10 Years Of Blogging
Sitting back on a balcony in Southern Africa, it occurred to me my life as a blogger just became a bit more surreal.
Many people class themselves as bloggers, but a true blogger does more than just write the odd blog post.
Fighting through those sleepless nights of writing content to share with friends and followers around the world, whilst still working a 9-5 was something I would never change.
Where It Started
Over a lifetime of being spoilt rotten with family from across the world, we would usually try and visit our Grandparents in South Africa once a year.
As I got older, it was harder than ever to achieve this goal and with a University Degree lingering over my shoulders, I nailed down to acing that whilst working 40+ hours a week.
Breaking point was after I passed, and work died down. It was time for a change. So in 2010 with no commitments I decided to return to South Africa for 6 months.
Setting up a blog (South African Monkey), I felt it was the best way to keep in contact with friends and family back home in the U.K.
Little did I know its audience.
How It Grew
The site was a small little basic free Blogger account. Being a Google company, it gave me a large insight to SEO, and brownie points in rankings.
I soon realised the kind of content that worked for views.
Back then Google SEO was a lot easier and you could literally hack the system. To rank higher.
A Hint Of Analytics
Over the years I had dabbled in different coding languages but it was actually the visual side that interested me and the benefits of tweaks to help promote a website.
At the time Google Analytics wasn’t so well known so I based it on Blogger’s own insights which alone showed the type of things people were searching for.
Watching the views grow rapidly over time, learning that having a relevant and focused title and url were key.
Over time Social Media kicked off as a way to promote your site, with little knowledge other than my friend base taking this on led to a variety of new mediums.
Pinterest being an interesting one that grew easily alongside an Instagram following.
Other techniques were sites that were putting blogs on the maps… Sites such as Reddit, Stumbleupon all offered the free traffic I needed.
As time went on and I returned from South Africa, I continued to blog even whilst landing a job for Aceparts.
Giving me even further insights into SEO and systems, I developed a fully customised Theme for WordPress with various plugins to help boost views.
Transition is never easy especially when you start a new site but as time progressed viewers were increasing higher than they ever did on the original site.
I was receiving enquiries to Guest Blog, share links for money and much more.
Amazon was another big hit with Affiliates paying in small sums, alongside Google Paid Ads.
I also even tackled the Affiliate Window Market earning money from every piece of camping equipment they sold.
Being the lazy person I was, I needed a way to reduce the amount of work put into the tedious tasks.
So I started to look into automation. My job at Aceparts was solely images to begin with so batching was a speciality for me.
Processing 10,000 plus images a day was a walk in a park at the click of a button, so I thought why not do something similar with my own blog.
First step was Pinterest automating it to submit boards and pins according to likes I had made on Instagram.
The same applied to Twitter with quotes and hashtags being posted automatically at random intervals according to the time of day and trends on Twitter.
I was on to something!
One thing I did learn from the automated aspect was that no matter how much you try to automate things, you will always need that personal touch.
Bots can reply to support queries but when someone asks something that needs human interaction, customer service goes a long way.
I am not even just talking Blogs now!
Alongside the freebies, mentions, Google Pay checks, there was all the people I met along the way.
Years ago a link on a well known website was excitement enough. Your analytics would go through the roof and you would sit back and admire the views coming in.
With todays world, it gives us the opportunity to plough on with other projects.
Content Writing has become a big thing, the idea of content generation as a job let alone all the SEO opportunities is a fantastic way of earning whilst travelling.
People must realise it isn’t always glitz and glamour though.
What I Have Learnt
I have learnt to not take things for granted, whenever you get an opportunity take your camera and stop off along the way. Don’t just be a tourist. Make the most of it.
See things at your own pace.
Questions Along The Way
As you begin you will question whether it is worth your time and effort. Spending hours writing what you think is your best piece of work, with all the key words. Well focused, your best photographs you have taken etc.
You share it and get literally no views other than your parents.
You question is this really going to kick off?
Well keep on at it, it’ll take time before those hits start coming back. People joke about daily grind but the effort you put in will be rewarded endlessly.
