How Megan Wristen’s Travel Blog Earns Income Using 9 Different Monetization Methods
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When Megan Wristen was moving around a lot with her family, it was difficult to find a steady job. Then a chance encounter with a coupon blogger changed her life.
She started her blog, Mommy Travels, back in 2008 and has documented her adventures while traveling to 28 countries with her three kids.
She has grown it over the years to earn enough income to put two kids through college, and she has diversified her income, earning from 9 different sources. She’s also started additional blogs in the meantime.
Keep reading to find out:
- How she learned about blogging
- How much she's earning
- Where her income comes from
- Her main marketing strategies
- What unique approaches she uses to get traffic
- Her thoughts on SEO
- Her keyword research strategy
- Her thoughts on link building
- How she creates content
- How she grows her email list
- Her favorite resources and tools
- Her biggest challenge
- Her greatest accomplishment
- Her main mistake
- Her advice for other entrepreneurs
- Meet Megan Wristen
- How Much Meagan’s Earning
- Her Main Marketing Strategy
- The Importance of SEO
- Meagan’s Content Creation Process
- Her Email List
- Her Favorite Resources
- Her Go-To Tools
- Meagan’s Biggest Challenge
- Her Greatest Accomplishment
- What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
- Her Main Mistake
- Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
Meet Megan Wristen
As a former Air Force wife, I moved 9 times in 11 years, so I found myself taking whatever job I could get despite having a degree.
It was extremely frustrating to watch an interviewer throw my resume in the trash right when I was about to get hired because he realized we were stationed there. Although this is illegal, there was nothing I could do about it.
In 2008 we were stationed in the panhandle of Florida. At the time my kids were 7, 4, and 1.
In an attempt to make friends, I joined a MOPS group (mothers of preschoolers). At one of the events, they had a coupon blogger come in to guest speak. I didn’t understand her method; it was complicated and seemed time-consuming.
But what I did understand is that she was plugging her blog constantly throughout her talk.
I went to her blog and realized quickly that she was making money off of it. I contacted her and asked some questions.
During our talk, she wasn’t comfortable disclosing how much money she was making, but she did say that she would never teach again.
I had a history and English degree with plans to teach, but could never get off the waitlist before we moved again. Needless to say, this statement spoke volumes to me.
By the end of the month, I had started two blogs, one of which would go on to become my main job and income. The other I must have deleted it at some point.
I started Mommy Travels in October 2008 as a blogspot blog, since there was no such thing as WordPress at that time.
How Much Meagan’s Earning
I make enough to put two kids through college at the same time.
I make ad revenue, affiliate income, influencer income, and get paid to go on trips.
I also sell photos to brands like GoPro and AmaWaterways and on places like iStock and Shutterstock. For cell phone photos, I sell them on Stockimo.
I also offer SEO consulting and social media consulting services. I either charge a flat rate for this or an hourly rate; it depends on the client’s needs.
I also wrote a cookbook, so I get royalties from that, and I just launched a monthly clothing rental subscription at Travel Style Expert, though it’s too soon to say how it will do.
I’m on liketoknow.it/mommytravels, so I make commissions from the outfits I wear on trips.
I have a copyright infringement service that tracks down unauthorized use of my photos and then collects money for them.
The kids and I are in so many of the photos that it’s pretty obvious when my photos have been stolen.
As for traffic, Mommy Travels got between 80,000 UMV and 115,000 UMV over the last 10 months.
During the pandemic, travel stalled, so I ended up running a small media company in Dallas for 2.5 years.
I transitioned back to my blog last November.
Covid affected it because I had such little USA content versus other countries. For example, I had many Thailand articles that did quite well, but Thailand was one of the countries that closed the longest, which meant no traffic during that period.
Since Covid, I have worked hard to increase the amount of articles I have in the USA while continuing to build content about other countries.
I work on my business 40 a week, but when I’m traveling and having to create content, it could be more. I see people saying they are only working 10 hours a week and wonder if that is true. Maybe if they are outsourcing a lot.
Her Main Marketing Strategy
Back in the day, I used Pinterest the most. At one point, 60% of my traffic came just from Pinterest. Unfortunately, that bubble burst quite some time ago.
I still continue to make pins when I have extra time and feed the content into Pinterest, but it’s a low priority since the return is so little. Now, instead of looking at Pinterest as a traffic driver, I look at it as a backlink.
I check my analytics every day and specifically watch to see where traffic is coming from.
If I see traffic coming from a source I have never seen before, I go and research it to see if I can leverage it in my favor. This is how I learned about Whisk.
I have recipes on my blog and someone had shared a recipe or two on this platform.
When I saw traffic coming in from it I went to see what it was. I then started an account and added my own content to the system in hopes of getting more traffic. Whisk is now Samsung Food and no longer driving much traffic, sadly.
The Importance of SEO
At this point, SEO is super important, but I’m not sure how important it will be a year from now with the rise of AI.
I look for things to write about that I am an authority in and for “low hanging fruit” places that are not well covered and I can easily rank for.
I watch articles to see if they rank for anything I didn’t include and then will add information about what it’s already ranking for. I try to only use my own photos in hopes of showing up when people do an image search.
