My Journey from World Cycling to SEO Mastery
By: Zoe Ashbridge Date: 09/01/2023
As a freelance SEO consultant, writer, and travel blogger, I make money online from anywhere in the world. My freelancing in SEO and writing funds my 2+ year-long trip and covers all my travel expenses (and then some).
However, my ultimate goal is to build momentum on my blog to earn money passively.
Here’s everything I know about starting a blog, ranking on Google, promoting it, and more.
Why I Started My Blog
Originally, the blog, Road to Frame was started by my boyfriend, Stewart. He’s a website developer and he built the blog to document his bike ride along the west coast of the UK, starting at John O’ Groats, Scotland and finishing in Land’s End, Cornwall.
When he started the blog we weren’t together and Stewart isn’t much of a writer so he just uploaded a gallery with the odd paragraph or so.
Later, Stew and I met at work. One month into our dating, Stew said, ‘I’ve got something to tell you.’
Naturally, my heart sank! I’d been in the dating game to know that I’ve got something to tell you never ends well.
Stew continued, ‘In 9 months, I’m going to quit my job and cycle around the world. Do you want to come?’
‘YES!’ I said, without hesitation.
Stew, a little surprised, ‘don’t you want to think about this first?’
I was confident with my decision, ‘I just did!’ I replied.
And just like that, Stew planned a world tour by bicycle, two years, 24,000 miles and 30+ countries. As an avid writer, I made it my job to post to our Instagram and write on our blog.
Back then, I didn’t know blogs could make money. I was just writing for fun. I’ve loved writing since I was a kid and this blog was simply an outlet for that. Plus, it was somewhere our family and friends could go to, see where we are in the world and read our latest stories.
How my blog went from idea to launch.
Our blog is built on WordPress CMS, which you could set up in a day or two.
With Stew being a dev, our blog set-up was already done and to a high standard. He built the whole blog from scratch and I simply started writing. So, the launch of our official blog was really straightforward for us.
BUT, I feel it’s important for me to say: beginners thinking about starting a blog can avoid hurdles by doing some research first – reading articles like this will help a lot. It’s important not to get put off just because I’m saying that Stew and I already had a useful set of skills. Creating a blog could not be easier.
Years ago, I created a blog called Average Zo. I was maybe seventeen with no digital skills and I used WordPress themes to do it. One of my regrets is not working harder on that blog and sticking with it, because knowing what I know now, I’m positive I could’ve made thousands per month with it.
The digital world has developed a lot since I was seventeen and building a blog with drag and drop editors could not be easier.
Blogging tools I can’t live without.
My blog is built on WordPress CMS – and if you can master it – I highly recommend it. It’s easy to use, powers around 43% of websites (crazy!) and you can scale with it. You likely won’t outgrow WordPress; major brands with masses of content use WordPress.
Within WordPress, there are plugins that can be useful. I really like (and use):
- Yoast SEO – whilst Yoast isn’t overly sophisticated SEO, it will get you rolling with their basics. As a side note, if you’re new to blogging. I recommend you take a look at Yoast Academy and work through their free courses.
- Redirection by John Godly – if you ever change a URL on your site, you need to redirect the old URL to the new one. This plugin helps you do just that.
Google has incredible tools for data analysis, like:
- Google Analytics (now G4) – analytics is so incredibly important. When you first set up your blog there won’t be any data, but install analytics. Your future self will thank you for it. I found, as I grew my blog, I became more interested in the data there. I track how many people view the site and love monitoring how many people click certain buttons like affiliate links since this is how the blog can make money.
- Google Search Console (GSC) – as an SEO specialist, Google Search Console is hands down, my favourite. This is a free Google tool and it shows you keywords you’re ranking for, keywords earning clicks and your best-ranking pages. I love looking at it and seeing that graph grow in the right direction! You’ll definitely want to install GSC, even if you can’t use it. You can learn as you go, but the main thing is to set it up at the earliest possible time so you can start getting data.
When I started my blog I used the tools listed above from the very beginning. The only tool I’ve added since is Semrush. Semrush is not cheap, starting at $129.95/month. I actually wouldn’t recommend this to a beginner. Remember, SEO is my day job so I need Semrush for my clients and using it for my blog is a side benefit of that.
How blogging helped my career.
I would love nothing more than for my blog to become a part time job. I’m confident that my blog could make £1,000 – £5,000 per month, but with my freelance job and my world cycling tour, I do find it hard to make time. I know I’ll be bummed that I didn’t give my blog my absolute all if I don’t get it making money because the potential in blogging is huge.
All this said, although my blog isn’t making money right now, I can pretty much attribute my blog to my success in SEO and freelancing which makes thousands per month.
Before I started writing my blog I worked in a leading digital agency for a couple of years as a Digital Project Manager. This was really useful for starting a blog since I knew the basics of SEO. I started exploring SEO and keywords for my blog and I fully learned SEO while blogging. In a matter of months, I’d earned my first page 1 rank and I was hooked.
I’ve grown a client base, a decent following on LinkedIn and I write for big publications like HubSpot and Search Engine Land, thanks to my blog.
So, with blogging you can for sure make money, but if you don’t manage to make a living blogging – or decide you don’t like it – those marketing skills you learn will be invaluable. For example, SEO is considered a high income skill
My goals for my blog.
I want my blog to generate £1,000 in a month by the end of 2023. Will it do it, maybe not, but it’s nice to have a north star. It’s something to aim for.
Last year the blog actually made its first commission, a whole 24 pence via Amazon affiliates and Stew and I were cheering! Obviously, that’s not a lot, but you’ve got to make 24p before you can make £1. You need to make £1 before you can make £10, £100, £1000 and so on.
To me this 24 pence was proof of concept; blogs can make money!
In the next 5 years, I’d like the blog to at least pay our mortgage. I’d actually love it if I could push the blog to £3,00 – £5,000 per month, but for now, having a passive income to cover some of our most important outgoings would be amazing!
My expectation is that this can be achieved with three core skills:
- Good writing, which means creating content that is truly useful.
- SEO skills
SEO is what helps you rank in Google and if you can get a rank 1-3 on Google it will pay dividends your blog and your revenue if it’s an affiliate article. The reason for this is that once you get that rank it’s generally easy to stabilise and you’ll get clicks from people searching for exactly what you’re offering.
SEO is better than social media for blog promotion because social media posts rise, get attention then fall, whereas ranks in Google are more stable. People will find your website time and time again.
Luckily, I have the first two skills, but what I’m missing is time.
In truth, I don’t make enough time for my blog, but I constantly put it on the back burner for my client’s sites. I frustrate myself with this because I’ve commissioned revenue generating blogs for my clients and I should absolutely be doing this for myself.
My advice to budding bloggers.
It’s so cliche, but just start.
Like I said earlier, don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.
You can learn on the go and I already shared some free must-have tools in this article.
You can watch so many free videos in YouTube about starting a blog. You will learn on the go, it’s not as hard as you might think – but yes – it is time consuming.
I can also say with certainty that consistency is important for growing a blog. The more you post, the more favour you’ll earn in Google and the more keywords you can rank for since you have the content.
And as an SEO specialist, I do recommend promoting your blog, get an email list, share it on socials etc.
In this digital age, intertwining my passions for travel and writing has been a rewarding journey. As I pedal through countries and navigate the vast world of SEO, I’ve learned that consistency, dedication, and continuous learning are the keys to success. Whether you’re an aspiring blogger or an SEO enthusiast, remember that every journey starts with a single step. I hope my story inspires you to take that step and carve out your own path in the digital realm.