Jake here, with the July, 2018 edition of Operation Digital Nomad, our monthly report on the progress we have made toward monetizing our travel blog. It’s been a while since I mentioned our goal, which is to earn $4000.00 a month while traveling full time with our daughter, Lisa. We are still well short of this goal, but this was still an exciting month here at Jake and Dannie.
By the way, this article contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help support our travels and this website. Thank you.
This month I’m going to go over a new and successful product launch we did, and it’s going to be fun.
But first, the bottom line:
Net Income: $10.70
- Google Adsense: $4.24
- Affiliate Sales: $4.63
- Photography Sales: $14.26
- Digital Product Sales: 22.27
- Total: $45.40
- Cloudflare: (Content Delivery Network) $25.20
- SiteGround: (Website Hosting) $7.60
- Amazon S3 (Image Hosting): $1.90
- Total: $-34.70
Here is a graph of our net income since we started Operation Digital Nomad.
And here is a graph showing where that income came from:
Though our number one source of income over the course of this project continues to be sales of our photography to brands and publications, we are seeing rapid improvements in our passive sources of income, which I discussed in this report two months ago. Though our passive income is still small, a look at this graph will show how it is improving (and accelerating) as we continue to improve our website and our strategy.
The big change this month – if you’ve been following Operation Digital Nomad since we started last August (which you have, because you are the best!) – is that we’ve introduced some new categories of income. The newest category is digital product sales. This month, that is comprised of the money we made from the Lightroom and Photoshop presets Dannie made, which we have been selling in our shop.
Our New Presets
If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a photo editing preset, it’s a set of adjustments that are designed to create certain desirable effect when editing an image. They are usually something that require skill and time to create, but are effortless to apply once they already exist. Dannie created two presets, one for Lightroom and one for Photoshop, both of which are designed very specifically for editing photos of lavender fields and making them look fuller and more vibrant.
We were a little nervous when we made the announcement that we might have to come back this month and report that no one had made a purchase. That would have been kind of embarrassing, but we were ready to do it. After all, this income report is all about figuring out what works and what doesn’t, what people want and what they don’t. If it turned out that nobody wanted to buy such a specific tool, or that we simply didn’t have the visibility to sell it, then that information had value too (though the money would really be nice).
But it turned out that there really was at least some interest, and in truth, we had reason to believe that there would be. In January, we published our guide to photographing Provence lavender fields, and it has since become our most popular blog post ever, receiving almost twice as many pageviews since its publication than any other article on our site. This was very satisfying since we’d put a lot of work into our lavender photos and our guide.
We sold five downloads in the month of July, and considering that between the two respective shop pages and our product announcement, we saw 140 unique pageviews, that means we had a conversion rate of 3.5%. I’m no expert, but I think that’s respectable. If you. count only people who looked at the product pages in our shop, our conversion rate was actually 17.2% which is outstanding.
Of course, we expect sales of these particular products to decline in the coming months until lavender season arrives again, but as a test of our ability to put out a product that people want to buy, this experiment was very encouraging. Expect us to be putting out more digital products (think presets and e-books) in the near future. The fact that selling directly outperformed our ads and our affiliate links, even on our first try, has clearly demonstrated that it is worth a larger investment of our energy.
Adsense and Affiliate Sales
Our Adsense income and our income from affiliate sales were both basically steady this month. Bother were down just slightly from June, but were well within normal variance for a steadily increasing and semi-random series. Our blog traffic was actually way up this month (keep reading), but for whatever reason that wasn’t reflected in the profits. Our Adsense revenue was $4.24 (down 12%) and our affiliate sales totaled $4.63 (down 29%). Those are big percent swings, but when the numbers are small, big swings are much more likely.
July was our best month ever for blog traffic. Actually, it wasn’t even close. Last month, we were very excited to announce that June was our best month ever, and then July came along and blew it out of the water. In July, we logged a “staggering” 4935 pageviews. That’s an improvement of 49% over our previous record! Would you like to see a sexy graph of what that improvement looks like? I thought so:
If you look at that graph, you might see that in the summer of last year we were seeing a lot of traffic as well. Not as much as this year, but enough that you might wonder if the improvement is just a seasonal fluctuation. That’s not a bad thought, and the season is definitely a factor in the travel industry. But we have good reason to believe that the vast majority of our improvement is due to our hard work, not just the time of year.
The reason is that if we take a little dive into our statistical history from Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools (for more useful blogging tools, check out our resources page), you will see that a lot of that early traffic simply wasn’t real. A lot of those “pageviews” were instances where Google Analytics code on our site (or elsewhere) was being triggered, but that triggering did not actually represent a pair of eyeballs reading our content. As a comparison, look at this graph from Google Webmaster Tools over the same time period, which tells us how many people found our site on Google.
