blog income report May 2018 main

Welcome to my blog income report for May 2018!

Me with the Gorillas in Rwanda

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 with the gorillas of Rwanda. Yep, that is the silverback!

This blog is a little over four years old and is about luxury and out of the ordinary travel. If you are keen to read about one of the 100 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.

Should I also publish my own blog income report?

Deciding to do so was not an easy or obvious choice. But like I always say with everything in my life:

What is the worst that can happen?

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 had a full time job  – For the first 4 years of running the blog and for 15 years in total, I had a full time job for various corporations. This was up until January 2018, when I decided to focus my attention on the blogs and influencer work completely and handed in my resignation for my job at Google. 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.

Previous 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.

Blogging was therapeutic for me, akin to meditation

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 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 had a full time job until February 2018 so revenue was 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 outsource

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 Pinterest.

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 was 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 not changed since monetising my blog, nor do I intend 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.

In August 2017, I decided to pause the sponsored stay work for a while and pay for my trips. This was for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to avoid the very significant extra work that comes with having to fulfil 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 became 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.

In the second half of 2017 I paid for almost all my trips and in the first half of 2018 this has continued albeit with some selective collaborations now that I have time to travel more flexibly.

But this has not changed my approach to working with brands and this 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 if that is the hotel I want to showcase on my blog.

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 a few 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 May 2018

May was an incredibly busy month. A friend of mine who is also a blogger at Mapping Megan, wrote something which I came to realise too a while ago: You are either traveling or you are blogging but both things at the same time are not really possible. Being a travel blogger is a bit of an oxymoron for a lot of us.

That being said, I know bloggers who are literally on the road, writing articles in a bus while on a press trip, or doing social media on their phones their our way somewhere. They are real full time travel bloggers. I found that very stressful and unproductive and not suitable to my research-heavy style of writing.

To write properly I need internet. My articles are very well researched, they are full of data and facts, and they are extremely well supported. When you are on a bus and getting interrupted every few minutes, the internet is not reliable and your writing suffers.

A lot of travel bloggers don’t actually travel. They write about travel and they travel occasionally, but they are not on the road. I travel 40-50% of my time and that means that I am not blogging 40-50% of my time.

When I come back from a trip I then have even more content to produce, articles to write and several social media posts to schedule. In May this was extreme as I was in Rwanda for 10 days and that is a country without a lot written about it. And I loved my trip. So I was away until the 12th of May and spent the rest of the month writing the articles from the trip.

As a consequence, there was no time whatsoever to do anything else than just try to complete all the articles from the trip so everything else was on hold.

Cal obviously still works on the rest of the fundamentals, but he also needs to spend time uploading my articles and creating the videos, so when I return from a trip both him and I devote most of the time to the content production from the trip.

Travel in May 2018

Remember I ended April in Somaliland? Here are some of the articles you can read about this Somali province.

Fun, interesting and unique facts about Somaliland

Safety in Somaliland – is Somaliland safe to visit?

Travel guide and things to do in Somaliland

Guide to the Laas Geel cave paintings in Somaliland

Who can resist this little baby gorilla?

Who can resist this little baby gorilla?

In May, as I mentioned before, I spent just over 10 days in Rwanda. This was a trip that I had been planning since October when I met the Rwanda Development Board and Thousand Hills Africa at the travel conference ITB Asia in Singapore.

I spent a long time working in Uganda between 2008-2009 but I had never made it to Rwanda. To be fair, at the time, Rwanda was not what it is today. The country was still recovering from the tragic genocide and tourism infrastructure was not what it is today. Rwanda was simply known as one of the countries you could trek with mountain gorillas.

The country has come a really long way since those days and is now one of the best success stories in the African continent. It is clean (they banned plastic bags in 2008), it is incredibly safe and it has great infrastructure.

I spent 10 days crisscrossing the country and visiting its main areas. Did you know that Rwanda is now home to the Big Five safari animals? Or that it is home to the Dian Fossey Research Fund and original forest cabin? Rwanda is one of the best places to see the mountain gorillas and now, also a great overall destination.

If you are keen to read more, here are all the posts about Rwanda and the gorillas. Tip: Do not miss watching the video on gorilla facts, it is super interesting and also very cool with lots of gorilla footage.

