I want to start by showing you an email I received on October 20, 2020 – about a month after I launched the blog you are reading right now. It was from a well-known travel blogger whose blog I read for years before I launched my own blog (for discretion, I won’t disclose the name or website):
For those who have been doing this blogging thing for years, this cash-grab email might not seem out of the ordinary. But for me … it was crushing.
Let me tell you why.
Bloggin’ Ain’t Easy
I jumped into blogging because … wait for it … I love blogs. I’ve always had a thing for blogs because they can not only be very helpful, but can be personal. Blog writers seem more willing to be open with their authentic thoughts and feelings as compared to other more visual mediums like YouTube or Instagram.
All you have to do is look at Instagram to see what can happen when we can “curate” our lives through photography. Rarely do you see anyone post authentic pictures of themselves. Nope, everyone in the Instagram world is smiling on a black sand beach double-fisting foot tall mojitos.
I’ve discovered quickly it’s one thing to read blogs – but a completely different animal to write a blog. The truth is: it’s been hard. Very hard. At times I’ve wanted to rip my head from my body and punt it like a football into oncoming traffic. I hate to be cliche, but it kind of feels like …
With a bit of perseverance (and encouragement from my wife) I’ve been able to navigate through some sticky start-up blogging issues (I mean, how in the bloody f*ck do you insert code into your blog header?) Sure, it took me months to figure out how to create a functioning mobile site and even longer to design a landing page that doesn’t look like it was plucked out of 1994, but I am happy to learn and grow each day.
Despite my stubborn willingness to put my head down and keep truckin’, I have found a completely disheartening aspect of the blogging world I was unprepared for.
What is it?
The complete lack of friendliness by fellow travel bloggers.
I Thought Blogging Was About Community … I Was Wrong
One piece of advice from that you hear from all arenas in the blogging world is “build community with other bloggers”. Seeing that blogging can be a solitary and sometimes lonely exercise, one of the things I was most excited about jumping in this space was the opportunity to (virtually) meet people from all over the world.
After I got my site running for a few months, I started to reach out to other bloggers in the RV and travel space to introduce myself – and sometimes (not always) ask if I can do a guest post. I would always lead with a kind introduction and would never mention anything about money.
I would say that for every 25 personal emails I sent, about 1-2 were answered. Out of the 1-2 that were answered, at least one garnered a response like the one below:
It wasn’t like I sent form emails with “To Whom It May Concern” as the greeting. For each and every email I sent, I made sure it was sent personally to the site owner. I tried to demonstrate that I knew what their site and their brand was all about. I tried to show genuine interest in what they were writing about … or at the very least, I tried to be overly nice.
While I have been able to secure some guest post opportunities from my emails, a much more common and discouraging response was the one I shared in the opening where I was asked to pay upwards of 200 pounds (or $250 USD) for the honor to guest post on someone else’s site.
The sad part about that particular response was that it was a site I had been reading for years. It was a blogger that I respected and admired … and had actually bought products based on their recommendations. The response asking for a few hundred dollars cash was my first my first experience seeing this other side of blogging … the cold, hard cash grab with no time for for “nice to meet you’s”.
I know many of you out there are rolling your eyes and saying “that’s the blog business baby“. However, for me, the veil was lifted and it was the first time I really saw that most bloggers have no time for you unless there is cash involved.
Are Travel Bloggers Any Worse Than Other Blog Niches?
Funny enough, the answer to this question seems to be “yes”. SEO site tool AHREFS ran an article called “What’s the Cost of Buying Links” that surveyed a number of blog niches to find out the cost of buying links.
The survey found that the travel blog industry was by far the worst in terms of selling links. The data showed that a whopping 44% of travel bloggers were offering to sell links, compared to those in the fitness space (14% selling links), fashion (14% selling links) and finance (10%) selling links.
This seems to fit right in line with my experience as a travel blogger during these first 6 months.
While selling links isn’t illegal, it is antithetical to the idea of the internet to offer unbiased and helpful information to the world at large, If you, like me, read blogs to help you make informed decisions about places to go and things to buy, you wouldn’t want that recommendation to be based on the exchange of $250 – would you?
Google Terms of Service is clear about it’s stance on link selling stating:
Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results: Exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; Exchanging good or services for links; Sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing it and including the link.
At the end of the day, nobody will feel sorry for me that my bubble was burst about blogging. After all, with so much of the world’s economy moving to the internet, can you really fault small bloggers from making a living? I may bellyache about it, but I can’t begrudge someone for earning a living. Most bloggers are not making millions of dollars and I can’t fault them for wanting to feed their families.
However, I’ve learned some lessons along the way that will help me be a better blogger (and human) as I continue on this journey.
I can’t single-handedly change how business is done in the travel blogging world, but I have taken away some important lessons over the last few months:
- Respond: Seeing that 95% of my emails are ignored, I am making it a point to respond to everyone who takes the time out to write me. Even if I can’t help them in any way, I always offer them a kind response and a note of encouragement;
- Have Integrity: The thing about the whole buying/selling links thing is it lack integrity. It’s against the very purpose of why people started blogging – to help others (and themselves). I may not get the traffic I need and may not see the financial results I want, but I will never compromise my integrity;
- There are Good People Out There: I have met a lot of lovely people so far over the internet. Some people are genuinely kind and will try to help you in any big or small way they can. On the internet, like in life, there will be more misses than hits, but it makes the hits all that much sweeter when they do happen.
Thank you so much for reading my blog post. Love it or hate it? Let me hear about it!