To blog…or not to blog….oh the eternal question

As you probably know by now I really enjoy blogging. I started my blog, as most people do, just to keep friends and family up to date on our travels but the thing evolved to a journal & mini-comnmunity of like-minded people. We’ve met new friends through the blog, reached out and inspired “newbies” to make the jump to fulltiming and touched folks as far abroad as Italy & Australia, I’m always amazed and I truly love it!

You might also notice that I don’t monetize my blog. We have no ads or paid links and this is purely a personal preference. My blog is an unbiased view of how I experience this lifestyle, and we are fortunate enough to make our income elsewhere, so for the time being this is a free & unadvertised resource.

But what about newcomers who want to start a blog? What are the ins and outs? How about those folks who DO want to monetize their blogs? I’m no expert by any means, but having grown a blog over the past 2 years from only ~10 hits/day to ~30,000 hits/month (yeah!) I’ll be more than happy to share my meager experience. Maybe it’ll inspire you to start a blog too?

1/ Decide on a Platform -> Free or Hosted?

The most basic decision you need to make up-front when you start a blog is whether you want use one of the free fully-hosted platforms out there or you want to host it yourself. There are advantages and disadvantages to each:

Signing up for a free account only takes a few minutes & you’re ready to go!

Free Platforms – Free platforms do absolutely everything for you -> just sign up for a free account and off you go! And for the vast majority of bloggers it’s all you’ll ever need. Blogger & WordPress.com are the 2 most popular platforms. I’ve used both in the past and they are both super-easy and similar to use. Blogger allows a little more integration (for example with Picassa for pictures) and has the advantage of allowing advertizing & affiliate links (so you can monetize it), but can be unstable at times. WordPress is a much more stable platform and has more design flexibility,  but doesn’t allow advertizing or affiliate links. The nice thing about a free platform is that, no matter how big your blog grows or how much traffic you get, the free host takes care of everything. I’ve never had any complaints, delays or problems with WordPress & would recommend them anyday.

WordPress.org is a fabulous software solution if you’re looking to self-host

Hosted Platform – You can host your own blog using your own unique website and your own hosting service, but you do need to pay $$ here. The main advantage of this is that you get TOTAL design control, TOTAL advertizing control and can do super-cool things (especially with plug-ins) that you just can’t do on a free platform. WordPress.org has a desktop version of their software that you can use for self-hosting which also has a ton of outstanding plug-ins (it’s the platform I would use if I self-hosted), but there are plenty of other software platforms out there. If you go this route chose a reliable host that can handle traffic (if your blog grows) and make sure you have a great back-up strategy for your blog.

2/ Decide If You Want To Monetize Your Blog

Decide if you’re going to monetize your blog up-front

If you want to monetize your blog there are plenty of easy ways to do it, but you should decide this up-front. As I mentioned above the free WordPress platform does not allow advertizing & links, so if you’re using a free platform and want to monetize you should consider Blogger. If you self-host you can do anything you want, of course. The easiest money-making links are Amazon Affiliates or banner ads like AdSense or Tribal Fusion, but there are hundreds of other options out there. Too many ads can be distracting/annoying so plan up-front how many avenues of links you want to include. Also don’t expect to get rich quick on this scheme. You need a solid traffic stream to make any kind of significant income through advertizing/affiliates, so plan for other income streams while you put in the time and energy to get your blog growing.

3/ Link To Sites & Grow Your Readership

Hitch Itch is a great RV resource

I actively participate in RV forums. They are FABULOUS resources for any RVer.

I LOVE having readers. To me, the bigger my readership the bigger the “community” we’re creating on-line…and all of it for the love of RVing!! The support keeps me motivated to blog, and provides so much valuable feedback and love. It is just SO COOL! So I do look for ways to keep readership growing. When I first started out I told all my friends and family about my blog. Then I started looking for other free linkups specific to RVing. HitchItch is a great RV resource and I get a ton of regular referrals from there. RV Resources and RVThereYet are two other free places to link up. I also participate in RV forums on an active basis and put my blog link as a signature on all my posts, plus I publicize my posts on Twitter & Facebook. And finally, I share links with other bloggers (in my blogroll section – which is badly in need of an update!). There are lots of other ways to create traffic to your blog.

