Throughout my life, I have always enjoyed telling stories and have grown up maintaining a blog as my creative outlet. In 2015, I started a travel instagram account called @GirlEatWorld and an accompanying travel blog at GirlEatWorld.net, purely as a way to keep track of travels for myself and for friends who would be asking me for travel tips.
I'm a frequent lurker of Reddit and one day I decided to post my Instagram on /r/travel. In what became the most unexpected overnight success I've had in my life, the Instagram account was featured by multiple news outlets including BuzzFeed, Huffington Post and Business Insider. Thanks to all these websites, at its peak, I received over 11,000 followers overnight. The Instagram now sits at 300,000+ followers.
However, the success of the Instagram account does not translate to blog traffic. It wasn't until years later when one of my blog posts (Trekking Mount Rinjani) - that I originally wrore for friends - started gaining thousands of visits a month, that I realized the content I wrote could be useful for other people too.
I wasn't willing to let go of my passion of being a Product Designer, but at the same time I knew I was sitting on something that could potentially be monetized. It wasn't until a few eyars later that I started really looking into ways to turn the blog into a side gig. I learned most blogs earn passive income through display ads. The ad network requires a blog to have 25,000 sessions a month before they can be considered as an ad publisher, so that became my measurement of success.
With the goal of 25,000 sessions a month, I started devouring all possible resources on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and implemented the best practices on my blog posts. I also realized that in order for the website to be favored by search engines, I needed it to load fast. So I did the opposite of what most designers would do - I stripped the blog bare of all unnecessary design elements and kept it simple, in order to optimize its loading speed. I also optimized web assets (JS, CSS, Images) and used content delivery network so it would load fast regardless where visitors are coming from.
Slowly, I started seeing results and met the sessions requirement at the beginning of 2019. Right around then, I also became aware of another possible source of income: Affiliate Marketing. By recommending tours or travel necessities, I can earn a little % of each sales booked through my blog. So I went back to all my old posts and started implementing affiliate link to tours and activities that people can book to enhance their travel experience.
After setting up these basics, all that's left is creating content. I focused on creating travel posts that are useful with as much detail as I possibly can include. I made sure each post brings value to anyone visiting that destination, at the same time I also kept in mind that the post must be search engine friendly.
The combination of SEO, speed optimization and content strategy really paid off. In 2019, GirlEatWorld.net saw an increase of 520% of sessions compared to the previous year. In addition to that, the blog earned a healthy amount from affiliate marketing and display ads.
To see how GirlEatWorld is doing today, you can visit the website here.