Finally things have settled down a little. With the distractions I discussed in last month’s report subsided, we have been able to hunker down and refocus on the blog. It’s been one of our best months for traffic growth, and we’re in high spirits as we head into the UK summer.
These are our headlines for May:
- We reached 15,772 page views, hitting our target of 15,000
- Our referrals from search engines reached 8,864, exceeding our target of 8,000
- We had 1,948 referrals from Pinterest, just short of our target of 2,000
- Our domain authority (DA) maintained at 31
- I was interviewed live on BBC Radio about taking a career break in later life
We began the month with some loose ends to tie up…
Hot on the heels of our Italy trip
The first few days of May were dominated by editing photos and writing up articles from our Italy road trip. We partnered with several travel-related businesses during the trip, through which we received about £1,000 worth of services in exchange for coverage, so once we were back in the UK it was time to deliver on our commitments.
We had a lot of fun doing these partnerships and we’re pleased with what we’ve produced. We now have a solid base of examples we can use to develop a portfolio of case studies for negotiating future brand partnerships.
At the same time, however, we are going to rethink how we approach trips like these. The process of planning a route, researching potential partners, pitching businesses, following up and making arrangements is incredibly time-consuming. Combine that with the trip itself and the delivery afterwards, and we probably spent about six weeks on the Italy trip.
Put simply: this won’t be sustainable if we’re not being paid for it. Just as importantly, if we’re going to spend this amount of time on a trip, it needs to be tightly aligned with our overall strategy.
Back in February I wrote about how we planned to niche down and focus on Peru and Patagonia. Italy was a divergence from this. We will come back to covering Europe in future, but for now it’s time to get back in focus.
More on that below, but first…
Website traffic: another new high
May was our tenth successive month of website traffic growth, and we saw one of our biggest increases yet. We ended the month on 15,772 page views, which is a whopping 25% increase on April’s total of 12,590.
Here’s how this looks in the context of the last year’s traffic:
(Here’s my usual reminder that Career Gappers launched at the end of July 2018 – the traffic shown before that is to my previous blog, Story Every Day.)
Wagons, wheels and SEO
Imagine a large wagon standing still on some train tracks in front of you. You give it a push, but it’s too heavy. It won’t budge.
You try harder. You pivot and thrust with everything you’ve got. The wheels creak, and slowly the wagon begins to move. You take a quick breath then push again – and the wheels turn, now a little faster.
The more the wagon gains momentum, the less you need to push. Eventually, it needs almost no pushing at all. All you need to do is guide it gently along the tracks to keep the pace up. If you let go of the wagon, it would shoot off ahead on its own, and take a long time to stop.
This is the story of SEO for a new blog. When you first start out, with no content and no site authority, it takes a herculean effort to get a blog ranking in search engines. But once your blog-wagon gets moving, it takes a lighter tough to keep the momentum going.
We’re beginning to see this now with Career Gappers. The first few months were tough, but now the wheels are in motion and we’re just taking care of the engine as our traffic grows freely.
In May, our search engine referrals grew yet again:
Seasonality has certainly helped with this latest growth. Our two top-performing posts in May were on Malta and Slovakia, which makes sense as the European summer approaches. Luckily for us, when summer ends in Europe, it will be just warming up in South America – and that’s where we are once again focusing our efforts.
From June through to August, we plan to spend more time revising and optimising our old content than producing new articles. We are using Google Analytics to identify which articles need work, and prioritising our efforts accordingly.
We will only produce new articles that have a high traffic potential or that will support our affiliate marketing strategy. With our DA now steadily over 30, we can begin to target higher-volume keywords with a more difficult level of competition.
Pinterest: time for some experimentation
Our referrals from Pinterest have also continued to grow, although we fell slightly short of our 2,000 target for May:
Until recently, we had been using Photoshop to design our pins using the font family we incorporated into our brand guidelines. However, this approach has been a little too time-consuming.
We’re now trying out Canva as an alternative tool for creating pins. In doing this, we are experimenting with Canva’s templates to create different pin designs.
Both Lisa and I have worked professionally in brand development, and so the idea of putting out inconsistent designs feels a bit jarring. But at this stage of our business, we can get away with it. In fact, it gives us an opportunity to experiment.
Last month I mentioned that we are planning to revise the Career Gappers visual identity later in the year. Trying out different pin styles over the next few weeks will help us to see what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the redesign.
