Welcome to my blog income report for December 2017!
If you are new here, my name is Mar and I am the Owner and Editor of Once in a Lifetime Journey. The photo on the left is me at the Louvre Abu Dhabi as the sun was setting.
This blog is almost four years old and is about luxury and out of the ordinary travel. If you are keen to read about one of the 94 countries I have been to, check out my Destinations page. Not all countries are represented there because some of them I visited long before I started this blog, but a fair few will be.
If you are an avid traveler you may also want to check my Travel Resources page with my recommendations for the best apps, tools and websites I use when planning, going on or returning from a trip.
It all started with a post about How Travel Bloggers make Money. It then followed with a book expanding to all niches and to all online channels.
For the book research, I scrutinised in detail, over 50 blog income reports from top earning bloggers. And it got me thinking.
Deciding to do so was not an easy or obvious choice. But like I always say with everything in my life:
So I took it with a “try and see” approach: let’s try to publish a couple of income reports and see if it brings me and my readers any value.
If it doesn’t, I will stop.
If it does, I will continue to share them.
You will be asking, why am I sharing such personal and private information with a world of strangers and what value do I expect this to add to you or me?
That is precisely the same question I asked myself a few times before taking the leap. The answer is similar to the rest of the bloggers who share their income breakdown and it is two-fold:
1. Firstly, I feel it will be valuable for me to reflect and track my own progress and it will aid in keeping myself accountable to my priorities. I am a big fan of data-driven decisions and of analytics, so looking at graphs and trends is something which has always been in my DNA.
2. Secondly, I hope it will also help give others looking to make money online new ideas on ways to monetise their blog, because I am not doing what most people do and have a diverse and varying monthly income which will reflect in a different income report to the majority of the very successful bloggers.
3. Thirdly, although there are lots of bloggers publishing income reports, there are very few in the travel niche, and outside of the US, so I felt I could add something into the conversation
All too often, the more popular bloggers on the list of top-earning blogs I looked at draw too much of their blog’s revenue from streams that are hard to replicate by other bloggers in the short-term. I am referring to things like large advertising amounts or affiliates in very competitive niches with lots of available content. At the lower end of the scale, a lot of bloggers earning $1,000 to $2,000 are just doing the obvious things like ads and some sponsored posts. It is hard to draw too many learnings from that and, as the world of blogging becomes more and more saturated, these revenue streams will only become more scarce.
Why am I different from them?
I am pretty special 🙂 No really, I think I can bring in something the rest of the bloggers publishing income reports can’t.
I have a full time job – Despite having been blogging for over three years, I still have a full time job and have only just started to put emphasis on monetising my presence and reach. Also, I am open to trying out all sorts of different ideas, testing them, learning what works and what doesn’t and moving on from failures. I was never afraid to fail, but I always feared not trying.
I am in the travel niche – Travel is an interesting niche because not a lot of blogs publish income reports and because a lot of the value received is in kind. This type of “income” is not usually reflected by other bloggers and I want to make a point of adding it in because it is a saving that I would have otherwise incurred.
I hope I can share these insights and also remain more relatable than the larger bloggers who publish blog income reports running in the thousands of dollars every month.
- Other Income Reports
- What I was up to in December
- Revenues in the month of December 2017
- Interesting statistics for December 2017
- 2018 Goals
- Bring overall traffic to 200,000 page views
- Increase my domain authority to 45
- Launch Once in a Lifetime Media
- Grow my Digital Marketing practice to $15,000 a month
- Have 15 TrustPilot reviews
- Revamp Media Press Kit
- Increase affiliate revenues to $1,000 by year end
- Make $1,500 a month in advertising revenues
- Sell 100 books
- Build my personal brand
- Speak at 3 relevant conferences
- Experiment with AdWords to increase revenues
- Generate $2,000 from a niche site
- Continue to travel
- Travel plans for 2018
- Wrapping up December
Other Income Reports
If you are not new to my Income reports or to this blog, you can probably skip the next two sections about how it all started and what makes me and my blog unique.
If you are new to Once in a Lifetime Journey and just stumbled upon my blog income report, let me give you the lowdown about my background and how I got here.
I started my blog in February 2014 as a repository of my travel experiences. It was mostly an online diary of sorts and I tried to keep the blog as hidden as possible. I did not tell anyone I was writing it for the first few months as I was writing for myself.
Blogging was therapeutic for me, akin to meditation. I had just quit my eight-year long management consulting career and was taking a break, experimenting with opening a cafe, investing in some startups and even running a travel company.
You can read more about my background in my About page, where I tell you why and how I travelled 80% of my time and how I decided to start a blog.
My efforts to hide my online presence were quite successful and although I kept adding new content, the Google magic only helped at the beginning, bringing me lots of strangers that were interested in reading about my shenanigans. But once the world of blogging became so crowded and everyone started travel blogs, the additional content started to bring me no additional growth in views or readers.
