Over the course of the past few years, I think it’s an understatement to say how unpredictable it has been to run a travel site – especially a new, niche travel site. That’s why I’ll admit I’m a little surprised that the first of my ‘on-a-whim’ sites in 2021 – London On My Mind – has done so well that it’s become one of my top priorities in 2022.
I started London On My Mind (LOMM) at the beginning of last year, as a spin-off from my main travel site. Despite the pandemic and travel restrictions, it’s become one of my favorite projects, and has grown well – with lots of potential in the future.
In this post, I’ll recap the last year – this first year – of running LOMM. As always, I’m very open to questions beyond what I share here.
What are these Case Studies?
As a reminder, I’ll be doing case studies for every site I’ve created, at the 6-month, 9-month, and 12-month marks. Then I’ll switch to every six months for the next year; you can expect reports at 18 months and 24 months. If a site reaches its two-year mark and I plan to continue writing, I’ll switch to annual reports. Here are the ages of each site and its current status:
- Valerie & Valise – 8 years – annual w/ monthly recaps
- Space Tourism Guide – 4 years – annual
- Discover Sausalito – 2 years – annual
- Follow the Butterflies – 21 months – semi-annual
- London on My Mind – 1 year (this post!) – semi-annual
- Great Plains Travel Guide – 10 months – quarterly
- Soup Whoop – 9 months – quarterly
- Jordan Traveler – 8 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
- Eat Like Bourdain – 7 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
- True Crime Pods & Solar Smarts – 6 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
(Links will take you to the full list of reports about that site!)
Here’s a quick glance at the stats for London On My Mind at its first anniversary:
|Date First Published||January 1, 2021|
|Articles Live (as of 1/1/22)||58|
|Publishing Cadence||Weekly or Twice Weekly*|
|Monthly Pageviews (last 30 days)||11,426|
|Maximum Pageviews (in last year)||15,165 (November 2021)|
|Average Pageviews per Post||292|
In the rest of this post, I’ll dive more into the history of the site and where I hope it goes in the year to come.
History & Status of London On My Mind
I started London On My Mind at the beginning of January 2021, as a spin-off of my travel site, Valerie & Valise. I had originally shared several London posts on that site, but decided to try putting them on their own site after my successes with other niche sites before.
In the past year, I’ve expanded the strategy of the site from the basics (itineraries, travel tips, packing lists, etc.) to cover a range of topics. To be completely transparent, many of my ideas were inspired by other London bloggers who I see have been successful.
The main hurdle in growing LOMM has been the pandemic; the U.K. is the canary in the coal mine for the impact on travel in the U.S. However, with the re-opening of the U.K. in July and enthusiasm for international travel in general, the site has done pretty well for being just one year old. The main impact I saw was in December, when the Omicron outbreak caused a dip in travel to the U.K. (and people searching for sites like mine as a result).
At this point, LOMM is healthy, with over 50 articles and a reliable ability to rank in Google. Certainly there’s room to build site authority to rank better, and opportunities to fill gaps in my content strategy, which is one of the things I’ll be focusing on as the site moves into its second year.
As I mentioned, LOMM had a basic content strategy to begin with, but now has a large number of categories it covers:
- Beyond London
- Flavors of London
- Goods & Treats
- Packing Lists
- Things to Do
- Travel Tips
- Where to Stay
They’re all pretty self explanatory, right? In short, my goal is to be come the most comprehensive resource on London travel for Americans who want to visit – and that means covering it all… without wandering down the lanes of content that end up attracting local readers too.
Specifically, I’m avoiding the “best [restaurants/bars/etc] in London” style of content as well as neighborhood guides I see many of my competitors do. These types of content have a tendency to attract as many – if not more – locals than visitors. I might do these kinds of posts in the future, but for now, I’m always focused on traveler resources.
