How it started
Throughout my life, I have always enjoyed writing and telling stories. Although I would not call myself a writer, I grew up maintaining a blog as one of my creative outlet. In 2015, far before Influencer marketing became what it is today, I created an instagram account called @GirlEatWorld with an accompanying travel blog GirlEatWorld.net. It started purely for myself, as a way to keep track of my travels, and for friends who sometimes would be asking me for travel tips and stories.
I'm a frequent lurker on Reddit. 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 picked up from reddit and featured by multiple news outlets including BuzzFeed, Huffington Post and Business Insider. Thanks to all these websites, at its peak, I went to bed and woke up with 11,000 new followers overnight. The Instagram now sits at 300,000+ followers.
However, the success of an Instagram account does not translate to blog traffic. It wasn't until years later when one of my blog posts (that I originally wrote as a keepsake for friends who I went with on that trip) 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 designer, but at the same time I realized I was sitting on something that could be turned into a passive income. I started to look into ways to turn the blog into an income stream.
The most common way for a blog to earn an income is through display ads. My blog needed 25,000 sessions a month in order to be accepted into a reputable ad network. With this goal in mind, I started devouring resources on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and used my front end knowledge to implement all the best practices on my blog posts.
I learned that in order for the website to be favored by search engines, it needed to load fast on both desktop and mobile. 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 to optimize its loading speed. I optimized web assets (JS, CSS, Images) and utilized content delivery network so that the assets 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 relevant tours or travel necessities, I can earn a small commission from each sales booked through my blog. So I went back to all my old posts and started implementing affiliate links to tours and activities that people can book to enhance their travel experience.
After setting up these basics, all that's left is content management. I focused on creating travel posts that are useful with relevant details. 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. I went back to some of the old posts I've written in the past and optimized it for SEO. For any topic I've done well in, I wrote more accompanying blog posts.
The combination of SEO, speed optimization and content strategy paid off. In the year 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.