Like moths to a flame or magpies to shiny things, people are drawn to claims of money-making.
Especially when it involves something they already have a passion for, isn’t that everyone’s dream?
Travel blogging is no different. It seems that people are scrambling to make money and treat travel blogging like a business.
These ideas that have a canny resemblance of the claims that originally sprouted from money-making blogs, but is it all just a mirage?
Many successful money making blogs are eventually self fulfilling in that those that claim to be making stupid amounts of money eventually gain lots of dedicated followers based on the claim, whether or not it was true in the first place.
Sadly these days it often seems like the first question people ask you at travel blogging events, “how do you make money?”, “do you do this full-time?”. The truth is, I don’t do it full-time and I don’t do it for the money. I do it for the passion for travel and technology, that is why I’ll still be doing it in some form in anothrt 10 years time. If you are one of those looking to make money, choose something that you have real expertise in and that you have niche knowledge of, travel isn’t it, travel has zero barriers to entry.
I’m not going to talk about the ethics of buying or selling back links but more about why these practices aren’t a good idea if, like many have stated, you are going to treat your blog as a business. The practice violates search engines rules and although it’s not illegal or necessarily unethical it can be potentially damaging to your website.
Recently I’ve noticed many travel bloggers looking to make money from links in sidebars, homepages as they attempt to “monitise” their blogs to make money and live the dream life of blogging for a living.
If travel bloggers should be treating their blogs as a business then surely selling SEO back links is a very poor long-term business strategy? Yes you many make some money, but in the process you degrade your website not just for users but in terms of search.
Selling back links is a vulnerable revenue stream and as search engines evolve you could see the revenue from these links disappear over night. Especially if Google and other search engines devalue back links and rely on other signal more such as social. Those reliant on the back link trade will be left with no areas revenue.
Lets look back at the basis for this argument. Back in 2007 Google released an update that targeted sites that were selling links, many sites were hit, including some major publishers. Although website owners had previously been warned many continued to sell links, whether or not they didn’t believe the warnings or perhaps the revenue stream was just too tempting to shut down. Either way their revenue was hit hard.
Fast forward 5 years and there’s a warning from Google’s Matt Cutts (head of Google’s Webspam team) about “over optimising” your site.
Here’s a snippet from Rob Snell’s transcription of the entire session:
“normally we don’t sort of pre-announce changes, but there is something that we’ve been working on in the last few months. And hopefully, in the next couple months or so, in the coming weeks, we hope to release it.
And the idea is basically to try and level the playing ground a little bit. So all those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, “over optimization” or “overly” doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site, we want to sort of make that playing field a little bit more level.”
Whether or not Google will target those buying or even selling links is anyone’s guess but there’s no doubt that they could be a potential target.
There has also been some chatter in the travel blogging community recently about link buyers pulling paid links and in some cases asking website owners to apply “nofollow” tags to the links to ensure they don’t pass page-rank or look like links for the purpose of boosting rankings. Is this an emerging pattern? Has something spooked these link builders? Was it the over optimisation warning and echos of the 2007 update? Or maybe just a coincidence?
Either way it highlights that you aren’t actually treating you blog as a business by solely relying on selling links.
Most savvy established bloggers have moved beyond simply selling paid links to sell a product from their site. Whether it’s selling ebooks, a subscription product, app, magazine or even publishing your own book, if you want to create real long-term revenue streams as a travel blogger you have to think beyond selling links.
Photo by 401K