Last updated on January 22nd, 2018
Do you want to know how to start a blog, to improve, or even make money from an existing website? We reached out to someone who started out not knowing what he was doing, but subsequently rose to blogging success. Matthew Kepnes, or “Nomadic Matt”, is now one of the most successful travel writers online, and he talks to us here about travel, work and the “business of blogging”. But first a little about my own journey…
The transition to location independence was an exciting time for me. The thrill of traveling to countries around the world was part of that exhilaration. But just as enthralling was the notion that I could start my own travel blog!
I’ve always loved writing and it seems that many of you do too.
Google tells me that 130 million books have been published in the world. But that’s not for me. I prefer short articles that can easily follow my erratic mind as it flits from one destination, from one experience, to another. So learning how to create a blog was the perfect solution for me.
WordPress made it easy to design an engaging website. Coming up with a name took a little longer, but when I finally uploaded my first post, it filled me with pride.
I Was On My Way To Blogging Success!
Umm… actually, I’m bending the truth quite a lot at this point!
My blog was appreciated among my family and friends, and a few people that found me on the internet. But really, I had no idea what was needed to make my blog a resounding success, and even less of a clue of how to turn it into an income generator.
I’d run my own distribution business in the UK for many years and learned a lot about niche marketing. None of this did anything to prepare me for marketing my blog successfully on the internet.
Moz.com indicate on their website that 5 billion searches are performed everyday! How would my new website ever be found among this ever growing online digital activity?
The Language of Bloggers
Research uncovered a new and sometimes incomprehensible language aimed at website developers and bloggers. I learned which “plug-ins” could help me in WordPress, as well as some of the SEO (search engine optimization) techniques that would increase my rankings in Google searches. Then I read about “domain authority”, “page rankings” and all number of hoops I’d need to jump through to triumph in the world of blogging.
I was distracted and overwhelmed by a never ending pool of blogging strategies and SEO techniques that may, or may not, help me rise to blogging success.
Next I discovered my writing style needed improvement if I was going to attract less focused internet readers. I had to find out how to “connect” to my audience. I needed to “empathize” with their needs.
It was endless … and my writing tailed off as I became demoralized. My enthusiasm wavered and I took a break to reassess.
Finding A Way Back From The Low Point
It was when I gave myself space, that I came across Jon Morrow.
Jon is CEO of Smart Blogger – a company that teaches you how to attract loyal readers, get more traffic, and become a respected authority in your niche.
I liked his story, and I liked what people were saying about him. I also enjoyed reading his articles. His style was easy to read and digest, yet it kept me engaged. I took a deep breath, and enrolled on his course – Serious Bloggers Only.
It changed my style of writing forever.
I listened to and followed his advice, emerging a transformed writer with a new, improved writing style. I set about applying all I’d learned to my next article. It was called “How Travel can Redesign your Brain” and was shared over 200 times in just a couple of days. Then, out of the blue it won highly commended in a competition on Smart Blogger for “most original idea”. More shares and more credibility!
I was finally on my way!
My blog was gaining recognition and I got paid work writing for other websites. Long story short, I’ve now moved on from travel blogging per se, to edit and publish House Sitting Magazine. But I still like to write and contribute to other blogs and websites when I have time.
But there is a big lesson to be learned that I’d like to pass on to all of you.
Learn From The Experts
I guess the point I want to hammer home here is that blogging successfully is a skill that needs to be learned from experts. In much the same way that any other business or recreational skill is acquired.
If you’re just starting out, or stuck wondering what the next step is to improve your readership and blog popularity, you have two choices. You can either take the easy route or a damn hard, time consuming one.
Initially I took the hard road. Until I weighed up the cost of enrolling on a course against the cost of time wasted as I trawled through internet blogs and forums, gathering conflicting views and misplaced advice.
The Business of Blogging
I regret not taking the time to invest in my future at the outset. If I could do it all over, I’d totally spend the money to sign up for a course with someone who knows how to make a successful career out of blogging.
Jon Morrow’s course was good, but I’m now convinced that the travel industry guru who covers blogging most comprehensively, is Nomadic Matt.
Why? Because he was once me, BUT… and it’s a big BUT… he went on to master and succeed in travel blogging, where many of us fail.
Matthew Kepnes wanted to become a successful blogger but had no experience. Yet he built his website to be one of the most respected travel blogs in the industry. In just eight years his website has become the top travel blog in the world, with over 1.3 million visitors per month, a 210,000+-person email list, four employees, a New York Times best-selling book, and revenue in the high six figures.
Nomadic Matt is the person I want to be learning from now!
Matt has a course called The Business of Blogging
It’s aimed at new and existing bloggers, providing tested strategies that will help you stand out head and shoulders above the rest. These techniques work for any niche, not just travel. More importantly they worked for me!
Don’t worry if you have the basics, it’s still relevant.
You’ll learn advanced SEO, marketing, email segmentation, and analytics that you won’t find all together in one course anywhere else at this price. Whether you like it or not, SEO is an important part of building a successful blog. If Google can’t find your content, then nor will anyone else!
I also resonated with the case studies on this course. One is the story of Dalene and Peter Heck, who started their (now highly ranked) website about house sitting travels – HeckticTravels. For me personally, this makes it the most relevant travel blogging course in our niche.
But what seals the deal is the money back guarantee.
A few hundred dollars is not much to invest if you want to really turn your blog into a successful money making business. However, the fact is that you can test drive the course for 30 days, and if after completing the assignments, you feel it really isn’t right for you, Matt will happily refund 100% of your investment.
Blogging Success Interview With Nomadic Matt
Even with all this success, Matt still finds time to connect with his audience. We were stoked when Matt said he’d answer a few questions about his travel lifestyle and his rise to blogging success.
