Everyone blogs differently. I’ve been able to support my family in a full time travel lifestyle, without house sitting or couch surfing, for several years now because of this blog. Should you blog the way I do? Well probably not because I am me and you are you. My way works, but so might your way, so long as you know a few basics. This post is on the golden rules of blogging and how and why we’ve done OK through ignoring them.
I’m not selling courses here, all my blogging tips are free for you to use or ignore. My way may not work for you, but this is how we do it.. Let’s look at some of the golden rules of blogging and why you can, and maybe should, ignore them. It’s down to you.
The Golden Rules of Blogging and When to Ignore Them
Your List is Your Gold, Grow Your List
Are you selling stuff to your subscribers? If so you need to grow your list and focus on e-mail marketing and sales funnels.
I’m not selling stuff to these guys, they are my mates. I treasure them and would never abuse them so they will never be spammed by anything resembling a sales funnel from me. I hate sales funnels as I’m sure you do.
Sure, I grow my list now because every Sunday when I send out a newsletter my site gets a lovely traffic boost as just 20% of my 5,000 subscribers open their email and then maybe 4% actually clicks through to read a post. Yes these figures are pretty typical of the industry.
No, I have not grown my list using bribes. These are called lead magnets by blogging coaches and course sellers. In my experience, if a reader signs up just to get the free gift they rarely open an email ever again.
I had a few free pdfs for new subscribers but I really didn’t push them, they made little difference and I think they’re gone now. I actually don’t know.
Personally, I’ve never subscribed to a site to get a freebie so I don’t know why anyone else would.
I have subscribed to autoresponder series to snoop on what other people were sending out. I never found anything very useful with the exception of Neil Patel’s free SEO series. That, years ago, taught me a lot without masses of spam and upsells to courses.
I am constantly deleting subscribers from my list for this reason, many of them never open even 1 email. Sending out emails costs me money, so I cull my list to keep numbers down constantly.
It’s very true that your list is the only thing you own. If Google stopped loving you and all social media platforms shut down, you’d be left holding your list. Right now, after the August 1st Google Algorithm change, I’m very glad of those 5,000 subscribers.
But that open rate would not increase, out of 5K subscribers I’d still see just a few hundred of them clicking through to the site from each email. There is no way it could ever be enough to keep the site going. If Google stops loving you – it’s game over for SEO based sites like this one.
If you are wanting to lead subscribers into an autoresponder series, then yes, this is a very fast, easy way to grow your page views. If you’ve arrived on this page because of our free blogging not-a-course, you’re one of those subscribers.
It’s easy enough but somewhat advanced. I waited 7 years before I got into this model of blogging. If you have a list you should probably figure out a way to use it, without spamming or over-selling to the people kind enough to give you their e-mail address.
Update : After 3 months of running autoresponder series, we quit. It just wasn’t our style, we hated spamming people like that and the unsubscribe rate was at least 10 times our normal. We won’t do it again. I should never have listened to the “expert” advice.
It’s All About SEO and Writing the Post Around The Keyword
Well yes and no.
If you want to create Amazon sales pages then yes. Getting people on the point of buying to your site is all about keyword research and SEO. If you want to provide factual travel information or tips, also yes.
But do you think your subscribers or Facebook fans want to read your latest post on the best travel kettle?
No, they do not. Maybe a few of them do, but the majority will want to read a more general travel post that actually applies to them and their lives.
That could be a story from your travels or helpful tips that will appeal to a large number of followers. Social media followers tend to open the posts that are a bit more sensational or click-baity, I find.
Sure your travel gadget post might make you an Amazon income forevermore, but sending stuff like that out to your followers every week is the fastest way to get them to unsubscribe.
I sell a lot of tattoo packages. It’s highly lucrative and I sell several every month. I doubt I’ve ever sold one to a subscriber so it’s not worth me spamming them with my tattoo post. Be selective, know what each audience wants.
One thing you must remember though is to keep non-SEO friendly posts off your website or de-indexed. Poorly executed posts can drag your whole site down. Like this one. I deleted a lot of old posts created without any thought towards SEO, but I like this one so it stays.
Get Backlinks to Grow Your DA
A couple of years ago this was the Holy Grail of blogging.
Grow your DA, climb the Google rankings.
Well guess what, I beat plenty of sites with far higher DAs than mine, regularly.
If your content is what the punters want, if it answers their questions, it can naturally rise to the top despite DA.
Yes grow your DA via an ever increasing number of backlinks, but don’t try to cheat the system and don’t make it your main focus.
Content is king. Content is your gold. Good content will serve you forever more.
Generally, a high DA will help you get sponsored posts. I don’t (incredibly rarely) do sponsored posts because they are against Google’s guidelines. A higher DA will get you higher in Google’s ranking quicker. But it won’t stay there if your content sucks.
Don’t Write Stories or a Travel Diary, Give then Facts and Tips
A travel story, your ramblings and personal experiences, will have zero SEO and no keywords so it will never top Google.
But is topping Google the only way to get an audience?
It shouldn’t be. I have a friend who is a superb, funny, entertaining writer and her blog posts are a joy to read on any topic. I read her travel stories because they are fun, not because I’m looking for information or guides.
Will she ever make it? Will her natural talent be enough to make her a living as a blogger?
I don’t know yet. I don’t know of any travel bloggers at the top of the tree who do it this way but I’ve never come across a travel blogger as naturally talented as Liz.
