Who are you and how did you get started in blogging?
My name is Annette White. I started Bucket List Journey way back in 2009, at that time I had been suffering from some serious anxiety. Tired of the restrictions it was placing on my life, I made two promises to myself: to stop letting fear make my decisions for me and to start living my bucket list.
Soon after Bucket List Journey was born. Not only did I want a place to record my bucket list experiences and something that would hold me accountable, I also wanted to be able to inspire others to step out of their comfort zones.
For the first couple years blogging was a hobby, I was (and still am) the owner of an Italian restaurant in Northern California. It didn’t take long to realize that there was potential to make money and it has turned into a full-time second career.
How did you choose the niche you’re in?
At first, I just wanted to blog about bucket lists, which isn’t really a niche that fits into a simple checkbox. Over time the blog morphed into a travel blog because many things on my list were related to this category.
Describe the process of launching your blog/site and getting it off the ground.
Since in the beginning I was a hobby blogger, there was no monumental launch. I activated my account, wrote a blog post and pressed publish. Due to this, building a following definitely took a lot of time and lots of lessons have been learned.
In the beginning I gained a following by networking with other bloggers and commenting on blogs in my niche, plus interacting with the few followers that I had at that time. Now I continue to grow by creating content that has information that people need, and using SEO techniques to make sure these articles will rank well on Google.
Creating an email list has also helped to keep me connected with my followers.
How do you create revenue on your blog?
It took about five years before I made any money blogging. With that said, it was not initially created to earn a paycheck. Once I started concentrating on monetizing, things changed and for the past couple years I have earned enough to not have to own the restaurant, though I have no plans of selling it because it’s another passion of mine.
The best thing about blogging is that you can earn money from many different avenues so all our eggs aren’t in one basket. My number one money maker is from display advertising on my site.
Other ways I make money are through the following:
- Company Partnerships
- Sponsored Posts
- Speaking engagements
- Social Media Marketing
- Book Residuals
Affiliate marketing currently makes up about 30% of my blogging income.
My top three programs are:
I have noticed that linking to a particular product within a paragraph of text works best for me, instead of using native ads.
I currently use the Adthrive ad network and it makes up about 50% of my income. It is very easy to use, the ads are automatically placed in each post. I just ad extras manually where needed.
What are the strategies you use to build and grow traffic to your blog?
Currently, most of my efforts go into performing proper SEO on all my posts so that they rank in Google (and this is where most of my traffic comes from). By creating great content with information that people need, and then using SEO techniques, my blog numbers have grown continuously.
Having a keyword program has been essential in my success with SEO. I research keywords for every single story I write using Keysearch. Of course, there are also other SEO techniques used like optimizing meta tags, using H1/H2 headers and I never turn down the opportunity to do an interview—it doesn’t matter the size of the website’s audience. It’s not only a great way for people to learn more about you, but it also gives you a link back to your site and can be promoted on your social media channels to show authority.
How do you grow your email list?
There is a signup on the sidebar for my site, but I honestly do not put enough effort into growing or maintaining the list. My goal is to create a “freebie” ebook or guide to boost more new signups.
How do you write content that performs well and readers love?
There are several ways I get content ideas, but most are based on experiences that I have had and want to share with my readers. Some other topics are found by doing a keyword search of my blog’s main keywords to see if there is are similar keywords that I am not ranking for, I will them write an article based on those keywords. I also keep a spreadsheet of potential topics as I think of them or come across ideas on the internet, so if I am ever in need of content I just refer to that list.
I currently have a few freelancer writers who assist me with articles (they all were found using Upwork.com). The process starts with sending them a story assignment outline. It has the topic, bullet points and keywords on it. They write a rough draft and I complete it by filling in my personal experiences and voice.
What obstacles have you had to overcome to start and grow your blog?
When I started ten years ago, there weren’t as many resources available for beginner bloggers, so there was a huge learning curve with everything from installing plugins to setting up setting up monetization. With rapidly changing technology and algorithms the problems still exist, but there are videos, ebooks and course that can help with just about anything.
Now my biggest hurdle is having the time to balance two careers and a home life without pulling my hair out! Some people have the misconception that travel blogging is all about traipsing around the world and taking pretty pictures, but there is so much more to it and I have never worked harder in my life.
What lessons have you learned in the process of building your blog?
There have been so many mistakes and lessons learned along the blogging path (I actually wrote an article about it!). With that said, the mistakes were some of the best learning experiences.
One of the first ones I ever made was to name my blog Ms. Listologist and bought the same domain. It took a couple years of people asking me to repeat the name and learning that having the term ‘bucket list’ in my URL would be beneficial before finally changing it.
Also in the beginning, I did not choose my partnerships wisely because I was so excited that anyone would even want to work with me. I accepted partnerships that did not align with my brand and therefore did not benefit me in the long run.
One of the biggest mistakes I see newer bloggers make is they are writing about their experiences without giving any valuable information to the reader. This is a big mistake I used to make too! In order to write content that performs well, you must stay consistent and fill the needs of your reader. Most people come to blogs for information, so your post must answer their questions. If you can give them this sort of information in an engaging way then you have hit the jackpot.
What platform/tools do you use for your blog?
I’m pretty basic when it comes to business tools, most I use for blogging are centered around photography and SEO. For photos I use Lightroom, VSCO and Snapped. And for SEO I use Keysearch. I don’t think I’d be organized at all without Excel Spreadsheets!
What have been the most influential people, books, podcasts, courses, or other resources?
I never took a course, though I constantly read about blogging online. Even now, every quarter I’ll do a “how to blog” search on Google to see if anyone has some new techniques.
My mother, and most of my family were Italian immigrants who came to this country with very little money to live the American dream, which for them included business ownership. Seeing my mom struggle to make her dreams of owning a business come true made me believe that if you work hard anything is possible. It also made me less afraid of starting my own business and following my own dreams because it just seemed like a natural thing to do.
Many years ago I read a book called E-Myth. It talked a lot about setting up concrete systems for your business, so that it could be run by someone other than yourself. These tools were essential in setting up my own restaurant to run without me, so that I could follow my other passions of traveling and blogging.
Advice you can give other bloggers/entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
My advice for bloggers would be to put your efforts into one or two efforts at a time. Whether it be SEO or affiliates or creating great content, master those techniques and then move onto another. Sometimes when you are trying to do it all, your efforts won’t be focused enough to get the return that you want.
The best advice I can give is to do your research before jumping in. It’s easy to get stuck on a “great idea” and wanting to quickly start the ball rolling before doing the extensive research needed to determine if it is a good business decision.
Don’t be fooled by thinking that creating passive income through blogging is easy. It is not a get rich quick scheme. You will work harder than you ever have. But, if you keep with it, you are bound to succeed.
There is so much involved to being a successful blogger, but with persistence, patience and dedication it can be done. Don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of work it will take, instead break down all the things you need to do into baby steps and concentrate knocking one of those baby steps off per day or week.
Where can we go to learn more?