This inflection point happened just a couple of months after I attended a travel blogging conference in October 2015 in Bangkok. I had not tried to monetise my blog at all until that point, in fact, I had only just started telling people I had it over a year after it started.
The conference opened my eyes to the possibilities of earning a full time living from a blog. From that moment onwards, my entrepreneurial and business mindset could not stop me from at least trying to make it happen.
I also realised that my personal blog, this one you are on, was a good avenue for my trips but that my niche and personal preferences were very unique. I visit either very remote and off-the-beaten-path destinations which receive little to no tourists or go on luxurious vacations. I have a few friends who enjoy the same type of travel, but this dichotomy did not help my positioning as it was slightly schizophrenic and almost an oxymoron.
Do you know what The 10 Least Visited Countries in the World are? -> I compiled my own data in this article
In order to have a more niche-oriented blog, I decided to start Singapore n Beyond which is entirely focused on Singaporean residents, providing them with long weekend trip itineraries curated by local experts in and around Asia or beyond. I started Singapore n Beyond because I realised this was an unanswered need. Singapore is small and residents tend to travel a lot, in fact Singapore ranks among the 10 best travelled nations. I intended to start the blog with the intention of monetising it.
However, I have had a full time job until today so revenue has never been an objective of mine. I have a very financially-oriented mind and I create business plans for everything I do. I have also invested in a couple of startups as an angel investor. But I did not truly look at the blog as a business until 2017.
I am telling you this so you understand my frame of mind.
I never sought maximum monetisation from the blog so I declined a lot of offers from brands looking to collaborate that were not in the price range I was willing to accept. I priced myself at the higher end of the range to maximise my hourly rate not my total income.
Had my income depended on the blog, I would have accepted a lot of subpar offers and increased my monthly earnings, albeit at the expense of my hourly rate.
Although a lot of my learnings and experiences will be relatable and replicable, I need to point out a few things which make my blogs unique:
I am a strong believer in outsourcing for two reasons. I believe in specialisation and in maximising productivity as a whole. Hence, it makes no sense for me to do something I am not good at and will take long to solve when I can hire someone who will do it better and faster (hence cheaper).
What this means:
1. I hired a Content Manager early on to take care of Singapore n Beyond and help me with the management of the two blogs. He takes care of uploading articles into WP, managing all the SEO related stuff, some social media and also editing videos and photos and he has a two degrees in English and Multimedia respectively.
2. I engage paid freelancer writers to produce the content for Singapore n Beyond. This is not just for efficiency purposes but because I wanted the content to be provided by a writer who knew the destination very well, not just me after a 2-3 day trip. So the content there is curated by local experts.
3. I have a part-time social media manager who handles Instagram and part of my Facebook posts.
4. I hire freelancers for a lot of other tasks that require a skillset.
5. I use an IT and WordPress expert who I found on Fiverr long ago to handle all the WP related stuff, changes, fixes and anything. She is awesome and she is quick and very affordable.
You may not have the financial ability or agree with the mentality of outsourcing, but for me it is key and it allows me to be where I am and do what I love while letting others do what I am not good at. Having a virtual team also helps me feel better as I have someone to discuss things with, brainstorm and feel a sense of belonging.
I am very 80/20
This refers to Pareto’s principle that 80% of the value is driven by 20% of the effort and so 80% of the effort brings only 20% of the value. I strongly believe in this.
What this means:
1. I am happy to live with things being 80% perfect. I am a perfectionist and have my pet peeves, but I am comfortable doing things that are not 100% perfect. This allows me to be really fast and try things out, then iterate and improve. It is probably something that was part of my personality and got further emphasized by working for Google where this is very much the philosophy – launch, iterate and learn.
2. This also allows me to be very efficient as I rarely delve into something for too long. I assess pros and cons then just try it and see so I churn out a lot of output leading people to believe that I am super human because it seems that I do more than the average person. This is just because the last 20% takes a lot of effort and I prefer to complete it while something is live than delve on it for too long.
I am not afraid to fail
I really am not afraid to fail, do things wrong, be wrong or appear as I have failed. This is very much my personality. I am ok with a high risk of failure. I prefer to try myself and learn from it and I strongly believe it is better to try and fail than to have never tried.
And hey, I am here right? 😉
What this means:
1. I try things, I am not scared or ashamed to admit when I fail, learn and improve or move on. It is probably fair to say that I care less about what others think than the average. This is not to say that I do not listen. I have a group of trusted advisors I refer to, and I always listen to my readers, but I am not worried about the “what others might think”. If I think I am doing the right thing, I will go ahead.
