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Dave Lee’s Travel Blog Success program, which I reviewed last year, has been updated and recently relaunched. Travel Blog Success is designed to help travel bloggers improve their sites on many fronts from monetizing to building an audience. Here’s a look inside the improved program that has its host of success stories to back it up the second time around.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Dave Lee, who writes Go Backpacking and Medellin Living, several times over the past few years. He’s been blogging for the past 4 years with 3 years of traveling under his belt; and is someone passionate enough about both to take an ambitious project like Travel Blog Success and make it work. There are two tiers of membership to Travel Blog Success, with Basic membership giving you access to 27 written lessons and Premium including 12 expert audio interviews (one of them with yours truly) and more.

travel blog success

(Travel Blog Success) Stories

Since launching last February, Travel Blog Success has helped build and benefit many popular travel blogs including Johnny Vagabond, yTravelBlog, and LandLopers. You can read theirs and other testimonials on the Travel Blog Success homepage which really highlight the main benefit of the program – the community. The private forums are filled with other travel bloggers with various backgrounds and strengths, who are serious enough about improving their sites to invest the $99 (for Basic) or $129 (for Premium) memberships.

Included in the Premium membership are also coaching calls from Dave, which can give you an extraordinary head start and advantage to others working through blogging alone. As I mentioned last time, while you can learn everything in Travel Blog Success on your own, ideas build upon other ideas. Travel Blog Success can help you learn the nuts and bolts so you can focus on the more creative end of travel blogging.

travel blog success dave leeMoney Back Guarantee

Travel Blog Success also comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied. In my opinion, the Premium membership fee of $129 (the extra $30 is worth the coaching calls and more) is a reasonable investment for those looking to make more of their travel blog. Travel Blog Success has a slant on making your travel blog work for you with advertising money and press trips, though this second incarnation looks to beef up the site’s content creation and marketing lessons.

Somewhere along the line if you want to make your travel blog a business, you’ll have to invest in it and regularly. Travel Blog Success is certainly a good place to put your money if that’s the intention; with the added incentive that’s it’s only a one-time fee.


Earlier this year, I asked you what your most pressing travel blogging questions were. The first was brought up by David Robert Hogg – is attending the Travel Blog Exchange Conference worth it?

balancing act

So, Is TBEX Worth It?

That’s a question that depends on how you evaluate the worth of such conferences. To be honest, you’re unlikely to feel like the (roughly) $50-80 is worth the expense – plus the added travel costs – if you’re expecting to be enlightened by conference talks on social media and SEO. As conferences tend to go, some talks are better or simply more relevant than others; along with an higher-than-normal level of disorganization. Talks running late and a lack of wi-fi certainly left a bad taste in many participants’ mouth, but where hardly anyone held much complaint was where the real benefit of TBEX lies.

bar at nightNetworking, Networking, (Drinking), Networking

The days leading up to TBEX and before, after, and in between the talks of the conference is where you’re going to make more personal connections in the travel blogosphere than you could by being online for months. Not to mention that TBEX is one of the most lighthearted and fun conferences you’ll come across – travel or otherwise.

You can read more about TBEX on my review of the conference from last year. I hope this helps answer your question David – those of you who attended TBEX last year, what were your thoughts? Did you feel the conference was worth it? Sound off in the comments below.

[photo by: Digitalnative (balancing act)]


There are several ways to reduce your travel blog’s loading time; many of which will have a measurable (if not human-noticeable) impact on how fast a given page on your site loads. How fast your pages load completely is not only important for getting indexed in search engines like Google, but more importantly a significant factor in how many people stick around your travel blog when it first loads.


A Simple Explanation Of Redirects

Whenever you go to a specific URL, your browser begins to read the HTML behind it. That code tells your browser what exactly it should be doing and a line of code or two can cause your browser to jump from one page to another. There are many different types of redirect and each of them reducing loading time to varying degrees.

Redirects however, don’t have to be to separate pages.

Broken links or those that are malformed slightly can cause your browser to have to “auto-correct” the minor mistakes, denting your loading times ever so slightly. Trailing slashes also have an impact on how your pages are indexed by search engines, making consistency a appreciable factor in how well your travel blog is mapped by Google and others.

Finding The Culprits

Using the W3C Link Checker, you can find broken external and interlinks within your site that might be anchoring your pages to a slightly slower crawl. On top of that the free W3C Link Checker can help you find broken connections throughout your travel blog that readers might be getting stuck (and giving up) on.

