Two Years Blogging – A Retrospective
Is blogging dead?
It’s the question that’s on the lips (or fingertips) of everyone who spends a considerable amount of time in the online world.
And it’s a sad fact that many of my favourite bloggers rarely post anymore. They’ve taken to Instagram or Snapchat to tell their stories. Their vlogs have taken off. Or they’ve been consumed by their life outside of a computer, which is definitely not a bad thing.
However – I’m a bookworm. Reading has always been my favourite format in which to consume information. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. So I hope and pray, as long as people like myself exist, blogging will not die out completely.
Two years isn’t a long time in the blogging world. Most of the big players have been around for close to a decade – or longer. Yet, I’ve seen blogs that are barely older than mine, or even younger make an impact online. And have felt genuinely happy for these people. They write well, they put the time in and their hard work is paying off. Some of these blogs are actually now my favourites on the internet and I look forward to their being updated.
Yet, if I were a psychic with a crystal ball, how would I have felt, looking one year on from the 7th of November, 2015?
I think I would have had mixed feelings.
The struggle of blogging
Blogging truly is a labour of love. I don’t make an income from my work on Birdgehls. In that regard, it’s a passion that could be viewed as largely a waste of time.
I realise the hours I pour into Birdgehls could be better spent pitching publications, working on my book, editing my travel videos, drawing or writing scripts. These are all things I like doing. And they are all things that I’ve rarely had time to pursue, over the last twelve months.
Yet, I continue to blog, quite simply because I enjoy it. I’m forever writing up ideas for future blog posts, taking down notes or penning stories in my head.
This blog has done a lot for me. I’m a better writer for it. My photography has improved. I’ve made new online friends thanks to my presence on the Internet. I have two year’s worth of writing portfolio, that contains many posts that I worked hard on and am immensely proud of. The fact that I’ve stuck with this for TWENTY FOUR MONTHS is a point of celebration in itself!
The trouble with time
That being said – this year has been mental.
In last year’s travel plans I said I wanted to travel less.
Then, I decided to move back to Australia and that notion went completely out the window.
When I wasn’t travelling, I was either working to afford the travel, hanging with friends, or spending quality time with my beloved boyfriend. Something or things had to give in order to sustain this lifestyle. Those things were usually my health, or this blog.
As a result, I’ve blogged far less than I’d hoped to this year. As I got busier, I tried to aim for an average of one post a week and sometimes failed to hit even that.
Due to the advice of others, I became obsessed with “finding a niche”. Up until this year, Birdgehls was a blog that was vaguely about expat life and travel.
TOO GENERALISED! I declared to myself. Surely I had to find something I was interested in writing about and STICK SOLELY TO THAT.
So, I experimented with writing this year. I mixed things up by rambling on about my war on plastic, yoga and books.
I even went so far as deciding that I didn’t want to be a travel blogger. From there, I struggled to find topics to write about. After a bout of silence, I came back and resumed blogging almost exclusively about travel. Whoops.
Last month, I decided to try injecting, well, a little more of myself into my posts. It’s a decision that was met with approval, if the numbers have anything to do with it (and they obviously do).
For now, I’ve dispensed with trying to force a niche onto this blog. I haven’t struck gold just yet, but I know I’ll find my groove soon.
To Travel Blog, or not to Travel Blog?
I’ve asked myself a lot of questions this year. Am I too late to the (blogging) party? Am I just wasting my time? Is my boyfriend the only person reading my blog? How the heck does social media actually work?
One thing I know for certain is – I still don’t want to be a generalised travel blogger.
For one thing, there’s too many people vying for this role. I know I’m on the losing side of that battle and I really can’t be bothered competing.
For another, I find the majority of travel-related posts infinitely dull – sometimes even when they’re written by my favourite bloggers.
Of course, these are the posts that are largely SEO driven, inclined to direct traffic to one’s blog. They’re necessary for that cause, but they’re only going to be of interest to those who either are planning to or are interested in travelling to these places. Regular readers will skip them and return when you post something worth their while.
And lastly – I don’t fancy being nomadic. I think it would get tiring after a (very short) while. A blogger couple that I know recently told me that they’d been on the move for two years and hadn’t stopped in any one place for more than a handful of days at a time. It made me feel weepy with exhaustion just hearing about it!
I’m an expat (or homebody) at heart. I like having a base, a house with my bed and possessions in it. I hate living out of a suitcase. It crumples one’s clothes. Routines make me happy. I enjoy having a favourite cafe, to brunch away the hours at. A solid, already established group of friends, rather than travellers that flit in and out of your life. A gym with a pool and a yoga studio. A library, to curb my excessive book purchasing. A nearby beach, if at all possible.
Blogging and London
I’ve never really understood how people can breeze in and out of a place in a matter of days, then sit down and bang out a destination guide about the place. Arguably, some do an excellent job – such as Diana of Opium Teahouse, who I met in a writing class this year. Her website looks like a delicious, drool worthy online magazine, in sharp contrast to my own! Others, not so much.
I know I would fall into the latter category, which is why I’ve largely stuck to blogging about London this year. It’s easy to write about and after two years in the city, I know it fairly well.