2. This also makes me open to try new things even if they may not work and gives me the chance to learn from myself.
3. At the same time, that may also bring some inefficiencies as I like to try things for myself before reading about other’s failures as I often think one size does not fit all in the world of making money online. So I may waste some time trying something instead of learning from other’s failures.
I am proactive with hotel collaborations, rarely reactive
I have a full time job and I have not changed, nor do I intent to change, my travel style or spirit regardless of how much I monetise my blog or where my income comes from.
I rarely take up hotel/destination offers to go on press trips or stay with them in exchange for coverage unless they are trips I wanted to take anyway and a property I was looking to stay at.
So, I reach out to properties I want to work with after very thorough and in-depth research to ensure I will be 100% happy to recommend them afterwards.
My process for approaching a brand to work together is as follows. I first decide where I want to go, what property will fit the luxury niche of my blog, then conduct detailed due diligence on the options available and finally reach out to them if I am convinced they are a brand I will honestly recommend.
As a result, I work with very few brands and I rarely take up offers I receive for sponsored stays.
This differs to a lot of other bloggers who will include reviews of a wider range of accommodation options and hence can work with many brands. I only review the top of the range as I want to maintain my luxury travel niche positioning.
Since August, I have decided to pause the sponsored stay work for a while and pay for my trips. This is for two reasons. Firstly, I want to avoid the very significant extra work that comes with having to fulfill a contract requirement. When your holidays become work, you never take rest or disconnect. This is what happened to me. In order to spend free quality time with my partner, I decided to pause on sponsored work. That does not mean that I do not review properties, I still do, but I do not have anyone to respond to beyond my readers so I do not need to spend hours taking photos, wake up at sunrise and pose endlessly until I find the right photo. Secondly, I have also become quite disenchanted with luxury hotels. I had a string of three very luxurious properties which were billing themselves as the best of the best and turned out to have very mediocre service standards. I never want to find myself in the situation where I work with a brand I have to write a lot of areas for improvement about. So I was glad I had paid in full for those trips.
From August on I have paid for almost all my trips to Azerbaijan, Nihi Sumba and El Salvador and I received no sponsorship.
My approach to working with hotel brands not only ensures that I can be honest with my reviews and remain true to my luxury travel niche but also that, when a brand is not interested in working with me, and that happens 50% of the time, I most likely still book a room and pay for it myself 100%.
What you see in my review section is therefore 100% legitimate and honest. But the value I extract from sponsored stays is lower than I could have got and than most travel bloggers enjoy, so I consider it to be at the lower end of the range.
I can currently afford this approach because I can pay for my luxury travel but it also makes me quite unique in the world of travel blogging, especially in the luxury segment where a lot of the brands only work with bloggers that have a very large reach.
Maybe one day I will not be able to continue paying for luxury hotels charging upwards of $1,000 a night and I will have to succumb to my principles. But I genuinely hope I never have to sell my soul to the Devil and can remain independent and writing in the luxury travel niche.
What this means:
1. While the above applies to Once in a Lifetime Journey, that is not the case for Singapore n Beyond which is not segment focused and which recommends brands in all price ranges. For Singapore n Beyond, I make sure the brand is reliable in its price range, its a brand I would recommend and then look for a writer that will be keen to cover the destination and has an affinity for it and I send them on my behalf. I have three writers who I have engaged this way with.
2. If you are looking to monetise your blog through sponsored stays, consider the value I get in the lower end, you can probably extract more value from a similar reach and audience than me.
What I was up to in December
In December I took time off, as in, *Real* time off for a third of the month and so did many of my clients. I went home to Barcelona, I took some holidays to Iceland and the Faroe Islands (more on that later) and I did not work much on the blog. As a result, revenues and income have been lower than before but very much as expected, so no surprise here.
Travel in December 2017
I did a lot of travel in the month mostly because I took my year end holidays so I was away from Singapore for two thirds of the month.
The first week of December was spent in Dubai working from our office there and sorting out some paperwork related to my paying my mortgage off.
It was a huge relief and a turning point for me to pay off my debt and receive my title deed delivered by DHL. As Dubai used to be my home, I still land with that feeling of coming home, especially if I am on board an emirates flight, because when I was living there, emirates used to take me to far-flung places every week for work, five years!
Dubai is also where my best friend lives, so I stayed with him, met up with old colleagues and friends, and decided to re-discover Dubai as if I were a tourist. It was good for both me and Edwin to do so because, after living there for ten years, even he had not visited a lot of the main sights. So we played tourist, visited a lot of the new places that were not there when I was living in Dubai and also some of the oldest and most traditional spots and restaurants. Anything older than 30 years in Dubai, is very old!
We also visited The Louvre Abu Dhabi, which has just opened. It was impressive but also very disappointing as a lot of the teething problems of a recent opening were quite obvious and deterring to the experience. Worth a trip if you are in the area.
