Today we are going to do an in-depth study on one of the successful Travel Bloggers named Matthew Karsten ("Matt") who founded Expertvagabond.com.
This case study aims to identify the little things that Matt did over the years that made him successful. As claimed on one of his articles, he has made about $250,000 in 2018.
Now, if you aspire to be a Travel Blogger, then you'll be interested in following the footsteps of Matt.
Hopefully, you will be able to achieve the level of success he has or better.
Expert Vagabond in 2011
Expert Vagabond in 2019
One thing you have to know is that there is a difference between starting a travel blog and a travel niche site.
A Travel Blog is where you document your travel activities, and you share your passion and experiences on your blog. It is suitable for people who travel a lot.
But, for people who are thinking of becoming a Travel Blogger, you need to understand that it is a complete lifestyle change.
You will understand a lot more about what it takes to become a successful Travel Blogger when reading this case study.
Whereas, a Travel Niche Site can be a mix of travel blogging as well as promoting products related to travel. But generally, it is more sales focused.
So, if you are interested in the Travel Niche, you have to decide if your website is going to be about Travel Blogging or a Travel Niche Site or both.
For the case of Expert Vagabond, it falls in the category of a Travel Blog.
So, without further ado, let's dive into it.
The Story of Travel Blogger, Matt
Matt started ExpertVagabond.com on February 18, 2011, according to whois.com.
But, his adventure started way before that.
It was in 2009 that he quit his full-time job and started to travel (the pursuit of freedom and happiness).
He didn't have the luxury to go on extravaganzas, and he knows that if he were to make "travel" his business...
He has got to be frugal... At least for the first couple of years.
When there was an opportunity to cut something from his lifestyle that wasn't essential, such as the subscription to Netflix or gym memberships, he would.
You could say that Matt went to the extreme as cutting out any 'fun' thing that he would normally do in his spare time. He even stopped socializing for the sake of being frugal.
Unfortunately, this is how most Travel Bloggers started. Travel Bloggers and enthusiast do not have a lot to begin with.
They have to embrace hardship to support their passion for traveling.
Matt Needed A Source of Income...
Moving on with his journey, Matt realized that to support his passion; he needed a source of income.
He didn't look for jobs that needed commitment as he was determined not to be "tied down".
He was inspired by his friends, Katie and Ferenc, who were already earning money while traveling the world.
And, that's when he turned towards learning how to start an online business.
Because, frankly speaking, that's the best way to make money on the go.
He created a few side hustles (online businesses) which he grinds many hours...
In hopes that by the time he left to travel, he had at least 4 figure income coming in each month.
It tells you a lot about Matt's personality and how once he set his heart on doing something, he will see it through. His perseverance is the 'key' component when it comes to self-employment.
Travel Blogging is not for people who are seeking to earn quick money. Matt didn't make money from his Travel Blog in the early years.
His Travel Blog only started to earn a substantial amount of money after several years, and during that time, he was side hustling.
At the end of the day, creating anything worthwhile for yourself is going to take time.
Matt's success was by no means an overnight thing but instead something that he made possible because he was persistent and consistent.
This is a lesson to learn for aspiring Travel Bloggers.
Types of Articles Posted on ExpertVagabond.com
ExpertVagabond.com has 279 articles over 8 years.
That is an average of 35 articles per year, and about 3 articles per month. If you break it down this way, it isn't that bad, right?
But you have to know that Matt updates his content frequently, he is not one who goes for the quantity. That should be your focus too.
Now, let me split his content into 2 categories (Blogs with buying intent and without buying intent).
Blogs with Buying Intent: Articles that will rank for keywords with buying intent. Meaning, people who searched for related keywords on Search Engines have the intention to purchase something.
Blogs without Buying Intent: Articles that do not rank for keywords with buying intent.
BLOGS WITH BUYING INTENT
BLOGS WITHOUT BUYING INTENT
So you see, only 17 out of the 279 articles (6% of all articles) will rank for keywords that have buying intent.
The way a Travel Blog earns money is entirely different from a Travel Niche site.
While a Travel Blog attracts revenue by gaining authority and popularity, a Travel Niche site will focus on getting its articles ranked on keywords with Buying Intent.
Hence, it is much quicker to earn money from a Travel Niche site; that's my educated judgment.
But, Expert Vagabond did things a little different. Even when his articles are ranking for keywords with NO buying intent, he tries to monetize them anyway.
A good example is from one of his Travel Adventures, "Rock Climbing Limestone Cliffs at Railay Beach".
How Expert Vagabond Earn Affiliate Revenue Through Blog Posts
Instead of you reading through an entire blog post, let me point out the parts where he added his affiliate links...
Affiliate Links #1 (In Between Content)
Affiliate Links #2 (End of Article)
What we can learn from this is that as long as you are providing good value, people will not feel that they are being sold to.
And, because Matt shares his methods on how to find cheap flights and hotels, people would want to know.
