Reflection on my blogging year and goals for 2010

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?

Visiting Sardinia in 2008

Visiting Sardinia in 2008

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.
Visiting Lisbon in November 2009

Visiting Lisbon in November 2009

  • 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.

Other blogging articles you may enjoy

Reflections on a year of blogging
My travelling year in 2008
Why I’ve decided to become a Blogger
Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

Don’t miss out – subscribe to Heather on her travels

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  • Reply
    Darren Cronian
    January 2, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    It’s a good idea to have goals to AIM for. The technical side of blogging seems to be an issue that many bloggers have a problem with. For me its the PHP and graphic design skils that I am lacking, so will be spending sometime learning more about those areas in 2010.

    The Travel BlogCamp website will be having a change of focus and look in the coming month, becoming a resource for bloggers, rather than just providing information on the BlogCamp and other events that I plan to organise.

    All the best for 2010!

  • Reply
    January 2, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    With you on making it pay … not to make a living from it, but to finance some more travel. But, outsourcing is a dirty word around here; last year, I lost a well-paying gig because the work got outsourced to another country, which charges a fifth of what they paid me.

  • Reply
    January 3, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Finding the balance between blogging and everything else is very difficult. I recommend setting strict schedules to keep it from encompassing more and more time.

  • Reply
    Mark H
    January 3, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    I think awareness of having balances between work and life is a big part of the battle.You should be tremednously proud of your blog’s achivements in the last 12 months and I am confident that it will remain one of the better travel reads on the web.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 1:29 am

    Congratulations on your achievements Heather! Like you, I don’t believe in NY resolutions or goals as it’s a continuous process for me that gets re-evaluated during the year. I’m all for making plans that are achievable eg x posts a week, y time on Twitter per day etc and not ‘always’ putting the blog ahead of family.

    Not sure about the outsourcing of your blog elsewhere unless you know a family member or friend who can do it under your direction. I couldn’t bear to hand over my website to someone else. My (non-blog) experience with outsourcing have not delivered the results it promised.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Congratulations on all your acheivements. Three teenagers and a full-time project management job to boot!?

    I’ve been blogging for quite a while but it’s always been just a fun thing for me and a way to keep in touch with friends and family while living abroad. But recently I started my food blog in an effort to become mre serious abot writing for a living and then my original blog seemed to take on a life of its own (Nothing like your readership but amazing to me). Go figure! But I am feeling inspired and it’s interesting how life lets in the people and things you are meant to be talking to/about, through blogs or whatever, when you are least expecting it.

    It’s definitley a steep learning curve and every day I get excited about figuring something out and then turn around to find 10 new things I need to learn. But I do feel it is accumulating. You’ve moved from Blogger to WordPress. I think that’s an achievement in itself and one I’d like to learn very soon.

    I’ll cut myself off at this point to avoid taking up all your comment space (See why I’m moving into writing?)but thank you for stopping by my blog and I’m glad to have found yours. Keep up the fantastic work:-)

  • Reply
    January 5, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Wow, that’s a lot to do! We’ve never had the time yet to figure out SEO or WordPress. Congrats on all your achievements!

    Have a great 2010!

  • Reply
    January 6, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Hi, Heather! Those sound like great goals for 2010. This is my first time at your blog and I’m loving it. I found you through a link on the Lonely Planet website. My wife and I are planning to travel to Munich for the Christmas markets this year (that’s MY 2010 resolution!) and I thoroughly enjoyed your photos, stories and podcast.

    All the best for the new year!

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    January 6, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    Thanks for all your kind words and appreciation – I love finding such an appreciative audience – it keeps me blogging through good times & bad

  • Reply
    Donna Hull
    January 11, 2010 at 3:10 am

    Heather, I can’t imagine how you manage with a demanding full time job plus raising three teenagers.

    I appreciate that you’ve allowed us to learn about your success and near-misses (I wouldn’t consider them failures) in 2009.

    Like you, I’m walking that tightrope between blogging and my personal life. The blogging is time consuming, addictive and my passion. But, I’m looking at ways to be more efficient so that I can spend time with my wonderful husband and actually see my friends again.

    I look forward to your accomplishments in 2010. I’ve especially enjoyed reading your blogging tips.

  • Reply
    January 18, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    This is a nice piece of reflection and honest. I’m taken with your personal approach which is not often found in the blogging world these days. I have become tired of bloggers bragging about their success but you have shown your success (and it is) in a reflective manner, studied it and thought about improvements, plus passed some ideas onto others.
    Thanks Heather for sharing this, I wish you good luck for 2010 and hope you are able to spend more time with your family as well.

  • Reply
    April 13, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Heather, I like your blog a lot and you’re doing an amazing job. You’re writing is enjoyable, it looks like you’ve managed to build up quite a following. Now the question is how to monetize it and make your blog work for you? Congrats on the success you’ve already had and I think an obvious way forward is for you to become an affiliate and fill that empty banner spaces (yes, you fill it rather than wait for advertisers to contact you). 2010 will be Heather’s year!
    Sorry if it sounds like a lot of spin – I just see great potential in you and your site. Hope this will give you something to think about! All the best for the future!

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    April 13, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    @ Polonez – thanks for your kind words. Yes, the money-making bit seems to take as much effort as writing great content. I’ll looking at all options & yes affiliate links is something I need to take a closer look at.

  • Reply
    Jeffrey Willius
    May 17, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Hi Heather — Thanks for your reflections on your blogging journey. Still in my first year with One Man’s Wonder, I’m still just sort of feeling my way along, and am trying to give myself credit for how much I’ve accomplished with virtually no expertise. I find it encouraging that it’s taken you years to get to 6,000 visitors a month.
    Not sure if I’ll ever try to commercialize, since the rewards of the writing and connecting with people are pretty satisfying.
    I’m thinking of finding a sort of coach to help me more quickly fathom the workings of both the blog and social media.
    Keep up your great work!

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    May 17, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    @ Jeffrey
    Thanks so much, I’m glad my musing were of some use to you. You might want to take a look at my other blog at http://www.mybloggingjourney.com/ where you might find some articles to help you build your blog

  • Reply
    Jeffrey Willius
    May 18, 2011 at 4:41 am

    Thanks, Heather — I’ll check out your other blog.
    Jeffrey Willius´s last blog post ..TONGUES OF STONE

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