January 2015 Valerie & Valise Income Report

It’s hard to believe — yet again — that a month has come and gone, much less that we’re now already over 8% of the way through 2015! Where does the time go?

I firmly believe that as an entrepreneur, I have an opportunity to create “company” values that will hopefully last as long as my blog. Thus, I feel like there’s a bit of a responsibility to be as transparent in my business practices as I feel comfortable being. There is a lot of mystery surrounding those travel bloggers we all agree are “successful,” and I feel like I have an opportunity now, on what is hopefully “the way up,” to get in the habit of sharing the things I’m testing and trying to make Valerie & Valise successful.

January was, on the whole, a very successful month for V&V; I had my highest page views ever, I lowered my bounce rate, increased my time-on-page, and had more visitors from new places. My social presence grew, I started working relationships with half a dozen travel-related companies for partnerships in the coming months, and produced 14 posts in 22 content slots (still room to improve there, obviously!). Here it is in graphic form. Don’t forget to check below for my blogging tips learned this month.

January 2015 Infographic

Blogging Lessons I Learned This Month

A Little Goes A Long Way, Part II

Following up on advice I stated in November, I decided to give a little more to my advertising costs, in the hopes of growing my following and increasing my engagement. It seems that the advice was sound, as I’ve gotten some great results so far, and plan to continue doing all of the same techniques in the coming months.

Giveaways Require Promotion, Part II

In October, I ran the highly successful Blogiversary giveaway, and said thereafter that the key to giveaway success was promotion. I was absolutely right; in the past month I’ve been running #100TravelQuotes, and it hasn’t been nearly as successful as I’d hoped. If you’d like to join, please follow me on Instagram — the prizes are really cool!

Always Push Your Own Boundaries

Both creatively and strategically, I spent January getting more and more willing to try new things. I came up with some great ideas as a result; I hope to implement some new things in the coming weeks to help make your experience with V&V much more valuable and enjoyable. I redesigned my newsletter, got big into creating visuals for the site, and have some great ways to make sure you’re only receiving the content you care about. I didn’t think any of these things would actually pay off; I just heard that they might from other bloggers, and decided to try. Just keep trying… that’s good life advice, really.

Blogging Costs This Month

Starting this month, and until I get tired of writing them, I’m going to share the actual expenses that I incur for running this travel blog. I’ll give you the table of all blogging expenses, then break them down a bit more below. I hope they’ll enlighten those fellow bloggers trying to gauge their own expenses and figure out how much to invest in their budding blogs. These are the actual amounts I’ve spent; this is the real cost of running a travel blog. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and I’ll gladly take the conversation to email for more specifics.

January Expenses

ItemRaw Amount% of Total
Facebook Ads$26.008.3%
Google Ads$0.000.0%
Pinterest Ads$0.000.0%
Twitter Ads$0.000.0%
Total Spent in Month$299.46

Line Item: Administration

This covers any and all costs associated with running the blog itself: hosting, domains, etc. I’m currently on some sort of multi-year plan of hosting with Bluehost, and I have no idea when my domain expires (probably the kind of thing I should know, huh?). It’s easier to consider these lump sums as they come, rather than month-to-month, since I like to pay them all at once.

Line Item: Facebook Ads

I am running an experiment, testing an oft-spouted dictum from many top marketing companies: you can do well on Facebook for $1/day. I started running my ads on January 6th, and have received over 375 Likes as of writing this. It’s a country-specific campaign (non-US/UK) that averages about 6.5¢ per Like. As much as I bemoan the fact that Facebook is literally the worst social media page to promote a brand, it’s also an industry standard. It’s a small amount to pay to maintain steady growth on that platform.

Line Item: Google, Pinterest, Twitter Ads

Right now, I don’t feel comfortable with my knowledge of Google/SEO to spend any money here — I’d rather work on figuring out my organic SEO and rankings before committing funds.

I’m eager to run a Pinterest campaign again soon — as a beta tester back in August, I had awesome success at driving engagement and web traffic on a very small amount. I’m not sure I’ll get to this in February, but it’s definitely on my mind.

At this point, Twitter ads seem like they aren’t going to achieve what I want. I’m doing some “Other” peripheral spending and content management to help my Twitter following and engagement grow… I think I’d rather spend time than money on Twitter right now.

Line Item: Giveaways

This month, I launched the #100TravelQuotes giveaway, and was lucky enough to get a partner to cover the cost of two of the three prizes I’m giving away. Even though this giveaway doesn’t actually happen until April, I’ve committed the funds this month, so I’m counting it here. So far, that giveaway hasn’t performed as well as I’d hoped. If you enter, I’ll be forever grateful, and so will my sponsor!

Line Item: Travel

I consider the cost of travel to be directly related to the costs of running my blog: while I would travel on my own, many of my travel expenses now are done with the mindset that this will be good for the blog (in addition to my own personal growth through traveling, naturally). I spent about $60 this month on a weekend trip to do a videography project, and the rest of these expenses come from booking some final details for my upcoming Europe trip.

Line Item: Other

This month, I decided to spend a little bit of money on a tool called Tweepi. It’s a platform that allows you to easily follow and unfollow people on Twitter. After doing research on my Valerie & Valise following back in August, I realized that playing the “followback game” is a necessary part of building a following unless you’re generating viral content. Hard as I try, I’m not, and so you’ll now find me spending both time and money to follow accounts I think will be interested in what I have to say. I’m happy to connect with these new accounts, and have even made some really great personal and business connections in the last two weeks since I started.

I also signed up for the Buffer Awesome plan this month, for $10 per month (non contractual). I decided to do this part as a freelance expense, and part so that I can schedule my Facebook and Twitter posts into the future for times when I’m traveling and unable to be as present on social media as I’d like. Definitely worth it, and my clients are loving it too!

Predictions for February:

Here’s what I’ve got in mind for spending in the next month:

  1. Adjusting my Facebook ads — I need new photos, new message testing, etc. Sticking to my $1/day campaign to gain page likes.
  2. Starting Pinterest ads — I am long overdue for a major overhaul of my account, and I’d like to coincide this with some promoted pins. Maybe $15-20 for the month.
  3. Another Giveaway — I am planning to spend about $55 for a giveaway that will be “one for the ladies” out there. It’s in partnership with a friend’s startup, and I’m looking forward to sharing her brand.
  4. Lots of Travel expenses — hey, Europe ain’t cheap.

How about you? What are your expenses for travel blogging? Did I miss any categories that you’d like me to share?

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Valerie has been blogging since 2001, and has been running her oldest travel blog for a decade. You can find her across the internet on her various niche sites, but she started Site School to help fellow bloggers grow and create better content.

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