They will most likely click on the links and search for their travel destination.
It is not about trying to rank for keywords like Cheap Flights and Hotels, because those keywords are almost impossible for you to rank. Just search for them on Google, and you will know.
Matt goes the other route by sharing his travel experiences at the destination, and he shares his ways/methods to get there.
I think this is the best way to promote travel affiliate programs without making the readers feel that they are being sold to. You are not a travel agent. You are a travel influencer, you have to remember that.
6 Ways Expert Vagabond Gets Paid
#1 Ads: Mediavine Travel
Matt was putting ads on his site, which in return was generating passive income.
Most ad revenue companies prefer blogs with a few thousand page views per month (Mediavine Travel requires 50,000 page views).
In the case of Expert Vagabond, it is getting at least 500,000 page views a month, which explains how he was able to generate a six-figure income.
But, like all blogs, it started at 0 page views. You have to work your way up to earn money from ad revenue companies.
#2 Amazon Affiliate
If you visit the majority of Expert Vagabond's articles, you will notice that at the end there are Amazon Affiliate links embedded. We have discussed this above.
Each time someone clicks through any of his affiliate links to buy something, he earns a commission.
However, not all his content has links which are interesting as it seems he cares more about sharing his experiences more than anything.
#3 Sponsored Posts
Sponsored Posts are one of the most lucrative income sources for Matt.
Because of the popularity of Expert Vagabond, sponsors are willing to spend up to $20,000 to create an article that resides on Expert Vagabond.
Again, this is not something that happens overnight. Your site needs to be "popular" enough to attract sponsors.
#4 Selling Backlinks
Monetized Backlinks is often frowned upon in the world of Search Engines.
It merely means that webmasters (bloggers) pay other bloggers to place links back to their websites.
Links from Authoritative sites, like Expert Vagabond, will send good signals to Search Engines, that the linked site is credible, thus increasing the search ranking of the website.
It is almost considered manipulating the Search Engine's algorithm legally.
Hence, people are willing to pay good money for those Backlinks.
For Expert Vagabond, other bloggers pay Matt at least $500 each for a Backlink.
#5 Destination Marketing (Getting Paid to Travel)
The perks of owning a blog with hundreds of thousands of visitors are that companies will stop by and offer opportunities to you.
Very similar to sponsored posts, companies are paying Matt to come out to specific locations and then promote them.
He can get up to $15,000 for each assignment.
#6 Public Speaking Gigs
Not a common way to earn with a blog, but Matt managed to attract paid public speaking gigs.
He claims to earn up to $3,000 per gig that he does.
The key here is all about becoming an authority within your niche.
If you can do that, it opens up doors of opportunities, even for those opportunities you never thought was possible.
So you see, the sources of income for Expert Vagabond didn't come overnight. They were generated over time as Matt builds reputation and authority.
What Can We Learn as a Travel Blogger From ExpertVagabond?
Lesson 1: Passion is Key
One thing we can conclude is that you need to be passionate about traveling to create something like that.
If you claim to be passionate about traveling, but you only travel once or twice a year, it is going to be extremely difficult for you to be a Travel Blogger.
However, if your occupation allows you to travel very often, a travel blog may be something that you can dive into.
The key here is to place your passion first before everything else. Do not go into this niche just because you want to earn extra cash.
Lesson 2: There is NO Overnight Success
You need first to have the passion, then you share your passion, and get people to follow you. The money will come later on.
It will take quite a while before you see any substantial source of income coming in.
In the first two years, Matt disclosed that he wasn't able to survive the travel lifestyle through his Travel Blog.
He had to do other side hustles to support his lifestyle. So, if you are going into this, do not be hasty! Do not expect money to start rolling from Day 1 or even for months to come.
Traveling should be your passion first; you should be passionate about sharing your travel experiences. Money is secondary.
Lesson 3: Don't Feel Overwhelmed; Do it at your own pace
Now, a big mistake here is to feel overwhelmed. Matt created Extra Vagabond since 2011, and you can't expect to be at his level when you are starting. It takes a lot of time and effort before you can reach his level.
I am pretty sure in 2011, there were already many travel bloggers, and he had the same feeling as you. How can you compare yourself with someone who is so far ahead, right?
But, you have to understand, everyone starts at the same point, and you should never compare yourself with others.
Otherwise, you will feel overwhelmed, and you will never get started.
Want to be a Travel Blogger? This May Interest You!
Honestly, I find Matt's method of travel blogging intriguing, but yet, it takes a lot of time and effort to gain attention.
If Travel Blogging is something that you see yourself doing in the near future...
Then, the Superstar Blogging course may be what you need for the transition.
It is created by a collective group of successful Travel Bloggers, and it is one of the best courses for aspiring individuals.
Learning from Superstar Blogging is probably the best shortcut for beginners to earn revenue from a Travel Blog.
You can learn more about Superstar Blogging here.