Who are you and how did you get started in blogging?
Hi, we’re Esther and Jacob. Together we run Local Adventurer, one the largest travel blogs in the world. For the past 6 years, we’ve been moving to a new city every year to explore it like a local. We’re passionate about encouraging people to explore their greater backyard and do most of our travel within the US. Last year, we made over 248k.
What’s the backstory of your blog and how did you choose the niche?
When we left Atlanta to move to LA, Esther decided to shut down her wedding photography business. Although I was helping her at the time, I decided to pursue YouTube with my brother (we ran a music based channel). During that time, she was looking for something new and since we both loved travel, she decided to finally edit some of our travel photos and post them up on a personal blog.
One thing we realized when we left Atlanta is how much we took our own city for granted. When you live somewhere long enough, you tend to get into a routine and rarely deviate from that. Since we were only committing on being in LA for a year, we vowed we wouldn’t do the same and took every chance we had to explore the city.
As Esther continued to blog, she realized that people were doing this as a full-time gig. She started to treat it more like a business and made strategic decisions on the type of content she was building. Traffic continued to grow and more opportunities came her way.
I continued to do YouTube for 2 years, while spending my downtime helping Esther. At the end of the second year, we were only breaking even on YouTube and the blog continued to grow, so I decided to transition to helping her full time focusing on the business side of things.
Describe the process of launching your blog/site and getting it off the ground.
When the blog started, there was little to no costs. We already had a domain and Esther found a free template she customized. Because it was meant to be personal, most of our readers were friends and family and there was no official launch.
But as she created more and more content, people were finding us through google searches. As the readership began to grow, we both continued to learn and study the industry to find out what works and what doesn’t work.
For the first 2 years the blog existed, it didn’t make much money. It took time to learn and understand everything. When I started helping full time, I focused on building relationships with brands and PR companies.
It was by no means an easy or quick road to get to where we are now. We put in a ton of hours and sweat to build the blog to what it is now. The biggest lessons we had to learn was to treat this job like a business. We’re not on some sort of endless vacation, we showed up to work and put the hours in. We also had to learn skills neither of us were good at to continue to build the business.
How do you create revenue on your blog?
We generate revenue on our site through three different streams.
The first, and largest, is sponsored content. Since my background is in sales and account managing, this is what I naturally gravitate towards. It’s relationships building, negotiating, reaching out to potential clients, cold calls, and more.
Secondly, we make money of ads on our site. For the longest time, we resisted putting ads on our site because we wanted to keep the look and experience clean. But 2 years ago, we decided to try it out and haven’t turned back. We can still control how many and what type of ads are on the site, but now have a steady monthly revenue from ads.
Lastly, we make money through affiliate sales. We initially made most our income through this channel, but now it makes up less than 10% of our income. We still love talking about the gear we use and places we stay, so it will always be a part of our site.
Last summer, we started sharing monthly income reports to help other aspiring bloggers see a breakdown of how we make our money.
We also recently put together an e-course on how to work with brands. This course teaches you our process of finding the right contact, how to reach out to them, preparing for a phone call, and even a negotiation technique that has worked really well for us and our friends that we’ve taught it to. Check it out here.
What are the strategies you use to build and grow traffic to your blog?
Our site is heavily driven by SEO. We initially used Google Trends to help us do research on the type of content that does well, and now we use a paid service called Keysearch to help us make those decisions. We’re always looking to create content that is being sought after, then aiming to be on first page of Google searches.
We also spend a lot of time on Pinterest, creating images specifically for the platform and curating content on our account. Esther usually receives anywhere from 4-5M monthly viewers on her account.
Early on, we reached out to other similar sized sites to guest post and cross promote. Besides cross promoting, it also really helped to just have other people to talk to that were struggling with similar problems. We were able to talk shop, learn from each other’s mistakes, and hear about what was working well so we could try it as well. It was a nice community to have.
We also spent time writing for larger publications, like BuzzFeed. This brought traffic back to our site and also gave us some legitimacy as we reached out to potential partners.
