Want to get blogging tips from hot bloggers with a proven track record? Blogging Success Stories is an interview series to help you learn from other successful bloggers, get motivated to keep blogging and get empowered with actionable blogging tips.
I’m super excited to be interviewing one of my favourite travel bloggers and photographers. Gary Arndt writes and takes photos for Everything Everywhere which is definitely one of the most popular personal travel blogs ever with 100,000 unique readers per month.
Travel blogging can be a bit of a dog eat dog world but what I've noticed about Gary is that he's not only successful but universally loved too. No one has a bad thing to say about him and after interviewing him I found out why.
Gary’s been blogging since 2006 and I’ve been following his blog and travels since I first discovered Everything Everywhere a few years ago. I love his mix of dry, funny travel stories, wise insights into being a professional travel writer and, of course, his fabulous photos.
Here’s more about Gary Arndt’s blogging success story along with his hot blogging tips.
Let's get personal! Where do you live? Do you have a family? What do you do for work and play?
I don't have a home. I have been traveling around the world since March 2007. I have no kids and I have never been married.
What's your blog about? Who reads it? How long have you been blogging?
My blog is about my travels around the world. My current travel blog has been up since October 2006 and documents my travels around the world. It is read by people all over the globe. I'm constantly amazed at where my readers live.
What do you offer your readers that no one else does?
A blend of a travel lifestyle combined with award-winning photography and writing. I am not the most traveled person in the world, I haven't been traveling the longest and I might not be the best photographer, but if you made a Venn diagram of those three things I'm somewhere in the middle which few other people can claim.
You must be one of the most well traveled travel bloggers. How often do you update your blog and how many unique readers do you have each month?
I at least post an image to my site every day. I have been doing that for over 5 years straight. I have about 100,000 on the blog, plus another 50,000 on Facebook and 114,000 on Twitter who follow me.
Wow! Do you have a big email list too? Do you use that just to send out blog posts or do you send a weekly newletter?
I do have a newsletter with over 10,000 subscribers, but I've been very lax about putting it out on a consistent basis.
How much time or money do you spend on blog design?
Very little. I recently did a minor upgrade to my site where I added a white box for text, but other than that I haven't redesigned my site in over 3 years.
What about blog maintenance?
Again, as little as possible. I have my site running pretty fast now and I haven't had any issues in over a year. Ideally, once things are running optimally, you shouldn't have to mess around with it.
I know you have an assistant. Can you tell us what she does, how many hours she works and if you hire anyone else to work on your blog?
She does a lot for me including interfacing with people who organize my trips, handing my schedule and managing my Facebook page. Other than some project work for my website (design and server issues) I don't hire anyone else.
Where do most of your blog readers come from? Google search, Social Media or other sites?
Most travel bloggers get about 90% of their traffic from Google. I get about 20% of mine from Google. Most comes from social media, referring sites or organic traffic people bookmarking my site or typing in the URL directly. I do very little in the way of SEO as I am more interested in getting subscribers/fans/followers than I am in getting non-converting search page views.
You share some great travel stories on your blog and put a different spin on travel - not just the usual go here, go there travel tips. How did you learn to tell stories and how do you chose what stories to share with your readers?
I actively try to go out of my way to NOT do the type of stories you see in the travel sections of newspapers. I try to make things person and express my opinion. I write like a speak and I try to just write what I would tell someone over drinks.
Much of your blogging success must lie in your fabulous travel photos and yet you knew nothing about photography when you started blogging. How important are photos for bloggers?
EXTREMELY important, especially for travel bloggers. Whenever I see a stock photo at the top of an article, my first impression is "they just don't care". Travel is a very visual thing. Most people have a place they want to visit and an image in their head of what is it like. That image is usually what provides the inspiration.
National Geographic has a lot in common with Playboy in that respect. People primarily read it for the photos 🙂
A travel article without good images is like eating crackers with nothing on it. Not that appetizing.
How do you choose which photos to share from the hundreds you take on each trip?
Totally depends on the images I get. There is no quota. If the images stink I won't share many. If they are great, I'll share more. I took 12,000 photos on my trip to Antarctica.
Do you make a full time living from blogging?
How exactly do you earn money from your blog?
Currently via sponsorships and endorsements. My time commitments from travel have precluded me from doing many things which other bloggers do, such ebook and other products. I hope to slow down a bit in 2013 to work on some more stuff.
There's no polite way to ask this but how much do you earn a year? Because plane tickets don't come cheap. Many travel bloggers seem to travel a bit and live somewhere cheap. What's your story?
Something I discovered after 3 years of traveling is that the travel and tourism industry is HUGE. Worldwide it is a trillion dollar business. Tourism boards around the world have been working with travel writers for years to get them to visit their destination and write about it. This has been going on for decades before blogging ever appeared.
Much of my travel is sponsored by various companies and tourism boards which reduces my expenses. Many people are so focused on "making money" that they forget the goal is to be profitable. Profits of course are revenues minus costs. Because I don't have a home and because I get much of my travel sponsored, I can reduce my costs significantly.