Getting To Those Trailing Links

Notice at the end of your travel blog’s URL that there is a trailing slash, like http://foxnomad.com/ for example. When you add links (homepage and to individual posts) to your header, footer, or other static parts of your travel blog without one, it forces your browser to make a slight adjustment. W3C Link Check will alert you to any links that could potentially cause this problem.

There are long discussions online and many more details that about adding or removing slashes; consider this a basic start to a much larger topic.

Granted, you’ll likely only find a single link or two if any that are malformed in this way, but correcting them does nothing but improve your site’s overall efficiency.

[photos by: Edvill (Slash)]

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thinking manFrom monetizing to Godfather Google, there seem to be a multitude of travel blog queries and gray areas people want to clear up in regard to their blogs. Across Twitter and Facebook there are some thoughtful and detailed concerns being brought up and I’d like to tackle some of your most pressing questions in a series of upcoming posts.

  • Specifically, what is your burning question about your travel blog or travel blogging in general?

Over the next few weeks I’ll take your questions and give you my best answer and opinions – while inviting you to do the same. I look forward to hearing what’s on your mind from the nuts and bolts of a blog to less tangible things like article content and photography.

[photo by: sobriquet.net (thinking man)]


The search engine Google is fairly adept at indexing most travel blogs whether they are search-engine optimized (SEO) or not. You can however help the Google bot along so that it discovers new content you post quickly, which is especially important when publishing articles that are time-sensitive.

ticking clock

Having A Clear Code Road

Much of Google’s indexing is based on link-jumping, that is to say that the Google bot follows the path of links on your site to new content. The higher the Pagerank of a given site, the more value Google places on following links from it. If your new posts appear on your homepage, which likely will have some Pagerank after a few months, that’s a vote of confidence.

  • Having A Ranked Blog Or Category Page Can Help – Now, let’s say your new posts pop up on a ranked “blog” page as well, for example, http://yoursite.com/blog, then you’ve got two votes which can result in speedier indexing.

steel linksThe theme you’re running is also very important to how quickly your site is indexed. Google favors Blogspot users of course, but if you’re self-hosted on WordPress, look for themes that were designed with SEO in mind (e.g. Thesis). Your travel blog may look pretty to humans, but it’s the code that Google cares about.

Links are the road map to your travel blog and what Google uses to navigate your site. Sometimes though you might want to give Google a nudge, especially if it seems to be particularly neglecting your newer posts.

  • Google XML Sitemaps – One of 13 recommended WordPress plugins, it, and those like it can create easily search-engine digestible sitemaps and automatically submit them to Google. Sitemaps can also be manually generated and submitted using this plugin, which can help speed up the indexing process and notify Google of a new post.

Finally, to find out if Google has already indexed a particular page on your site, just Google your site in this format: “site:yoursite.com” or “site:yoursite.com/blog”.

google lego logoHave Links Ready

Although increasing Pagerank, site age, and good code will help improve how fast your travel blog is indexed over time, you can give particular help to time-sensitive posts by pre-linking to them. Incoming external links (i.e. links from other websites) to a particular post cue Google to how quickly it should index a given post.

  • Ask Blogging Buddies – Get in touch with other travel bloggers you have a rapport with and see if they might be interested in linking to that particular post of yours. Don’t forget to return the favor!
  • Link Out – When your posts seem to be a bit stale or slow in Google’s eyes, you might need to link out to external sites more. Only linking inward can ding your reputation with the giant search engine.
  • Watch The Keywords – Be sure that you’re not stuffing your posts (or image alt tags) with an over-abundant amount of keywords.
  • Increase Crawl RateGoogle’s Webmaster Tools is extremely versatile and gives you a number of Google-centric options, including increasing the frequency at which your site is crawled.

Using the Google Webmaster Tools, you can also create a “www” preference for your links. When possible, it’s good practice to be consistent when interlinking and to let Google know if you’re a with-www linker (e.g. http://www.yoursite.com) or not (e.g. http://yoursite.com).

No Guarantee, Only Guidance

Unfortunately, you can only build the path for Google but not take them down the road. Crawl time and indexing are based primarily on automated algorithms and while it helps to provide a good map, ultimately it’s up to Google as to when they’ll decide to take a look. Try posting articles that are time-sensitive (around holidays for example) a few hours earlier than you might otherwise, stay within Google’s guidelines, and occasionally check your site for crawl errors to get under the clock.