For the weekend, we ventured out into Oman and stayed at the Alila Jabal Akdhar, in the mountains of the same name. At 2,000 meters above sea level the weather was rough, cold and very dry so it was quite a tough experience. At lower altitudes, we visited a couple of Oman’s most famous and beautiful sites including UNESCO-listed Bahla Fort, Nizwa Fort, Jabreen Castle and the quaint Misfat al Abriyeen.
We also attended the local goat market which was a very interesting experience to see. Local herders parade their goods, in this case goats, camels and cows, around a circle podium where prospective buyers throw bidding amounts. After enough turns around the podium, if a successful amount is bid, the buyer takes home his prize.
I started back home in Catalunya where I spent Christmas (see our wonderful Christmas traditions here). I travelled with my partner and his three-year-old daughter on our first long haul trip, a much daunting but rewarding experience.
On Boxing Day, we flew out to Iceland where I stayed in a Bubble Hotel while she returned to Singapore with her aunt.
I had planned our trip to Iceland in June because flights to Barcelona for Christmas are always hard to come by with miles. Once I had booked our Singapore Airlines Business Class seats I was ready to book the rest of the trip.
I always take a very long holiday at the end of the year, taking advantage of my long haul European trip and the global slow-down during the holidays to spend New Year’s Eve elsewhere.
I have spent New Year’s Eve at a different destination for the last ten years. It was nice to look back at all the wonderful places I have entered the new year from. Check this list out:are
2. 2009: Marrakech, where we had dinner at a nice restaurant and partied with the beautiful people of Marrakech.
3. 2010: In the Pyrenees of Catalunya, enjoying some snow and mountain air.
4. 2011: Siem Reap, welcoming the new year on the packed Pub Street where people were throwing water from the terraces and windows and we could not even move.
5. 2012: India, onboard The Maharajas Express train from Mumbai to Delhi via Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Ranthambore and Agra among others. Here are some nice facts about the journey. I visited Rajasthan again in 2019 and wrote extensively about it. You can also about the best places to stay in Jaipur (like Amanbagh), Udaipur (like Shiv Niwas Palace), or Jodhpur; and my travel guides to Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaiper and Jaisalmer.
7. 2014: Bora Bora, in French Polynesia, surrounded by the few other tourists and a Polynesian dance show with grass skirts and all. But we did not make it to midnight as we were simply too tired so we went to bed before, not unheard of from me and Edwin. Here’s my comparison between Bora Bora and the Maldives if you’re planning to go this year.
10. 2017: The Faroe Islands with a massive firework display over the capital of Forshavn.
I chose to visit Iceland because they say that the Aurora Borealis or Northern lights, will dim after 2018, so I wanted to make sure to see them from the best vantage point: a transparent plastic bubble in the middle of the forest.
Our time in Iceland was designed to be short as it is very cold at this time of the year, so we only spent three nights, chasing Auroras, and we did see them, every night! It was magical.
After Iceland, we were supposed to go to Israel, but the security situation became fragile when Trump announced the move of the American embassy in November, so my partner preferred we went somewhere safer.
Left with not a lot of options a couple of weeks before the flight, I decided to book us for a few days in the Faroe Islands which can be reached easily from Reykjavik. I added a few more days in Spain after that before returning to Singapore.
I have to admit that the Faroe Islands was a pretty incredible place with amazing landscapes, as you can see from the photo above. But, as a very small place and in the low season, I feel we were one of the few tourists in town in the period. A lot of stores, hotels and restaurants were closed and the whole country felt as if it were on holiday. We had it all to ourselves.
This was my travel schedule for December:
1. 30th November to 7th December in Dubai
2. 8th to 10th December in Oman
3. 21st to 25th December in Sitges, at home
4. 26th to 29th December in Iceland
5. 29th December to 3rd January in the Faroe Islands
6. 3rd to 6th January in Spain between Bardenas Reales National Park, Barcelona and Sitges
That means I was out of Singapore for 20 days.
Progress on the blog in December 2017
The focus for the blog was on ensuring that we closed on all the recommendations from the SEO audit that was carried out in September and we ended the year with everything sorted so we worked hard to finalised the recommendations before the Christmas break started.
On my new Influencer Outreach and Digital Marketing practice I spent a lot of time doing business development with clients discussing new campaigns and deals and brainstorming on ideas.
I met three new clients, two of which I was introduced to in Dubai, which yielded new relationships and contracts which will materialise in January. I realised that nobody does any campaigns in December – there is too much noise everywhere and everyone’s focus is on Christmas presents and holidays so the time is not conducive to launching new campaigns.
If you are keen to find out more about why I started this new consulting business feel free to read my November Income report where I go more into detail about why I feel I can be successful, and have already proven to be.
These Influencer outreach efforts will be the main focus for 2017 and I have set myself a very aggressive goal which you can read more about in a next section.
