How to Monetize your Blog: Tips from Nomadic Matt

Are you a travel blogger trying to earn an income from your blog? Travel blogger Nomadic Matt shares his secrets to monetization success.

Photo © Matthew Kepnes

After over a decade of traveling and blogging my way around the world, one of the most common questions I get is, “How do you afford to travel so much?”

Everyone assumes I’m either a trust fund kid or that I get all kinds of free trips from travel companies.

Neither of those could be further from the truth.

When I started blogging over 13 years ago, it was simply a way for me to showcase my writing while keeping friends and family informed about my round-the-world adventure (paid for by working as much overtime as I could for an entire year). My goal was to get a job as a traditional travel writer. I figured that would be the best way to achieve my goal, which, at 27, was simply to afford one more day on the road.

It wasn’t until I had been blogging for over a year that I realized that there was potential for a business. At the time, I was teaching English in Asia as my regular 9-to-5. Blogging was just a side hustle.

Until it wasn’t.

By acquiring some new skills, reading a lot about marketing and business, and fumbling my way through learning HTML, I was able to eventually earn a few hundred dollars a month from my travel blog. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. And that’s all I needed.

Fast-forward to today. My website generates seven figures in revenue annually. I have a team that helps me keep everything running smoothly. I have written a New York Times best-selling book, I’ve created a travel conference and a charity, and I have continued to travel the world — all because of my travel blog.

So, how do I do it? Is there something special about me or my situation?

Absolutely not. You can do this too. I wasn’t a great writer when I started. I knew nothing about the tech side of things and was far from an expert on business and marketing.

But I learned. I put in the work. And now I have a successful travel business.

In fact, it’s never been easier to make money as a blogger. Today, there are tons of ways you can monetize your business – both passively and actively – so you can achieve the financial freedom you deserve. You won’t get rich quick, but if you’re committed to long-term success, then this might be the industry for you.

Here are the best ways to make money as a travel blogger:

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is one of the first (and easiest) ways bloggers can make money. It entails signing up with a website that has an affiliate program (such as Amazon, World Nomads, or Booking.com) and then adding their links to your site whenever you mention those companies. As your readership grows, more and more people will see these links and click on them, slowly building your passive income.

Then when someone clicks on the affiliate link from your site and purchases something, you get a small commission from that sale at no extra cost to your reader. It’s a win-win!

There are many travel companies with affiliate programs, from outdoor clothing companies to accommodation platforms like Hostelworld and Hotels.com to online courses for teaching English. The list goes on.

Of course, you should only promote companies you can personally vouch for. If you love a company and use its product, see if it has an affiliate program.

While the payouts will be small at first (you won’t have a huge audience overnight, remember), it’s definitely possible to make a full-time income just from affiliates. This is how most bloggers begin to monetize their sites.

Ads

In recent years, as blogging has become a mainstream business, ad networks have popped up to help bloggers better monetize their websites. You sign up for an ad network, they put ads on your website, and you get a commission based on how many people see those ads. Pretty straightforward.

The obvious downside to this is that it makes your website look less sleek and slows it down. Some ads aren’t very user-friendly either. I avoided putting ads on my site for over a decade for those reasons. However, since everyone is used to seeing ads on blogs, I finally bit the bullet and added them.

There are three main ad platforms that bloggers use these days:

  • AdSense – AdSense is the most common platform for new bloggers, as there is no minimum traffic required to join. However, because of this, the payouts aren’t great. The ads aren’t very sleek either.
  • Mediavine – This is the go-to for most travel bloggers. They previously required 25,000 monthly views to join; however, that has been bumped up to 50,000. Mediavine pays you 75% of the ad revenue they earn from your site. On average, Mediavine clients can expect $10-25 USD per thousand page views.
  • AdThrive – This is the ad platform I use. It requires 100,000 monthly views before you can join. While Mediavine is excellent, I found that AdThrive was a better fit for what I was looking for, as it offered higher payouts and catered to larger websites. You can’t go wrong with either, though!

As a new blogger, I would aim to join Mediavine once you hit 50,000 views. Until then, skip the ads. That will give you time to focus on writing great content, affiliate marketing, and growing your audience. After all, you don’t monetize a website — you monetize an audience. 

