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How To Build A Successful Travel Blog (with Sofie Couwenbergh from Wonderful Wanderings)

Sofie’s a content entrepreneur who turned her travel blog into a business. Hear her pointers on quitting your day job, monetization, strategy, and outsourcing to build a successful blog.

We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.

Audio Transcription:

Intro

Welcome to the Indie Media Club Podcast. I’m Ben Aston, founder of the Indie Media Club. We’re on a mission to help independent, bootstrapped media entrepreneurs succeed, to help people who create, promote a monetize through content do it better. Check out indiemedia.club to find out more. 

Ben Aston

Today, I’m joined by Sofie Couwenbergh. She’s a copywriter and blogger who’s managed to turn her passion into her business. She’s a content entrepreneur. She’s a founder of a travel blog called Wonderful Wanderings and Let Me Write That Down For You, A content strategy and content creation service. So keep listening to today’s podcast to learn how to build a successful travel blog. Hey, Sofie. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Hey, Ben

Ben Aston

How would you grade my pronunciation? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

It was wrong. 

Ben Aston

Tell everyone what you’re really called. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

It’s OK. It’s pronounced, Couwenbergh. 

Ben Aston

Very good. That’s what I said, right? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

It was very close. Very close. 

Ben Aston

Well, let’s dig into your story. And I want to start off by talking about your travel blog, Wonderful Wanderings.com. And that’s Wanderings with a Wa. So I kind of wondering. So for those who aren’t familiar with it. Tell us about it. Who is it for. What kind of content do you create. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

So Wonderful Wanderings is a very practical travel blog aimed at independent travelers. Well, I’m mostly interested in traveling around Europe, so it’s not really a personal blog in the sense that it doesn’t go into, you know, how I feel about certain destinations. But it’s for people basically who travel like myself, who go in search of the things they need to see, how they need to get there, what the opening times are, and also how they can plan things most efficiently so that they can get the most out of their vacation. 

Ben Aston

So you as an independent traveler, came up with this concept. Oh, you were doing this and then you decided to document that journey you ran. Is that how it kind of the genesis of it? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

It grew very organically. So I launched the blog in 2012 and I launched it because at the time I was working as a copywriter for a publishing house. But the copywriting I was doing was pretty dry B2B stuff, and I kind of needed a creative outlet. Travel had always been a big passion of mine. So it was actually my parents who said, well, why don’t you combine the two and start writing about travel? So the blog started kind of as a travel diary, and from there it developed into the business that it is today. And the writing that I do on there does come forward out of my own travel style. 

Ben Aston

So the idea of niche-ing down into independent travel. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Yeah. 

Ben Aston

People traveling by themselves. Was that something that was intentional right from the start or just a niche that you identified as you started this process of beginning to write content about your travels? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Oh, I was horrible at niche-ing down. I am not the person to look at for advice on sitting down. I will say it is right upfront. I’m very honest about it because everything grew so organically in the beginning. I didn’t really want to pin myself down onto something specific. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

I did a lot of solo travel, but I also travel with my partner at the time. So it wasn’t a couple blog. It wasn’t a solo blog. But the one thing that was always there to one element that was always there was that I would plan and research everything myself and I would never really go on multiday tours or do anything with a guide. So hence the focus on the independent travel. 

Ben Aston

OK. So independence is more about traveling without anyone else’s help rather than. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Yeah. Exactly 

Ben Aston

Rather than just but having their friends. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Basically. Yes. That’s what it comes down to. 

Ben Aston

OK. That’s what a big component of a new kind of lead magnet on the site. So what about your free travel planning medical. So through this, you’re trying to educate people how to do the travel planning so that you can avoid operators and guides? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Yeah, it’s basically my own step by step process of how I plan a trip, how I look for hotels using specific filters, which my which are my favorite booking sites, but also like how do I map things out using Google Maps, for example, to make sure that I get to see as much as I want to without running from like east to west and north to south. Without needing to. 

Ben Aston

Yeah. So talk to us about how you want that when you decided, you know, Reno wanted to do bio parents to stop wonderful wonderings. What happened on day one? When did you decide? Okay. I am the blog. Trying to start writing about my travels is a creative outlet for you at this point. How did you actually get going? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Oh, I made the same rookie mistake I think a lot of people made. I opened a Blogspot account and I had that for like a week. I don’t even think I put an actual post up. And then I realized, like, OK, I really should get a do my own domain name and my own hosting and launch like a proper a self-hosted website, which was what I did then about a week later. And then I just I really just started writing about the trips I’d taken in the past few months. And it was very dear diary-style, like it was really, oh, today I did this and then we went there and then we ate there. So that’s how I started. 