It was tempting to think in the early days that a lot of people were just finding our site by magic without searching, but even if we factored in social media traffic, that just wasn’t plausible. In reality, a lot of that traffic came from three places: 1) bots crawling our site for some reason 2) bots spamming our site in the hopes of tricking us into visiting some other site, and 2) Dannie and I visiting our own site and even the the previews of the pages we were still working on.
Once we figured out how to filter out that noise, our traffic statistics started to look a lot more realistic. I can say with reasonable confidence that at least 90% of the traffic being reported to us now represents real people getting real value from our articles. Hurray! Let’s take a look at what they were reading.
Here are the articles we published last month:
- Making Friends for Lisa While Traveling – Traveling is a really cool experience for children, but the longer we’ve done it the more we’ve worried about how Lisa is learning to socialize. In this article we discuss some of the challenges we’ve faced in that respect, and some of the workarounds we’ve found.
- Photographing Eilean Donan Castle: Dornie, Scotland – Dornie Castle is a really beautiful landmark. In this article we talk about what it’s like to visit with family, and how we went about getting our best photos.
- Operation Digital Nomad: June, 2018 – Much like this article only one month older.
- Building Healthy Blogging Habits – Blogging isn’t usually a very physical activity. In this article, Dannie goes over some of the strategies we use to avoid becoming too sedentary – a problem you wouldn’t think would be an issue when you main subject is travel!
- Every Airbnb We’ve Ever Stayed At – A very long article in which we review every Airbnb we’ve ever stayed at. As of this writing that’s over 30, and it includes rentals of all shapes and sizes in North America, Europe and Asia. Check and see if we’ve stayed in your next destination!
- Using a Zoom Lens for Creative Travel Photography – I feel like people underestimate the value of zooming in for their travel photos. This article is my argument for why a zoom lens is just as valuable as that wide angle, especially if you want to get creative and make an image that’s different from what the other travelers are getting.
- One Day in Kunming, China: Family, Shopping, Ethnic Village, Hotel – We had a one day layover in Kunming, and we decided to make the most of it. Here’s where we stayed and what we did. Even if you don’t plan on visiting Kunming, China, check this out just for the cute pictures of Lisa dressed up in traditional Manchurian clothes.
- Venice, Italy with Children: Pros and Cons – Venice, Italy is a unique city and it poses unique challenges and opportunities for families traveling with small children. Here’s how we made the most of the upsides and minimized the downsides of exploring the canal city with a toddler.
Here are the top ten articles people were reading on Jake and Dannie in the month of July:
- Where to Photograph Provence Lavender Fields (719 pageviews – wow!)
- Finding the Best Angle of the Roman Colosseum (295 pageviews)
- Review: The BabyZen Yoyo Travel Stroller (233 pageviews)
- Our New Lavender Editing Presets and Actions (132 pageviews)
- Review: The KidCo Peapod Plus Travel Tent (115 pageviews)
- Why One Day in Jiufen, Taiwan is not Enough For Photographers (115 pageviews)
- Fairy Glen: Family Fun on the Isle of Skye (100 pageviews)
- Photographing the Louvre Pyramid, Fall and Spring (88 pageviews)
- 5 Airbnb Tips for Family Travel in Paris (80 pageviews)
- Photographing Split, Croatia’s Marjan Park (68 pageviews)
Our traffic these days is coming almost entirely from organic search results, mostly Google. That’s really encouraging for one main reason. Google’s algorithms are designed to reward sites that users are finding helpful. The more Google rewards us with search result rankings, the more confident we are that we are on the right track. In recent months we have been focusing more and more on producing content that people can use to solve problems that they have, and it seems like it’s been working well.
As always, I want to take a moment to say thanks. We are getting closer and closer to having this blog sustain itself, and hopefully, eventually sustain us as well. Without people like you visiting our site, learning what you want to learn, and hopefully enjoying yourself while you are here, none of this would be possible. It’s because you come here and read our content that Dannie, Lisa and I dare to have hope that this mission can succeed.
If you’d like to do more to support us, you can do it without much effort or investment at all. If you are planning a trip, check out our resource page and our shop to see what recommendations we might have. Have a look at our destinations page to see if we have been where you are planning to go. Sign up for our semi-weekly newsletter – which we try to keep as fun as possible – so that we can keep in touch and share stories and tips that don’t appear on the blog. Even if you just comment on this post – or any other post you find useful – to give us feedback our share your experience. Every moment you spend with us helps us grow, and every interaction you make gives us strength. Thank you, and happy travels.