Here are two graphs to show you how many posts I’ve written in each category (left) and how much traffic each category is bringing (right):
Takeaway #1: The Pareto Principle Always Applies
While my content strategy has been pretty well distributed across the different categories I cover, my “Flavors” category is the behemoth earner when it comes to traffic – and it’s one post specifically: The 13 London Foods You Must Try on Your First Trip
I don’t know how to explain it, but I’ve found this to be the case for all of my sites up to a certain level of traffic and site age; there will always be one post doing the heavy lifting until it grows to a certain level where others start to exceed that post.
Takeaway #2: Affiliate Tracking is Hard – and Annoying
I have lots of affiliate opportunities on LOMM, primarily in “Things to Do” and “Where to Stay,” but it’s been really hard to set up an effective affiliate strategy – or track what I’ve done. If I ever have time (hah!) I might do the heavy lifting to get it set up better, but for now I’m going to focus on some other monetization strategies (more on that below).
Takeaway #3: Seasonal Content is an Interesting Strategy
As you can see since my last case study report, I’ve been working to add seasonal content to LOMM. While this hasn’t paid off yet, it’s a new strategy I’m trying since I think it has potential to create meaningful traffic year-round in turn. I expect this might start to pay off by next autumn, since most of my that content will be a year old by that year. I’ll be sure to report back.
So what’s next, as we move into the second year of this site? I’ll be doing an 18-month report, but wanted to set some year-long areas of focus for the business – since this lil site is going to become its own budding business in the next year if all goes according to plan.
As we move into the second year of running this site, one of my big focuses is on LOMM is just producing more content. I believe this site has real potential, but at the end of the day, it needs more content to rank for more keywords to get more traffic and to earn from that traffic accordingly.
To accomplish this goal, I’m doing some intense content sprints this year; you might have noticed one that is already happening on the site this month (January 2022). With my team, we’re doing a 31-day, 31-post sprint – which will increase the number of posts on the site by 65% in one month. (Ideally, that’ll raise my traffic at least 65%, right?)
I originally intended to do just one of these sprints then slow back down to weekly or biweekly content, but I’m so excited about the site right now that I think we may do another sprint again before the end of Q1 or in early Q2.
Email Email Email
After not focusing on email marketing at all in the first year of the site, I now feel confident that the site has enough traffic to justify more aggressive and strategic email marketing.
I’ve already rolled out new email signup forms to try and collect more emails and launched my monthly email newsletter on January 1st. Everything is pretty basic right now, but I think this is a good starting point to build a list and warm them up to more frequent emails in the future.
While I haven’t shared much about it, I plan to follow the exact same strategy for email list building and marketing that I’ve done with the Alaska segment of Valerie & Valise.
While I’ve been doing affiliate marketing on LOMM since the site started, it’s hard to make a meaningful amount when a site doesn’t get meaningful traffic. Now that the site has crossed the 10k pageviews threshold reliably, I feel more comfortable monetizing using other tools.
For starters, I’m in the process of getting ads set up with SheMedia. I had tried to get LOMM on Ezoic in late 2021, but they dicked me around so long that I finally gave up and moved both of my sites to SheMedia. While I’m earning less currently, I’m much happier with my ad network experience and customer support now.
I’m also always thinking about product opportunities; to start, I’ve created the London Budget Bundle and will see how that does as a small, affordable option. I also have one eBook in mind, though I may give that away as a freebie. In general, I’m using the rules from Kate Doster’s Love Your List 2.0 course (one of the best courses I’ve invested in) to try and monetize this audience wisely.
Social Community Building
I’ve slowly come around to realizing the power of a social audience, so I’ve also been working on this. I have a basic, two-pronged approach at this point:
- I’m building a Facebook community, London Travel Tips, to help expand my reach and promote blog posts and partnerships
- I started an Instagram, @london_my_mind, with the eventual goal of doing reels and other content like that… but I’m admittedly a bit short on video assets currently thanks to the pandemic, so this is a back-burner project for later in Year 2.
I obviously have big goals for LOMM and want to accomplish a lot in 2022 as I did in the first year of the site. I’ve just gotta find the time to do it all.
Do you have any other questions about this recap for London On My Mind? Let me know in the comments; I’m happy to share anything that I forgot to include!