Ben Aston

Right. And then how did that evolve over time? Your diary’s becoming something else? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

I think the more I got into it, the more I researched about blogging in general. And I also started to follow some travel bloggers, which I didn’t do beforehand, by the way. But I’m someone when I get started on something, I research all the things. And so I quickly learned that, you know, there were technical things I needed to take into account. There were specific ways of writing that worked better. There was this thing called an SEO, which I put off for three years, by the way, because I was scared of it. But I would say that as time progressed, I just kept learning and trying new things and implementing and testing. And that’s kind of how it grew. So I didn’t have a plan at the start, which was number one: Do have a plan when you start. If you want to turn it into a business because this cost me a lot of time in hindsight.

Sofie Couwenbergh

But for me, it really grew in that organic way that I was just kind of figuring things out as I went along. And also, back in 2012, blogging, in general, wasn’t that big yet, at least not travel blogging like people were doing it. But we didn’t have the resources that you have today. I mean, today you can literally buy a travel blogging course and have all the information you need from setting up your blog to monetizing it. That didn’t exist at that point. So I had to pull my information from various places and kind of put things together myself.

Ben Aston

And so, I mean, you talked about you should have a plan if you’re starting right. And you didn’t have one. What would you say if you were going to tell someone how to do it? What would that plan include? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

OK, so I have to preface this by saying that I’m a very structured, organized person, so I might if I would start again, I would probably take things slower than you may have to, but I would spend a very good amount of time doing competitor research, defining in each which I didn’t do before, doing keyword research, really putting together a content plan, a strategy based on that keyword research and really figuring out for myself, like, OK, what am I going to do? Which day of the week? Just seeing how to how much time that takes me. What am I going to do on social media?

Sofie Couwenbergh

How am I gonna go from a blog post to promoting that or maybe repurposing that to two different channels? So I think I would instead of just going for it and just starting writing, which I’m not saying is a bad thing, but I would definitely spend at least a month or so having a plan and knowing where I want to go because everybody in entrepreneurship, I guess with blogging it’s the thing—people always say, oh, you just have to get started, you know, dive in headfirst. But the problem with blogging, or at least that was a problem in my case, is that because I learned so many things in the months following my start that I had to go back later to improve a lot of things, to optimize things, to do things that I have done in the wrong way when I got started. So when you have a plan, you can kind of prevent that and save yourself time in the long run.

Ben Aston

Yeah. And so, I mean, let’s take into keyword research, which I think is a really interesting one. What tools to use for that? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

So I use AHREF and sometimes when I just want to do something quickly, I use key search as well. 

Ben Aston

Cool. And so the when you’re looking when you’re doing your keyword research, you talked about finding your nation, chasing down, trying to find an area or a keyword, a vein of keywords, which I’m guessing you’re looking for high volume of keywords, low keyword difficulty. Is that what you’re getting for? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Yeah, it is. I do have to add to that that at this point, my site is eight years old. It has a really good domain authority so I can go for high value. Keywell works with even a bit of a more a higher difficulty score. If you’re just starting out, you might want to go like very long-tail keywords, which might have lower volume, but which might also be easier to rank for. And then kind of make it harder for yourself as your site grows. But for me, I think the special thing maybe about travel blogging is that in a lot of different industries, people will look at it. OK, what are people searching for? And then I will write about that, whereas my writing still starts from the trips that I make. So I don’t think like, oh, OK. A lot of people, for example, the Philippines is a good example. If you write an article about the Philippines, you get a traffic spike. That’s the way it is. Those people love sharing content about their destination. But I haven’t really felt inclined yet to go there if I would do it purely for the traffic. I would say like, oh, I’ll go to the Philippines for two weeks and I’ll write an article about the Philippines. But my article still starts from the trips that I want to take. So does the first choice I make. And then based on where I’m going. I’ll do keyword research. 

Ben Aston

And so, I mean, let’s talk about monetization then, because. One of the things I mean, you’re talking about getting traffic. And the reason we’re talking about doing keyword research is because we’re trying to get as much organic traffic as we can because then we can try and monetize that traffic. And I think there’s an interesting component within here, which is, you know, you can get traffic to your Web site. But then there’s different traffic that has a different value, depending on, you know, their propensity to put just something directly from you. How do you monetize the site? Can you explain the different revenue streams? Do you have? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Yes. So when I started out back in the good old days, I would do a sponsored post, which was a big bag them. So basically like advertorials on the Website. But then I quickly moved into destination marketing, actually, which is I guess you could compare it would brilliant brand collaboration in different industries. But I very quickly focus on working mostly with tourism boards. So some people might work with hotel chains or with travel gear chains. I work with like national and local tourism boards to go there and experience the destination and then promote the destination to my audience. And up until I would say two and a half, three years ago, that was probably my main source of income alongside others. But then I kind of decided that I didn’t want to be as dependent on those campaigns because you are dependent on clients and my clients were governments. So they have a certain budget that they can spend or not spend. And also, the kind of campaigns that I was doing was basically trading time for money. So I wanted to get away from that a little bit. And I’ve since been focusing more on affiliate marketing. And I also have traditional advertising up on the website, which earns me income basically whenever somebody sees the ad. So those are my biggest ones, I would say its affiliate marketing, destination, marketing and then advertising. 

