Travel blogging tips from the experts: Todd’s Wanderings

Todd Wassel In today travel blogging tips interview I am delighted to be interviewing Todd of Todd’s Wanderings.

Todd has been traveling for over ten years, combining his love of travel with his work as a conflict resolution and human rights expert. He has lived in Japan, Thailand, Timor Leste, Sri Lanka, and currently spends much of his time in Kosovo.

As well as his travel blog, Todd runs the Travel Blog Challenge – a community driven effort to help fellow travel bloggers.

Today Todd talks about monetization, balancing traveling and blogging, and what success means to him in terms of his travel blog. On with the interview!

Tell us a little bit about Todd, and your site, Todd's Wanderings.
Hmmm, what to tell that will keep you reading the rest of my answers...I left home in 1999 to live in Japan and I've been on the road ever since. I have worked my way around the world, and currently travel with my wife and brand new son.

Todd's Wanderings was started way back in 2006 as a way to reconnect with my friends and family who couldn't relate to my wandering life. Over the years it has evolved into a professional travel blog where I showcase my life and my work as a writer and a peacebuilding specialist visiting some offbeat places.

You've been travelling for over ten years. What drives you to keep going?
Momentum and curiosity. I have tried to be a good American and settle down with a house and a family. But it just doesn't work for me as I get bored easily. I crave experiences and stories that go along with beers and campfires. There was a point when I started getting tired of traveling. But when I met my wife it breathed new life into me and now I'm happy wherever her and my son are (preferably a backwater developing country somewhere).

Todds WanderingsWhy did you start writing a travel blog?
Oops, I fired that one off earlier. Sorry. Here is a more honest answer :) I turned my blog over to a larger audience because I was looking to build a platform to get a book I'm writing published on walking a 900 mile 88 Buddhist temple pilgrimage in Japan.

The funny thing is that the more I wrote, and the more positive responses I got to my writing the more I realized I loved it. I love connecting with people, I love inspiring people and making even a small difference in their lives. Getting a thank you from a reader is one of the best things about blogging.

How do you define success in terms of your travel blog?
Of course there are the classic measure of traffic, money earned, page views etc etc. I keep a close eye on all of those but at the end of the day my blog will be successful if it builds my authority to the point where I have an effect on people's lives. It might sound innocent but the minute one person
finds something I wrote useful, funny, or helpful than I have succeeded. Of course I want to replicate that to as many readers as possible.

Do you follow any metrics in terms of traffic analysis / site ranking, and how important do you think these are?
I think if you treat your blog like a business than you have to be serious about metrics. I use Google analytics as well as GetClicky. I actually prefer GetClicky as the layout is easier to read.

In any case, for me the most important metrics are number of visitors, time on site, actions (clicks, page views etc) and comments. I think they are important to help you determine what is and isn't working on your site. There is so much more that goes into building a great blog beyond just putting up great content. You need to make sure people find that content and are encouraged to interact with it. 

You also run the 1000-1000 travel bloggers challenge. What's that all about, and why did you decide to start it up?
The site was launched in December 2010 as a community experiment to prove or disprove if travel blogging can be a sustainable online income. The main metric is the 1000-1000 Challenge where bloggers try to reach 1,000 visitors a day (quite hard actually) and earn at least $1,000 a month (enough to keep the budget traveler going). We prejudge the results by helping each other to succeed.

I started it as a way to give back to the travel blogging community and as a place for me to talk travel blog shop that may not be of interest to my regular readers on Todd's Wanderings who don't have a site of their own. I also wanted a way to fight back against the hordes of scam artists out there
peddling the "get paid to travel" scam. I think that it is possible (and I'm living proof see my breakdown of how I paid for 12 years of continuous travel), but it is not easy and everyone should be aware that you don't just press enter and start earning cash :)

What have you found to be the hardest thing about running a travel blog, and how do you overcome this?
I think keeping momentum is the hardest part. In the blogging world you are only as good as your last post. Sometimes I just don't feel like posting, or I want to go outside and play. There are ups and downs in any creative pursuit but luckily for me I get nervous when I don't post. I feel like I'm letting my audience down and that pushes me to keep writing, and trying to be better with every word.

What sort of time commitment do you put in to your travel blog on a weekly basis?
I put a lot of time into my blog. I probably spend about 20 hours a week with it. Writing, marketing, networking, etc. of course I enjoy all of this, but it does take time away from other things. Plus I have (usually) a full time job, am a husband and a father, run two other sites AND have to find time to
travel. I'm in the process of developing the second (third?) stage strategy for my blog, my brand and my other websites. I want to make it even more professional and deliver a consistent experience.

If there was one thing you wish you could have known before you started writing your blog, what would it have been?
I wish I had known that blogging would help develop my own writing so much. The difference between now and back in 2006 is embarrassing. If I had known it was this easy to become a writer (just start writing) I would have started much earlier.

What have you found to be the best way to go about generating an income from your blog?
Ha, that is a loaded question :) I think it depends on the type of blog. For Todd's Wanderings the best way has been through direct advertising. However, I have reached a saturation point where I can't add too much more without ruining the experience for my readers. Since this is not scalable I am now reverting back to my original plan of developing my own products (travel memoir, off beat guides, pin up calendars of me on exotic beaches in...I've said too much).

How do you go about promoting your travel blog?
I try to write useful, witty, entertaining articles that other people feel like cool if they link to and tell their friends about. After that it is mainly about networking. I connect with other travel bloggers, I use my Facebook fan page, twitter, Stumble Upon, and I write in news papers from time to time.

I also do fun interviews like this. The best advice I can give is to take on a leadership role in the blogging community, get on the radar of other popular bloggers and then push as hard as you can.

How do you see travel blogging developing over the next few years?
I hope I see a shifting of the sands to separate travel blogs into different categories: the personal travel log (as a blog as originally intended), a professional travel blog, interactive online travel magazines and then all the other spammers. I hope that we as a community of professional travel bloggers can help to develop the image of our industry better, become more business minded without losing our creativity, and set expectations of readers that they will find quality each time they visit.

And finally, what key advice would you give to people running, or thinking about setting up, their own travel blog?
Just do it. Travel blogging is just like traveling, if you don't start you will never really understand how to do it or what style fits you best. That being said please rethink starting ANOTHER around the world travel blog. I know that you think that your trip is the most unique trip ever. But trust me when I say it is not. What IS unique about your trip is YOU. Think about what makes you different, your interests, and your skills. Merge this with your travel blog in a way that creates a unique slant on the travel world.

As always, tremendous thanks to Todd for taking part in the series. You can find out more about Todd on his website, plus you can follow him on both Twitter and Facebook.

For more travel blogging tips from the experts why not take a look at the rest of the series, which now features nearly twenty interviews from travel bloggers who have been there and done that, sharing their experiences and advice on what has worked for them on their travel blogging journeys!

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