[photos by: delphaber (ticking clock), gsbrown99 (steel links), rustybrick (Google Lego logo)]


Compared with your 2010 travel blogging goals, this year your focus seems to be balancing work, travel, and play. Many of you were able to accomplish your goals to varying degrees and often in unforeseen ways.

new year resolution coaster

A Look Back At Your 2010 Accomplishments

  • Andrea (Inspiring Travellers): Because we’re travelers/expats who have been stuck in one place for too long, this year was about creating the blog and getting some solid posts under our belts ahead of our next round of long-term travel. It’s difficult to fix bugs and work out kinks while you’re traveling full-time – we thought best to work those out ahead of time. I think we probably exceeded our expectations this year.
  • Heather Cowper (My Blogging Journey): I did hope that I would have achieved more in monetizing my blog and although I’ve made some good steps in that direction, I still have some way to go before my blog can provide any meaningful financial return for all the hours I put in.
  • Nora (The Professional Hobo): My goal for 2010 was to reduce my working hours without reducing my income accordingly. It worked! I now work between 14-28 hours per week on average, and my income has actually gone up!

Achieving My Personal Goals In Unexpected Ways

Taking a look back on what I set out to accomplish I learned that less can be more and though a bit late, came through on a special goal I had set my sights on.

man looking through binoculars
  • Continue my blogging schedule (a good failure) – Although I had thought about maintaining my foXnoMad schedule of 5 posts a week, when I asked, most of you wanted less. This change significantly boosted my subscriber numbers and the new schedule gave me more time to edit and expand upon my ideas. As for my other sites, including this one, the once per week for Travel Blog Advice and the Tech Guide For Travel, and once a month for How To Travel With Pets has been mostly consistent. Despite this, I’m still looking to rearrange the schedule so I have some weeks with a reduced writing load.
  • the ultimate tech guide for travelersWrite another eBook – I wanted to create another eBook, but this time one that was alive and more than the sum of its pages. The Ultimate Tech Guide For Travelers not only comes with 6 months of free personal tech support from yours truly, but a year of free updates that will make it worth much more than the price. Comment on this post before January 5th, 2011 and I’ll give you 35% off the price to see for yourself.
  • The usual suspects – As I mentioned last year, I’m very superstitious about announcing my specific metric goals but happy to say all of them were met much earlier in the year than I expected, forcing me to set much higher goals over the summer.

Goals Forward And Back

As important as setting goals is, looking back and evaluating the ones you’ve set previously is equally as valuable. It not only helps you gauge where to set your sights on for the future, but can give you a sense of accomplishment in a medium where it can be hard to find.

[photos by: BaazarBizarreSF (New Year’s resolution coaster), CarbonNYC (man looking through binoculars)]


The end of the year has a way of slowing things down for many travel blogs, not to mention the travel bloggers behind them. With all of the holidays, New Year, and distractions that follow, you might be wondering if it’s worth posting anything to your travel blog during the last few weeks of the year. The keys to figuring out whether or not to take a break require determining what you’re trying to accomplish and what value you’ll save with the time off.

rubber ducky with glasses

Putting Worth In A Post

When trying to decide whether a posting is “worth it” you should define how you view that worth. For most, it’s a matter of traffic, so not posting is thought to maximize the publication of a new article when your readers are likely to be online. Useful posts tend to have a good shelf life though and exactly when they’re posted isn’t as important as the content itself. Whether or not to hold off on hitting publish depends on your readers more than anything.

feet on work deskWhere Is Your Primary Audience?

Using Alexa, you can get a rough idea of which countries your travel blog is most popular in. Combined with Google Analytics, you can gather information about trends around holidays in those particular places.

For example, American audiences tend to be very active right before (but not on) major holidays and Swedes celebrate Christmas on the 24th. Those small details about your specific audience can help you time your posts just when people are looking to read (or waste time at work as it were) without leaving them a cluttered inbox of RSS feed after an offline break.

Don’t Post For Posting’s Sake

While the holidays do have special peak moments for many travel blogs; don’t simply post something just for the sake of having new content up. If you’re really struggling to come up with something (holiday-related material works well) perhaps you can direct your readers to something older you’ve written. That gives new life to your older posts that are still a good read rather than giving a wide-eyed audience lackluster content.

Have Posts Reflect Your Moods

Around the end of the year (or whenever holiday time happens to be for you), things can get personally hectic – having you look for a bit of light entertainment for a breath of fresh air. A good segment of your audience is likely to be feeling the same way and by easing up for a bit, you might be doing them and yourself a favor.

