I’ve been blogging a long time, since August of 2006 to be exact. I’ve run a successful real estate technology blog for five years and I co-founded a microfinance blog around the same time. Throughout all of that, I’ve written over 2,500 blog posts (there are 1,500+ on my personal blog alone) spanning five main blogs (not to mention countless guest posts) over the past seven years.
Awhile ago I read Matt’s thoughts on the real business of travel blogging. I actually started this post a few days after reading it, but am just now circling back to the ideas his post sparked and share a few of my own thoughts. As you know, with blogging, you’ve got to start somewhere. Like Matt, I had no clue what I was doing early on in 2005 when I was hired at Zillow, and still no clue in 2006 when I started blogging. Truth be told, I didn’t even know what a blog was when I got hired there. Our whole team figured it out together over the following few years. Because of that, I saw the earliest days of blogging in the real estate vertical.
You see, in 2005, very few real estate agents were blogging. And by 2006, just a few agents had started blogging. Large numbers joined between 2007 and 2010. Active Rain was created, gained widespread momentum, then ultimately crumbled due to the huge circle-jerk community consisting of “nice post” comments that added zero value to anyone reading. The Carnival of Real Estate saw its time in the spotlight, and has faded away into the sunset.
As a veteran blogger in the real estate vertical, yet fairly new blogger in the travel industry, here’s what I can tell you:
Travel blogging isn’t the only industry that suffers from the issues Matt mentions. In fact, I’d say blogging in every industry has the same problems.
Travel blogging has the big time stars everyone aspires toward; bloggers such as Jodi Ettenberg, David Lee, Dave Dean, Cailin O’Neil, Earl, Matt Kepnes, Caz and Craig, and Gary Arndt. I don’t follow every single travel blog to know who the up-and-comers doing all the right things are, but I know they are out there (and I’m sure Matt could pinpoint a few of them). There are countless others treading water by publishing a bunch of average photos, telling boring stories, and writing “top 5 things to do” posts. Real estate has the same top tier — people like Jay Thompson, Ines, Sue Adler, Jim Duncan, and Kris Berg. Real estate has new blood in the industry too, people (such as Greg Fischer) who are doing everything right and starting to see the fruits of their labor as a result.
And below them? It’s the masses. Multiple agents have tried to seo their way to the top and failed. Thousands have started blogs only to quit after seeing zero results in the first month or two. Most people don’t have business plans, and most who write online think they are great writers and deserve special perks as a result.
Ultimately, the vast vast majority of people in the world aren’t willing to put in the work in to get to the top. Unfortunate, but true. The issue isn’t specific to travel blogging.
Want to succeed with blogging in any vertical? Give a damn about your readers. Focus on providing real tangible value. Take the hard road. Be real and authentic and put yourself out there each and every day. Have a plan, long term goals, a clear strategy, and work (write) your ass off. If you don’t have all of those, then just quit now (if you want to build a business) and, as Matt says, get a desk job. If you want to just blog for fun and to share your personal travel experiences? Fantastic. But know that’s not enough to make it a business or a career.
I get it. Everyone wants the easy button.
It doesn’t exist.
The real key to succeeding in anything?
Don’t be this guy…
Now, back to your regular scheduled programming…