pick a niche and once I see the traffic growing shift slowly to be general if I desire so
Where is the traffic coming from?
Blogging is a passion. People may make it just for the pleasure of it meanwhile others because may want to try to make a living. It is not that easy and it’s a lot of work. It has to be said that when there is passion the long days suddenly fly and the work is not actually seen as such.
If you are after monetizing your blog, traffic is an important component. There are other important ways to make a living from a blog. Selling products or services is an option, these could be:
- photos (yes, I do sell photos from my website, it’s about 5 years I have been running this blog and obviously I did not sell straight away, it takes time and work but I am happy with the way it is growing)
- workshops and courses
- books and guides
- travel guides
- …..and much more (just check the websites from the list above to see the blogger experiences and suggestions)
The money that you make on advertisement may be related to the traffic you receive on the website. Also having a wide social presence obviously helps. In fact the two may be strictly related. But where is the most of the traffic generated, which country or continent?
The infographic shows an unexpected result.
Yes, being popular in US is extremely important, that is where the traffic for English content is coming from. Just think that of the total amount of page views of the analysed 50 website half of it comes from the US.
It’s not just about the incoming traffic. It’s also about the networking that you can make in US. Meeting new people may take you to other projects.
It took me to follow the Tour De France in 2014 as a photographer. Somebody may argue that it was not a blogging project however I was selected also because of the blog so I believe there is a strict connection. Beside I did some nice travel photography in the day off and on sunrise, when possible 😀
Going back to the traffic source, the unexpected result is that the second place is shared by two countries, UK (expected) and Philippines (surprise).
Lesson learnt: US traffic is the most important one. Most definitely I will include a travel to Philippines in my bucket list, with the highest priority (it was already there actually, such a beautiful land!)
Time spent on a travel blogging website
Honestly I was a bit surprised by the average result, however I gave a deep thought about it and yes, it is actually somehow expected. Let’s give some numbers.
The average time spent by a visitor on a travel blog website is a stunning 1 minute and 45 seconds. I know, not too much considering the time a travel blogger spends in writing a post.
Almost 75% of the visitor navigate away from the site after viewing only one page. However almost 2 pages are visited on average, meaning that the 25% that does not navigate away visits 3-4 pages at least,
What does this mean to the bloggers?
It means that the most of the visitor come for a single search and they do not move into other pages of the website.
The data highlighted 4 blogs where visitors spend at least 3 minutes. This usually may give an indication of longer content. Two of them have even a bounce rate below 50% which means that more than 50% of the visitors keep navigating through the website to the second, and beyond, page.
There is not a clear correlation between the niche of the travel blog and the time that the visitors spend on it. The time spent on the Travel Food blogs is the highest one, however very close to all the other niches
Is it more important to have a higher number of page views or more time spent on your blog?
It really depends on the business model. I tend to write long post, that’s my nature. Other bloggers may go on a shorter style because they have a different model. There is no best
Lesson learnt: The visitor time spent on my website is quite high (probably because of the long posts). I need however to work more in the interconnection of the posts so that visitors may spend even more time on my blog
How does the traffic comes to a travel blog
The traffic comes through mainly 4 ways:
- Direct traffic (email list, short links, mobile apps which usually do not pass the referrer information but really what Google cannot understand, a sort of others bucket)
- Referrals (links from other websites)
- Search engine (basically Google search)
- Social (all the environments you can think of)
There is no better channel. The recommendation is to try to spread through them, although it’s not that easy, actually it’s quite complicated. The main reason is that you should not be dependant on one single channel.
As an example if the traffic is mostly from Search engines and suddenly Google changes the own ranking rules your website may suffer big time. The same applies for any channel.
Traffic source of a typical travel blog
The Referrals traffic is usually quite low. Typical referrals are the channels Outbrain, MSN and TheNextWeb. I feel that marketing is a major skill in this case (how do you place your post into these channels is the real question)
The Direct traffic is indeed a good way to increase visits to your website. There is a relationship between this traffic and the emailing list. There are 9 blogs out of 50 that generate more than 20% of traffic from it, even up to 33%. This says, once again, how important is the build up of an emailing list. Speaking of which you can subscribe to mine for more travel stories, reports and analysis as this one
Search engine traffic
Search engine traffic is the most important source. The average for the 50 travel blogs is over 60% which means that in more than 6 cases out of 10 a visitor comes to the blog after a Google search. This highlights how important may be the SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
One of the SEO related website I follow the most is DigitalNomadWannaBe.com. Sharon, the owner, is a fantastic writer and best of all you can see real numbers behind the scenes which can prove, or disprove, some of the SEO choices made for her websites. Unfortunately in February 2016 she stopped providing dollar figures, which is a real pity.
You can write the best written post, describe the best experience but if it does not appear on the first 2 pages of a Google search, you have a rare possibility that actually people see it. Sad but true.