Yet, London is over-saturated, when it comes to travel-writing. It’s all been said and done before.
Which leads me to my next question –
How do you make yourself be heard in a crowd of people, when everyone is screaming at the top of their lungs?
Well, this is my main goal for the next year of blogging. Yet, before we address that, let’s move onto something a little more fun.
Most popular posts
Here were my top posts for the last year, as always with varied and surprising results:
- How to Travel Responsibly Without Blowing Your Money – I wrote this post on a whim and in a rage. I’m chuffed that it has done as well as it has.
- 15 Things That Happen When You Move to Doha – Hello click-baity title! In all seriousness, my posts on Doha tend to do fairly well, which has inspired me to plan future blog posts on the city and surrounding desert.
- Road Trippin’ Around the Icelandic Westfjords – there are a lot of posts about Iceland on the Internet, but I rarely encounter any about my favourite spot – the very remote Westfjords. So, I spent days writing my own article on the place and was pleased with the reception.
- Goodbye to Number 53, the House That Was a Home – I wrote this highly emotive post shortly after we left/got kicked out of our house in London. I honestly think it’s the best thing I’ve written in months and it warmed my heart to see so many people agree with this sentiment!
My favourite posts/posts I wish people would read
And here are the posts I poured my heart and soul into, before they got lost within the depths of the interwebz! Just joking…
- Champing in the UK: Spending the Night in a 900 Year Old Church – I rate “champing” in a church as one of the coolest things I’ve done this year. It ticked so many boxes for me – sustainable, historic, off-beat, downright creepy. I even found the time to cut together a video. I hope it does better, in time.
- Yayoi Kusama and the Fear of Missing Out – I like this post simply because it makes me lol at how ridiculous life in London can often be.
- Travelling Through Cuba – Gather the Facts and Bust the Myths – I don’t think it’s a secret that I didn’t enjoy my time spent in Cuba. I feel a lot of this was due to the fact that I arrived in the country with minimal information in what to expect. I want others to have a better time than I did, especially as it continues to grow as a tourist destination.
- What I Regret From My Time Spent Living in Sydney – this post was rather monumental on a personal level. I’m leaving London with minimal regrets. And… a hard drive full of photos. 🙂
I wrote this post before leaving the UK, but at the time of publishing, I will have been been home for almost a whole week! Exciting thought!
As much as I loved living in London, as a person and a writer, I think I’m better suited to places where nature is easily accessible. I love animals, I love greenery and I fecking adore the beach. These settings tend to bring out my creativity, for which I am grateful.
I’m returning to Australia “self-employed”, but with no offline job, so I anticipate having plenty of time to work on this blog! Which is great, because I have loads of catching up to do. Kyrgyzstan, the Faroe Islands, Svalbard, my summer adventures, the recent trip to Europe that ended only last week… I have plenty of writing material to go on with for awhile yet!
I have a pretty solid idea of where I want to take Birdgehls during my time in Australia (for however long that may be). Now I’m going to say something very annoying (or as I like to think, sexy and mysterious) – that you’ll have to keep tuning in to find out. And there were clues littered within the paragraphs above. Muhahahah! (Sorry!)
Goals for next year
Congratulations if you’ve made it this far! This is mostly record-keeping for myself, but if you’re interested – by all means, read on!
Create more travel videos
I’m a video editor by day and often night, thanks to my industry’s stupid working hours. I started a YouTube Channel a few months ago and tentatively put a few videos up. Yet, cutting videos for this blog has largely been a case of not-wanting-to-bring-work-home and I’ve found it hard to motivate myself to get on with it.
I understand my own reluctance here and surely you do too? But it’s a bit silly. This is a skill that’s pretty sought after within the blogging world and I’ve been honing it for over eight years. I have everything I need already at my disposal. It’s time to stop sitting on my hands and get on with it.
Put more effort into social media
My boyfriend made a good point earlier this year. He noted that there was no point in me spending all this time blogging, then lamenting over the fact that no one is reading my work. As I pointed out earlier, it can be pretty difficult to stand out in the online world. Yet, one of the ways of breaching this is through social media.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with social media – I didn’t even have a Facebook profile for the last year (although I do have a page for Birdgehls now and secretly really enjoy posting on it). I like using Twitter for the Twitter chats, but don’t really see any value in it beyond that. Instagram frustrates me and Snapchat is a little too up close and personal for my liking.
Yet, I was investing a bit of time in Pinterest earlier this year and definitely saw it pay off. I plan on dividing my attention between that and Facebook over the next twelve months and see where it takes me.
Build up my email list
An email list was something else I discovered as being of importance, mostly due to having it repeatedly yelled at me during TBEX this year.
I started writing monthly newsletters around the middle of the year. They’re a little bit more current than what’s usually on my blog. If you’re interested in signing up, the link is below this post.
Increase my domain authority
I’ve made steps towards this goal throughout the course of the year. In fact, I write down my DA at the start of every month in my little black blogging book, as a reference point. I haven’t quite reached my magic number yet. I plan to do this by reaching out to other blogs for guest posts.