Kigali travel: Things to do in Kigali, where to eat and best hotels to stay

A stay at Bisate Lodge, Rwanda’s luxury gorilla lodge

Fun and interesting facts about gorillas you may not know

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda – Everything you need to know

Comparing mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda vs Uganda vs DRC

Rwanda tourism and travel guide: things to see, attractions and national parks

Progress on the blog in May 2018

Well, as mentioned, the month was slow on the fundamentals of the blog because I focused on the trip and the content production post-trip so there was no time left for anything else.

This month though I asked Cal to start focusing on promoting the existing articles. We always say a blog is a publication and so it is all about Content Marketing yet we spend more time on content than on marketing, sometimes not even any time on the marketing part. So I decided that we should regroup a bit and focus the latter part of May and most of June on the marketing element of all of our content.

I have seen great results when locals share our content and sometimes it is just as easy as letting them know we have written about them. I first experienced that with my Pakistan articles which went viral and were shared thousands of times. It was an easy formula: if you write about a place nobody ever writes anything positive about you are likely going to do something the locals will love. And this is what happened.

I have seen this happen also with two other countries: Azerbaijan and El Salvador. They are both misunderstood countries where either there is a negative perception (i.e. El Salvador is more associated with crime and drug trafficking than it is with beautiful beaches, world-class surf and heritage) or no perception at all.

So rather than letting the universe follow its course and hope that it will pick our articles and show them to the right audience, we will make sure those who could be interested, see them. And this is what June will be all about. But Cal started already in the last few days of May.

Planning a trip to the Maldives

Something which has also taken a significant amount of time in the second half of May is the planning of a trip to the Maldives.

My first trip to the Maldives at Six Senses Laamu

My first trip to the Maldives at Six Senses Laamu

I have been to the country twice, to stay at the Conrad Rangali (with its underwater restaurant) and the Six Senses Laamu. No doubt that the Maldives is a beautiful country with stunning islands and amazing marine life (like mantas you can dive with) and I am lucky enough to live only a few short hours away from it with a few daily flight connections.

Together with Sabrina from Just One Way Ticket, we have been planning a trip in November. The Maldives is a remarkably expensive country with lots of very premium luxury resorts with matching nightly rates so we wanted to work with a few resorts creating content for them.

Aside from how wonderful a trip to the Maldives would be, that is extra interesting for me because one of my best performing posts is about the Maldives and because my Luxury resorts in the Maldives post does quite well too.

So we reached out to a few hotels suggesting partnership opportunities with the two of us. For the resorts it is a double win as they get twice the exposure while we can easily share a villa if necessary. For us, we get to travel to the Maldives with someone for an extended period of time, something which would be tough to do with our respective significant others because they both have jobs. And we also build our portfolio.

Why am I writing about this? Because this was a great learning for me.

Most bloggers and content creators reach out to hospitality brands with an offer of promotion and what I call ego-boosting reviews. The majority of these reviews are great for the marketing teams to show their management and also to boast on social media and on the website under media coverage. They have value, but it is short-lived.

Social media coverage has an even shorter lived value as the social media posts rarely get read or seen after the first few days they are posted. Sabrina and I offered the resorts two things on top of the above: content creation which they can reuse and inclusion on some of my best performing posts. That is, the brands will get promotion and traffic straightaway as these posts are already read 8,000-10,000 times a month and refer about 100 bookings to the hotels mentioned every-single-month.

What I learned from taking this approach:

1. A lot of resorts still focus on the short term value of a pretty Instagram photo with a filter. We were declined by a few hotels because our social media following was not in the hundreds of thousands. Combined, we have 400,000 followers on social split across all networks, but we do not have 100,000 in any. These hotels did not understand the value of the immediate ROI they would get from being included in a post that is read thousands of times every month, they just wanted the pretty IG photo that will most likely bring them zero bookings (and even if it did, they would not be able to accurately track) or their objectives were focused elsewhere.

2. There is a new wave of digital media savvy professionals who are able to see through the headline social media vanity numbers and the pretty filters and understand long term value instead. They were quick to respond and show interest and they understood the ROI we were offering them.