If you rank on the first position of a Google search, you will get most of the traffic for that search. At least this is what many studies say. My experience….I rank on position 1 with a photography related post I made last year, and I can see a difference.
There is nothing wrong with SEO obviously. It’s just that you need to investigate the right title/content before organising a post. It seems easy but it is not and personally sometime I cannot understand why I am ranked one way or the other.
Personally I do not leave SEO to drive my writing. For two reasons, firstly they may not look natural (at least for the way I write) and secondly I still think that Google ranking is actually more human than we think.
I think blog writing should be a balance act of personal story telling, writing style and SEO skills
Social Traffic is more important than Referral but less than Direct. On average 13% of the total traffic. I was surprised myself. There are exceptions here, three websites have around 50% of traffic, or more, coming from the Social Environments and almost all of it coming from Facebook. The bloggers have indeed great Social skills and they are once again real models and inspirations
Lesson learnt: a better ranking on the Google search is essential if you aim to increase traffic. It’s not however the only source, social environments can be as important. It’s really a balance of traffic. I need to work on all traffic sources!!
What are the most searched words?
Could I find any common patter in the organic words used to go to the 50 travel blogs?
Not really as you see from the infographic. The keyword “Travel blog” is probably the most popular however there is no clear pattern.
Lesson learnt: It’s all about diversifying and writing something new, always with a look to the SEO keywords
What are the most popular referring and destination websites and why?
Let’s start with the Referral Websites. These are the sites that have at least one link to one of the top 50 travel blogs (door in).
This is the list of the top 5 and the possible reasons:
TheExpeditioner does a great job with a monthly updated ranking of the top travelling blogs. It’s obviously driving traffic to the blogs themselves.
Feedly is a news reader which is very popular in the young generation, sure a great platform to publish. Cision and FirstGuide are two PR website that helps to better market your posts.
Lesson learnt: the PR companies help to spread the voice about our work and I would not be surprise to see Feedly as one of the channels. I definitely have to investigate more time on this side if I want to increase my traffic
The Destination Websites give me an important information about one way of monetize my blog. The destination website tells me which ones are the most popular links followed by the visitors when they leave the website (the door out).
The king destination website is Amazon.com. Other websites are HotelsCombined, Agoda, ExitMonetization etc. These are all website used for affiliation programs, a good way to monetize the blog. All these websites give a percentage of any buy to the travel blogger as referral. The buyer does not see this transaction and, most important, he/she is not charged more for that
If you are starting a travel website you should look around and start affiliation programs. The Amazon one looks like the most used one, by almost 40% of the analysed 50 travel blogs. This does not say it is the best one. Moreover it really depends where the traffic comes from
Lesson learnt: investigate more on the affiliation programs
Like any business, depending on a single source of income is not recommended. Affiliations programs are a good way as well as it may be selling your photos through a stock website or similar programs. If one source is not performing well on one month, hopefully the other sources are and the average still provides the money for living
There is no magic formula here. The leaders are
- Facebook (44% of traffic on average)
- Pinterest (24% of traffic on average)
with SumbleUpon following (if we can call it a Social Environment) with 14%, Twitter with 10% and Reddit with 11% (again not sure Reddit can be seen as a social environment)
YouTube is categorized also as a Social platform and although I do not totally agree with it, the interesting thing is that, based on this data, YouTube does not bring that much traffic. It may bring money of course with the in-video advertisement. Again another source of income
Should I specialize in one or all? Being king on one allows you to focus primarily on that one, which saves quite a bit of time. However if that Social Environment decides suddenly to change the rules of engagement most of your traffic will be affected, that’s where diversification helps.
Some of the 50 bloggers are really perform amazing in the engagement. Some receive social traffic above 80% from a single platform. Others use a multitude of social environments. Again a personal decision.
It’s not just about the traffic generated. The social platforms can bring new connections. As an example, my work was seen on Instagram and I was called for a project. Again, although the job was not related to the blog I could have not made this income if I was not in Instagram with my photos
Lesson learnt: Engage as much as possible with my followers, keep posting, commenting, liking, re-posting or re-twitting, be alive and more people will start following me and possibly come to my website
This analysis of the 50 websites was very interesting. These travel blogs have done a great work which goes beyond just travelling.
Few lessons learnt through the study. I have been blogging only for 4-5 years, it all started as a photography blog and it evolved along the years. As I said above, the income may be from many sources as traffic, products, services and much more. We all have a different way to monetize, if we need or want to.
I like to remark that the above list of the blogs is not a list based on income, as I said before it is a list based on traffic.
It will be interesting to see the change in 3 months, can the internet change things so quickly….I would think so! Remember to subscribe to the quarterly mailing for more travel stories, reports and analysis as this one