Live on BBC Radio
One highlight of May was being interviewed live on BBC Radio Nottingham about our business and the value of taking a career break in later life.
This came about after I was contacted directly by the BBC inviting us to go on an afternoon show. I don’t know how they found out about us, but I suspect it was through our recent feature in local press.
You can listen to the full radio interview here.
In previous reports I mentioned how we planned to investigate advertising networks to join before reaching the 25,000 monthly sessions required by Mediavine.
In mid-May I had a call with a representative of Ezoic, an advertising network that uses machine learning to optimise advert performance. I was impressed with what they presented, and we will be able to apply when we reach 10,000 sessions (measured by Google Analytics). We’re not far away from this, and we may reach it in June.
Once we have qualified for Ezoic, we will see how that works out and then decide whether we stay with them or move to Mediavine later on.
In May we made a further 21 sales across our various affiliate platforms. 14 of these were on booking.com, which is the closest to reaching a payout.
We remain focused, however, on two high-value affiliate programmes: World Nomads and G Adventures. Our content strategy reflects this, and we are building traffic to articles that promote these services.
In the summer one of our major priorities is to build a more effective affiliate marketing cycle around our focus niches. More on that in the ‘priorities and targets’ section below.
Income and expenditure in May 2019
In May we received a payment of $60 for a guest post, which worked out at £46.28 after paying Paypal’s conversion fee.
Our outgoings in May were as follows:
- Domain renewal: £23.98
- Photoshop monthly subscription: £9.98
- InDesign monthly subscription: £19.97
- ConvertKit monthly subscription (email marketing tool): £22.68
- Phone bill: £40.52
- Gadget insurance: £13.99
- Trains to BBC radio interview: £13.60
- Drinks in workspace: £4.20
- Non-sterling transaction fees: £0.62
- TOTAL: £149.54
We paid to renew the domain of my old blog, Story Every Day, as it has a lot of legacy articles pointing to Career Gappers.
May’s expenditure brings our total business investment to date to £4,634.69
Priorities and targets for June 2019
Well, actually, I’m going to talk about the whole of the summer. Because we have a plan. And it relates to the niching down I was talking about before.
It’s time to start converting our success with traffic growth into income. To do that, we need focus. I talked a lot about how distractions took our time away from the blog in March and April. But the bigger problem was that we lost focus.
For each of the three summer months, we are going to prioritise a niche, expand and improve its content, and integrate a highly structured affiliate and email marketing cycle.
The focus each month will be as follows:
- June: Peru
- July: Patagonia
- August: travel career breaks (our mother-niche)
We already have a lot of content for each of these niches, so the first step will be to review the performance of our existing articles and make extensive revisions. We’ve already begun this process for Peru.
The objective of this is to begin making passive income from affiliate sales through these focus areas. Then we can take what we achieve with Peru and Patagonia, and expand it to other destinations. Most likely we will continue focusing on South America.
Oh, I almost forgot. Here are our traffic targets for June:
- 18,000 page views
- 12,000 referrals from search engines
- 2,500 referrals from Pinterest
We are still using WordPress Jetpack stats as the basis for these targets. But the time will soon come to transition completely to Google Analytics. That’s because…
A change is coming in how we report
I have been writing these monthly business reports throughout our blogging journey because I wanted to document our progress from the beginning. Many successful bloggers publish reports once they’re making money, but I’d never seen anyone do it before that stage. My hope was that it could help people in those early stages, whether by following our wins or learning from our mistakes.
I hope these reports have been helpful to you readers in some way – they certainly have been for me. It’s been a great way to keep me focused and motivated, and to ensure we have a constant finger on the pulse of our progress.
And the reports will continue! Once a month, however, is just a little too much. It takes a full day to write this up, set it up on the blog and publish it. When we only have one person working full-time on the blog, that’s quite a sacrifice.
So, from now on, we will be switching to reporting quarterly. This will begin in the first week of July, when we will focus on Q2 of 2019. The following report will come at the beginning of October, then January, and so on.
We’re off again…
At the end of June we’re heading off to France for our friends’ wedding. A group of eight of us are staying for six nights in a countryside chateau. Yep, it’s gonna be awesome.
And this time, this trip is purely going to be a holiday. You won’t see any blog posts about all the wine we’re going to drink.
We’re still pushing that wagon along the tracks. It’s getting faster. We just need to make sure that we send it in the right direction.