4/ Find Your Own Voice

Find your own voice

If there was only ONE piece of advice which I could give any new blogger it’s this -> try to find your own voice. It’s great to be inspired by other blogs (I certainly am), but don’t try to copy them. No matter what kind of writer you are, or what kind of photographer or what kind of experience (or not!) you have, finding & expressing your own perspective will be key to growing your blog. The truer you are to yourself, the more likely you are to attract readers. So focus on things & experiences that are interesting to YOU and write about them. Really I mean it!! I’ve seen this over and over. People are attracted to experiences that are real and they can sense this in your writing (and photos). If YOU are passionate about what you’re doing & experiencing, no matter whether it’s rock-collecting or wine-tasting or photography, your blog will show it! It’s like everything in life, love and adventure….be yourself and good things will come your way.

5/ Write, Write, Write

Seize and use whatever inspiration gets you writing!

Once you decide to do a blog commit to keeping it up. People want to be part of the adventure (while it’s happening) so that means keeping everyone updated on what you’re doing while you’re doing it. You don’t have to blog everyday and not every blog has to be spectacular, but make a commitment to blogging on a regular basis and keep your blogs up to date. Also the more you write, the easier you’ll find it is to write. By the mere act of regular writing you will “find your voice”. Trust me, you will!

If you DO get inspired to blog, feel free to link to it in my comments. I always love discovering new blogs. And of course, if you’ve got your own tips to share, let ‘em loose!

33 Responses to 5 Tips To Creating & Growing An RV Blog

  1. hobopals says:

    Great post, as always, Nina! I have always enjoyed your blog, and you make so many good points. I found something to blog about every day while traveling, but being confined to home makes it a bit difficult to come up with too much that will interest anyone.

    While I enjoy all your blogs, I especially enjoyed following you through New Mexico as I was in so many of the places you wrote about.

    Almost a common denominator among RV bloggers are their love for dogs. Some people would never understand that our motorhomes (and my little trailer) were purchased because we/I wanted our pups along. “Properly trained, a man can be dog’s best friend.” ~Corey Ford

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well dogs make us ALL better people (I believe that), so when I see another dog-lover I know we’ll have something in common and they’ll be good peeps :)
      Nina

  2. jcnjr says:

    Great write-up! Thanks for sharing. I’m still surprised at the number of visitors we get daily from Hitch Itch.

    FYI: We also offer free travel blogs (and paid premium accounts) over at http://RVBlogz.com

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup I agree that HitchItch is a fabulous referrer! Cheers for the link on your RV travel blog provider site too!
      Nina

  3. Marsha says:

    No monetize for our blog. I find them annoying on some blogs. They take away from the design.
    Great job helping out those newbies. Lots of good information here. Keep up the great work!
    ~wheresweaver

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well I never say never, but I have to admit I’d prefer to keep the blog ad-free. It just makes it so much more enjoyable (for me anyway).
      Nina

  4. The Good Luck Duck says:

    Hitchitch.com is a link on our blog, but your cute little button here makes me think I should put one on, too. I do regularly get traffic from them, and it seems like the decent thing to do to send traffic back.

    It’s a great favor when other blogs link to ours. We get most of our traffic that way, and I try to reciprocate.

    BlogHer and Amazon Affiliates have been the most straightforward sources of tiny revenue. I wouldn’t recommend Google AdSense to anyone.

    I try not to put flashing ads up. They’re especially distracting and unsettling. Also, I recommend AdBlock Plus (free) to anyone who would rather walk through cat litter than see ads on a blog.

    Roxanne
    The Good Luck Duck

    • libertatemamo says:

      Cheers for the tips Ducks!! You’ve been on my blog-roll for a long time and I definitely enjoy your blog -> I think you keep a very nice balance of monetizing and regular blogging.
      Nina

  5. Samantha says:

    Hooray, there’s a moggie picture… :-)

  6. rommel says:

    I love your 4th. Exactly what I just blogged. Blog what you are.

    I thought you personally is asking if you’re going to continue to blog or not … I was sadden there for a bit.
    :D

  7. Shay M says:

    Great read. I think the best part of writing has to be about what you learn along the way and the readers who follow.

    I started my website 2 months ago and my blog a year ago. I’m new to the area of website control, but I DO want to make money out of it. My main goal is viewers and readers, but I would eventually like to create an income through my website. Most ‘How To’ are nonsense gimmicks and therefore not reliable. I simply do not bother with them. Having said that, it is hard to find accurate guidelines on how to create revenue.

    If anyone would like to help me with this (provide a good reference, link, content/or message me about what to actually do) I would be ever grateful.

