Before we begin…
I wrote this post originally back in February but I never published it. Whenever I’m between backpacking trips, I always try to write as much as possible so that I can still put out regular content when I’m on the road. However, unfortunately blog drafts sometimes get forgotten, buried underneath a mountain of other posts, and I don’t find them until, uh, 9 months later in this case.
In the last 9 months I have come SO far with my blog. I have increased my traffic tenfold, I have really knuckled down and studied SEO (and actually spent good money doing so), I’ve attended a blogging conference, worked with brands, participated in my first press trip, and just basically figured my sh!t out.
I mean, if you asked me back in February what my ‘niche’ was, I’d respond with ‘Uh…travel? Solo travel maybe?’
Now, of course, I have created a much narrower focus, and my elevator pitch is that I write about lesser known destinations in Europe as well as raising awareness of modern day slavery worldwide. Sounds a bit more impressive, right?
Because things have changed so much when it comes to my approach to blogging, I considered not posting this at all. I mean, so much of it won’t be relevant, right?
However, not only would that mean that I’d wasted hours and hours writing this in the first place, but I thought it would also be fun to look back at how things have changed for me between then and now. In this post, I will leave all of my original thoughts there for you to read, before following on each point with how I feel about that particular issue now. I will put these later contemplations in bold and italics like this, and I will also add ‘November thoughts’ so that you can spot them.
Does that make sense? Probably not, but let’s try.
Let’s go all the way back to what I said in February 2019…
I’ve been blogging for more than half my life. I created my first blog on LiveJournal, before moving quickly to Blogspot, and then onto WordPress.com (basically the free version of what I use now, which is WordPress.org).
For years and years, I never even knew that blogging was a business. The blog that I had before this was comprised of opinion pieces on controversial topics such as free speech, abortion, rape culture and sex trafficking. It wasn’t monetised, and I had no idea about things like keyword research and search engine optimisation (making sure your page ranks highly on Google).
Even when I learned that people earn a living from blogs, money was never my motivating factor when it came to creating this blog. I decided to write about travel when I began a full time traveller, and although I always wanted Travelling Jezebel to be big, it was never because I wanted to make money from it.
I started blogging because I wanted people to hear what I had to say.
I invested money into this blog because I love it. Writing is my happy place, and it is genuinely the thing that fulfills me more than than anything else in this world (yes, even travelling!).
That said, you can’t build an empire on love alone, and if I only concentrated on writing blog posts without thinking about the million and one other things that matter as a blogger, I’d be screaming into the abyss.
Those ‘million and one other things’ are all the things that I hate about blogging, and I’m going to use this time to rant about each and every single one of them because IT’S MY BLOG and, uh, yeah..
So, ladies and gents, make yourselves a cup of tea (or crack open a beer) and get comfortable because it’s going to be a long one.
Here is every single thing I hate about blogging!
What even is keyword research anyway?!
I am part of quite a few Facebook groups for bloggers. Those groups have been a lifesaver to me at times when I’ve wanted to bang my head against a wall because of some blogging tech issue.
However, being part of so many groups about blogging has made me realise just how much I don’t know about blogging. I always knew the basics about keyword research (essentially, using phrases in your writing that people are typing into Google), but I had no idea that people got themselves so worked up about it!
I’ve seen posts where people have admitted to being in tears after spending hours trying to find a decent keyword. I’ve read entire comment threads about whether it’s more important to choose a keyword with a high amount of average monthly searches or how competitive the keyword is. I’ve heard about short and longtail keywords, related search terms and more other jargon than you could shake a stick at.
Now look – I’m not trying to hate on anyone that spends hours analysing trends in keywords. I’m just saying that as a writer, it’s one of the things that disheartens me about blogging.
I mean sure, I’ll spend some time looking for keyword ideas and trying to make sure that I’m getting a few of them into my posts, but I’m not losing sleep over it! Writing purely for Google is all well and good if it’s just numbers you’re after, but if you ask me, blogs that are stuffed with keywords lack soul and don’t make for good reading. If you want people to actually stick around and become a long term reader of your blog, then you’re going to need to produce personable content that is attractive to people, and not just Google.
November thoughts – To an extent, I still agree with this. I definitely invest a lot more time now than I used to on keyword research, but I have yet to pay for Keysearch (I use the free tool Ubersuggest by Neil Patel), and I wouldn’t let the fact that I couldn’t rank for a particular topic deter me from writing about it.
I do play around with different keywords, checking out the search volume and how much competition I have, and as a result of that I am #1 on Google for a TONNE of keywords, which is awesome. That said, if I’m passionate about something and only 2 people per month are searching for that thing, I’m not going to let that stop me from writing 5000 words about it.
If my blog is my business, then social media is one of my business tools.
However, with the blogging giants spending up to 8 hours a day just on Instagram (for real guys), social media definitely feels like less of a fun pastime and more like an obligation sometimes.
I try and do all of the things that the top bloggers swear by – engaging with followers and relevant hashtags, following accounts similar to my own, using the best hashtags for my niche and posting at the optimum times (and then staying online to engage with all of the people engaging with that post) – but with so many bloggers playing the follow/unfollow game and using secret comment pods to boost their engagement, it can feel like an uphill battle, and that’s just on Instagram!