If I have something climbing in Google search, I will add a photo or even create a video just for that article in hopes of bumping the article even higher. Lumen5 is a free product that uses AI to help you create videos super fast.
I will geotag photos to help the post rank for a specific location.
Ahrefs is my main tool, followed by RankIQ.
I also spend a lot of time looking through Google Search Console.
There I look for keywords that I’m ranking for but shouldn’t be because that’s not what the article is about.
I subscribe to the Exploding Topics newsletter for ideas. I use it for a newer blog I started, Her Life Expert, to try and write something right away that is on an upward trajectory.
I’m in a private Slack group that offers backlinking. There are hundreds of content creators in the group, which makes it easy to build backlinks.
I use FatJoe to syndicate one piece of content. They will get an article placed on 100 to 200 news websites for a fee.
I also link swap with creators I meet on press trips. After the trip, I will reach out to them personally and ask to swap two links with them.
I am syndicated on MSN, so that’s an easy way for me to get backlinks.
I will post a recipe and then share it to Samsung Food, Yummly, FlipBoard, FoodGawker, Pinterest, and other food-related websites.
I push articles out to every possible social media platform, including random ones like MeWe, Padlet, and Peartree. I don’t care if I get traffic from these, I just want the backlink.
Anytime there is a new social media platform out there I join it and start posting. I don’t care if the platform is controversial, a backlink is a backlink.
I also think it’s important to build internal links. I never have an article go out with less than two internal links. When I write an article I know I should rank for, I go and find some old articles and immediately put in internal links to the new article.
I joined FB groups that are for link building by letting them use some of your content in a round-up.
For example, if they’re looking to create a round-up of the best resorts in Riviera Maya, I would submit a short paragraph about a resort we’ve been to with a backlink to my full review on my site.
I have found submitting to round-ups to be a great way to rapidly build backlinks. However, it has rarely led to traffic.
Meagan’s Content Creation Process
I feel like I am all over the place on this.
My content creation is a constant mix of articles I’m doing because they’re easy to rank for, articles about something I was paid for, and articles to cover things we’ve done or places we’ve stayed.
I do have certain towns I try to add to at least once a month like Las Vegas, Dallas, NYC, and Portland.
Like many bloggers, I try to cover every angle I can think of on one city if that city is doing well on my site. If things to do with kids in Portland, Oregon is doing well then I will write things to do with teenagers in Portland, Oregon.
I try to update a few old articles a week, but I’m lucky if I get to one a week.
I have attempted to niche down over the last year, which I believe has led to an increase in my RPMs. I have moved a lot of my lifestyle content, food content, and automotive content to other websites.
Her Email List
I have an email list and I email every Wednesday, usually or at the very least 2 to 4 times per month.
Sometimes, I will email on the day I know the RPMs will be the highest that week based on a calendar Mediavine provides for the month.
If Wednesday is a low RPM day but Thursday is super high, I will email on Thursday instead.
I use the Grow plugin. They embed a subscribe form into every single article that pops out a bit when someone is scrolling.
I do an occasional giveaway using a funnel to collect email addresses. I offer a free printable kid’s journal for subscribing.
Her Favorite Resources
I listen to a lot of podcasts, like the Social Media Marketing podcast, Niche Pursuits podcast, and Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income, but only certain episodes. I also like the Blogging Millionaire podcast.
Her Go-To Tools
I use the following tools most often on my blog:
To resize and compress photos before I upload them, I use a site called I Love IMG.
To geo-tag photos, I use Geoimgr.
And for video, I use CapCut. More and more destinations are more interested in being featured on Instagram or TikTok. If video isn’t your thing, this will save you loads of time.
Meagan’s Biggest Challenge
There was little-to-no information about blogging when I started. I had to learn everything from scratch.
Now, I would say my biggest challenge is Google’s algorithm changes. I haven’t been deeply affected like many others, but it’s still a pain.
Her Greatest Accomplishment
I’ve won awards, and had my photos featured on GoPro products and been featured in prominent magazines.
But I think the ability to make enough money to raise three kids, send them to college, and show the kids the world is my biggest accomplishment.
The pride I felt publishing a cookbook was outstanding, but it’s not the feeling you get when you watch your child grow and learn through new experiences.
What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
I started in 2008. So, basically everything.
I wish I had started an email list from day one. I wish I had promoted my email list way more from the very beginning as well.
Her Main Mistake
Oh gosh, where to start?
I made a mistake in not switching to WordPress sooner. WordPress is just so much easier than any other website out there.
I do a lot of consulting and I’ve had clients using all kinds of alternatives. Why, I’m not sure. One thing I know for sure, something that is super simple to do within WordPress can be challenging and time-consuming on other platforms.
I made a mistake by not making sure every single article has something for purchase in it.
I still struggle with this because it’s time-consuming. I make more off of Mediavine ads than I do affiliate links so it’s a lower priority.
Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
Be realistic. You will not see overnight success. These courses telling you that you will make six figures are lying.
Blogging is hard and there are tons of things you have to know how to do.
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