If you are a brand looking to work with bloggers, especially in the travel and lifestyle niches, reach out to discuss if and how I can help.
If you are a blogger and are open to work with brands, send me an email so that I can include you in my database.
The book: 30 Proven ways to make money online with or without a blog
The book finally has a formal and official name!
I finally hit send on the book and submitted it to CreateSpace, my editors, for editing, formatting, etc. and I hope to have a copy of my finalised book, in paperback, by the end of January.
This is very exciting and I know that I can not only turn it into a profitable business stream but also get many other benefits from it. I wrote the book for a variety of purposes and I will be tracking progress against them closely. These are the reasons why I decided to publish “30 Proven ways to make money online with or without a blog”:
Benchmark and learn
I started the book because I was simply doing research on ways people make money online. I first realised it would make for a great post and published it here, under 28 ways to make money online. The article was very well received and it got a lot of interest. It still is one of my most read posts.
I then followed with a benchmark about how other bloggers make money online, drawn from the few income reports they publish. There were a lot of learnings from that post. I found a lot of common denominators across all 40+ bloggers included and the many more I researched, but there were also a lot of differences which gave me food for thought. I wanted to expand on that.
I also started to reach out to successful entrepreneurs who were doing some of the things that were not mentioned on the income reports and who were happy to share their expertise, experience and tips. I interviewed or exchanged emails with over 70 of them in all niches and geographical locations. I thoroughly enjoyed my interactions with everyone and I was also often enlightened by the candidness and honesty of many. Also from the lack of even a response from many others who did not even get back to my emails wanting to feature them in a book. I never understood how anybody would think that ignoring a professional request to feature them is something to be ignored. But that is for another conversation.
So the original post kept growing and growing and I decided that it would be material enough for a book. So the ultimate purpose of the book is to learn and grow and to share my findings, research and interviews with successful entrepreneurs with everyone. The book contains 30 different revenue streams, which may be related or not to having a blog, and over 70 successful case studies and examples.
Interact and connect with other bloggers and digital entrepreneurs online
I have connected and learned from a lot of people featured in the book and I deeply appreciate everyone’s willingness to share and contribute.
I also managed to connect to Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income, who makes upwards of $300,000 a month online. I am awaiting to find a convenient time to talk to him. The interview will not be part of the book because it came too late, but I will turn it into a blog post and video.
Making money, ironically, is not the primary objective of the book, but I hope it will be a nice side benefit.
Personal and life
Christmas is all about family and friends and this was certainly the tone of the month, together with some well-deserved winding down.
In Spain, I got to spend time with my best friends, at barbecues, dinners, lunches, strolls… it was very nice and refreshing. It is always important for me not to lose sight of where I come from and who I am and my friends manage to keep me grounded and real. They remind me of where I come from and of the real world behind the screen I am permanently sitting in front of.
Being an expat in an expat bubble like Singapore or Dubai, where I have spent the last twelve years, is a sure recipe for losing sight of what really matters.
If you add thirteen years of ultra-frequent luxury travel, high salaries, low taxes and an international career, it is very easy to become self-obsessed and to take yourself too seriously. Going home always reminds me of the person I really am.
I am grateful for the many fantastic friends I have, many of which for over 30 years, for the great memories we share and for the lovely time we can spend together every time I come home.
At home, we carried on with the many quirky and unique Catalan Christmas traditions like the pooping log and the pooping figurine, the nativity, the Three Wise Men, etc. If you are curious about them, you can check them out here.
Spending some time in Dubai was also a very interesting experience. Dubai is the place where I first lived after leaving home and it still feels very close to my heart, despite I could not live there again. But Dubai has changed dramatically since I moved there at the beginning of 2006. It is now a metropolis with a lot to offer and not the world’s largest construction site which it was when I first stepped foot on this small Emirati country. Returning was therapeutic and rewarding.
Revenues in the month of December 2017
December was expectedly slow and low in revenues but I knew this already and so it came as no surprise. Partly, this was a personal choice as I wanted to spend quality time with my loved ones and wanted to do little or no work at all. I knew that the month would be slow in revenues because a few of my clients had advised they would be off. This is also the reason why November’s income was so high, as it packed part of December’s revenues.
Here is the breakdown of December’s revenues:
–> S$ 106 Accommodation affiliates
–> S$ 303 Ad revenues
–> S$ 840 from Blogger outreach and brand campaigns
TOTAL blog income in December 2017: S$ 1,249
TOTAL blog value in December 2017: S$ 1,249
Things to note:
– All amounts are in Singapore Dollar which fluctuates around 1,3 times the USD. This is because my accounts are in SGD and so is my accounting.
– I included affiliate revenues which have been accrued even if they have not been paid because affiliates have a threshold for payments which can be as high as USD150.