Ben Aston

Too unsafe for the destination marketing that you got involved with. Did those. Did you reach out to those destination marketing organizations or how did you how did that come about? ‘m most curious about how that actually happens. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

In the beginning. Yes. So in the beginning, I think, like with a lot of businesses, it was cold-called email outreach. But I also went to a lot of conferences and trade fairs where I could meet the marketing people from tourism boards or where I could meet PR agencies, for example. And I feel that it’s really helped me to connect face to face with these people. And then over time, because I did a lot of campaigns and I really focused on those tourism boards, I kind of was able to build a reputation in that. And I’ve come to the fortunate position that right now I don’t need to do a lot of outreach anymore. I have brands contacting me to work with them. So that’s nice. 

Ben Aston

That’s cool. So you have the revenue from the demos and then you have the affiliate marketing as well. So when your writing your content, I’m just curious how much you architect the content strategy around these three different revenue streams. The Demos affiliate marketing and advertising. So advertising, it doesn’t really matter. I’m guessing it’s one of our impressions whether or not people convert. So you’re just interested in kind of road traffic. But the affiliate, you need people who actually can take through by some things. How is that impacted you? You said your kind of underlying principle was, well, I’m really just going to go where I want to go and write about the places that I want to go to. So as you transitioned out of your day job into doing this full time, how did that impact how you kind of focused on the different areas of this content strategy? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Not enough, probably in the sense that I know that I could make a lot more money from affiliate marketing if I just wrote a bunch of best of listicles. I don’t know, the best hiking shoes, best rain jacket good for the outdoors, stuff like that. I know that would make me a lot more money because then you’re targeting people who are in a buyer mindset. But does business really grew from a passion? And I’m very grateful that it’s turned into a good business that earns me decent money. And I do want to make that money. Don’t get me wrong, I do have financial goals. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

But for me, I don’t see the point of having left my office job to do something else that I don’t like. So I do want to keep creating content that I enjoy creating and also that I stand behind, and not just because I know there’s money in it. So when I shifted that focus, what I really did, it was like, OK, how can I use affiliate marketing to improve the tips that I’m giving my audience? So, for example, I always created a lot of in areas, you know, like how to spend four days in Rome. This is what you’re do in the morning, this is what you do for lunch, et cetera. So when I got more serious about affiliate marketing, instead of just saying like, OK, I always book my hotels, I’m booking.com, which I do, by the way, I would start giving people five recommendations for hotels on booking.com in different price classes. So there would be a recommendation for a budget traveler, for a luxury traveler, for someone who likes to say like chains or in boutique hotels. So I just I guess I made my concerns more in-depth to also include those affiliate things. 

Ben Aston

That’s cool. 

Ben Aston

And so that’s kind of been your evolution of monetization. We kind of skipped a step here, which was between that kind of day where you started writing about your travels and making money. Obviously, as time passed, how many years was it before Asana starts making any money at all? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

So I launched a blog in the summer of 2012. I very quickly got to contact it to do kind of like press trips. You know, you go and you say somewhere and they cover for your say, for example, and then you write a review. And I think it was. I honestly don’t remember. But I’m guessing it was about a year in that I got to come to contact a fairly regularly to do paid collaboration’s or advertorials, and then I decided to quit my job. In November of 2014, I had to stay on for a bit longer because of the contract and I ended up leaving the beginning of February 2015. So basically two and a half years. I know. Yeah, about two years after I started the blog. 

Ben Aston

So by that time, we generating as much revenue as your day job. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

No the thing is, I, I was not in love with my day job. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

And so what I would do was I would go to the office from seven-thirty in the morning till 4:00 today in the afternoon. I would come home, I would eat something and I would work on the blog until like midnight, 1:00 a.m. easily. Like, I put so much time into it. And then I started using up all of my holidays. I even took up unpaid leave to go on press trips and conferences and do assignments for the blog.