In her case her blogging journey should be all about growing a following then maybe selling them something later.
I’m interested in how her story will unfold but to cramp her style with SEO writing would be criminal.
Do Write Stories, Be a Writer, Be Engaging and Entertaining
See above. If you are entertaining, be entertaining. Few of us are, so SEO and keywords are our best friends.
I’m no writer, to me blogging is a science, a set of knowledge, a pattern with tried and tested techniques.
I make a living and support my family in full-time travel by doing it my way. My way is not the only way. It’s probably not the right way either.
Stay Within Your Niche
This is such rubbish!
I started a homeschool site, then it became travel, budget travel, travel with kids. Then I became an authority on worldschooling, Sri Lanka, then Thailand, then Vietnam and now blogging.
We cover luxury travel, resorts, hostels, trekking, and more. I still rank highly on all of these topics and some others besides.
We can rock Google on Thailand with kids and on trekking in the Himalayas without kids. If the Google audience finds the answers they seek on your site, you can be an authority on anything.
Supporting content is important, if you want to rank for paragliding, write 20 posts on paragliding, not one. We’ve just branched out into scuba diving, I have some good rankings in that area already.
Absolutely yes, it’s easier to rank a site with a narrow niche, but with general ” travel ” as a niche, things seem to be going OK. What you absolutely must do though is make it all hang together in some way that makes sense. Internal linking and related topics supporting each other are vital.
Niche will, however, apply more in your Facebook following or subscribers, there you have to tread more carefully and give them what they want. Giving the family vacation crowd content on best Himalayan crampons will lose them as fast as travel kettles.
A narrow niche site is a different animal. When people talk about niche sites they mean sites as narrow as plastic snake vivariums, travel kettles for skiing, underwear for paragliding. That is what a niche site looks like.
You Can’t Make Money From a Blog Without Selling Courses or E-Books
I hate the course industry.
I’ve stalked them and snooped on them, the course selling gurus, and I disliked what I saw.
I saw greed and empty promises.
Information should be freely available as it is in the great museums of London. Anyone is capable of learning anything in a self-directed manner without any need of a “teacher”. Yes, if you want to blog you have a lot to learn but no, you do not need a course.
E-books I’m less down on and it’s something I might do one day.
But stupid spammy courses with thin content purely designed to line pockets…no way.
Yes you can make a living blogging without either of the above. I do.
You Must Have a Posting Schedule
This is complete hogwash.
Sure, you need to be creating content as often as you can but so long as you don’t go months without posting not much is going to happen. Your followers might be even happier to hear from you again once you get back to your blog.
What you should do, if possible, is send out a regular email newsletter. DO NOT send automatic notifications of every new post. Do it properly.
I use MailerLite for this and my Sunday newsletter brings a lot of benefits for my wallet and for my subscribers. It’s good to stay in touch with them.
The subscribers generally aren’t Facebook followers in the same way that your social media audiences will be different on every platform. They won’t know what you’ve been up to lately and they like to know.
You can also take the chance to direct followers old and new back to your key content that maybe they missed first time around.
Email newsletters can also contain affiliate links, not Amazon, but some others are fair game. Remind your followers that your site exists once a week or however often you choose and send them back there. Here’s a reminder..Mailerlite is your best friend. I like it a lot more than MailChimp and I didn’t need the super advanced features of the more expensive email service providers for a long time.
So that’s it, the rules of blogging. There are none really, we all do it our way. Always remember that rules are meant to be broken. Just do it the smart way, with a bit of know-how and your own personal style. Do t because you love doing it, otherwise, what’s the point?
Tuesday 28th of April 2020
Nice Article !
Tuesday 12th of February 2019
I just noticed your comment above mentioned that you are losing traffic. I am so sorry to hear. It may help you to know that you have just received one extra follower. I am so glad that I have come across you and your family. Your writing is so inspiring and has been extremely helpful.
I have my heart set on travelling for a year with my son, who will be 5 years old. The platform that you have created for yourself is incredible and something I hope to create in the near future. I am excited to look further into your website and absorb some of your knowledge.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us!
Tuesday 12th of February 2019
Hi Megan! This is quite an old post. I'll have to go look to see about that losing traffic thing. There was an update last August, maybe it was that. I fixed it pretty quick and last month was my biggest month ever. Over 250,000 Page Views...I still have to pinch myself! Best of luck to you and your boy. Boys are great, I'm biased x
Saturday 5th of January 2019
Hi - I came across your blog when it was announced that your family would be at Rhea's Home Educator/Home Business conference. I think I saw a subsequent email that said you are no longer presenting. Anyhow, our family has been talking about the travel lifestyle for a long time and we will start a few blogs in the coming months. I am bookmarking your site for future visits. Thanks so much for your work and expertise on the subject. Many blessings~
Sunday 6th of January 2019
I was never asked to present. I've never heard of it. They're just using our name to drum up business and interest. That's so annoying! I hate that. Small time spammers trying to capitalise on us and our name. Best of luck ! I wouldn't start more than 1 blog. We own several and running just this big site is more than a full time job. Do 1 and get it right. I can help you if you don't know how it's done, find our blogging section, top menu or in categories.
Wednesday 22nd of August 2018
Brutally honest as always. No fluff, no stories; just telling it as it is. And that’s why you’re at the top of your game and you’re my hero.
Wednesday 22nd of August 2018
I'm on a very slippery slope right now my traffic is just going down and down...it's not good Luz!