November thoughts – I’ve pretty much given up on social media. I do love Facebook, and I find that it is my biggest social driver of traffic, but I am tired of losing the Instagram game.
Brands may like creators who have a massive IG following, but the facts are that Instagram is just not a good driver of traffic to my site (and from what I hear, to most people’s). It is so draining trying to beat the algorithm, and I would much rather invest my time and energy into something like SEO, which DOES drive traffic, and is definitely less of a risk long term. I mean, Instagram could go bust tomorrow, and then where will all the IG stars be? Remember the Vine crew? Yeah, I don’t want that to be me.
Is it me or are all travel influencers the same?!
If you follow a few big travel accounts on Instagram then you’ve probably seen the following pictures a million times:
That riyad in Marrakech with the swimming pool in the middle and the hot girl relaxing, shot from above.
That picture of all the hot air balloons at sunrise in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Now, I’m not throwing shade to the pictures themselves because they’re beautiful, and I don’t blame bloggers for seeing a certain type of picture getting a lot of engagement and wanting to recreate it. It’s business. That’s how it works.
However as a consumer, I’m bored with seeing the SAME chick eating the SAME breakfast in the SAME Balinese resort with the SAME ‘inspirational’ caption about how ‘we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars’ and the like.
I want a blogger with integrity. I want a blogger that I feel as though I know. I want to see a blogger with a personality beyond being a sexy Instagram gal with a few fake deep quotes saved in her phone.
November thoughts – this was poorly phrased, so allow me to clarify. I know that there are influencers out there doing their own thing. I know that there are POC influencers, disabled influencers, influencers from all age groups, religions and cultures, and I know that these influencers are bringing real conversations to the table (and so are some skinny blonde chicks too #notallwhitegirls).
HOWEVER, the main creators that we see featured on IG and the ones that are making the megabucks are all the same, and this annoys me. I want to see more diversity within the travel industry, and I want more integrity. If you’re a solo female traveller and you visit Marrakech, sure, show me the gorgeous riyad you stayed in, but also tell me how it was traversing the city as a lone female traveller. Tell me how you wear treated by the men, what you felt comfortable wearing and how safe you felt. Give me VALUE, not just a pretty picture.
Talking of integrity, I hate all the influencers selling me a dream
Or perhaps I should say ‘trying’ to sell me a dream, because it’s so transparent it’s laughable. You know the types. The flashy Facebook ads showing a tanned guy diving from a waterfall with an inspirational paragraph about how ‘I quit my job, so you can too! All you have to do is just sign up for my course and you can travel the world for free!’
The formula is simple – say that having a 9 to 5 is suffocating and seemingly impossible to ‘break free’ of, before going on to say that it is possible to travel the world for free, living the dream, making a 6 figure income from some vague digital concept and that it is SO easy that just by paying for an online course, this ‘digital nomad’ will share all their wisdom with you and make you rich as well.
Now, I cannot say FOR SURE that all of these courses are BS.
Actually, scratch that. Yes.
Yes I can.
All of these ‘make a 6 figure income from blogging’ courses are BS scams and I am sick of seeing them on my newsfeed.
(By the way, if you’re doubting any of this then just ask any of the 500 people that Aggie from Travel in Her Shoes scammed – they paid 500 bucks each for a course in how to be Instagram famous, only for Aggie to disappear due to ‘lack of wifi.’)
November thoughts – I am still sick of these influencers exploiting naive people who are not fulfilled in life. If these guys are making SOOO much money with their mysterious ‘online businesses’, then WHY are they pushing these courses so much?!
They aren’t just doing this out of the goodness of their hearts! They aren’t making the money that they claim to be making, and so they’re creating overpriced courses filled with fluff because they need another way of making cash.
IT IS A LIE. If you want to know how to create an online business, take a real class, buy some books, learn some shit on your own. Do not trust these influencers (most of whom have no qualifications to be teaching you anything btw) to make you successful.
In February I mentioned how Aggie from Travel in Her Shoes was kind of a bad person/scam artist. Now that she has worked with the Saudi government to promote Saudi Arabia, I seem to have been proven right.
The numbers game, and the fact that I care about it!
My Instagram goal has always been to get 10,000 followers. With 10k comes the ‘swipe up’ link in your Instagram story and THEN the blog traffic. In theory. However, if I do hit 10,000 followers, I’ll want 20,000, and then 50,000, and then 100,000. When does it stop?
The answer is never.
The big Instagram stars out there obsess over their follower count.
They’re never satisfied. It’s never enough.
I’m at a stage now where I feel as though I genuinely like my followers. I interact with people from all around the world and we write thoughtful comments on each others posts and reply to each others stories, and I love that. I’d much rather have 10 genuine comments from people who have read my blog and are really talking to ME over 1000 thoughtless automated comments saying ‘great shot! great feed! great post!‘ over and over again.