Q – When did you realize you’d transitioned from backpacker to modern day nomad?
Is there really a difference? I don’t think I’d use a different name for what I do now versus what I did then. I still backpack, stay in hostels, and travel on a budget. The only difference is that now I travel slower because I have work obligations. But other than that how I travel hasn’t really changed.
Q – Have you ever had what my mum calls “a proper job”?
Yes, I used to be a history teacher at a high school in Boston, and I worked at a hospital doing admin for three years before I quit my job to travel the world. I’ve also taught English in Thailand and Taiwan as I was getting my blog up and running.
Q – What other online income options did you try before achieving your travel blogging success?
I started my blog in 2008 and really tried to get into online marketing. I was making a lot of those spammy adsense websites that were designed to get people to click on ads to drive revenue. Between 2008-2010, you could make a lot of money doing that.
Google eventually got wise to it all and that died a quick death but it taught me a lot about SEO and online marketing. That helped me position my website the way it is now.
Q – What was the topic of your first ever blog post?
The first blog I ever wrote was on RTW (round the world) tickets – when they were a good idea to get!
Q – What would you now consider to be your most successful or popular travel article?
Back in 2010, I wrote a blog post called Why I’ll Never Return to Vietnam that went absolutely viral. So many people saw it that even the government of Vietnam commented on the article. I ended up doing interviews in the BBC about it too.
I still get an email a week about this 7-year-old post. Some people are completely agreeing with me, while others are trying to convince me otherwise. I think it’s pretty comical.
Q – What’s the biggest mistake that new travel bloggers make when starting out?
Travel blogging is a crowded field — and it gets more crowded by the day. After all, the idea of “getting paid to travel the world” seems like an amazing thing to try to do. You get to visit wonderful places around the world on someone else’s dime!
It’s a dream job, right?
But it’s a lot of work. It takes persistence. Unless you hit the Internet “viral” lottery, you should expect to plug away for a least a year with minimal success.
Building a blog is like building any other business: success takes time, patience, and dedication.
I think most travel bloggers get frustrated at the slow pace of it all so try to look for shortcuts on ways to make money and thus end up taking lots of sponsored trips and content which then hurts their brand and ability to reach a larger audience. Then they don’t grow as much and so get hooked on this self-defeating cycle.
Q – What’s the best single piece of advice you ever received about travel blogging?
Businesses sell something — and so should you.
Whether it’s a course, a book, t-shirts, tours, or just other people’s products via affiliate marketing, give your audience an opportunity to support your website.
Offering products for sale allows you to be independent from sponsors and brand deals and not compete with other travel bloggers for spots on press trips. It allows you to scale your website and your revenue. Many products offer value to your readers by going more in-depth and in detail than a blog post usually allows.
Products allow you to generate something once and then earn revenue while sleeping, sightseeing, or getting a suntan on a beach!
Q – There are many courses available to teach blogging – what is that makes your course “The Business of Travel Blogging” so successful?
I’ve been running the website Nomadic Matt since 2008. I’ve helped millions of people travel on a budget and achieve their dreams. In the process, I’ve built a successful online business without any prior business or website knowledge.
I think what makes this special is because I’ve been able to achieve a level of success a lot of other bloggers haven’t – and without the use of sponsored trips or content.
Additionally, my non-travel connections allow me to bring a vast range of people and experts into the course that others don’t have.
Plus, we have the only course that offers full tech support. For new people, who might be scared of the technical side of blogging, this is a big bonus!
Q – What travel accessory would you never be without?
Nowadays – my iPhone. I wish it wasn’t true, but it’s so darn handy!
Q – What one experience while traveling has resulted in you rolling about on the floor with laughter?
Falling into the ocean!
Back in 2006 when I was in Italy, I was taking some photos of the Cinque Terra. I was trying to get a good angle and crept down this boat ramp. Well, I missed the algae growing on the ramp, slipped (flip flops don’t give you good traction), and slid down the boat ramp into the water.
While I was completely soaked, the worst part was breaking the camera I had bought 2 months before I went on my trip. That and the Italian kids who witnessed this whole scene laughing at me.
Q – Have you ever been tempted to house sit?
Yes and no. While I love the idea of house sitting, and have so many friends that love it, I’m a single guy traveling. I like the hustle and bustle of hostels still. I like the social interaction of hostels.
However, once I’m traveling with more than myself, I’ll happily house sit!
Q – What’s one food from your travels you’d like everyone to try?
Fried caterpillars. I had them in Zambia and they were delicious!
Q – Who are your favorite travel bloggers?
- Legal Nomads
- Camels & Chocolate
- Expert Vagabond
- A Backpackers Tale
- Hecktic Travels
- Captain and Clark
- Roads & Kingdoms
- Alex in Wanderland
- Never Ending Footsteps
- The Points Guy
- Traveling Canucks
Q – What is the one stand-out moment from all your years of travel?
Getting lost in the jungle.
While taking a trip to Costa Rica, my friends and I ended up reading the map wrong and wandered lost around Arenal National Park without a flashlight, food or water.
What was supposed to be a quick trip to see the sunset turned out to be a 5 hour ordeal. As night came, we used our cameras as flashlights and tried to follow our tracks back. We eventually found a road, flagged down a car, and bribed him to take us back to the town.
Q – Final words, finish the sentence… “The world would be a better place if…”
… more people traveled!
Matt has four courses covering all aspects of blogging – next on my list will be the video course. Check them out here:
- How to Become a Travel Writer
- The Business of Blogging
- How to Become a Travel Photographer
- The Art of Travel Vlogging
What’s your experience of blogging? We’d love to hear your success or failure stories in the comments below.