This is an interview with Michael of The World Was Here First.
Hey, Michael. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
My partner (Maggie) and I run The World Was Here First – a website that primarily focuses on helping people travel in Europe & North America, while supporting local economies and promoting responsible tourism.
We also have a few other projects with our main other focus being No Frills Kitchen. This is a cooking website where Maggie shares recipes and helps people learn to cook without the need for anything fancy.
We lived in Europe for several years before relocating to Melbourne, Australia in 2023.
What was your life like before becoming a travel blogger?
I worked full time in marketing and data analytics.
What led to starting the website, and what was your initial idea for it?
Maggie & I met while travelling in the Balkans in 2016 when there wasn’t a lot of information online about the region. Shortly after, we both moved to London and wanted to create a travel resource to help people planning trips to lesser visited corners of Europe.
We also initially wanted to write about living in London but we found those articles weren’t as popular, so we switched our focus away from that.
When did you start treating your blog as a business, and what happened then?
We started our website in 2017 and we were always hoping that we could earn some side income from it. But it wasn’t until 2019 when we left London and started travelling full time that we were able to dedicate more time to our website and to grow the traffic and income from it.
How did you grow the blog traffic in the first years?
We focused on promoting our articles on social media (primarily Facebook & Pinterest). We also got a small amount of organic search traffic.
Growth initially was slow as we didn’t really know what we were doing when it came to SEO and we also weren’t publishing a lot of content.
What’s specific about your Pinterest strategy?
We create multiple pins for all our content and schedule out pinning it to Pinterest over a period of a few weeks.
I think Pinterest has a very specific type of audience so your success on Pinterest will vary greatly depending on your niche.
When did SEO become your main focus and what steps did you take first to optimize your site and content?
While we always knew that SEO was important from day one, it was only a year or two into creating our website that we really understood the type of articles we needed to be writing in order to appear in search.
Initially, we were writing articles that targeted very high competition terms that we had no chance of ranking of.
The first keyword tool we ever used was KeySearch and that helped us better understand keyword competition and what terms we had the best chance of ranking for.
How do you pick new topics to cover on the blog?
Primarily, we write about places that we are interested in travelling in, fit within our niche and we think that our audience will find interesting.
We also sometimes will plan to visit places where we think there is a gap in our content.
What’s your content creation process like?
We want to be able to provide a complete resource for certain destinations on our website.
For destinations that we travel to, we write the content ourselves. But we also have a writing team who have specifically travelled to places where we haven’t and can fill gaps for our popular destinations on our website.
How often do you publish content, and how do you promote it?
These days we publish less content than we used to as we are also constantly updating older posts to make sure that all the information is up to date and relevant. This means we might publish 5-10 new posts a month but we’re also updating a lot more.
We promote new posts to our email list as well as on some social channels.
What’s your email marketing strategy and how do you consistently grow your list?
Our email list has been a large focus for us over the last few years. We aim to segment our list based on the destinations that our subscribers are interested travelling in.
We grow our list by offering free downloadable guides for specific places that we have a lot of content on. We then also send them additional information and links to articles about the places that they’re interested in.
How do you monetize the blog?
We primarily monetize our blog through display ads and affiliate marketing. We also have in the past sold digital products such as ebooks and we are planning on offering that again in the near future.
How much are you currently earning from travel blogging?
Our travel website and other online projects are able to provide a full-time income for both myself and Maggie.
What ad network do you use to display ads, and how did you choose it?
We use Mediavine for our display ads. We choose them a few years ago (in 2018) as they had a lower traffic requirement than their competitors and it was the most common ad network for travel bloggers.
What are your best tips for earning from affiliate marketing as a travel blogger?
Focus on matching the reader intent of your article to the affiliate offers you are promoting. For example, if you are writing an article about the best areas to stay in a particular city, focus on hotel affiliates.
How many hours per week do you and Maggie spend on blogging activities?
This a full-time job for both of us, however, we love the flexibility that the job provides. This means that when we’re at home we might work full days but we also take periods of time off.
Compare that to the amount of work you were putting in when growing the blog.
When we started, we had other commitments so we would only spend a few hours a week working on the website, typically on weekends or evenings.
What is it like running a blog with your partner?
I think we work well together and we find that they key is communication. Having spent several years working together now, we both know where each others’ strengths and weaknesses lie and are able to plan our tasks accordingly.
We have check-ins regularly and plan our tasks to ensure that we have a successful work partnership.
What’s next for you and The World Was Here First?
In 2024, we will continue to focus on growing both The World Was Here First and our cooking site No Frills Kitchen.
We want to be able to further diversify our traffic sources, launch some digital products and continue to provide high quality resources for our readers.