[photos by: Jessica Bee (rubber ducky with glasses), Peter Baer (feet on work desk)]


doll thinkingLast year about this time I asked you – what are your travel blog goals for 2010 – and many of you responded with aims at monetization, maintaining a blog around hectic travels, and I even chimed in with a few of my own. Now that a full year as gone by, before we start looking at 2011, I’d like to find out how far you’ve come.

  • Whether you replied to the original post or not, tell us, did you accomplish your travel blogging goals for 2011?

Let me know how things went across the board if you were successful, fell short in a few places, or had some unexpected accomplishments. I’ll round up your responses as well as my own in an upcoming post before looking at the year ahead.

[photo by: betsyjean79 (doll thinking)]


One of 13 recommended WordPress plugins, the All In One SEO Pack is a powerful tool that can help your blog and individual posts become much more visible to search engines. Its power, and conversely weakness, is in All In One SEO Pack’s complexity. Many people who first install the plugin focus on adding descriptions to individual posts when you can more efficiently harness the SEO effectiveness on the general configuration page.

magnifying glass

Setting Up All In One SEO Pack From Scratch

Installation of All In One SEO goes much like most other WordPress plugins and is a realtively straightforward affair. Once you’ve uploaded the plugin (download here) and activate it, the first order of business is to head over to the “Options” page. All In One SEO Pack is kind enough to direct you there when you first activate the plugin, otherwise in your WordPress backend head to Settings > All In One SEO.

all in one seo config

The rest of these default settings are fine for most travel blogs. I wouldn’t recommend changing them unless you want your post title and blog title to appear differently at the top of a browser window.

all in one seo settings

Settings To Consider Deviating From The Default – Meta Keywords

Meta keywords are a elements of HTML that were originally designed to provide other computers (and search engines) with information about a given web page. The importance of meta keywords has significantly diminished in recent years and their effectiveness is often disputed. You can however use All In One SEO to convert your travel blog categories (e.g. time management) into meta tags.

  • This is a good setting to consider in the first 3 months of your travel blog when you don’t have many ‘post tags’ yet established.

After that, you should check the “Use Tags For Meta Keywords” instead; but not both. (This assumes you are adding post tags to your individual blog posts.) Checking both could earn you a small penalty from the search engines; they typically don’t like when you have too many similar ‘follow’ links on a given page. While meta keywords might have negligible SEO benefits, ignoring them won’t gain you anything.

The Misunderstood Dynamically Generate Keywords Setting

If you’ve set your WordPress blog to appear on a page other than the homepage (e.g. http://foxnomad.com/blog vs. http://foxnomad.com), then checking this setting tells All In One SEO pack to use the keywords you’ve set for posts on that [blog] page to act as the keywords for the entire page. The alternative is to set the keywords for a given page specifically, using the All In One SEO Pack configuration box at the bottom of the page-edit screen.

all in one seo keywords

This configuration box can be used to define specific keywords and descriptions for any and all of your travel blog’s posts and pages. If you don’t set them individually or won’t on a regular basis, you can have All In One SEO do it for you by checking the “Autogenerate Descriptions”. All In One SEO will then use the first 160 characters of a given post to automatically create the description field for it.

Using Noindex

all in one seo noindezAll In One SEO Pack will, by default, “noindex” your category, tag, and archive links. Those “noindex” links are the equivalent of “no-follow” links which tell search engines to ignore them. Again, to avoid duplicate links and content from being indexed (and subsequently penalized by the search engines), choose only one of these to un-check. Those of you who are diligent about tagging your posts with keywords can enable indexing of tags, while very new blogs or small static sites can enable indexing on categories to expand the number of overall pages being read by Google and other search engines.

It’s important however not to un-check more than one of these boxes in general so as not to have duplicate links being indexed more than once.

question markThat Configuration Box Below Each Post – Do I Need To Fill It In Every Time?

At the bottom of every one of your post and page drafts is a small All In One SEO configuration box. You can fill in keywords, specific descriptions, and modify your post titles just for the search engines. Most people don’t bother filling these in or lose enthusiasm for doing so after time. Filling each configuration box out can really help you focus your travel blog on a few specific keywords but the truth of the matter is most travel blogs aren’t keyword-oriented.

  • Most of the large (and SEO-oriented) travel blogs optimize their homepages and individual travel blog pages (using All In One SEO) and leave the posts up to the automatic functions of the plugin.