– The above includes income generated from both blogs. It is time consuming for me to split the two so I will keep it together for now.
In December I did a few influencer campaigns but, as mentioned, they were not at the same level as the previous month. Most of my efforts were spent setting up campaigns which will run in January when I expect the figures to pick up.
I knew I would be away for most of the month so I did not push business opportunities in Singapore which I knew would go cold during my vacation.
I finally signed up, got approved and installed Mediavine ads in the middle of the month, which is already showing a much more profitable profile than AdSense. It takes about a quarter to see the real impact and performance of their ads so I am tracking this closely to see how much I can expect from ads. Meanwhile, Singapore n Beyond continues with AdSense so I need to work on it to bring it up to the right traffic level to join Mediavine too.
The blog’s value remained the same as its income. As anticipated in August, I decided I would be very selective with the brands I would work with so I paid for all the travel I did in December myself without any sponsored opportunity.
Interesting statistics for December 2017
There are a few other statistics and elements of the blog that are worth tracking and noting.
My Domain Authority for Once in a Lifetime Journey remained stable at 36. This is used to determine the value of my domain to those who are looking to place links just for the pure SEO value and also for Google to decide how high my posts rank on search results, so the higher the better for organic traffic.
If you are keen to know how DA correlates with traffic or what it means, I wrote a very in-depth post about it. I was curious to understand how much correlation there is between DA and traffic of a site. DA is a very obsessive metric for bloggers and a sign of success and source of pride. If your domain authority is high, you feel that you are a doing a good job. For a lot of people, DA is more important than traffic and for a lot of brands who are purely looking at placing a link, DA is all they care about.
Value from sponsored stays
When I started monetising the blog, this was the main source of income and something which was very valuable to me. In September, I told you how I put this on hold for now and I have continued to do so.
I am already in talks with a few companies for collaborations and campaigns in 2018, some of which are already confirmed, but those will be very selective and for places I am 150% sure will deliver and are brands I love and will recommend to friends and family. If I do, you will always know because…
I conspicuously declare when the stay has been sponsored to comply with regulations, my code of conduct and the professional integrity I believe all bloggers should adhere to. If you see no disclaimer in a hotel review, rest assured I paid for it as I do in more than 90% of my travels.
Traffic and readership
From this month on, I will start reporting traffic figures as well so you can see how revenue correlates with traffic in the passive income streams.
If you remember, in October I told you I had realised I was not tracking my traffic properly so I fixed it, hence the major increase from November on. December saw a slight increase and I hope we can get January to continue the trend and, hopefully, accelerate it. So far, the month started off well.
Business opportunities I declined
There were a lot of the standard email outreach templates that I received this month, at a rate of more than one a day. I declined them all because I am not interested.
Here is an example of a really careless one – so Addidas.com is a great resource hey?
Most of the emails I got where along those lines or the usual “Get on the top-10 results of Google” or the “I was checking your website and realised you do not rank for any keyword”, bla bla.
Jee, we are already in 2018 and THIS has to be the year for the blog to take a step into a new level. I have a very ambitious plan for 2018 which I am sure will keep me very busy.
|Area||Goal for 2018|
|Traffic||Bring traffic to 200,00 across both blogs|
|Domain Authority||Increase to 45|
|Influencer and digital marketing practice||Set up Once in a Lifetime Media|
Build the revenues to $15,000 a month
|TrustPilot||Collect 15 reviews from clients and brands I have worked with|
|Press Kit||Revamp and improve|
|Affiliate revenue||Increase revenues to $1,000|
|Book||Sell 100 books|
|Advertising revenue||Make $1,500 a month|
|Personal branding||Build my personal brand|
Speak at 3 conferences
|Niche Site||Build a site generating $2,000 a month|
|AdWords||Test AdWords budgeting and monetisation|
|Travel||Continue to travel and reach 105 countries visited. Beat my 140 days on the road personal record|
Below are the details of each of the goals for 2018 and how I plan to achieve them.
Bring overall traffic to 200,000 page views
This will be split into Once in a Lifetime Journey with 150,000 views and Singapore n Beyond with 50,000 page views and it will be done with multi-focus effort.
1. Optimise the top-20 posts on Once in a Lifetime Journey. We left this aside while fixing more basic things and it is the time to strongly focus on this. Every month that goes by and this is not done I am leaving money on the table and it is just silly
2. Optimise all the itinerary posts on Singapore n Beyond by reformatting the posts, changing the URL, adding keywords and improving their visibility. There is a lot of work that needs to be done here but I know it will be easy to make the site’s traffic grow as it has been amazing for it to reach 25,000 without any SEO work
3. Focus on Pinterest and expand to both blogs. I hired a Pinterest VA towards the end of October and she was fixing things up until December. Already in December, traffic from Pinterest reached 500 visitors. We have to continue pushing efforts there as I expect Pinterest to be a key traffic driver
4. Continue to publish SEO-optimised new content for the destinations I visit
5. Leverage Flipboard again, something which we should have never stopped doing
6. Building relationships with other blogs and continue to contribute with quality content
I have not managed to crack this one yet but I do not think it is for lack of understanding but because of not focusing on the right approach. Although I do not think my domain authority matters much (I do not sell links on my blog) I do want to increase it because it will strengthen my authority and my credibility in the industry.
