Monetizing a Travel Blog 101

by Ryan

Hey there.  Ryan again.  Melissa is working through the 5 stages of grief after our recent budget problems.  I’ll let her blog about it when she’s ready, but for now I’ll just say she’s on stage 3 – bargaining.  Don’t know who she thinks she’s bargaining with, but the kids and I are staying our of her way till she works through it :-) .

Anyway, it’s up to me to post, and I’m going to try to finish up my series on how we plan to make some money while we travel.
This is Part II of my series on making money – Part I discussed building a community and writing great content.  Important stuff because you can’t make money if you don’t have an audience, but the other side of the coin is that you can’t make money if you don’t monetize.  This post will detail some of the specifics of how we have made money with websites in the past, how we plan to apply those methods to this site, and some of the new revenue streams we are exploring.

Affiliate Sales

Most of the money we have made in the past has been through affiliate sales.  Here is the basic process of how an affiliate sale works:

  1. this is what an affiliate ad link looks like (don't click, it doesn't work!)

    The website owner (that’s us) has a page that mentions a product that is sold by someone else.  A common example, and something we plan to do, would be a book.  The page that mentions this book might be anything from an in-depth review to a quote from the book.

  2. The website user (that’s you) reads the book review, quote, or whatever, and is interested in the product.  The user then clicks a link on the post for that book, and a new window opens up a site where the book is for sale.
  3. Here’s where the money is made – the link to the site where the book can be purchased has an identifier in it that tells the site where the user is coming from.  For example, if the link goes to amazon.com, then there would be something that tells amazon that the user is coming from fourbackpacks.com.
  4. Now amazon.com (or wherever the link leads) knows we have referred a customer to them, and they will pay us a percentage of anything that user buys over the next 24 hours (or 48, or 5 days, or a month…, it all depends on the site).
Here’s a link to the Amazon Affiliate program, where you can read more details about how it works (no, we don’t make money if you click that link ;-) ).

So How Much Does an Affiliate Sale Pay?

Not much.  Amazon.com pays about 6% per sale, maybe a little more or less depending on your monthly volume.  So if you write a book review for a $10 book, and 10 people end up buying the book through our link (which isn’t likely), then we’d make $6.  Is it worth it?  Yes – our goal is to help other people first, and make some money back where we can, so every little bit will help.

Google Adsense

adsense example (don't click, the links don't work!)

Google Adsense has been another winner for us over the last few years.  These are the google ads you see all over the web.  To add these to a website, all you do is create a google account and follow some basic instructions to insert the ads into your site.  Once you have it done, google will read the contents of your webpage and display ads based on what it thinks the user wants to see.

This is a great, easy solution, but it has one problem – it rarely pays as well as other types of monetization.  And that is especially true for something like a travel blog.  In my experience, Adsense works best with people looking to buy something.  People reading about travel, or trying to figure out how they can afford to follow their own dreams of travel, are rarely shopping.  Therefore, they will rarely click on an Adsense ad.  Adsense works much better on things like car or electronics websites.

Here is the Adsense link for those of you that are interested.

So is There Money to be Made with Adsense?

Maybe.  Odds are that we’ll add it to the site at one point or another, just to see.  But it won’t be anytime soon.  My feeling is that we would need thousands of daily visits just to make $5/day in adsense revenue.  Again, this is specific to the type of travel blog we are creating – I have had other sites making $20/day on a couple hundred daily visits.  If someone who is currently using Adsense has a different opinion, then please add a comment below.

Direct Advertising

These are the static ads that you see all over the internet.  They look a lot like Adsense, but the main difference is they never change – every time you go back to a site, the ad is still there.  For a travel blog like ours, they are typically in the right-hand sidebar, and are a square image advertising a travel product or hotel.  Another common ad would be a link that says something like “cheap hotels in Europe”.

This is the one type of online advertising I have never done, but from what I’ve read, revenue can be anywhere from $20/month to several hundred dollars/month for a single ad.  The price is really determined by your traffic and audience – companies will pay if you can deliver their message to a large, targeted market.

Our goal will be to bring in a couple hundred dollars per month with this revenue stream.

Creating Our Own Product (Tablet Apps)

We’re planning to launch a tablet app in the next 3 to 4 months.  It will be related to traveling with children.  I won’t go into details of what we are doing yet, but I will say that the tablet market is going through exponential growth, and anyone who is a designer or coder might want to look into it.  There are a ton of books on amazon that talk about the market, or you can post in the comments below if you are interested in the tools/books we are using.  Otherwise, more info on this should be coming in a couple months.

As far as making money, we don’t expect to make hundreds of thousands of dollars on an app.  We are targeting a specific market, and the goal is to make enough of a return on our investment to make the development costs worth while.

But How Much Can a Travel Blog Really Make?

That’s a great question.  We don’t know, but our goal is to be making $1,000/month by the end of 2013.  More realistically, we’ll be making $500/month.  I know, it’s not much, but it’s our goal.

So Are We Selling Out by Trying to Make Money?

Maybe.  That’s really up to you to decide.  Our view is that we spend hours (yes, hours) to create each blog post.  On top of that, we are being brutally honest with our personal lives so that we can show other people that they can truly change their lives by pursuing their dreams.  We think the information is valuable enough to earn your trust and to warrant a small return.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

S January 30, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I think your goals are more than attainable! To be honest, I think you’ll reach your 2013 monthly goal sooner than you think. I love how open and honest this blog is…can’t wait to see how your travels turn out!!!!

Reply

Ryan February 26, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Thanks S – I hope you’re right about us hitting the goal sooner than we think :-)

Reply

Heidi February 13, 2013 at 3:03 pm

We are trying to figure out the same thing and are looking at the same options this week. Strange I found you guys today and found this post… I guess I was meant to see it today and show me I am on track. :-) Good luck to you and can’t wait for your travel posts.

Reply

Ryan February 26, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Hope it works out for you Heidi – we’re way behind on posts, so we’re behind on monetization. Right now it’s really about traffic, and with the (incredibly slow) pace that FourBackpacks is growing, I doubt we’ll do anything about it for another year or so.

Reply

Tam June 26, 2013 at 3:32 pm

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