One of my blogging mentors once told me: “When I started out, I posted five times a week. I wish I’d limited it to three times a week and used the other two for guest posts.”
This is such sage advice! Guest posting is two-fold, in that it helps strengthen your DA and get your name/face/blog out there. Just make sure you’re savvy with your posting – approach bloggers who have high traffic and are open to you deep-linking your own blog within the post. They’re getting free, quality content off you after all, so it should be a two-way street!
Figure out the mess that is my editorial calendar
I think having an editorial calendar is an excellent idea, but since implementation, I’ve struggled with keeping mine in order.
This is mostly due to my having dropped the ball on blogging over the last couple of months. I’ve got no shortage of ideas for what I want to write – it’s just finding the time to do it!
I “organise” myself via a separate calendar in Google – that way it’s easy to work my blog around all other work/social activities.
Fix up my blog design/navigation
Because it’s also a mess.
To remain true to myself and my values
I once read advice from a blogger, that said something along the lines of “why would you waste any time writing a post without any money making value behind it?”.
I thought that was a horrible sentiment then and I don’t feel any differently, months later.
For many people, blogging is a source of income. So I understand why they wouldn’t want to waste time working on things that won’t make them money. Yet, I came to this platform with a desire to write and to connect with like-minded people. For me, it’s a place where I can assemble my thoughts and tell stories.
This is why I’ve generally shied away from pursuing professional travel blogging. I’m a story-teller, not a marketer, at heart.
I can’t say I’ll never monetize Birdgehls – a girl’s gotta eat and pay the bills after all. If I could find a way to do that, whilst staying true to both myself and my audience, then I would definitely consider it.
Stuff I’ve done that’s made my blog better
Networking with other bloggers, both on and offline
I only started networking over the last few months (and I really could be better at it). It’s helped me make both contacts and friends.
Go to conferences. Participate in Twitter Chats (#TravChat is my favourite). Comment consistently on other blogs. Don’t be afraid to contact people when you’re in their neck of the woods, or vice versa.
I’ve learned so much in the last four months alone from networking with other bloggers, I kick myself for not having started sooner. Not just that – I’ve made some awesome, likeminded friends.
Joining Travel Blog Success
This is of divided opinion in the travel blogging community. Some cite it as being instrumental in their success. Others are wary of it, particularly as well-established bloggers who happen to be affiliates, tend to sing its praises during the seasonal sales.
I’m not an affiliate of the course myself and doubt I ever will be. But I don’t regret signing up – not for a second.
The two things that make TBS invaluable in my opinion, are the secret Facebook group and the Opportunity Board that comes along with membership.
All your burning questions will be answered in the Facebook group. And I’ve managed to get gigs through the op board that have paid back my membership fee… and then some.
Doing it because I enjoy it and stopping when I don’t
Why would you do anything, unless you enjoyed it? There’s been periods of times when I’ve been exasperated with Birdgehls, so I’ve taken a step back to clear my head. Then I come back and attack, with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.
I stick with blogging overall, because I like doing it. And I’ll keep blogging until the desire within me to do so, burns out.
If it ever burns out.
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Happy anniversary!! You have achieved so much! <3
Thank you darling girl. x
I think 2 Jears blogging is a long time, keeping up, holding on and getting over low response or bad feedback. So Happy anniversary!
I really liked this post, it was open and honest and showed another side of blogging that a lot of people don’t talk about. It is hard, it’s hard AF. Trying to find a voice in this market is exhausting. one day my traffic is up and doing well, then the next there’s a plummet and I have no idea why. It’s especially hard when trying to balance a full-time job as well. Great post!
Thanks for your comment Madi. I tried hard to be honest! I guess the main thing is – and I’m guessing you agree with this sentiment – that it’s worth doing so long as you enjoy it. Even with the many annoyances that one encounters along the way! Thanks for commenting.
I can relate to you in so many levels. I am also a bookworm, I prefer reading blogs than watchng them. I am not so sure about my blog’s niche also. Well I do travel and food, but lately, I’ve been trying to publish personal posts where I get to share my learnings, what I think, and what I feel about some stuff in life. I was also trying to wonder what niche could I focus on. A blog that covers adventures already exists, a blog on local traveling also check, a blog that tackles off-the-beaten path destinations is already there, etc. I honestly couldn’t think of a good niche for my own blog. I agree, I don’t want to be a blogger also with a generalized travel blog too, but until I know for sure what can I offer my readers that others don’t, I guess I’d be stuck under the general category.
It looks like you have a good set of goals for your blog and I wish you goodluck in achieving them.
Yeah I dunno, it’s a hard one! I figure rather than worrying about it, I’ll just write about stuff I like/care about and see where it takes me. The results are sometimes surprising – posts I put no effort into or thinking up in the moment do really well; ones I pour my heart and soul into bite the dust! Hopefully you’ll find your way sometime soon.
We have the same goals but I am particularly working on being true to myself and my values. I hope we all have a better blogging year! Let’s claim it! Happy new year to everyone!
Good luck to both of us!