There seems to be a bad mood among travel bloggers at the moment. Many blogs were hit hard by Google algorithm changes last year, affecting people’s traffic and livelihoods. Some say that travel blogging ‘isn’t what it used to be’. This week, I read posts from some bloggers basically wanting to throw in the towel.
But going into 2020, I’m feeling very positive. Admittedly, I got through those algorithm changes ultimately unscathed, so it’s not been as stressful as it maybe could have been. More importantly, I love the work I do and despite there always being some things to grumble about, I’m excited about my goals for the new year.
Yep, travel blogging has changed
It’s just over 7 years since I started travel blogging. Undoubtedly, much has changed.
Blogs have become hugely dependent on Google, as traffic from social channels and RSS feeds have diminished (“what are RSS feeds?”, you ask — exactly).
This has had an enormous impact on what gets written about — and also how. Often it can feel like the posts getting the most exposure are not the most interesting ones, but the ones that hustled and optimized their way to the top of the search engine rankings.
It has also created a horrific feedback loop. Travel blogs focus only on existing demand (i.e. things people already type into search). This makes already popular travel destinations even bigger. Which makes more people search for them. Which makes more bloggers focus solely on those places. Rinse and repeat and you’ll end up not just with overtourism but, I guess, a lot of really boring blogs all writing about the same things.
Some sites now employ huge teams writing from their desks about places they’ve never been. Others determine that one type of SEO-optimized post works well for them, then clone-stamp a hundred more.
While I understand the strong incentives behind this, it’s not something that motivates me, so I’ve been trying to follow a different path.
2019 was a big year for me. I totally redesigned and relaunched the site. I published a ton of articles and for the first time invited several other writers to contribute. I had some real-life meetups with readers of my book, which seems to have genuinely inspired people. All this has energized me; I feel so lucky to have this job and hope to do it for many years to come.
But what I want to do this year is more pattern breaking. Meaning: resisting the trend to over-optimize everything and to simply publish content I like.
Admittedly, this can be difficult. I can’t ignore the commercial realities of blogging entirely. But lately, I’ve been adding more articles about off the beaten track places or regions that previously I might have written off as being ‘too niche’. I’ve written more about ecotourism projects, such as Chi Pat in Cambodia or the Phong Nha caves in Vietnam, a topic which I’ve become more passionate about in recent years.
And you know what? It’s really satisfying!
For 2020, I have some trips planned that I’m really stoked about. Some are to well-known destinations, but some are to undertouristed places that I’m very curious to discover for myself.
For instance, I’ll be visiting a destination in Africa soon that I think will be amazing. It seems only one other English-language travel blog has covered it in recent years, so it’ll be cool to share with you my take on it.
I’ll be going back to Asia later this year where I’ll be visiting some places that, as far as I can tell, not a single blog has yet written about. This particular trip will be all about breaking some fresh ground and putting a spotlight on some worthy ecotourism projects.
I’m doing these trips because they fit with what I find interesting as a traveler, but they also fit with my travel blogging goals. Basically, I want to wrestle back editorial control over my site from the algorithms — and to help promote good things. Let’s see how this goes.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading my blog and that you have some exciting travel plans of your own for 2020!
How to follow along
The best (100% algorithm-free) way to follow my blog is to subscribe to my newsletter below. You’ll get a few travel tips emails, followed by my monthly email with site updates and interesting reads from around the web.