3. There is a different set of resorts who are starting to understand the value of bloggers as content creators and negotiate a collaboration based on assets they will be able to reuse. For example, the Sheraton Maldives hired us to create a video for them because that was their biggest need and hiring a production company requires models (with very expensive loading rates) and is significantly more expensive than using a content creator like us. The Residence wanted professional photos for the same reasons.

So yes, I am heading to the Maldives in November and will be working with a few resorts but stay tuned to find out which ones!

I am really excited to visit such beautiful country but also because I am positive that we are offering the brands we will be working with undisputed value they will be able to quantify.

Airline collaborations

I have yet to work with any airlines to date. I have always managed to book my flights with miles and have always continued to write reviews of the flights in premium classes because that is my niche. Through the years I have flown thousands of times and with many airlines. I have a big box entirely filled with boarding cars from all the fights I have taken in the last 13 years.

Yep, that is correct, I have kept them all! It is incredible but true. What is most funny is that, in case you didn’t realise, most boarding passes have no year on the date field. That means that you could have two boarding passes with the same date from different years and to different destinations. And I do!

And you know I am a little bit crazy because I actually went through many of the boarding passes and wrote down the airlines I have flown here. How crazy is that.

At the conferences last month I actually met the local team for Lufthansa and we have been discussing a collaboration for my summer trip home so I will be flying with them Business Class with my partner to film the trip and make a video and a review, stay tuned.

Consulting opportunities

This is an area that has been growing steadily even if I have not had any time to actually create a website for it.

The pool at Andaz Singapore

The pool at Andaz Singapore

There is a lot of demand for digital marketing consulting to travel brands and even the largest companies need help. I do a variety of projects here and in May I signed a contract with Andaz Singapore to help them with a variety of things in that realm, from vetting influencers to creating social media ads with A/B tests and also improving their online visibility and SEO to work on awareness of the brand.

This is a collaboration that came from the conference when the Marketing Director approached me to discuss and it has been great being recognised as an expert, even though my talk was not about that. The contract will forget a relationship that will extend to 4 to 6 months and is project driven, with deliverables and timelines. Most importantly, I know I can help them out with my expertise and complement their great team.


Oh my…

GDPR really drove me crazy in May, it took my sleep away and it killed me for a whole week when all I could hear, read and worry about was GDPR. With so much revenue coming from ads I could not risk non-compliance even if I don’t actually have much EU traffic, and so for a whole week this occupied 100% of my mental bandwidth.

I still get messages today and I still have to deal with some parts of it today. I feel that because of the last minute rush for everyone we all just clicked Accept because we were overloaded and did not care anymore.

If you live in Europe you probably noticed the warning on my site. If you accepted, thank you, this helps me with advertising revenues and better targeted ads so you don’t get an ad for nappies if you are a single person without any children in your life.

Personal Life

In May I pretty much tried to escape social engagements to have as much focus as possible to work on the blog but there were also a lot of meetings from the two conferences in April which took place during the month.

I still managed to co-host a large gin tasting party at home which my flatmate put together. Everyone had to bring a bottle of rare gin and we tried them all. She prepared all the garnishes and mixers and we ended up with 20 bottles of gin!

Not many other developments on the personal front other than the fact that my flatmate has found a job in Dubai and will be moving out so I will have to find a new place again. Really painful since I only just moved here and every time I spend $1,000 in moving costs but I never really liked living here. The location is too far removed and it has made my life miserable, so moving out will be an opportunity to find a better place.

Revenues in the month of May 2018

May was very similar to April staying at the same level which is good but I need to break the $10,000 mark for income which I hope to do in June or July.

Here is the breakdown of May’s revenues:

–> S$ 1,495 From Brand collaborations

–> S$ 230 Accommodation affiliates

–> S$ 1,153 Ad revenues

–> S$4,425 from Digital Marketing Consulting

 TOTAL blog income in May 2018: S$ 7,093 

 TOTAL blog value in May 2018: S$ 13,983 

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.

Advertising revenues

Mediavine advertising revenues have continued to grow and are reaching relevant and stable levels. They should now be growing with more traffic and probably I can take a look and try to optimise a few of the things to make sure they are set up in the best way. I still have AdSense on my Singapore n Beyond blog but that is a fraction of my Mediavine revenues.

