Unfortunately, we cannot ignore 2020, it did happen!
This is our second annual review of our travels and the performance of our travel blog for 2020. We use this review to reflect on what we are doing with this site, comparing to how we have done previously (we did a similar review for the first time last year), and to plan where it may be going.
We had great plans to expand and develop this blog in 2020, which we were somewhat successful at, but the world of travel (the world in general actually) was thrown into disarray due to that virus thingy. International travel became almost non-existent, and consequently, traffic to travel websites also crashed dramatically. People were rightly more focused on staying safe.
It was a tough year for all travellers, and travel bloggers were hit doubly as the ability to travel and their ability to earn money were both hit hard. Fortunately for us, it was not such a disaster. We do not rely on this travel blog as our only source of income—if we did then we would have been struggling well before this year. Our ability to travel was also not affected as significantly as some of our fellow bloggers around the world.
We Still Travelled
We had not planned to travel overseas this year anyway, we had planned to have a year of travelling around Australia. Before the pandemic took hold, we were able to go on a couple of small trips away, heading south of Perth for test runs in our new caravan.
The major trip for this year was to be up to three months in a caravan exploring remote parts of Australia. We headed off excitedly and confidently in late March unaware how serious things would become, and only a week into our holiday, after just crossing over the Nullarbor, we had no choice but to turn around to avoid being locked out of our home state.
Fortunately, we live in one of the most isolated cities in the world, so the virus has been kept mostly under control in our neck of the woods. It was not long before we were allowed to recommence travelling, while a lot of the rest of the world were in various degrees of lockdown.
With travel across state borders being restricted, and the rules changing all the time, we decided that travelling within Western Australia was our safest option. When the government lifted restrictions, it seemed like every man and his dog were planning a getaway, including us. We were lucky to be able to still go on our annual trip to Wharncliffe Mill, camping in the forests of the south-west of Western Australia. We filled the remaining school holidays with trips to the north, to Karijini and Coral bay in July, then to Monkey Mia in October. For a year of restrictions, we certainly travelled a lot. We set up camp in our caravan in 25 different places.
We Also Expanded the Site
With fewer days travelling in 2020, we had lots of time to focus on the blog. We even blogged about travelling when not allowed to travel.
This year we have worked hard on updating the look and layout of the site, working our way through the backlog of draft posts, editing old blog posts, and updating our top-10 list pages. We posted at least 21 new travel articles in 2020, for a total of 285 blog posts now online.
More Ways to Make Money
In addition to creating more content, we also addressed how we can make money from the site, moving away from just Adsense. We set up a resource page, and added links to affiliate programs. We also started a Redbubble store, now with 33 artworks, selling our unique travel-themed designs.
We built it but they did not come
This Travel Life had a total of 9,975 unique page views for 2020 (compared to 11,130 in 2019), which is a drop of about 10% from the previous year (despite significantly more time, effort and content!).
The chart below shows that for most of the year, the number of unique pageviews was below that of the corresponding month in 2019. The outlier was in May, when one of our pages was featured on a Facebook group. Things are starting to look up at the end of the year, we hope it continues into 2021.
Our most popular page, the Favourite Historic Towns of Australia article, accounted for 10% of all traffic, compared to last year when a quarter of all traffic went to a single page (House Creatures of Bali).
The most popular blog pages were (in order of popularity):
- Favourite Historic Towns of Australia
- House Creatures in Bali
- Street Wall Art of Mount Hawthorn
- Bali Coffee In Many Ways
- Favourite Religious Sites of Australia
We have 182 people liking This Travel Life on Facebook (up from 127 last year). We made 24 posts throughout the year (only 9 the year before), and the post that got the most traction was our post as we left on our trip around Australia (it reached 176 with 125 engagements).
We posted 42 images on Instagram in 2020, for a total of 365 posts. We had 519 followers by the end of the year (up from 500). Our photo of Jetson at Lane Poole Reserve, from our shakedown trip to Dwellingup, was our most popular Instagram post.
We have started working on an email list, and sent out a total of five newsletters. We have freshened up an old mailing list, culling many email addresses that are no longer active, so the last newsletter went out to just 214 recipients. This will hopefully increase a lot in 2021 as we have just launched a free ebook to give away to get people to sign up. We also have a few other free resources now, but we have not started actively promoting these yet.
We Still Didn’t Earn Much
We are moving away from just using Google Adsense solely for the site’s income. For the year we only earned $7.73 from Adsense (it was $22.76 the previous year). This drop in Adsense income is not surprising, as firstly we reduced the number of ads shown on each page as part of a redesign to make the site more appealing, and also our visitor traffic dropped a little.
We were pretty happy with the result with the income from the Redbubble store, considering it was our first year doing this and products were only added bit-by-bit over the year. We sold 16 items for a commission of $29.14.
We did not earn anything from the affiliate programs, and we did not get any free stuff.
The total income of $36.87 just covers our actual spending on the blog. There is the usual blog hosting expenses, about $5 a month, and about $12 a year for domain name renewal (we use Namesilo). In addition, there are home office expenses such as internet connection, and the cost of travel! If we were to do all the sums (which we are not!), we would be a long way in the red. Fortunately, we get a lot of enjoyment out of the travelling bit.
Authority Scores & Other Metrics
I’m not sure how much importance to place on these, but here are a few different ways of measuring the ‘authority’ of a website, and it would be interesting to see these scores change over time.
Moz Domain Authority: 17
Majestic Trust Flow: 11
AHREFS Domain Rating: 17
SemRush Authority Score: 32
Alexa Site Rank: 5,929,324
Google Search Console external links: 76
Did we achieve our goals?
- Add lots of content – YES
- Boost Income – YES – increased by 62%
- Create Affiliate Links – YES – but no income yet
- Create a regular newsletter – YES
- Increase Facebook like – YES – up by 43%
- Increase Instagram followers – NO – increased by only 4%
- Building up Pinterest boards – NO – we did not work on Pinterest
The plans for next year?
Unfortunately some things are out of our control. We need the pandemic to get under control, and people to start travelling again. All we can do is continue as best as we can, and hopefully it all starts coming together.
In 2021 we plan to continue to work on boosting our income from different sources. That will include adding more artwork to the Redbubble store and promote these on more blog pages, and also more promotion of the affiliate links. We hope that our Instagram and Facebook followers continue to increase. We know that working on Pinterest is a recommended way to increase blog traffic, but we are just not inspired to do that yet.
We launched our free e-book on budget travel tips at the very end of 2020. We hope to use this to encourage people to subscribe to our newsletter, and following that we wish to post more regular newsletters.
And of course, in 2021 we plan to add lots more good quality content. There are even more blog posts in the draft stage, lots of ideas waiting to be written about. We are still catching up with blogs posts from Europe in 2017 and several trips since then. We are going to expand our directory of places, to cover all 40+ countries we have visited. There are static pages (such as these diaries) that need updating and moving to the WordPress platform, and more articles from the old Travel Almanac site.
Let’s see how that plans out …