For the other social media platforms, we haven’t seen a significant traffic from them. Instead of spending time trying to grow those, we use them as separate platforms and deliverables we can sell to clients.
How do you grow your email list?
Unfortunately we haven’t’ been great with using an email list. This is something that we always tell ourselves we need to be better at, but with so many responsibilities, this one tends to fall by the wayside. We do have some locked content on our site where people need to subscribe to our newsletter to get printouts etc, and that’s how we’ve slowly grown our list.
How do you write content that performs well and readers love?
Esther is meticulous when it comes to creating content. Part of her goal when she started the blog was to create content she wanted to use herself. That means we had to create beautiful imagery and pair them with thorough and detailed information.
Because we are picky with what we create, we’ve had a hard time finding writers that fit well with the site. We’ve had people write for us in the past, but currently do everything on our own.
When we just started the site, we gave ourselves goals to keep us on schedule. At one point, we were posting 5 times a week. As our content library grew, we cut that down to 3, and now down to 1-2. The schedule really helped us create good habits and a solid workflow. It also helped us realize that pieces don’t need to be perfect before they go out. Now, we spend a lot more time updating and optimizing existing content.
Since we have an endless queue of content that we want to create, we use Keysearch to help us prioritize what comes first.
What obstacles have you had to overcome to start and grow your blog?
In the beginning, it’s just about creating content and finding your voice. The plus side is, mistakes don’t hurt you as much. You can experiment with what you want to do and what works well. As you grow and build a bigger audience, it takes a lot more effort to steer the ship.
I think the biggest misconception is that writing a blog is easy. Because you are creating and running your own small business, it’s not just about writing and taking photos. You have to learn how to design, some basic coding, keep track of your accounting, run your social media accounts, become the sales and account managing team, and more. You end up having to juggle a bunch of different tasks, a lot of which you probably don’t even want to deal with. Big companies and publications have people dedicated to each of these tasks.
What lessons have you learned in the process of building your blog?
We were very eager to take any opportunity that came to us early on, even though we knew they weren’t a good fit. We had to learn how to say no. Not only was that good when it comes to finding brands that fit well with us, but it taught us how to walk away from brands who weren’t willing to pay our rates.
It’s one thing to know your worth, but it’s another thing to say no to money. In the long run, it has helped us keep our value and build our business. Besides focusing on building content, learn some basic sales and negotiation skills that will help you when you’re monetizing your blog.
What platform/tools do you use for your blog?
Our site is WordPress based. We initially used templates for our site but recently had a developer create one for us since we had specific needs.
Within WordPress, we use:
Yoast – Helps you with SEO to show up better in search engines
WordPress Editorial Calendar – I like to see my scheduled posts in a calendar format.
Akismet – Keeps spam under control
Pretty Links – Makes links pretty
Outside of the site, these are some of our favorite tools:
Tailwind – To help us schedule and manage Pinterest
Keysearch – Game changer in helping us do SEO research
Dreamhost – Where we host our site
IZEA – Our favorite sponsorship marketplace
ConvertKit – Favorite to help manage email subscribers
What have been the most influential people, books, podcasts, courses, or other resources?
We’ve gotten the most help from the community. Whether it was people we became friends with online or met on a group FAM trip, we’ve gotten to know a handful of people that have become our community and coworkers. Even though we live all over the place, we’re able to connect with each other when we have questions or just need to vent about something. They’ve become people we can truly trust.
I recommend finding like minded people like that when you can. Conferences can be a good resource if you’re just starting out, but they can cost a lot. Find online communities or just reach out to people that you like and admire. It really helps if they are similar in size, since you’ll be dealing with similar struggles and wins.
Advice you can give other bloggers/entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Find a good balance between doing what you’re good at, and learning new skills that will help your business. Most people who start blogs are creatives, and good at writing and/or photography. Take time to learn business skills and don’t be afraid to invest time into that as well. It will help in the long run, and even if you’re current venture doesn’t work out, they will be skills that you can take elsewhere.
For a blog, spend at least the first 6 months focusing on building your content. Don’t rush into monetizing your site until you have a good backlog of content and a good workflow for that.
Where can we go to learn more?