Launch Once in a Lifetime Media
My Influencer and Digital Marketing practice does not have a home yet. There is no website for it, no logo, no identity, it is just me. It has not stopped several clients from hiring me, but I do want to fix this.
I decided that I will create a section in my current blog for it, and I may consider having a landing page that redirects the visitor between the Travel blog and the Consultancy. I have not fully decided that but I know I need a repository for the services I offer, the credentials and the client list.
Grow my Digital Marketing practice to $15,000 a month
As ambitious goals go, this one is a real badass. I am looking to grow my influencer and digital marketing business to about $15,000 a month by the end of the year.
This will require me to hire someone else to help but I am confident it is doable as I have seen incredibly positive reception and satisfaction with the clients and brands I have worked with so far.
Have 15 TrustPilot reviews
I want to ensure that all my happy clients, both brands I worked with as well as Agencies or clients I engaged with as a consultant, provide me a testimonial and review which I can feature on my site. This is important to build credibility but also to strengthen my Google rankings.
I set up TrustPilot already and just need to follow up with all my previous clients and ask them for a review.
Revamp Media Press Kit
My Press kit and related statistics are not on the blog and, although I have an About and Work with me page, they both need a severe revamp and I need to do this soon as it is directly related to my reputation and image.
Increase affiliate revenues to $1,000 by year end
Continue to add all affiliates to existing posts including Viator/Get Your Guide, hotel affiliates, Amazon, etc.
This has never been an area of much interest or focus for me but it is about time I make a conscious effort to. I would love for affiliate revenues to hit $1,000 by year end, but I know I am quite far from it so this is a moonshot.
Make $1,500 a month in advertising revenues
This is not impossible, but it is also dependent on the traffic: the more traffic the higher the ad revenues so it is dependent on the other goals. Mediavine started off quite well, already tripling my revenues with AdSense but it needs to multiple itself by five to hit my goal. Fingers crossed.
Sell 100 books
I really want to make the book launch a success. I already discussed a book launch event with Olga and I am very excited to finally have a paperback book out in the market. I want to leverage the book not only for the sales but also for the reputation and credibility it affords me.
Build my personal brand
In 2018 I want to build my personal brand as both an experienced and professional influencer and as a digital marketing consultant, something which I neglected because of my dual professional career at Google and as a blogger and my choosing to keep the two separate.
I want my expertise and industry credibility to be at the same level I had when I was a telecoms consultant and regularly got quoted in the press or invited to conferences. This was always valuable when talking to clients.
This is not something I am pursuing out of vanity but because I know that being a recognised expert and professional in an industry brings a lot of business opportunities and connections.
My unique position at the crossroad between bloggers and brands gives me a distinctive perspective and positioning and an interesting point of view to share with a variety of different audiences.
Speak at 3 relevant conferences
In line with my brand building efforts, conferences have been the reason why I decided to start monetising this blog and believed I could take it to the next level. I think they are very beneficial for a variety of reasons and I believe in networking without an agenda.
I am already scheduled to moderate a panel at a Digital Marketing event in Singapore and I hope I can also speak at TBEX Czech Republic this summer and at ITB Singapore in October. Being a recognised expert relies on the endorsement of speaking at events so this is my personal challenge for 2018.
Experiment with AdWords to increase revenues
I have had ads on AdWords for a long time, maybe three years. I started the account because I thought it would be useful to learn how the service works for my job at Google.
Blogs are interesting sites to advertise on AdWords because we don’t usually sell anything and it is unlikely that we will be able to outrank any of the heavy online advertisers in the travel world. In short, it is pretty hard for me, as a small blog, to outbid Expedia, Agoda or Hotels Combined for keywords related to my articles. They have deeper pockets and a high return for every person who clicks through to their Google Ads.
I chose to advertise articles that I knew I would be able to rank for, like those around North Korea, where the big travel companies cannot compete because they are not available (travel to North Korea is done entirely through a travel agency).
I have seen a lot of traffic come from AdWords, a few hundred every day, and have been meaning to invest more on posts that generate revenue to see if the investment pays off. That is, if I manage to drive 1,000 views to a post via AdWords at a cost of $20 and those 1,000 views generate $50 in revenue, then I should invest more because I gain $30 ($50 – $20) for every $20 I spend.
