7 things we wish we knew in our first 7 years of travel blogging

It’s time we share some of the hard and not-so-hard lessons we’ve learned during our 7-year career in travel blogging. We’ve been in the blogging business for more than 9 years now but that doesn’t mean we’ve always made the right decisions and valued our own voices. We often receive questions like “what do you regret doing/not doing”, “what’s the most important thing when starting a travel blog”, “what lessons did you pay the most for”. So we decided to share this parts evaluation, parts analytical, parts business advice article of 7 things we wish we knew sooner in our first 7 years of travel blogging.

книгите за пътешествия се раждат в обстановката на плаж, море, бар

1. Blogging awards should not be a goal

It is amazing to be recognized, it’s hard to argue with the feeling of dopamine waves all over your body when someone appreciated your work. In the past few years, we’ve noticed so many bloggers showing their awards. We even started thinking that if we don’t get an award, then we must be doing something very wrong. Thanks to some critical thinking and online research though, we realized that many of the awards are just well-disguised link exchanged strategies or part of efforts to connect with fellow bloggers. Although it’s nice to be recognized and appreciated by other bloggers or organizations, we regret investing even some bits of time into that. On the other hand, we recommend our strategy – create your best stuff, put it out there, and engage with your readers. They are the ones that will give you meaningful recognition and pure love for the value you added. As long as we focus on serving our readers, we’re so fulfilled with what we do, we know we’re contributing to the change you want to see in the world, and we get to connect with amazing people from all over the world on a regular basis!

2. Bloggers’ associations vs support groups

The benefits of being part of a professional organization are undebatable. We’ve been part of two different bloggers’ associations and while we’re happy with some of the like-minded people we got in touch and managed to work with, we didn’t consider our membership a win-win thing. So if you’re on the edge of joining a travel blogger organization of any kind (especially if they require a membership fee or/and serious commitment), be sure that your values and principles overlap with those of the organization.

We’ve talked with many aspiring bloggers who put a lot of hope on those membership sites and organizations run by “experienced” bloggers and end up disappointed with investing a good amount of cash and learning almost nothing new. On the positive side, in our current and connected world, there are so many support groups a blogger can participate in. We, for instance, are currently part of 10 different groups for bloggers, where we exchange information, knowledge, experience, and we connect with each other. And the best thing is this is absolutely free!

3. Affiliate marketing can kill the integrity

Affiliate marketing is one of the most powerful strategies you can use to monetize your blog and anyone who has taken blogging seriously would want to earn something from the value they create. In terms of affiliate marketing, we only regret not starting it sooner as this is the most logical step when you have readers who love your content and trust your word. The most beautiful part is that you don’t need hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of views to leverage affiliate sales.

On the not-so-positive side, keep in mind that many people would lack the integrity of affiliating products and services that they have used, tried, loved, or had anything to do with. Yes, the internet is full of untrustworthy people! We learned it the hard way – so many bloggers recommended a particular hosting provider that we switched to it. That was one of the worst providers, we still mitigate the “effects” of that integration (as we signed a 3-year contract). Later we learned that many bloggers recommend that hosting provider only because they have the best conditions on their affiliate program which means those who recommend them, get the most money. Nobody wants to feel cheated and we’ll never trust those individuals and their blogs ever again. But humans have grown in their “BS detectors” so they are getting better at spotting such greedy bloggers. At least we hope that’s the trend.

работа, екип, тийм билдинг, почивка, ваканция, coworking space, споделено работно пространство, иглу, настаняване в Родопите, Пампорово, Чепеларе, България - зима в планината, пътешествия и работа на път
Working remotely – as good as it gets!

4. How to swim in the ocean blue

This lesson has nothing to do with protecting the environment although we know travelers have the enormous responsibility to be even more aware of what they leave behind them in their travels. When we speak of swimming in the blue ocean here, we mean following the blue ocean strategy of focusing on differentiation and new market spaces rather than beating the competition in the existing market spaces and demands (that’s the red ocean as it turns bloody by the constant fights with competition). In the travel blogging world, which is so saturated (a statement you’ll read and hear myriads of times), it’s so easy to just fall into the trap of trying to repeat what other bloggers are doing to replicate the results they (claim to) have.