Creating and selling products

The best way to earn money from your online business is to create and sell your own product. If you want to be truly financially successful, you need your own product(s). Whether that is an e-book, an online course paid itineraries, Lightroom presets, or merch, having a product will increase your revenue and make you less beholden to anyone else.

People read your blog because they want your information, so why not sell some premium information or tips people can’t normally get on your site?

This is where most bloggers go wrong – they don’t have products. If you are making most of your money through sponsored content, ads, or press trips, you are beholden to someone else. You don’t own your income. You can’t test to improve it. You can’t convert more readers. You don’t create brand loyalty. And when marketing trends change or the algorithm changes, you could lose out because you’re not independent.

Creating your own product is the key to financial success and building brand loyalty because you are giving people a way to directly support what you do. Your readers want to support you – you have to give them a way to do so.

Running tours

Running tours is a natural extension of most travel blogs and something a lot of big travel bloggers do to supplement their income and connect directly with their readers. I ran tours for a few years (and we have plans to bring them back in the future). And while they are very time-consuming, they are also a straightforward way to provide a service to your audience.

There are essentially two ways to go about running tours: working with an established tour company or doing everything yourself. Working with a tour company means you get access to their guides, expertise, and itineraries to get things started. You’re essentially just tacking your name onto an existing tour company’s offering. While it’s much easier and requires less planning and paperwork, you’ll also make less money, since the tour company needs to be paid.

The more time-consuming option is to do it all yourself. You plan the itinerary, you make all the bookings and transportation arrangements, you lead the tour, etc. This is what I did when I ran tours. It took much more time and energy, but I was able to customize everything along the way — and make more money in the process.

Both options have their pros and cons so spend some time thinking about which would be best for you and your business.

Sponsored content is an umbrella term that covers a lot of different things, but here I’m referring to paid posts, free trips and tours, and paid social media content. This is the realm of the influencer – and it’s one I encourage you to avoid.

Studies show that 60% of people believe that a website loses credibility when it posts sponsored content. That means you should think long and hard about whether sponsored content is right for you, your business, and your audience.

In addition to paid content, there is also the issue of free trips (aka press trips). This is the dream, right? To get free travel!

Well, not quite.

The thing about press trips is you usually don’t get paid. So, while a free trip is nice, you can’t pay the rent with free. Exposure is only just so helpful and, again, it comes back to your audience. Will they be able to replicate all these insider experiences you’re having? Will they get a ton of value and insight from your trip, or are you just doing it because it’s free and fun?

As with sponsored posts, I’d think twice about press trips. Sure, they’re fun, but they’re not a viable business strategy. A fun press trip might be good for you – but is it good for your business?

Patreon

Patreon (and similar platforms) allows readers to support creators directly via a monthly subscription. In exchange for this fee, readers get exclusive content and other perks, such as merch, live Q&As, one-on-one calls, early access to content, and more.

We run our own version of this called Nomadic Matt Plus, and it’s been super successful, connecting us with our most engaged fans who are interested in bonus travel content and exclusive perks.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to set up either. You simply join Patreon, choose the perks you want to offer your audience, and then start promoting it. You can have it all done in just a few minutes.

However, the thing to remember about Patreon is that only a small percentage of your audience will join. That means if you’re a new blogger, you won’t get a lot of support. Plus, Patreon takes a 10% cut, leaving you with even less.

For that reason, I suggest waiting until you’ve built up an audience before you join. Patreon isn’t a great platform for beginners, but rather more of an intermediate way to monetize the audience you’ve already created.

***

It’s never been easier to start a travel blog and make money. While building a readership and learning the skills to succeed takes time and effort, the barrier to entry has never been lower. For just a few dollars a month, you can get started building your dream business today — in under an hour, no less!

While you won’t get rich quick in this industry – blogging is a marathon, not a sprint – it’s 100% possible to make money and build a business as a travel blogger. If you’re willing to learn the skills and put in consistent effort, and are committed to long-term success, I guarantee you’ll be able to succeed in this industry and make money along the way.

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2 Comments

  • Priya Singh said

    Awesome,
    Thank you so much for sharing such an awesome blog...

  • Joy said

    Very insightful contents here! Thanks Tim.

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