Sofie Couwenbergh

And then there’s this one trip that really was like the pivotal moment in making the decision to quit my job. And that was I had a trip to Sri Lanka in November 2014. It was a super intense trip. We had to get up every morning at six-thirty. We wouldn’t have dinner until like nine or 10 in the evening. And then I had to leave on the last day at midnight to go to the airport, fly back to Belgium and then start working again the next day. And I was so exhausted, I got on the plane and I was like, eff-it. I’m not doing this anymore. I’m quitting my job. And you need to know like I’m someone who needs half an hour to decide what she’ll have for dinner at a restaurant. I’m a very indecisive person. But then and there I was like, no, it’s enough. I’m quitting. And at the time, like, I can be honest about this, I think on average I would probably make 500 euros a month. So not nearly enough to live off. But I had decent savings. Like I’ve started working when I was 16. I’ve always been wise. I would save up my money. So I figured I just I’d give it a go for a year. And then if at the end of the year it turned out that, you know, it wasn’t working, then I’d get a job again. Luckily, that never happened.

Ben Aston

Yes. Well, how was that first year then? Where you earning 500 euros, which is not enough to live on? How was that first year? And as you transitioned from being part-time and, you know, burning the midnight oil, trying to publish content, transitioning into, hey, this is my job now. What happened that. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Oh, I work so hard. I figured, oh, you know, I’m cutting my jobs and I’m going to work nine to five on the blog and I’ll have my evenings. But I just don’t operate that way. I’m a bit of a workaholic. So I kept putting in the time because I really, really wanted this to work. And I think at the end of the year, I had made like and I still haven’t made much I think it made like twelve thousand euros or so. But I was living with my partner at the time and we just agreed. Like I told him, I’m gonna quit my job. And he was like, okay, that’s fine. As long as you can keep contributing what you’re contributing now. Like, we were split all of our costs 50/50. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

It’s good. And I was able to do that. So I figured, like, OK, you know, I’m already making this much more than it was last year. So let’s give it another go. And then the year after, I had earned more than I was making at my full-time job. 

Ben Aston

Oh, wow. So that’s the second year of being full time. Yeah. The moment when things really got to click. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Yeah. I think having the freedom of not having to think about something else anymore and also a bit of the pressure of, hey, I really want to make this work has helped a lot in having the site grow as a business. 

Ben Aston

So when you watch the blog, obviously your mum and dad were reading it, which is great. But how did you tell me about rebuilding your audience? Because in order to be invited along to these press trips to become an affiliate, you also need some traffic. And how did you what was the process you went through to build your audience? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

So as I mention, like, I think until 2016, probably I did not pay enough attention to SEO. Now it’s my favorite way of generating traffic. Back then, I was scared of it, but I was putting out a lot of content. And because I was putting out a lot of content, I did start to rank. And I’ve always gotten a big portion of my traffic from organic traffic. I’ve also, you know, I’m on all the social media channels that you’re supposed to be on. I have a Facebook page for the blog, an Instagram channel. I used to have a Google Plus page. I have Pinterest. I used to do stumble upon, you know, all those things that have content come and gone again. But if I have to say like, figure out what works for you. I know this is a cliche, but for the longest time I saw so many people be successful, like social media promotion, and it’s never really been my thing. Like, I love communicating with my audience directly. And I have people who are commenting on Facebook now who have been there since 2012. It’s crazy. I love it. But I’m not very much of a broadcaster. I’m much more enjoy the conversations I have with my readers via email, for example, or via direct messages on Instagram. And it took me a long time to realize that, OK, it’s a bit riskier, but it’s OK if you get like over 80 percent from your traffic from Google. So I’d say like in 2017, that’s when I really started focusing on SEO. And that’s also when my traffic, I think, started growing much faster than it had before. 

Ben Aston

And I would share that I’d share a similar story in terms of focusing on SEO, which is a cheap and reliable way to generate traffic if you’re launching something for the first time. So that’s cool. And now in terms of like building your audience now, to begin with. I mean, you talk to SEO and Social haven’t worked so well for you. Maybe. I’m curious as you’ve kind of evolved from this part-time doing this in the evenings and weekends to be it is your full-time job. Well, how are you seeing over the past year or so where do we have to where’s the growth come from and why they’re kind of future opportunities too easy for it? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

That’s a difficult question right now in Corona Times for a travel blogger. In terms of growth, I think there’s still a lot of potential for my blog. Just with SEO and content creation, like I really believe in attracting new readers and getting older readers to come back just by creating more and good content and optimizing that content. Obviously, I have been investing a bit more time in my newsletter, but that’s also because it was hard to invest less time in it. I wasn’t I was only sending emails like once a month, so I’m trying to be better at that now. But at the moment, to be honest, I’m really just focusing on setting up processes and also training my team. I have some people working for me to be able to take a step back from the blog and let it run itself a bit more, because now it’s a whole Corona situation. Obviously, people aren’t researching travel as much anymore. They’re not booking anymore. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

So whereas at the start of the year, my plan might have still been growing. It’s now really about getting the blog in the best possible shape it can be for when travel. Well, tourism travel picks up again, which I don’t think will be before the end of the year. 