    Thanks.

    • jcnjr says:

      Hi Shay. As Nina mentioned, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to successfully monetize a WordPress.com hosted blog. With a self-hosted WordPress.org site, you have much more flexibility for ways to earn online, though it comes with more maintenance responsibility.

      Read Nina’s review of Income Anywhere, our new e-book describing various ways to support the RV lifestyle by making money online for more tips. No gimmicks, just a resource to various revenue generating methods my wife and I have learned since hitting the road in 2007.

      @libertatemamo Please delete this comment if you deem it inappropriate.)

    • libertatemamo says:

      Hi Shay,
      I totally agree that I learn SO MUCH through blogging…alot of it from my commenters!

      As for making money on the blog it looks like you currently have a free wordpress blog (?) and unfortunately, it’s not really possible to monetize a free wordpress.com account (they specifically limit this activity). My advice would be to switch your blog to Blogger or a self-hosting solution (for example using wordpress.org). Then start looking at monetization solutions. Things like banner advertizing (which I don’t really like) & Amazon Affiliates (which I DO really like) will get you some $$, but very little (unless you have a VERY high traffic stream -> and by high I mean greater than 100,000 unique views/month). You are much more likely to make money with targeted products, teaching/coaching, speaking arrangements, sponsorship, books or something like that. You can certainly look at Jim & Rene’s book (which he linked to above) or check out some of the high-rated books on Amazon.

      Nina

      • Shay M says:

        I appreciate the reply. I have plans in place to implement my website into a wordpress.org. I am waiting for a certain amount of followers, views and interaction–I did just start out, but the interaction is exceeding my expactations so far. I am also in touch with a published author who has been helping me out as well.
        As of now, I am a newbie, but with a few words of advice and a continued persistence i believe it would be possible to live primarily from the website–at least this is the plan.
        Again, I appreciate the info and will continue trying.

  8. longdog2 says:

    You have a great blog–I read every post. Enjoy your ideas about boondocking even though I haven’t done much of that yet.

    http://travelinglongdogs.blogspot.com

  9. Al from The Bayfield Bunch says:

    Totally agreee about keeping blogs free from monetizing if at all possible. That was a decision I made early on as well. I’m not up on all the newer socializing sites like Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, etc but I’m sure they are a great way for gaining additional exposure to one’s blog. Always a nice feeling inside trying to help new folks just starting out too……

    • libertatemamo says:

      Totally agree that I love the feeling of helping other folks start and experience this lifestyle. Probably one of the best parts of RV blogging (for me). Still thinking of you guys and the lovely little Motormouse on her final journey. She’s in our thoughts!
      Nina

  10. David and Paulina says:

    Thank you for the great info.

    Happy traveling.

    David and Paulina

  11. hobopals says:

    Because of you, Nina, I learned how to put a blog roll on my site. I can’t get the bold print off it to make it look nice, but it’s there, and I had to add some as it didn’t pull in all my subscribed blogs for some reason, and I’ll add any missing as I come across any that were missed.

  12. roguerver says:

    Nina,

    Saw your blog link over on the IRV2 forums and felt compelled to comment on this topic, as I”m an affiliate marketer myself, and wanted to share a few things if it’s ok!

    First off, when it comes to blogging AND wanting to make money from it via any means possible, always start off with a blogger account, simply because Google bought/owns “blogger” and Google LOVES Blogs!

    Why?

    Because it’s a lot easier to get up and running in a few minutes, than having to deal with coming up w/the right domain name, especially if you’re looking to monetize the site in the not-so-distant-future!

    Also, implementing adsense, while not always something to rely on to earn 5-figures a month from, can and DOES WORK! Those who don’t like it or have had troubles in the past from making anything more than a few bucks per month don’t truly understand exactly what needs to be done in order to get traffic, which in turn turns into ‘clicks’ on those ads, which in turn, puts money into your pocket!

    For those wanting to learn more about making money from Google Adsense, my suggestion would be to head over to http://www.warriorforum.com and browse the forum for ‘adsense’ related topics! It’s free to join and is the nets’ leading forum for ‘online marketers!’, amazon associates, SEO consultants, etc.,etc.,!

    Regarding banner ads, while some folks don’t like it, there is one important thing to always remember about whether or not to implement a new income stream and that is to…

    Test…Test Again..and then Test Some More!

    Just because a few people here or there don’t like em’, or don’t see them because of some 3rd party software app/plug-in, shouldn’t let that distract them from finding all available alternatives to earning money from their own blog!