There is no way I could travel at the rate I do if I had to pay for everything out of pocket.
I wonder what your product will be? A book about travel photography or editing tips? A beautiful coffee book or a screen saver that changes with a new photo every day? Something entirely different?
The first thing will be a real book with a real publisher. As I do more photo ebooks I may put them up on the iTunes/Kindle store. I may sell other products like calendars and prints.
How do you value your influence and reach? How much would you charge for a sponsored blog post about a certain product or brand? How do you choose who to work with or do you just
take on whoever comes along?
I am extremely fussy about who I work with. I have never and will never put a sponsored post on my site. It ruins the editorial integrity and I value my readers more than anything. I also don't sell banner advertising.I turn down 99% of all offers that I get. Most simply aren't a good fit.
I will only work with companies who's product I would personally use, and even then the business relationship has to be a good fit. I will also only do long term deals that encompass more than just my website. This will include speaking gigs, running tours, etc.
If you want to charge premium rates you have to have a premium product and the only way that will happen is if are you willing to turn down most of the business which comes your way. It is difficult in the short term but really pays off in the long run.
When I was reading your post What I've Learnt From Six Years of Blogging I realised it's true you're utterly passionate about travel because you travel endlessly. So you rule the travel blogging world because of that. As a fellow travel blogger at Get In the Hot Spot there's no way I can compete with your endless travels. So how can we travel bloggers pick a sub-niche that works or should we just forget travel blogging and write about something else?
It depends on what your goals are. You are correct that there are few bloggers that travel as much as I do. I visited all 7 continents in the first 8 months of 2012, I'll put on about 150,000 miles flying this year AND I'll be celebrating my 6 year travel anniversary this March.
I think you can go one of two routes: 1) Inspire people, or 2) provide useful information. If you want to inspire people, the best way to do it is to do what I do. Travel a lot. Visit beautiful places and share it with other people.
Providing useful information does not require that much travel. In fact I think one of the easiest ways to make a living from a travel blog is to focus on a single destination and thoroughly cover it. I know people who make well over 6-figures from very niche sites which focus on single destinations.
What's the best way to get new readers to a blog?
It totally depends on where you are in your blog development. I focus on subscribers as the primary metric and I think the stages you go through can be divided into orders of magnitude.
0-10 Anyone should be able to do this day 1 with just family and close friends.
11-100 This can probably be done in a month with extended friends and other bloggers.
101-1,000 This will take more time, but it can still be done by hand. In theory, you could talk to 3 people a day and have 1,000 subscribers in a year. Guest posting and other techniques work well here.
1,001 - 10,000 This requires a totally different way of thinking. You can't personally know 10,000 people. This might take years or it could be done in a year of really hard work and smart choices.
10,001 - 100,000 This is where I find myself now. I'm finding myself having to take mass media approaches to keep growing my audience. Running Facebook ads, working with major media companies, etc.
What's driving you to keep growing your audience? Is it even possible? What are your aims? Personal or professional?
The difference between a diary and a blog is an audience. One you make the decision to have a public website I don't know why you would want to limit your audience. If I can inspire people to travel and see/do things they never would have otherwise, I think that's great. The more the better.
What are your recommendations for other bloggers who want to monetise their blogs?
Become a good amateur blogger before you try to become a professional blogger. Technically speaking, you don't monetize a blog, you monetize an audience. If you don't have an audience, you don't have anything.
Take the time to build up your audience before you try to monetize. If you put the cart before the horse and try to make money too soon, you'll usually wind up with no money and no audience.
Tell us your best blogging tip for new bloggers
1) Be consistent. Don't have enormous gaps in posting.
2) Show your personality. Don't hide it. That is what makes people want to pay attention.
3) Experiment. Try different things and be ready to abandon it quickly if it doesn't work.
What are your best tips for taking and choosing blog photos?
This could be a book by itself. Take your photography seriously, even if you don't have a great camera. Also take the time to edit your images. It makes a world of difference.
Please can you share one final blogging tip or something that would make you want to read a blog?
Entertain. Educate. Inspire. Pick two.
Travel blogging sounds like a lot of hard work - just trawling through 12,000 photos from Antarctica alone. Sometimes I find the need to constantly document and perform kills the fun and spontaneity of travel. Do you ever think about quitting blogging?
No. I love what I do.
That passion really shows. Where can people find out more about you Gary? Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I have a free ebook of my favorite travel photos I give to my newsletter subscribers. You can download a copy here:
You can also find me at these places:
Your blogging ethos and success story blow my mind in a good way. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions Gary, and for sharing your blogging tips with the Successful Blogging team. We really appreciate it.
Don’t forget to pop over to Gary’s blog to see why it's so popular. Thank you. I know he'll love that. Last time I was there I downloaded his free Antartica ebook which is pretty mind-blowing too.
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