The revenue from ads this month stayed the same as the previous month despite a small increase in traffic and I can probably blame GDPR for it. Just because I want to!

Actually May just had a slow start to the month and while the trend was upwards, I still did not manage to bump it up. I have not had any time to focus on optimising some posts to return to being perfectly optimised for ads as per Mediavine’s recommendations, so I will spend some time on it in June.

Content creation

This month I did a few campaigns among which a last minute collaboration with the Italian Trade Association in the US to promote Italian premium wines.

I love wine, I have it every week and if you have been following you know I also love visiting wineries and I grew up in one so this was a natural fit for my blog. I have even visited wineries in Italy. I enjoyed very much writing it and even tasted a few new wines from Italy during the month to make sure I had the right experience to talk about it from a pairing point of view and I could take some pictures to use in the article.

Check it out if you like wine too, there are some really interesting facts and the history behind 5 of the best red wines of Italy and suggestions on how best to pair them, maybe you can impress your friends on your next night out!

Red wines made in Italy main

Influencer and digital marketing consulting

With the contract signed with Andaz this is taking off fast and I need to start leveraging the learnings and the connections to get more clients with similar needs. The work that I will be doing with them is guaranteed to help so I am confident it can be replicated with others.

One of the campaigns I was doing in the previous months came to an end and we did not manage to extend into Phase 2 of the project which involved a longer and more in-depth collaboration with a brand ambassador. Nonetheless, there were a lot of learnings and we have just put the relationship on hold rather than stop it, so this could be revived in the future.

Affiliate revenues

It seems that the accommodation affiliate revenues are starting to take off. Since moving to Agoda I have seen a relevant increase in the value as Agoda pays a commission on the value of the booking and I am a luxury travel blog, however, since I am using Agoda directly via their own affiliate program, I also realise there is a very long lead time between someone booking and me getting paid.

For starters, Agoda only pays once the client has paid them, so they need to book, travel, check out and pay. And then there is a high minimum threshold of $200 before Agoda makes payments out so it is taking a while but I like the higher payout amounts and need to continue pushing for these posts to perform better so I can capitalise on the traffic.

Interesting statistics for May 2018

There are a few other statistics and elements of the blog that are worth tracking and noting.

Domain Authority

I have decided not to continue tracking Moz DA. It is distracting and it does not bring me any value. Traffic brings money, DA does not and while it is a good measure of the diversification of my links and my online presence, I prefer to focus my efforts on building a solid, value-adding blog people return to because it provides them with valuable information.

Value from sponsored stays

In May I collaborated with Thousands Hills Africa and the Development Board of Rwanda plus all the local partners to organise a 10 day trip through the country.

Rwanda is a fascinating place but it has gone for a full premium tourism strategy that has priced gorilla permits at $1,500 per person. The best resorts can be $3,000+ per night for two people. If you add it all up I had been quoted well over $20,000 for two people for a 10-day trip. This is an amount which I cannot justify at this point.

However, I have something that can help the country promote itself and increase awareness. Rwanda has come a long way since the 1994 genocide and is now a serious tourism contender to other East African countries and I wanted to visit, see for myself and share it with the world.

I did not visit like most people do: come in, go to the genocide museum, head to the Volcanoes National Park for the gorilla trekking and leave. I gave it enough time to get under its skin, to live the country, to explore the lesser visited parts and to get to know it better, and it did not disappoint.

In exchange, I did not get a free trip, I still paid for the gorilla permits, making my contribution to the local communities and to the conservation of the majestic endangered mountain gorillas, but got discounts at most lodges and a hosted stay at Bisate Lodge, Rwanda’s most luxurious property and one of the most breathtaking lodges in Africa. And it was magical.

I listed my articles on Rwanda above but here they are again:

Kigali travel: Things to do in Kigali, where to eat and best hotels to stay

A stay at Bisate Lodge, Rwanda’s luxury gorilla lodge

Fun and interesting facts about gorillas you may not know

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda – Everything you need to know

Comparing mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda vs Uganda vs DRC

Rwanda tourism and travel guide: things to see, attractions and national parks

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 or post, rest assured I paid for it as I do in more than 90% of my travels.