We’ve experimented with tons of different content, strategies, and approaches only to now evaluate that we paid dearly for the blue ocean lesson. It’s hard, stupid, unnecessary, and exhausting to constantly compete with others for the same markets/readers. It’s much better to follow your gut, create content that you love, share it as you like, and discover what your unique and true market (audience) is. So the sooner you realized where your blue ocean is, you’ll make competition irrelevant and start building and capturing the new demand by delivering unique value to your audience. Don’t waste your time following the others.

5. Travel bloggers vs. bloggers who travel

Back in our naive days, we thought that everyone who labels themselves with the fancy “travel blogger” is actually a person who travels and blogs about it. Well, it turned out that there are many travel bloggers who travel quite rarely but write about travels all the time. Where’s the problem with that, you’d ask? It is a problem when someone wants to be the authority on a travel topic and someone who claims to share their own experience but there’s not much experience to share. I mean, that’s the main difference between travel blog platforms and other travel websites, right, that the author mostly shares first-hand experience and puts their name behind all the content. If we wanted to read recycled, boring, impersonal content, the world wide web is flooded with such. As avid travelers and sophisticated readers, we want more. The good news is that a single question can prove or disprove an authority and tell a travel blogger apart from a blogger who travels.

At the end of the day, we learned that not always the blogs with the most massive readerships are those who appeal to a traveler’s taste. That’s why we gave up on many blogs as their content was riding off of the true essence of traveling and helping and inspiring people to travel. And we couldn’t be more grateful for our growing base of loyal readers who would choose The Magic of Traveling for their amazing, culturally-immersive, reconnecting with self and nature, transformative travels.

Spain, Alhambra, road trip

6. Niche up and niche down

There’s a popular mantra in the blogging world, which says “niche down”. For years we’ve been afraid that we don’t have a clear focus on the blog, that we cover way too many topics, that we talk about so many different things that people can get lost and confused about who we are and what we stand for. And it’s true that well-focused niche blogs grow faster, reach their target customers better, and in general – are more successful (that includes revenue generation).

But then another crisis happens (hello, covid-19) and we see many streams of income, businesses, sites, ideas dying. And then we’re happy that we covered different topics, that we followed our gut and diversified. So there’s no universal recipe about niches but “niche down” may not be the best mantra when you don’t control the rest of the circumstances (which is, to be honest, always – we have no control over anything outside of ourselves). So our advice for you is not to bother with niching up or down too much – just follow your gut. If it tells you to focus on a super-specific niche – then do it. If it tells you to follow your lifestyle with your blog – do it! That’s why we write about spa experiences, transformative sabbatical journeys, romantic escapes, distant island cultures, exploring cliche places your way, sharing too many photos, dancing everywhere, supporting social enterprises, publishing books, and 101 more different topics. And we don’t care we can’t fit all that in our headline!

7. SEO smart or social media stars

Probably the most bitter lesson we’ve learned is how our content should reach its readers. Although we can’t deny the importance of social media in connecting with our human beings, we regret wasting too much of our precious time promoting our blog on social media. And we regret not focusing on SEO earlier which brought double the effort and time to catch up later (and it’s a continuing effort). Even if it’s cool to feel like an Instagram star with those perfect surroundings and dreamy lifestyles on the photos, even if our dancing equals nada if it’s not on TikTok, even if we don’t have thousands of followers on the next new platform that will “change the world”, we believe it’s important that our content appears on the relevant searches online. So had we been focused on search engine optimization since the very beginning of our blog, we would have reached times more people and infected them with the Magic.

A hyped place, gorgeous destination, blue waters, bikini, and love – is this the recipe for Instagram success?
We just want to share our impromptu art.

So those were 7 major lessons we’ve learned in the 7 years of being aspiring professional travel bloggers. What lessons have you learned the hard way? Would you change something if you could go back in time or would you make the same mistakes to have the same learning experience? Let us know!

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