Jake here with the November 2017 episode of Operation Digital Nomad, my monthly report on our progress monetizing our travel blog. Our goal is to earn $4,000 a month so that we can continue our adventures for as long as possible, slow traveling and enjoying the best that the world has to offer. The topic of this month’s post is going to be expanding our income sources. Speaking of which, this post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on a product link and make a purchase, it will help support us and give me more to talk about next month, at no additional cost to you.
But before we get to the main topic, here’s the bottom line.
Net Income: -$58.04
Our blog continues to lose small amounts of money. This is the opposite of earning large amounts of money, which is sort of the goal. As always, there are reasons to be optimistic, but the need for remedies is becoming apparent.
- Adsense: $0.27
- Total: $0.27
This disappointing result is what has inspired the topic of this blog, which once again, is expanding our income sources. Despite small increases in visibility for our blog, Adsense income has been inconsistent. Our traffic is still not what it needs to be, so the monthly fluctuations are probably the result of an inadequate sample size and not necessarily an indication of a systemic problem with Adsense. That being said, I’ll discuss later why I think it’s going to be necessary for us to double down on other revenue streams and make them a higher priority.
In our earnings I did not include any free products or services that we received because our goal is to make $4000 in currency each month. Goodies are great, but we can’t barter for plane tickets.
- Cloudflare: (Monthly – Content Delivery Network) $20
- Professional Photographers of America (Monthly – Trade Association and Camera Insurance): $27.92
- Amazon S3 (Monthly – Image Hosting): $0.40
- Adobe Creative Cloud (Monthly – Software Subscription: Photoshop, Lightroom and More): $9.99
- Total: $58.31
As always, because we are treating travel as a lifestyle instead of an occupation, we do not include plane tickets, lodging, or food as expenses for these reports, since we would be paying for these things even if we had a regular job.
Blog traffic was the main topic of last month’s report, so I just wanted to do a quick follow up since those trends continue to be interesting. I mentioned that Google traffic was increasing as a share of our monthly traffic, with clicks from organic search rising from 9.1% to 23.7% of our traffic. Well, that trend continued, and organic traffic is now making up 39.4% of our traffic, edging out Direct traffic to become our primary source of readers. If you are unsure what any of that means, you can read about some of the terminology in the link above.
Though we did see a decrease in traffic overall, this was mostly a recording error from the past. At the beginning of this month I finally got around to filtering out traffic from spam bots and from Dannie and me visiting our own site. Most of our traffic is legitimate, but our patterns look a little more natural now. This month we had a total of 143 clicks from Google, up from 90 last month. Quite a jump. Similarly, our clicks on Google Images climbed from 30 to 43.
Here is a list of the posts we published last month and the number of pageviews they have had to date:
- Operation Digital Nomad: October, 2017 (37 pageviews)
- Photographing Dubrovnik Croatia’s City Walls (28 pageviews)
- Petrin Park: Prague’s Most Beautiful Playground (25 pageviews)
- Family Travel and Blogging With Dan from Baby Can Travel (16 pageviews)
- The Waterfront Promenade in Split Croatia (13 pageviews)
- The Definition of Slow Travel (13 pageviews)
- Why You Should Ride a Gondola in Venice, Italy (13 pageviews)
The pageviews were a little lower this month on these particular posts, but some of our older posts did extremely well. For example, our baby carrier review got 78 views, which is more than it had in the month it was written (though Black Friday and cyber Monday might have had something to do with it). The posts that we published in the week before and after Thanksgiving did not perform very well, but hopefully they will be strong performers over time.
Looking for New Income
So now for the main event, our search for new revenue streams. In my interview with Dan from Baby Can Travel, an older and – as far as I can tell – more successful travel blog, I asked him about which sources of revenue they were having the most luck with. He told me that their affiliate links performed the best. If you haven’t read that post, you should really go read it now. Not only does Dan have great advice about blogging, travel and work/family balance, he’s also funny and makes a great interviewee.
If you didn’t know, affiliate links are a way for content creators (travel bloggers for example) to earn commissions by linking to products that they recommend. They sign up for an affiliate program with that product’s creator, in which they provide a link from their own site to the products site. If someone follows that link and then goes on to make a purchase, a commission is paid to the blogger at no additional cost to the consumer.
Affiliate marketing is a win-win for everyone, as long as the blogger can avoid falling down a slippery slope. When there’s profit to be made, there will always be a temptation to recommend a product whether you like it or not. It’s possible to maintain your integrity, but you have to be vigilant about it. With all that in mind, we set about brainstorming how we could incorporate affiliate marketing into our business model in an ethical way.