Ben Aston

Yeah. I mean, let’s talk about team for a minute. So how do you structure your team? And as you began to bring in people to support you in building and promoting the blog. How did he was your first hire and how did that evolve over time? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

My first hire is probably the person who’s still with me today is my developer. I just typically like I don’t have employees. I only work with freelancers. So there’s nobody who works even part-time for me. And that’s because I hire a very Tosk specifically. That hasn’t always been the case. So I used to have someone who did many different tasks for me and she was great. Then she got pregnant with her third baby and she had to take six months off. And I was like, shit, I need to find someone to, like, take overall this work. And they realized that it was safe for me in case anything like this would happen again, that I would divvy up her tasks among various people. So you had a person who Zoom with me the longest as my developer just because, you know, when I started out, I broke things constantly and I needed someone to fix them. And I have a running tab with him. So we have an agreement that if I reach a certain amount, he invoices me and then we’re good again and then we start all over. It’s easy. 

Ben Aston

That’s. cool you had a developer and then some kind of assistant. What kind of tasks were they doing that you then divvied up among other people? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Yeah. So after the developer, first V.A. I had, which is no longer with me at the moment. Just help with small like research stuff, data input stuff, things behind the scenes really right now, quickly. So when I let him go, I started to look for someone who could help me write advertorials and things and also someone who could help me with social media promotion. So there’s been a few people between when I started hiring and now. But the people who are with me now, I think the youngest hire I have is actually from last April. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

But then the other person has been with me for a year already and then my developer isn’t with me since 2012. So I do try to keep people with me for as long as I can. And right now what I outsource, aside from developing, is all of my Pinterest. So. Creation of pins, uploading them to my blog posts, scheduling them. I used to mind for scheduling Pinterest, so scheduling them, they’re also manual pinning. Then I have one writer who helps me with research base blog posts. So for her, I dropped an outline. And I still do all the SEO work that she writes articles. And then I just hired a person who is helping me optimize old content right now because I’ve already deleted a bunch of the very old. This is what I did today. Blog posts. But I still have over six hundred blog posts in two languages. So those need to be updated annually, preferably. And I really can’t do it at all by myself. 

Ben Aston

Yeah. So let’s talk about the bilingual for a second. I didn’t realize that the all of the content was in two languages. Was that a decision? You mention it. Was that a decision you made it right at the beginning or why did you think it was worth doing that? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

No way. So when I started the blog, I did ask myself, like, OK, should I do it in English or should I do it in Dutch? Dutch is my native language, by the way, for. For the listeners. I didn’t. I guess I already had some vision because I decided that I would reach a bigger audience with English. But then I think a year or so into blogging, I had some friends who spoke English perfectly fine. So me like, yeah, you know, we understand English, but it’s not as easy for us to read as Dutch. And then I figured, well, you know, if my Belgian friends aren’t either even going to bother, then other Belgian people might not bother either. And I didn’t want to reach that Belgian audience. So I think it was in 2014 that I decided to translate everything. And right now, I’m not translating everything anymore. I would say the largest part portion of my content is in both languages. 

Ben Aston

So now you’re primarily focused on Dutch or English? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

On English. It’s weird because I’ve always written first in English. So even when I started translating articles, I would write first in English and then translate them to Dutch. I even had a translator for a while because the thing is, is kind of boring to write the same thing twice. Like, I know what I wrote. It’s not very appealing to just write it again in another language. But yeah, when you have time constraints for me, at least like I get more affiliate income from the English speaking audience. I get better ad income from the English speaking audience. Traffic is just in general, you know, search volumes are higher in English than they are in Dutch. So I have to admit that I’m sometimes I let the Dutch slip a little low. 

Ben Aston

And have you ever considered localizing in any other language? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Yes, I have. I actually have. I have no meaning for Germany, for France. I think I also have a co.uk. So I know I could like if I wanted to, I could invest heavily and have the entire blog translated in like five or six other languages. But the ideal loan is just I don’t want to do it again. This is like business-wise, maybe not the best decision. Like if you’re in a purely for the money. This is something that you could do. But for me, it’s still much more important that I enjoy what I’m doing and that I always say like. I need to enjoy at least 70 percent of this, otherwise, it’s not worth it anymore. So, I avoid bringing on things that don’t bring me pleasure or that I can outsource. But that will give me a headache. Outsourcing. 

