About 1 year ago I made the decision to start marketing my site more aggressively. At the time I had about 100 RSS subscribers and the readership on my site wasn’t much more than friends and family.
Now at the end of 2008 I’m looking at 1,000 subscribers, almost a 10x increase over the course of the year.
As far as I can tell, I have the most popular travelogue on the internet. I have no way of verifying if that is true, but I can’t think of any others which are bigger, and I am familiar with most of them.
In the larger category of travel blogs I’m one of the larger ones. Not too many have 1,000 subscribers. I’m also near the top of people in the travel space terms of Twitter followers with over 2,000.
So things aren’t too shabby.
My goals for 2009 are as follows:
- 5,000 RSS subscribers. (5x increase)
- 7,500 Twitter Followers (2.5x increase)
- Average 100,000 visits per month (5x increase)
- Have a book published
- Get my podcast on a regular schedule and done in a quasi professional manner
Doing this is going to require a totally different approach from what got me to this point.
The travel blogging space, is in the big scheme of things, pretty small. The largest independent travel blogs which I know of are only about 2-3x the size of my current site in terms of subscribers. Most of the action takes place with the large corprate sites with multiple bloggers. I don’t really even like to consider myself a travel blogger as I don’t write about traveling in the bigger sense of the word. I just write about myself and what I do.
Also, if I’m already the biggest travelogue on the internet, I’m not just growing my site, I have to fundamentally create a new blogging niche. That is going to be the hard part. There are no established sites out there that are doing what I’m doing at the level I’m doing it at. Most of the advice given by the “pro bloggers” involve their success in niches which already have tons of blogs and tons of followers. I don’t think much of it is going to work for me.
How am I going to get from here to there? A 5x increase seems like less than a 10x increase, but 4,000 is a lot more than 900.
- Site redesign. I’ve hired a company to do a professional redesign. I’m hopping that I wont have to worry about this for a long time once it is done. I hope it will launch in early to mid January.
- I’m going to start a newsletter. I’ve been waiting to see if this is really worth the effort, and the evidence seems overwhelming at this point. I’ll hope to launch this alongside the site redesign. I hope to have the newsletter out biweekly.
- Create an ebook. I’ve actually started on this. It will be very photo heavy, so it wont be as much work as writing a real book. Many sites have had success with this as an incentive to subscribe to a site.
- Increase offline and non-travel industry exposure. If I am to grow the niche, I have to get exposure beyond the travel world and even beyond the internet. The best way to achieve this will be via the book and the associated marketing around it. I’ll basically have to market the book aggressively.
- Get back to the US. As counter intuitive as it seems, I’ve always had the biggest spurts in traffic growth when I was settled in a city for a few weeks. Actually traveling gets in the way of blogging. Being in the US for a few months should allow me to focus on marketing and let me network with people I wouldn’t be able to do when I’m on the road. Managing that time in the US will be important. I don’t want people to think the site is dead or that I’ve ceased traveling. I plan doing some traveling in the US to take some photos. In particular, I may drive to San Francisco and take photos and camp along the way.
- Podcasting. It always comes back to this. I’m having a hard time keeping up with photos and text. The video is just too much for one person to do on top of everything else. On my next trip I’m going to be bringing someone along to serve as a producer/cameraman/editor. I have no clue who this is going to be yet.
This will require a lot of work, but I think it can be done. One thing working in my favor is that I’ve noticed you get more people following you as you get bigger. The more Twitter followers I have, the more Twitter followers I get. I’ve seen other sites get a spike in subscribers once they hit 1,000.
I think the economy might help me. As more people cut back on traveling, traveling vicariously might be more appealing….or maybe not. I have no clue.