Traffic and readership

Traffic increased from April significantly and so did the number of sessions, which is the determining factor in advertising revenues. My readers spend a long time on the site and they also visit more than one page, usually 2 on average.

This month the blog stayed at 97,000 page views, inching closer to 100,000 and the year-end target of 200,000. My current obsession is definitively on traffic rather than on anything else and I am painstakingly working towards boosting it. Summer months will help as a lot of my content is seasonal, but the goal will be for it not to drop after the summer ends.

Traffic in May

Traffic vs Revenue in May

You can also take a look at the split between active and passive income as that is something I am keenly monitoring.

Passive vs Active income in May

Passive vs Active income in May

My objective is to maximise the red column there so that I can reduce the blue one and have the life that everyone thinks I have and which I don’t: Permanent holidays.

I am strongly focusing on growing affiliates and traffic and hope that for the second part of the year this revenue stream coupled with ads will help me triple my passive income, my favorite type of income.

Business opportunities I declined

SEO companies around the world (notably from India) have become more and more aggressive and I have started to mark emails as Spam when they repeatedly email me. Their strategies are becoming wiser and the tricks pulled to get a link from my blog to their client are starting to be quite crazy. In case you don’t know, brands will usually buy links from other websites because this increases their Domain Authority, one of the signals Google uses to decide who to rank highest on the search results of a specific keyword or query.

A couple of months ago I heard one of the most amazing strategies, done by a church no less. A friend of mine who is a blogger shared that she had received an email from a church who wanted her to link to their website and were offering her salvation and prayer as payment. A noble offer, since I am guessing this is what they have the most of.

2018 Goals

I set these goals in January so let’s see how we have progressed in the first months of the year.

AreaGoal for 2018January progress
TrafficBring traffic to 200,000 across both blogsReally need to push it hard here as it is not growing fast enough.
Domain AuthorityIncrease to 45Decided to give up. I spend far too much time worrying about this despite there seems to be less and less correlation between DA and actual rankings. Google is far smarter these days and gives the readers their best answer so I only want to focus on that. I became a travel writer because I loved to share stories of unknown places and DA is getting in the way of that.
Influencer and digital marketing practiceSet up Once in a Lifetime Media

Build the revenues to $15,000 a month
This keeps getting postponed as I get more and more work and have no time to fix the basics, I really want to make this a priority for the summer when I stay put for two months (yay!) and create a great website for the business. Hiring a person will have to be a priority soon if this is to materialise.
Build Case Studies of campaigns (formerly TrustPilot)Create 5 case studies with impact and resultsI am collecting the data but I have not had time to prepare the materials, another for the summer!
Press KitRevamp and improveYay! I have a new press kit that is really nice, now I need to put it up on the site!
Affiliate revenueIncrease revenues to $1,000Getting here with Agoda and hopefully Context Travel will also help there. It has been a learning curve but we are getting there I think.
BookSell 100 booksAnother area where I procrastinate, I hope the summer will be the time when it will finally happen. Meanwhile, hundreds of pages are being read through the Kindle borrowing scheme but the online reporting system from Amazon is SO terrible that you don’t even know when and how you are paid, it is appalling and shameful that such a big company has such backwards system.
Advertising revenueMake $1,500 a monthOn track, could possibly exceed and then will create a stretch goal.
Personal brandingBuild my personal brand
-Interview filmed waiting to be aired soon
-Two conferences on my belt and more to come end of the year
- Currently working on slots for speaking or attending ITB and WIT in October
Niche SiteBuild a site generating $2,000 a monthNot started, may not even start it at all.
AdWordsTest AdWords budgeting and monetisationI decided to decrease the spend on AdWords this month to see what would happen.
TravelContinue to travel and reach 105 countries visited. Beat my 140 days on the road personal record- So far this year I have added Rwanda, Somaliland and Ethiopia and reached my 100th country!
- Albania and Montenegro are planned
- Currently working on Argentina and maybe Dominican republic (or Cuba again)

Wrapping up May 2018

It seems that my income levels have stabilised around S$7,500-8,000 and I need to push them to cross the S$10,000 mark which may require a strong push for passive income or hiring a new person to help me with some tasks. For now, we keep trying.

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.