I’m not a great believer in New Year Resolutions. When you want to make a change in any area of your life, why wait until New Year to do it? In life as in blogging, it’s a constant process of trial and error, evaluation and adjustment. However, I do find that holiday season is a good time for reflection and recharging the batteries, giving me renewed enthusism to tackle the next set of goals and challenges.
So in that spirit, I’ve been reviewing achievements and setting goals, both long term and short term for my blogging activities at Heatheronhertravels.com.
Where was Heather on her travels a year ago?
This time last year, I wrote a similar post in which I reflected on the previous year of blogging. I’d just entered my second year of blogging and was finding the blog both a pleasure and a pain, as I found a creative outlet that I was passionate about, but at the expense of time spent with friends and family. I had decided to move the blog from it’s previous home at Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress platform at Heatheronhertravels.com and had started a new blog section called ‘My Blogging Journey’ to document the things I learned. I was setting the foundations of making my blog a more professional and commercial enterprise. I’d also had a fantastic year travelling to interesting places in the UK, Valencia, Rome, Sardinia and Greece- you can read my post about my travelling year in 2008 here.
What has Heather on her travels achieved in 2009?
Before you set goals for the future, it’s always good to take stock and remind yourself of all you’ve already achieved and give yourself a pat on the back for all your hard work. So here’s my pat on the back to myself.
- Regular posting throughout the year – When you understand that since January 2009 I have been working full-time in a demanding Project Management role, and have a husband and three teenage children to keep happy, I think it’s pretty respectable that in 2009 I wrote no less than 178 posts, that’s 15 a month or 3-4 a week. Of course it’s not just about quantity but quality – but I’ll have to let you be the judge of that. In addition, throughout 2009, I wrote a regular weekly post at Europe a la Carte and also a number of Guest posts for other travel blogs.
- Multi-media blogging – 2009 was the year when I really got to grips with Video and Podcasting. I believe that the Bloggers who stand out in an ever-crowded blogsphere will be those that add use multi-media to add extra value to their posts. I now integrate videos into my destination blog posts and you can see the 12 videos I produced this year on my Youtube channel or by viewing posts in my Video category. I’ve also started recording Podcasts and now have 5 in my podcast series, which you can subscribe to on I-tunes or listen to on my blog through my Podcast Category, where you can also find slideshows and show-notes to accompany the podcasts. There’ll be more video and podcasting to come in 2010, so if you enjoy these mediums, be sure to subscribe to on I-tunes or Youtube channel .
- Training and ongoing improvement – In July I started an online training course at Become a Blogger – you can read about my reasons for this in my post on Why I have decided to become a Blogger. In the course, I’ve filled in a lot of gaps in my technical know-how, learned how to create videos and podcasts and become a lot more savvy about SEO and traffic generation techniques. I can’t say that all this has yet resulted in any marked increase in traffic, but I feel confident that I’m laying solid foundations for future growth. Many of the articles I’m writing in the ‘My Blogging Journey’ Category, reflect the knowledge I’ve gained on this course and want to share with you.
- Traffic Growth – When I moved to my new WordPress self-hosted blog in December 2009 I had to build up the traffic again from scratch, at least in terms of Search Engine traffic, and in the past year I’ve built my traffic from 0 to nearly 6000 unique visitors a month (I’m using Sitemeter to measure, your own blog’s stats may show inflated traffic). Some of you may have much higher traffic than this, but I’ve found that there’s no magic bullet for growing traffic, it’s a hard slog all the way. As things have levelled out in the last few months, the challenge is now to build a bigger readership in 2010 and hope that some of the good SEO practices I’ve started in the last few months will also start to bear fruit.
- Press trips – I was really pleased that on two occasions in 2009 I was invited on sponsored trips, which enabled me to travel at someone elses’s expense while having fun and producing some great material for the blog. In August my family and I were invited by the Istrian Tourism Board on a 4 day break to Istria, as part of their social and on-line media awareness campaign – you can read all my travel articles about Istria here. In November I was invited to review a hotel in Lisbon for Mr & Mrs Smith over a 2 day break – you can read my review of Hotel Heritage Av Liberdade here, and all my travel articles about Lisbon here. I’m hoping that more sponsored trips will come my way in 2010 to offset the costs of travel and enable me to visit some more special places around the world – of course, I’ll always disclose to you when a trip or anything else has been given to me free.
- Social Media Promotion – Towards the end of this year, I’ve started to use Twitter and Stumble Upon more actively for building relationships with my audience and promoting the blog. I must admit that I just don’t have the time to exploit these fully, but I’ve made a start that I hope to build on in 2010.
Disappointments at Heather on her travels in 2009
Looking back on these achievements makes me feel I can’t be too self-critical, but nevertheless there were some mental targets I set in 2009 that I haven’t yet achieved. As I work on a contract basis, there’s always the possibility that a contract will end and I may have a few months free in which to develop the blog. The reality has been that I have been in full time work since January 2009, which has been great for the bank balance, but means that it may take longer to reach my blogging goals.
- Making some money – despite a year of hard work and growth, my outgoings still well exceed any small income I may receive from the blog. Although I did get a couple of sponsored trips as some reward for the many hours I put in, there were many other trips I did at my own expense. OK, I love to travel and would be doing so regardless of my blog, but it’s starting to be an expensive hobby if you’re spending your holidays photographing, taking notes, shooting video, recording podcasts and talking to locals rather than just relaxing.
- Time with my family – although blogging and travelling is currently my major hobby outside my working and family life, it has sometimes become too all-consuming and absorbing, at the expense of time with my family. Complaints are being voiced in my household and this year I will need to find a better balance between blogging and family life! Or else!
Blogging Goals for 2010 at Heather on her travels
I’m wary of setting too many unrealistic goals, which depend on how long I continue in full-time work, but obviously there are some practical steps I need to continue the development and success at Heather on her travels in 2010.
- Get some help on my blog – If I continue to work full time, then it’s unrealistic to keep up the pace without some help. The areas I feel particularly challenged are in the technical development and troubleshooting problems that involve coding and the inner workings of the blog. I could also do with someone to take some weight off me on more routine tasks such as uploading photos, general SEO activities, leaving me free to create great content, articles, videos and podcasts. I’m currently looking at how I can outsource some of these activities in a cost effective way, perhaps to parts of the world where salaries are more affordable – If any of you have experience in this area, I’d love to fear about it.
- Make some money – Hand in hand with getting some help, is creating more revenue to pay for this support, as well as to develop the earning potential of the blog long-term. I have recently created several new pages including an advertising page to support this goal and I’ll also be looking at other possible revenue streams such as selling information products. At the least, I’d like the blog to be self-supporting financially while I’m working full-time on my other job, and in the long term, I’d like to develop an income which may eventually enable the blog to become my full-time job.
- Grow my traffic and readership – Although I’ve done well to grow my traffic from zero over the last year, recent months have seen traffic fairly stable, so in 2010 I need to really work at building both my subscribers, regular readers and my search engine traffic. I know I’m generally doing all the right things, but I may just need to do them in a more targeted or strategic way, to see the traffic trends moving steadily upwards in 2010.
So there I’ve set out my stall and aims for 2010 – I’d love to hear what your experience has been in 2009 and what your plans and goals are for 2010. If you have any great resources or links to share which will help me on my Blogging Journey, do leave them in the comments. Here’s to all our blogging success in 2010.