I’ve been running blogs for a few year now with little success and a year ago I decided to create a travel blog. I looked at the most popular travel blogs and thought that I would emulate that and see the readers pile in but a year later I must admit that my travel blog never really took off, not even among friends!
So as I launch this blog, I’m also closing down my travel blog to refocus on just one places where my content will be. I’ve migrated my blog and have collected my thoughts.
Let’s start with the positives shall we?
What went well
- Tech: My initial travel blog was a bit like this one, a static site but generated using a framework called Gatsby. This was a very advanced framework that was full of features but documentation was poor and required me to learn a lot of new technologies. I also had trouble creating nice layouts which could work well on mobile which is where a lot of people now consume content so that definitely hurt my site. A few months later I switched over to Wordpress which is a great publishing platform. The new site was up and running in a day and I had migrated it. While it did cost me to run a server for Wordpress, the ease of authoring and publishing content was worth it.
- Structure: I adopted some structures in some of my posts. In my running posts (example) I have a structure that I use to provide some basic information across all of the races and it’s a huge crutch to just get started.
What could have been better
- Naming: I named my blog Exploring the Unknown Unknowns. I was being too clever with the name and ended up having a long name and a hard to pronounce name. I wanted to evoke some adventure with “exploring” and then “Unknown Unknowns” were both a play on a Rumsfeld risk management quote but also on the really unknown and uncharted things. In the end it decreased the likelihood of it being shared and the amazingly long and convoluted name is just not a good idea. Now, since it’s a personal blog, I just go by my name which is short and hard to pronounce so at least I fixed one of my grievances of the name.
- Newsletter: I planned a newsletter that never really got started because people didn’t sign up. But they were right! Why should they sign up to this newsletter? I didn’t put in the potential value gain, instead I just wanted to update people on when a new post was out.
- Facebook page: The facebook page was not that useful for me. Mostly because I needed to actually update it along with the blog which meant more work. But it was also not discoverable by others but my friends who used my posting there to alert them to new posts. I think it’s hard to have a facebook page AND a blog if you’re not a big content producer. I might have segmented people too much by asking them to both follow the page and follow the facebook page.
- SEO: I believe that it was also not SEO friendly. The first iteration definitely wasn’t, the Wordpress version was better although it still was lacking as I never put any effort into it.
- Performance: This is an important part of why I think a lot of people never actually followed my blog. It was simply too heavy to load. There’s studies about how slow websites lose out when people perceive the loading times to be too long (Google’s take on web performance). My blog was definitely too long to load. On image heavy pages, it still took at least 5 seconds on my fast wired internet PC to load most of the pictures. It was much worse on mobile.
- Quality: The quality of the writing also dropped. I think I got caught up in the “talk about what I did” posts instead of posting more about what to expect, less known things about places or letting my opinions shine through more. I don’t read travel blogs about what someone did, I want to know how they did it. I want to read why things are as they are at different places. And even if I knew that, I still struggled to follow my own voice here.
So, what’s next?
This blog tries to change most of that by doing
- Performance: I have built this blog on Hugo which is a static site generator that leads to immense loading speed (as you might have noticed already). I am also utilizing images much better now and ensuring that they are properly compressed.
- Naming: I am reverting this to my name. This is shorter and probably impossible to spell, but copy/pasting links should become easier. This might come back to haunt me but then again, I can’t really change my name.
- Facebook: No facebook page this time. I didn’t maintain it that well and I don’t want to waste my time with maintaining it instead of creating better content.
- Quality: More and better content. Since it’s a personal blog now, I can write about whatever and not just travel. It should allow me to write more authentically. I will also work on travel posts that should be more interesting. Stay tuned!
- Newsletter: I am foregoing the newsletter. But! I might bring it back in the future but in more of a Tim Ferriss Five Bullet Friday format
During my time with blogs, I have actually enjoyed writing and mostly enjoying the process of building up new blogs from scratch. I am always looking to how to improve so send me any feedback at: dunguyen90+blog(at)gmail.com