Ben Aston

Yeah. I mean, my experience of localizing actually wasn’t that bad. So we decided to localize in two. We did Spanish first because we thought, OK, there’s lots of Spanish speakers and the headache part of it was finding a good person to do the translations. But once we’d found our translator, the process of getting the process translated and then publishing them into the site, we got a visa to do that. We’d done the keyword research upfront in the language. So then it was just, hey, use this keyword, translates this post. V.A. publishes it. And I don’t know, it takes us about three months. I guess one thing we did do is we just focused on the top 50 posts in the Language. And yeah, and it’s it has made a massive difference. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

So maybe it’s all in my head. 

Ben Aston

Well, I mean, the I think the painful thing to me is like finding a translator that you like. Hey, this person is good. They’re quick. They’re right. So. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. 

Ben Aston

And then it’s just the process just does itself. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

So I can talk more about this. 

Ben Aston

Yeah, if it were worth thinking about for sure in terms of that process for you, in terms of creating content now, so you use you know, you’re very much still obviously we’re planning on going on trips, writing pace about those trips. What does your content process look like and how do you manage the production of content? Is it because it’s just you? Are you just kind of doing what you want straight into WordPress or do you have it managing things on Trello and trying to manage your HR’s? How does a hundred of that work? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

So we use Asana for a team. And I, I actually have like a task template. I would say like a mini S.O.P in Asana for every content creation task. So whenever a new post needs to be created, I just copy that template and I fill in, you know, the correct blog name and I assign the tasks because yes, at first I, I was the one who did everything and me, I only had like a little checklist for myself, but not it’s not the case anymore. So I usually start with the keyword research. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

I use search for a service using search for an SEO quite a few months ago. I already know as well as I do my first keyword research and Ahrefs was, for example. And then I’ll make an outline using Surfer SEO. Yeah. So that I also have like the keyword density information and all of that. And then when, if I write to posts I will write it in Surfer or what I usually do is like with Surfer you can export to the guidelines to Google Docs and then I’ll do that and I’ll send that to my writer. Well, she knows where to find it. Let’s put it that way. She sees a task in Asana. She knows where to find it. To write the post. She’ll source the photos. Or I have my own photos for my trip. But then she will optimize them, name them so that they’re ready to go on the blog. And then I do a final check before I copy-paste everything in WordPress. And then when that’s done, my other V.A. who does Pinterest will create the pins, will upload a pin into WordPress. And then I hit publish. And then all the promotion that’s done afterward is also my V.A. 

Ben Aston

Yeah. How does that take it from start to finish? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

It’s tough to say because it’s split up over various days now because what I’m trying to do at the moment is actually only work on the blog on Fridays because I have started a new business recently when I was the one who was only working on the blog posts. It could easily take me a full day to do a blog post, sometimes, even more, including like all the keyword research, the photo editing, etc.. Right now, it’s it doesn’t take me much time because my writers and my social media people are doing the bulk of the work. So it’s kind of hard to say. But at the moment I’m able to put out two blog posts a week with like I would say, three hours a week work, something like that. And then what I do is like on the like on the first sort of the second day of the month, I’ll prepare all the keyword research and the guidelines for the content that will be creating that month. 

Ben Aston

So and in terms of how many hours then on each piece of post Jitter as a writer, the temptation can be too. I mean, it’s hard to stop making your posts better, right? So how do you decide when enough is enough when a post is good enough? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

So basically, when I’ve reached the word that’s very stupid, but I really I do very thorough competitor research, so I know how long my post should theoretically be to rank on the first page of Google. I know what I want to write. It is very rare that I don’t reach that word. Word count. Like me personally, I’m off writing comes very easily to me. It’s all the rest that I’ve had to learn. So, yeah, I don’t know, sometimes I guess I might have had to cut things short, but I’ve never been in the instance that I was lost for words, let’s say. And I’ve never liked my writer. She has she’s never told me. They’re like, oh, you know, you asked for this many words, but I don’t know what to write anymore. 

Ben Aston

And so how do you calculate the ROI of creating a then? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

It depends on what the goal is of the posts. 

Ben Aston

Right. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

So when it’s for a campaign for a client. It depends what their goal is. Obviously, like some clients are doing it for exposure. Someone links but want colleagues back to their Website. So in that case, their goal is my goal. For the content that I create that has a lot of affiliate stuff in there. Basically, like the conversion rate is important. It’s always the conversion rate is also important. Always important. But because I have ads on the Web site as well, like traffic is an important factor for me, too. A lot of people say like, oh, you know, traffic is just the means to an end, which is true if you’re selling products, for example, if you have a lot of traffic but you’re not able to sell your products, then the traffic is meaningless. But because I have that advertisement on the website as well, for me there is a direct link between how much traffic I get and how much money I make. 

Ben Aston

What ad networks on the site? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

I have Media Vine. 