    In connection to Amazon Associates, it’s NOT always about traffic, but rather what PRODUCTS you promote!

    Don’t get me wrong, traffic = money, but if the only difference between two blogs is one person is promoting a $40 dollar product, while the other person is promoting a $200 dollar product, with a 4% commission (basic, starting point for all new amazon associates), which would you rather have…4% of $40 or 4% of $200…Assuming everything else is EQUAL!

    For those interested, you can find more information about the Amazon Associates program here: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/

    When it comes to blogging, while it’s an added benefit to your business that you have the “gift to write” and do it better than most, you have to know how to optimize your blog so that your intended viewers find your blog as easily as possible..and that’s where you start dealing with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Keyword Research!

    Sure!

    You can get some traffic from other related blogs that are in the same “niche” as yours, by either doing some basic blog commenting and then linking back to your own blog, as Nina and Paul have done through what little research I’ve done on this very blog…but getting traffic *naturally* via Google/Bing/Yahoo is always easier and goes a long way in getting your blog on the 1st page of the search engines….espeically Google’s 1st page…once you understand the power of ‘keyword reseach’.

    Well..I think I’ve started to babble to much, so I’ll end this and let everyone get back to whatever it was you were doing before this extremely long blog post interuppted you! LOL!

    Look forward to reading more of your posts over on IRV2 Tina and Paul!

    Cheers…

    RogueRVer

    • libertatemamo says:

      Always great to get other people’s point of view & experience, so cheers for sharing your thoughts! Great info for those looking to monetize. Also, I do get quite a bit of traffic from the search engines so spending time on SEO optimization makes perfect sense.
      Nina

  13. Debbie B. says:

    Hubby & I have been following your blog for about 8 mths. We started f/t in July. We started a blog to keep friends & family informed how we are & what we’re doing. I always blog better with a glass of wine…makes me more chat. Not many followers yet, but always enjoy comments from others reading our adventures.
    http://www.greatescapefromnj.blogspot.com

    • libertatemamo says:

      Great to see your blog and hear about your adventures. I TOTALLY agree that wine makes for better blogging :)
      Nina

  14. mllowe says:

    Thanks for the great tips as my husband and I are newbies in blogging. My husband and I are finally on the road to full timing. Family and friends are clamoring for something to track us on the road. I am not a writer but would attempt to do it slowly. Tip no 4 is very enlightening.
    I did explore WordPress as you have recommended some weeks back and still learning it.
    I follow your blog and enjoyed and learned a lot from your own experiences. Thanks a lot for your teachings.

    MonaLiza

  15. lom & pdq says:

    thanks for the tips Nina – really appreciated the insights & information
    pdq

  16. Spencer says:

    Your site is great and thanks for sharing your tips and ideas. Very informative!

  17. Steven Jones says:

    The problem with using a platform like wordpress.com or blogger is that you don’t know what the company owning them will do with your RV site in the future.

    They could wake up on the wrong side of the bed one morning and destroy your site – and there would be nothing you could do about it except set it up somewhere else.

    Spend a few dollars and buy your own domain. Most RV’ers have kids, grandkids, friends who we can ‘borrow’ hosting from – and who can help us do the initial setup. It’s really worth the little extra time and effort!

    Thanks for the reference to hitchitch..i’d never seen that site before. I’m going to see if they will add my blog to it:)

    • libertatemamo says:

      It’s a fair and valid point, although I have to admit I’m not terribly worried about WordPress going anywhere. For the moment I’m happy with the features and hosting on their free platform. The Blog has grown significantly over the past 3 years and I’ve never had any site traffic or posting issues. I do a regular backup (export) of the posts too. That said I may well switch to self-hosted at some point mostly to get more control over the style and plug-ins on the blog.

      There are definite pros and cons to each side.

      Nina

  18. gabiklaf says:

    hi wheeling it, nice to meet you. i’m so very excited to have found you due to our travel blog award contest. you were nominated for the 2012 most inspirational travel blog award and are now in the run-offs.
    from jan 27 to feb 5, you can ask people to vote for your blog so that you can be one of the 23 out of the nominated 50 to win.

    you can check it out here: http://thenomadicfamily.com/2013/01/2012-best-travel-blog-finalistis-need-a-bit-of-help-to-wi/ . good luck to you lauren! happy belated new year… gabi and family, in dalat, vietnam

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