Ben takes his adventuring seriously, with the aim of ensuring that travellers focus on one key goal – that being to have fun whilst on the road.
Ben’s site aims to inspire, motivate, entertain and amuse. He has nearly two years of travel blogging experience under his belt, and has recently launched an online store selling travel products. Today he talks about his approach to travel blogging, how his store has helped him start to get an income from his site, and what travel blogging success means to him.
Tell us a little bit about Ben, and your site, Adventures with Ben
adventureswithben.com is my travel blog where I write about “Making Travelling Fun”. What does that mean? It means I avoid writing about things that are boring and ordinary. Let’s face it, a museum is a museum. They may be interesting and different, but not necessarily fun.
Everything I write about makes me smile, laugh or scream in delight. Since its humble beginnings I’ve written almost 400 articles, won a social media travel competition to Thailand and have been featured in a major, national news outlet. None of which I ever imagined possible.
What drove you to start writing a travel blog?
I travel a lot for business and wanted to keep in touch with family and document my travels to look back upon them later. So in June of 2009 I started adventureswithben.com. What began as an exercise in writing for myself, quickly grew into a full-fledged business writing for others.
How do you define success in terms of your travel blog?
I think it’s easy for beginning bloggers to get discouraged because their traffic and income levels aren’t where they’d like them to be. I’ve always focused less on the quantitative data and more on the qualitative – which is why most of us started blogging in the first place.
I define success by the number of relationships I have built, the experiences that travel blogging has enabled me to have and by the number of readers who have done something differently as a result of reading my blog.
It can’t be about money and traffic right away – the community is too big and those benchmarks too overwhelming to accomplish right away.
Through comments and emails, readers have shared anecdotes of new experiences they’ve had and places they visited – all inspired by the site. That’s how I measure success.
Which, if any, metrics do you follow in terms of traffic analysis / site ranking, and how important do you think these are?
I follow Google analytics and alexa. But if you focus just on the numbers, you can lose sight of the vision for your site. That being said, I’m most interested in Bounce Rates and Page Views. They are strong indicators to me that once people arrive they are enjoying what they are reading and continue to return.
Metrics are important indicators of whether or not your blogging style and efforts are getting the desired outcomes, but it’s not the only measurement tool. Whether 10,000 people visit my site or 100 people visit, what’s most important is that I’m enjoying travel blogging.
What have you found to be the hardest thing about running a travel blog, and how do you overcome this?
If you approach blogging as a business you’ll quickly find that you’ll have more goals you want to achieve than time to do them. I’ve been busy building an online store, writing travel guides, starting a Travel Blog Exchange Chapter for Central Florida, interacting with the travel community, writing an e-book and publishing my regular posts. There’s more on my plate than I can manage at once.
I learned in 2010 that I can only do the best that I can with what I’ve got. Progress on my site is always slower than I’d like it to be, but once you accept that realization, you can breathe easy as you approach your work. It will all get done – it just takes time.
If there was one thing you wish you could have known before you started writing your blog, what would it have been?
You’ll be entering a field that is constantly changing. Like most of us, I don’t have any formal education in social media, so in addition to managing my site, I have to continually educate myself on new social media tools, plugins, programs and conversational spaces that are emerging. Once you think you’re caught up, the world changes and you need to start running all over again.
What have you found to be the best way to go about generating an income from your blog?
It depends on how you define “best”. There are plenty of networks that will buy text-links on your site. You can make some nice pocket money for sure, but I cringe every time I see ads and posts that are irrelevant or irreputable on great blogs. I think it cheapens the look and diminishes the value of the writer. The integrity of my brand is more important than the money. I stay away from sponsored posts, banner ads, affiliate links and text links that I don’t trust or wouldn’t use myself.
Where I have found success is through my online store. Growth of my site in 2011 will come from finding and marketing unique, fun travel products that fulfil the mission of my site: making travelling fun.
There’s more maintenance in managing inventory and shipping products, but retail products are valuable to readers, offer bigger returns and have a lasting impact after they have left my site.
How do you go about promoting your travel blog?
I have been working hard the past several months in aggressively seeking out Guest Posting opportunities. I’ve also found a great collection of travel bloggers at the “Social Media Connect Group” at Travel Blog Exchange. It’s a mutually-beneficial relationship where we promote each others works through comments, tweets and other social media tools.
But one of the best ways I promote my blog is through promoting others. I offer bloggers the opportunity to Guest Post on my site, as well as answer a monthly travel question intended to revive old blog posts we have sitting in our archives. I’ve also made inroads to promoting my blog in physical spaces by giving talks at the local library and writing a travel column for a local paper.
The short of it is, people aren’t going to find your site unless you find people. The best promotion of your site is to promote others.
How do you see travel blogging developing over the next few years?
I see 2 trends:
- The Travel & Tourism Industry will figure out a way to incorporate travel bloggers into everything they do. We’ll be seen as a strategic partner in accomplishing their goals.
- Travel Bloggers will work more closely together. Instead of being seen as an individual contributor, bloggers will become a growing cohort of writers. Professionalism and accreditation will become the norm.
What sort of time commitment do you put in to your travel blog on a weekly basis?
In the morning I review my comments and statistics from the day before and catch up on new stories in my RSS Reader. After work, I write tomorrow’s post, and after dinner, interact with the community and finish up my long-term projects. I put about 4 hours of work each day into the site, Monday – Friday.
And finally, what key advice would you give to people running, or thinking about setting up, their own travel blog?
Travel Blogging is work. It’s fun, but if you want to be serious about it, it’s also work. You’ll be tempted to give up. But in life you only have 2 choices: Quit or Try Again. Keep trying and success will come when you least expect it
Next week’s interview features Michael Hodson, author of travel blog Go, See, Write. In the meantime, if you have any questions or thoughts on this post or the series thus far, the comments box awaits!