Ben Aston

Have you tried any other ones? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

No, because. Well, I know I haven’t. Because when I. So I have. I had a few smaller niche sites as well before which I’ve sold. Not already. But I used to have ad sense on those. And I knew, like, it didn’t really make a lot of money, and I was very long opposed to putting ads on the blog because, you know, the blog was my baby and it was my passion project. And I wanted it to be pretty and I didn’t want to bother people. But then Media Vine came in like they have an amazing support team. They really work hard on things like sites like you know, not dragging sites be done and stuff like that. And I was getting more and more other travel bloggers telling me, like, oh, it’s amazing. The income is good, the support is good. You should really try this. So I figured, like, OK, you know, let me try this for three months. Let me see if it affects the behavior, behavior of readers on my site. And then I can still, you know, kick it off if I want to kick it off. And it didn’t change anything. Like, I was worried that people would stop reading posts, must Merkley quickly, that they’d click away, that there would be no heavy load on the side speed. But none of those really was the case. And it makes like it makes a good chunk of money if you have decent traffic. Everybodys. I don’t know. I feel like people are kind of Shites. It’s all about having ads on their website. But I feel like you’re providing all of this content for free. People are used to seeing ads online. If they don’t want to see them, they can use an ad blocker. So I tested it. It worked and I kept it. 

Ben Aston

That’s cool. And so when you are trying to evaluate how well you’re doing, when you’re comparing month to month or year to year, you know, one of the kinds of metrics that you look at, what metrics matter to you in your when you’re evaluating how you’re doing. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

In the end, it’s about profit for me because it’s still a business. So if profit is going up, I’m happy if it’s going down. I need to know why it’s going down. Sometimes there is a valid reason sometimes. I have to dig a bit deeper or something needs to be changed. And then. Like the stats, like traffic, for example, are important, but they’re more important for me to see what’s working and what isn’t to know, you know, the kind of content that I’m creating. Is it still interesting for people? How much time are they spending on the site? Can I tell that they’re really reading an article from top to bottom or are they clicking away after two minutes? So on the one hand, there’s the pure income because obviously this is a business. But then, on the other hand, it’s also making sure that I’m still providing the information that people are looking for. 

Ben Aston

And so the metrics that matter, there are things like dwell time or pages per session. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Yeah, exactly. 

Ben Aston

And do you use any other tools like Hot Dog or anything to kind of evaluate the kind of engagement on the site? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Yeah, I use the Hotjar heat maps. 

Ben Aston

Yeah. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Yeah especially when I’m thinking of I don’t use it always because I find it a bit heavy, but especially when thinking about changing things. And then I’ll use hotjar to track those changes. I actually also oh I need to mention this because this is really good. I use an app. It’s a platform actually. It’s called Affilimate. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. It’s quite it’s quite new. And what it allows you to do is it allows you to plug in not all but a lot of like the biggest affiliate programs that you have into the platform. And then it will literally tell you, like, OK, this the clickthrough rate per page, the conversion rate per page where the conversions are going up or down and collect, your rates are going up or down. So that’s a really good tool for me to see how my affiliate marketing is performing. Month by month. 

Ben Aston

Cool, Thank you for sharing that. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Yeah. 

Ben Aston

Now, I know you mentioned you started some other niche sites and you’ve been working on other projects that you’ve now sold. But I know you’ve started a new project called Let me write that down for you. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Yes, we’re excited. 

Ben Aston

Tell us about that. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Okay, so my background is actually in copywriting. My first job was in journalism. I worked for Novell’s and Press Agency, and then I became a copywriter for an international publishing house, which is a job that I left to go into travel, blogging. And I kind of the last year and a half or so, I kind of started to really miss. What I would call like just the writing. Like really doing research about topics, about brands, and then bringing that together and really good copy or content. So that’s kind of why I’m trying to build downtime that I spend on the travel blog and why I’ve launched. Let me write that down for you, which is a copywriting and content strategy service. So I’m working with brands to create a content strategy for their business blog or create content for their blog, but also to make sure that their Website copy is optimized for the audience that they’re trying to reach. 

Ben Aston

So let’s talk about content strategy for a minute. When you what are your deliverables when you do a content strategy? Because I think content strategy in many people’s minds, maybe it sounds like, oh, well, you know, I know what I want to write about. Right. You know, I write about the business. What? Well, the deliverables that you produce when you’re looking at a content strategy. How do you work out how much to write about a certain topic? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

So I basically create a content calendar for them, a 12-month content calendar, which is based on keyword research that I’ll do for them, but also on the customer testimonials on reviews that they got on competitor research. So I take what I’ve learned from running my own blog and optimizing my own blog. And I then apply that to create a complete year-long content strategy for them. So it includes the same things that I include when I write my blog posts. This is exactly like calculating how long a blog post should be, but also crafting like an engaging headline, crafting, and engaging Meadow’s description so that people will click on their link when they see it pop up in the search results. Does that answer your question or? 