However, as is the nature of the beast, I flit between being satisfied with my modest following and being frustrated by it. This year, as much as I’d like for my follower count to keep increasing, I’m not aiming for the stars with Instagram. If I can build a community of people that I can really connect with, then I’ll take that over the follower count any day of the week.
November thoughts – yeah, I really couldn’t care less about IG followers anymore, haha.
The tech stuff…
So in January I wanted an SSL certificate for my site’s security which my hosting provider wouldn’t give to me, so I had to switch hosts to claim the SSL, migrate my site to the new host and point the DNS to a new location.
Did you understand any of that?
YEAH I DIDN’T EITHER.
What they don’t tell you about blogging is that you also have to learn all of this other stuff that is just not made for us creative types, let me tell you! I’ve said sentences in the past couple of months that I never would have dreamed of because I didn’t know the concepts existed!
I’ve studied page speed, I’ve checked backlinks and my dofollow to nofollow ratio. I’ve installed and deleted more plugins then I care to count, had meltdowns when I’ve realised ALL THE ALT TAGS ON MY IMAGES ARE WRONG and wondered what even is an alt tag anyway?!
I’ve worked super hard on building my DA (domain authority for all of you numptys out there who aren’t TECH SAVVY BLOGGERS like me), because that’s what all the bloggers said mattered, and was so proud when I increased from 17 to 24 in only a month, only NOW all the same bloggers are saying DA doesn’t mean sh!t and it’s SO 2018 DARLING.
I’ve also bashed my head against walls, threatened to throw my laptop out of the window and thought SCREW YOU GOOGLE I DON’T CARE ABOUT RANKING ANYWAY (but I really do, sry, pls forgive me xo) more times then I care to count, and still grit my teeth and smile when people tell me that blogging isn’t hard work.
November thoughts – I do still grit my teeth and smile when people ask me what my actual job is. Every single job I’ve ever had, people seem to tell me that it isn’t a ‘real’ job, from charity fundraising to bed making, freelance writing and even owning online marketplace-type stores that generate a constant stream of passive income. Blogging is no different, and so I guess I’ll just have to get used to people assuming that I don’t work hard on this website.
While I have come a long way in understanding the techy side of blogging, I still get confused on a daily basis. I still wonder why certain things will randomly stop working, and just the other day I found myself asking ‘um, what is a name tag and where is it and why do I need to change it?!’
I guess some things will never change.
And last, but by no means least, THE EMAILS (my god, the emails…)
The first few times people email you as a blogger wanting to work with you or collaborate, it’s a really nice feeling. Wow, someone’s noticed me, you think.
However, you soon begin to realise that most of the emails really aren’t all that. From agencies wanting to pay me to put spammy links in my posts, to people wanting to advertise SUVs on my site (?!) to people promising me that my readers would just LOVE it if I promoted their wall panels (?!?!) in exchange for an Amazon gift card, I’ve seen it all.
Not only are the offers bizarre, but a good 99% of people that contact me don’t even bother checking what my name is (my email address is literally my full name). I’ve been addressed as Jezebel, Daniela, Daniel, and the most recent email just began “Dear .”
It’s also crazy to me how people send requests for guests posts that are just full of spelling and grammatical errors. I mean, I’m no Shakespeare, but I at least expect somebody writing for my website to be able to string a sentence together…is that so unreasonable?!
November thoughts – As readers of this blog will know, I have a real vendetta against the UAE. I have published MULTIPLE articles about why Dubai and the UAE suck, and I am pretty sure I am on an Emirates watchlist.
My article about slavery in Dubai generates more traffic than anything else on this site, and is ranked #1 on Google for multiple keywords.
Explain to me then, why my most recent guest post request was for articles about HOW TO PLAN A BUDGET TRIP TO DUBAI AND WHY DUBAI IS THE PERFECT HONEYMOON DESTINATION.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I GIVE UP.
And then there’s the fact that despite ALL of this, I do it all anyway, because I love it
There’s the fact that no matter how many times I’ve felt stressed, frustrated and defeated, I’ve never even considered giving up, not for one second.
Despite how much of an uphill battle this sometimes feels like, I can’t ever see myself not blogging.
I love this little place on the internet. It’s something that I can truly say that I am proud of, and that I can call my own. My relationship with Travelling Jezebel has been the best relationship I’ve had, and just like any relationship, there are always going to be some days that are better than others.
I love this blog, and I love every single thoughtful comment and message that I get from someone telling me that I inspired them to visit a certain place, or that I gave them the push they needed to finally book a solo trip. THAT is what makes all of this hard work worth it for me, and that is why I won’t be going anywhere soon.
If you read all of this, and you’ve followed Travelling Jezebel’s journey so far, then truly, thank you.
You are the reason I do this.
November thoughts – It’s true. It’s frustrating and difficult and tiring and downright nonsensical sometimes but in blogging, I have found my passion. I have a voice here on the internet, and no matter how much hard work it is, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing my rankings increase and my numbers climb.
I may bitch about all of the annoying techy things that I have to learn, but secretly I love learning how to optimise my site in order to see the best results. I love implementing new strategies and seeing my hard work be rewarded by Google. I love it, and I won’t stop doing it.