Oh The Places You’ll Go
Over the years I have been fortunate to see more of South Africa than locals have. The same applies for parts of Europe people long to see.
In fact in comparison to many others I have seen very little of this beautiful world, but I always try to not take any of it for granted.
From the train ride to explore Malmo for a morning or the less known beaches in France, it truly has been spectacular. Like everywhere there are highlights you just need to explore.
From booking flights to accommodation there is always little hacks to try and achieve the best rates.
Always use sites like Skyscanner to get price alerts. This may mean you are required to have your bag packed ready to go but its well worth it.
Go out of season, we hit up Paris early in January. It was snowing, and very cold, but the streets were quiet. The prices were a quarter of the price friends paid.
Whenever you can, ask for freebies. Whether it be upgrades or complimentary bits and pieces. You will be surprised what you can accomplish. Like our visit to Amsterdam which gave us a canal view free of charge with access to the Heineken factory for free! Good times!
Through a lifetime of travel there is always moments that stick, and to write them all down would be enough to fill a book but for now here are a few of the most memorable moments:
1 – Breaking my wrist but prioritising work over the hospital and driving off in a cast waving at the nurse.
2 – Helping a guy dislocate his shoulder to get out of a straight jacket in Amsterdam
3 – Waking up in a presidential suite in Venice with our own private boat
4 – Being given a Waiters Jacket as my hoody was not appropriate for dinner
5 – Rum and coke on a Yacht heading towards a private beach in the Caribbean
6 – Being Chased by Elephants
7 – Risking Lives with a Puff Adder
8 – Skydiving over Plettenberg Bay
9 – Helping put up Hot Air Balloons on a cold winters morning in the UK
10 – Opening the curtains to a view of the Eiffel Tower
11 – Celebrating Easter in Greece
12 – Racing a guy on a moped through the streets of Barcelona
Above it all is the people I have met along the way. It is amazing that no matter what walk of life you come from there is always great people that you are destined to meet.
More Than Just A Vacation
For many it is a vacation, but when you are nonstop visiting exploring places off the beaten path you truly only rest when you are back in your 9-5 working.
We have always tried to go out of season to prevent insane prices, and the tourist trap.
However you begin to see things differently to how you did when you would just visit for a holiday.
One of the biggest habits, I have found is you begin to criticise everything. As if you work for a Lonely Planet Magazine you compare food and your experience.
This may be great when you are writing a review to help others but often you get too stuck in the moment.
The Key Lessons:
So now I have bored you with the “oh so long ago” memories there are a few things I have learnt that could help you guys along the way:
1 – If you are travelling – check for cheap tickets outside of peak times
2 – Always make notes as you go, blogging from memory is great but you always miss bits off
3 – Make the site simple to access and use
4 – Photographs are key – as you can see people are visually pleased and your photography will enhance as you do
5 – Take a camera with you everywhere
6 – Do not get knocked back when only a few people visit your content, over time this will increase
7 – Stumbleupon and Reddit kick ass for views
8 – WordPress is amazing and share where you can
9 – Comment on like minded blogs, it’ll give you insights and free links
10 – Contribute everywhere
11 – Do crazy things
12 – Live in the moment!
As our next adventure took place in South Africa, we thought what better way to increase our coverage than to join forces on a blog.
Although the initial idea was settled in June 2016. We only started truly blogging since January (on this site).
Already with a huge following on the blog and the insane increase in followers on our social media we truly cannot thank everyone enough and prove how easy it is to get started.
So with my blogging experience, and Ryan’s endless critique and passion for travel we hit it off and haven’t looked back since.
South Africa just feels right. There is plenty more to explore and will be for the upcoming months, but after that who knows.
Bali is definitely on the list alongside more in that general direction… So watch this space.
To Another Adventure
Life is an adventure and every day brings new opportunities. No matter where you are get out and explore.
The most honest piece of advice I can give. From the moment I gave away my TV and cancelled my Netflix account I went to explore… Sitting in a field drinking water and a horse came and joined me. Things like this just happen, life is unexpected.
Heres to our next adventure!