You can see what others are targeting by checking out the “Page Source” using your web browser. Look for what’s between the lines “<!– All in One SEO Pack” and “<!– /all in one seo pack –>” and you’ll see the description and specific keywords being targeted on a given page.

Expanding Your SEO-Reach

All In One SEO is a vital organization tool for your travel blog and does a lot of the SEO dirty work for you. In addition to the All In One SEO Pack you should change your permalink settings and use the alt attribute so your photos can be indexed as well. The search engines rely on boring text to sort through and map out your travel blog and All In One SEO gives them much more to read and feed on.

[photos by: jackbouma (magnifying glass), crystaljingsr (question mark)]


I’ve been putting the finishing touches on my next ebook to be released very soon, called The Ultimate Tech Guide For Travelers, which will also be available on the two predominant e-Readers – Amazon’s Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook. Getting any ebooks you may have written or coming up on either platform is fairly easy, with a few caveats.


While you won’t make quite as much from a given sale (Amazon takes 30% and B&N 40%) you’ll have access to a much broader audience who can potentially find what you’ve written. Both Amazon and B&N let you post ebooks for free, here’s how.

Hard Copy Or Not

booksPublishing ebooks only, that is without a hard copy option, is free and a much more straightforward process than selling physical books. Those of you looking to have hard copy editions of your ebooks available as well can do that using a host of online publishers like Lulu. You’ll also need to purchase an ISBN number (for sale in the US) at a minimum to publish on either Amazon or B&N; that costs around $100 and distribution is done by the publisher for a fee (~$75).

Selling ebooks on Amazon or B&N (and you should really publish to both instead of just one) doesn’t require an ISBN or any other addition to a standard PDF of your ebook.

amazon kindleHow To Publish eBooks To Amazon’s Kindle

You can self-publish your ebooks to Amazon using their Digital Text Platform. You’ll have to certify that the ebook is your original work and create a description that will be displayed on your Amazon page (which will look like this). All you need is a standard Amazon account to get started or to create a free one.

  • You’ll be asked if you want to use Digital Right Management (DRM) protection for your ebook. That will prevent it from being able to be viewed on other devices or computers and may cut down on illegal sharing; I’d recommend it.
  • Also be prepared with a fairly large image for your ebook that will be displayed on your Amazon page.
  • Amazon is particular about the format of your ebook – make sure it’s aligned vertically and mostly text; fancy graphics don’t do well on the Kindle and might be a reason your ebook is rejected from the store.

Once your ebooks are approved after a 2-3 business day period, you can begin working on improving their search ranking.

Begin Improving Your ebook’s Amazon Search Ranking

Even before your ebook has been approved by Amazon you can begin working on making it easier to find for potential customers. A good description outlining what you ebook is about, as well as 5 descriptive keyword tags make your ebook much more visible to Amazon’s internal search. Have your friends and family (those with Amazon accounts) add reviews and ratings as well.

  • I would be happy to return the favor if you’ve read and would be willing to do a review of Overcoming The 7 Major Obstacles To Traveling The World on either Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Amazon will automatically create a sample version of your ebook Kindle users can use to preview it before purchasing.

barnes and noble nookHow To Publish eBooks To Barnes & Noble Nook

Much like the process for Amazon’s Kindle, ebooks are easily submitted to the Barnes & Noble Nook store. Using their PubIt service you can upload you ebook file for consideration and approval, which usually takes about 3-5 business days. Barnes & Noble is a little more flexible about the format of your ebook although it’s still wise to give a mostly-text and graphic free version for the Nook.

  • Tweaking your Barnes & Noble ebook page for better rankings in their search is almost identical to Amazon, except B&N is a bit more integrated with Facebook (another place where many “likes” will go far).

Barnes & Noble will also make your ebook part of their “LendMe” program, which lets Nook users lend out the ebook to others for 14 days (although during that time the ebook isn’t available to the lender).

Why Publish To Both Stores

Neither Amazon or Barnes & Noble have any restrictions to publishing to other stores and it can only benefit you to use both since the Kindle and Nook represent a combined 70% of the market share. Ebooks are also now 15% of all books sold so put your ebooks in the two stores where people are buying them – of course in addition to your own sites as well.

[photos by: libraryman (eReaders), Patrick Gage (books), cubicgarden (Amazon Kindle), AMagill (Barnes & Noble Nook)]