Our Affiliate Links:
First of all, we’ve decided that we will only be recommending products and services that we use ourselves. This is a popular method that can at least give readers the peace of mind of knowing we maintaining a certain level of honesty. It also means that we can explain in detail why we made those recommendations since we have experience to back up our claims. So came up with a partial list of products and services that we really enjoy and that we think have performed exceptionally well, and we put together a resource page. Some of the services we included have affiliate programs and some do not, but part of being honest is including your favorites, even if they don’t offer a way to profit directly from your recommendation.
Special Request: We would really appreciate it if you would give us your feedback on our resource page. If you, like most of our readers, are interested in travel, photography, or family, please take a look at our resource page and comment on this post to tell us what kinds of resources you need but aren’t finding there. It’s a work in progress and we could really use the help to get it right.
Though we haven’t made any affiliate sales yet, we have made some strides. Our affiliate programs report that people have been clicking on the links and visiting the product sites. Usually there is a window of a few weeks for someone to make their purchase and still have the commission come to us. Also, our traffic continues to increase, the probability increases that sales will be made each month.
In order to give people more motivation to buy the products we recommend, we’re also going to do a few more product reviews. A number of favorite products come to mind, such as the PeaPod Tent that Lisa has slept in all over Europe, and the really great Timbuk2 camera bag I use for our camera gear. Oh yeah, and the camera gear could use some reviewing too! We’ve also been putting affiliate links in our Operation Digital Nomad posts – remember those online services in the expense section – and we should really do a post in which we explain what those services are and why they are important. People who are interested in blogging might want to know.
Even though Dan told me in his interview that affiliate links drove more income than their ebooks, despite their ebooks being very good (I read one), Dannie and I are still planning to produce ebooks. I know that we’ve been promising ebooks for quite some time and not delivering on them, but I really feel momentum building up this month and I think we are going to have something for you soon. Ebooks are great because the logistics of selling them are simple, they are affordable for our readers, and they are easy to revise as necessary. They are also great as prizes if we ever decide to hold a contest or a giveaway to reward our wonderful readers.
Despite the fact that we’ve been traveling for almost one year and raising our daughter for over two years, we still feel that photography is our primary area of expertise. Our first book will be quick guide that will teach amateurs everything they need to know about manual mode to improve their photography. This is something that a lot of people are afraid to try because it sounds complicated and many tutorials present it with a lot of math. I think it can be taught in less than twenty pages and the math can basically be reduced to counting.
Sponsored posts are articles in that endorse a product or service in exchange for something of value. Ideally, the same ethics that I described for Affiliate links can be applied to sponsored posts, but it’s often a little harder. In October we wrote a review of the Ergobaby Omni 360 baby carrier, a product that we received for free. In this case we didn’t feel as though we had made an ethical compromise at all because when we accepted the offer we already knew that we loved Ergobaby products. In fact, we were just replacing an older model with a new one that had features we knew we wanted (and no, this post is not sponsored).
We also did a post in October in which we included a link to a travel related site in exchange for money (which we hope to receive any day now). This was not a product or service that we used, but we also weren’t required to recommend it, only include a link that would help a company build their search rankings. The page we linked to appeared to be a legitimate travel article about beaches, and it didn’t feel like much of a compromise. It helped that the post we wrote was also a nice chance to reminisce about some of the places we have been, along with a couple simple photography tips.
Selling Digital Images
You may have noticed that we take a lot of photos. So have a few other people, and we’ve been in talks with a few publications about the possibility of licensing a few of them. Even though we don’t plan to actively seek photography clients while we travel (taking full creative control of our photography has been one of our favorite parts of this journey), we are looking into putting up images for sale on micro-stock sites. Since many of our photos include landmarks, we have to be careful about complicated European copyright laws when choosing images for this purpose, but it could be a good source of passive income that will reward us for doing what we were already planning to do.
We’ve also been contacted to work with a couple of brands that wish to purchase images for travel related products. This will tie in well with affiliate links to products that are sent to us, assuming that we like them enough to continue using them and not just take photos. At least one of them is very promising.
How You Can Help Us
There are a few things you can do that will make a big difference to us but won’t cost you a thing.
- Give us your feedback. If you read a post on our blog that you think was helpful, let us know so we can produce more like that. If you think a post is missing valuable information, let us know about that too so we can fix it. Improving out blog makes it more useful to others, and making the blog useful is the best way to turn Operation Digital Nomad into a success. Our comment section is on the bottom of every post.
- Follow us: We are on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Pick your favorite! You can also sign up for our semi-weekly newsletter. In addition to travel stories and photography tips, everyone on our subscriber list will get a free copy of our first eb00k when it comes out.
- Collaborate With Us: Are you a veteran traveler with tips to share? Do you have a product that you think we would love? Do you run a blog in need of guest posts? If you think you’d like to work with us on anything, contact us!
But even if you just took the time to read this or any post, we’re really grateful to you anyway. Our readers are the reason we have a chance at making this project work, and we’d really like to thank you. Happy travels everyone.