In order to track this, I had a free conversations with my Google AdWords account manager and managed to set up the tracking so I can now see if the math works for some of the posts.
The next step would be to optimise these posts to generate the most revenue through both affiliates and ads, then run some A/B testing.
Generate $2,000 from a niche site
I have already bought a few domains and have a very clear understanding of what the site will be about so me and my partner just need to get down to business and write the content.
It will be a very specific site devoted to a new concept that I hope can start to generate income straightaway. The revenues will come from Amazon affiliates but if it is successful, we may turn it into an ecommerce store instead.
Continue to travel
I got into this industry because of my real and deep passion for travel.
I am not a interested in slowing down and one of the reasons to start a blog and to continue exploring the world has always been to share my knowledge and passion with other travelers so I intend to make 2018 the year of travel and spend more nights than ever on the road.
I would like to end 2018 with 105 countries visited. I ended 2017 with 97 countries including Iceland and Denmark (which the Faroe Islands belongs to) so that is not an ambitious goal but a continuation of the trend in the past few years.
I would love to get out and travel more, but every time I go on a trip I am away from my laptop for a while and I then have large amounts of content to produce because I want to share everything with you so I need to be realistic.
Here is a fun fact, below are the numbers of nights that I have spent traveling in the last four years since i started tracking it.
Travel plans for 2018
In 2018 I have a few travel plans and also some press trips and collaborations with brands that I hope will materialise.
These are some of the places I plan to visit in the year.
1. Train journey across India. I took the Maharajas Express a few years ago before I had this blog, and would love to either repeat it or go on another train journey. I love train travel and have been on a few long train trips like the Trans-siberian, the train to Lhasa, the Blue Train from Joburg to Cape Town…
2. Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Because I love Africa. I have been to Tanzania dozens of times as I used to work there, but never made it to the Serengeti where a press trip will take me. I plan to extend the trip and then visit Rwanda and Burundi so my partner can go on a safari for the first time and we can both see the gorillas in Rwanda. I saw them in Uganda years ago, but would love to repeat the experience.
3. Caucasus region, in particular, I would like to make it to Georgia. My trip to Azerbaijan in August 2017 opened my eyes to that region and now I am looking forward to exploring more.
4. I would love to go on a cruise to Greenland. After winter in Iceland, I realised I need to return to that part of the world when the weather is warmer and see it green rather than covered in snow, so would love to repeat Iceland and Greenland.
5. In Asia, I am only missing a visit to Papua New Guinea and Bangladesh. While the former requires long term planning, Bangladesh should be a quick weekend getaway with my partner who speaks a bit of the language and has a lot of clients there.
6. I would love to spend more time in China as I have barely explored the vast country.
7. I would also like to make it to Somaliland and Israel, after having to cancel this year because of the security situation. These are trips I would rather do with Edwin so I will have to convince him to go with me.
8. Edwin’s birthday present this year consisted of a trip to some of the UK’s summer festivals. He loves opera, picnics and such but I am more keen on other things so I steered him towards the north of Scotland, to the real highlands and further north so I hope the previous one and this trip can be done in the summer months.
9. The Travel Bloggers Conference in the Czech Republic in the summer will also bring me to that country which I have visited before. And it will bring me closer to Europe for shorter escapes.
10. I will be traveling to Mexico in December 2018 because one of my best friends in Singapore is getting married there at the beginning of the month. Since Mexico is so far away, I will take the opportunity to have a quick vacation, pre-Christmas, in Cuba before heading home in Spain. It will be amazing to visit again, 17 years after my first ever trip outside of Spain in 2001.
The above list would bring me to 102 countries visited so i would have to add a few more if I want to hit my goal of 105. This can be easily achieved if I include some travel in Europe, a continent I have not visited much (I know, it is strange, but I prefer to go to lesser known places than the popular ones).
As a luxury travel blogger, I also have a list of resorts that I would love to stay at and review. Here are a few for 2018:
1. Bawah Island, Asia’s newest and most luxurious resort, only accessible from Singapore on a private seaplane and made of island and overwater villas.
2. Keemala, a resort that fascinated me ever since it opened and which is just around the corner in Phuket.
3. Four Seasons Tented Camp in Chiang Mai has been on my radar for years but their very expensive price tag has deterred me, hopefully 2018 is the year I finally make it there.
Wrapping up December
December has been a quieter month than usual as I took real holidays, something I do not do very often these days when I can go on for days and days without taking one off. Having a full time job and two blogs is time sucking.
I had a lot of goals and achievements I wanted to complete before the year end and I managed and for that, I am grateful and happy. Although my income tanked this month, I am not worried because I expected it and I made peace with it.
Let me know what your thoughts are, what you would love to see more of, less of and what questions come to mind. Also, if anything is not clear, drop me a line. My contact details are in the Contact page.
Looking forward to another great month.