Ben Aston

Yeah, yeah. So this is a content calendar. I’m interested, I guess, and talking about content clustering and how you decide, you know, we identify a topic that aligns with a user need and what business wants to write about. There’s that sweet spot, someone searching for this and the business offers it. So there’s some match in terms of intent. And we find the keyword or the area that we think we’re going to write about. But then how did you decide whether or not this is one blog post or time blog posts? How do you kind of drill down into that? 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Oh, it’s difficult to explain. I don’t have an in front of me and such a textual person. Like, I have to imagine having my spreadsheet in front of me now. But it basically for me, it’s kind of like puzzle work. So I will first do a whole lot of research, not just keyword research, but also look at, you know, what does a company maybe already have in terms of content or what knowledge do they have in-house? Because sometimes you can get so much content just from interviewing the SEO, for example. And so I will look at everything we have and then I will group that together in what you could call topic clusters. And then I will go and decide, usually based on the keyword research. Like what makes sense to put together and what makes sense to break down in separate articles? Because you kind of want to make sure that no two articles are going to overlap for the same search. Does that is? Is that what you mean? 

Ben Aston

Yeah, definitely. So we have a content strategy in place. And then you offer the copywriting service on top of that. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Exactly. 

Ben Aston

And then I notice there’s one other service where you have a Website critique service. Is anyone taking you up on that, where you have people? Yeah.

Sofie Couwenbergh

I love doing those. Because, you know, oftentimes. People or businesses create their Website. And then in the course of months or years, as a business evolves, they will add things or they will change services a little, but they don’t necessarily change the Website or they might change their target audience order tartans like their ideal customer. Turns out not to be the customer that they had in mind when they launched a business, but they don’t adapt their messaging to adapt to that customer. Or what also happens is that you know, a business knows what it offers, but it doesn’t really phrase that offering in a way that’s appealing to their ideal customer. So what I do is I take them to say an extensive briefing process where I really get down to like, OK, what do you do? How does this make the life of your customer better or how does it make their work easier for them? What how do you want to come across as well? You know, are you like are you a hip on some company or do you want to be like come across as very serious and trustworthy? What are your values in that? And then I basically take all that information to look at their site and sometimes also their social media channels to make sure that they’re their messaging and their copy that they use is actually in line with their values and what they’re offering and the persons, the people that they want to reach. So instead of like when I do Copywrite, I’ll just, oh, do all that research and then I’ll deliver a copy. But some people prefer writing themselves. The Website critiques are also a bit less pricey than the copywriting itself. So for businesses on a budget, this is a good way to figure out what they should change without hiring a copywriter to actually change it. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

So they get the guidelines, let’s say, for the things that they need to improve. 

Ben Aston

Yes. If you want to find out more about that, check out. Letmewritethatdownforyou.com and you’ll see it over all the different offerings. So just before we go, I want to ask one more question, and that is for someone at the start of their digital media journey, maybe they want to write, create a travel blog. Maybe it’s something else. But what’s one piece of advice you’d give? Maybe based on the biggest mistake that you made? One thing that you think people should remember. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Do a bit of upfront research. I think that was my biggest, well, maybe not a mistake because when I started, I had no idea that this would turn into a business. But if I just instead of writing those first few blog posts very enthusiastically, if I had just taken the time to spend a week or two weeks doing like research behind a possible business model of a travel blog or, you know, after what is an SEO, for example, I think I could have saved myself a lot of, like, time in the long run. So if you have an idea of what you want to do. Don’t just look at like, OK, how can I set this up technically, but think a bit more long term at how will you need to optimize this in the future? And how can you get started correctly straight away?

Ben Aston

Yes, I think there is that solid advice, I think having a having a good strategy at the beginning, that makes sense. And then going back to what we just talking about that aligns with a customer need with that business objective. So it’s all very well and good that you being able to actually generate traffic. But then if you can’t monetize that traffic in any way, then it’s kind of wasted. So you’re having a well-thought-out strategy is really worth putting the time in. As enthusiastic as you might be, as Sofie was, as I as I was two when I started, you know, if you enjoy writing, then it can feel good and you feel good when you press to publish it. Is there. And then no one reads it. And then you need to wonder why. So the strategy is a good thing. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us, Sofie. It’s been great having you with us today. 

Sofie Couwenbergh

Thank you for having me. I really have fun. 

Ben Aston

And if you’d like what you heard today, please subscribe and stay in touch on Indie Media Club. But until next time. Thanks so much for this. 

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