We got a true dose of inspiration for you today.
Founder of The Wayward Home, Kristin Hanes, joins the Niche Pursuits podcast to share with host Jared her adventure into the world of online business.
From starting a blog while living in a broken-down sailboat, with no prior knowledge of website building, to now growing a successful brand…
It’s awesome to hear her reflect on how she did it.
It all began after being laid off from her job as a radio news reporter. She decided to start a blog and share interview-based articles about nomads on social media platforms like Facebook and Pinterest.
With connections at SF Gate, some of her early articles got republished on the site, bringing her some quality traffic and links.
After just six months, Kristin joined Mediavine and started earning income from ads on her site.
Then she decided to prioritize SEO, taking courses to help her improve her website’s rankings.
Implementing SEO strategies and updating old posts, Kristin saw a significant increase in traffic, reaching 120,000 page views per month by May 2019. She continued to publish new content while updating old articles, and her website’s traffic jumped to 300,000 monthly page views in just a few months.
Kristin attributes her success to:
- Her focus on SEO
- Improved writing skills
- And targeting low-competition keywords in her niche
Currently, The Wayward Home generally earns between $25,000 to 30,000 per month and has an average of 400,000 monthly page views.
Initially, Kristin wrote all the articles herself, focusing on pushing out as much content as possible. Then, as her blog grew, she hired writers to help with content creation.
Now, The Wayward Home has around 430 articles, with a team of writers specializing in different areas such as RVing, tiny homes, and van life.
One key aspect of Kristin’s strategy is prioritizing relevant and experience-based content over high search volume keywords.
And Kristin’s passion for helping others live a nomadic lifestyle is evident through her blog and social media channels, offering resources and support to those interested in this lifestyle.
This approach has helped her establish credibility and attract a loyal audience that continues to grow.
Kristin’s journey from starting a blog with no prior knowledge to building a successful online business is a testament to her dedication, strategic approach, constant learning, and passion for helping others.
Don’t miss it!
Watch The Interview
Topics Kristin Hanes Covers
- Going from radio news reporter to blogging
- Living on a fixer-upper sailboat in the Bay Area of San Francisco
- How she turned her first site into a success
- Starting the site with interviews
- Canonical links
- Reaching Mediavine in the first 6 months
- Importance of taking courses and continuous learning
- Info vs affiliate content
- Social media strategies then and now
- How much traffic she gets
- How and when she started to focus on SEO
- Her SEO success
- Her monetization breakdown
- Email marketing strategies
- Her team’s content process
- Her longtail keyword research process
- Getting interviewed and linked in media
- And a whole lot more!
Links & Resources
Jared: Hey, hey, welcome back to the niche pursuits podcast. My name is Jared Bauman. And today I’m joined by Kristen Haynes. Kristen, welcome.
Kristin: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
Jared: I’m excited too. We’ll, we’ll probably get into it at some point. I’m sure the story will unveil itself, but we’ve been, this has been a long time coming here.
So this is going to be a good one. And I’m excited to hear about your journey and building a website and really a brand now. Before we get into all those details about what you’ve built and what you’ve created, what we like to do is give people a background, give people some backstory on who you are, maybe catch us up to who you are and what you had going prior to when you started this this website.
Kristin: Yeah, of course. So prior to this, I was actually a radio news reporter and I did that for 15 years and I went to college for that. I went to, you know, I got a degree in journalism and I, I worked at radio stations up and down the West Coast, the biggest being in San Francisco. And so that’s all I knew.
That’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I loved it. I was like, yeah, this is my career. And in 2016 lo and behold, the entire newsroom was decimated like many newsrooms to this day, which is very sad. So yeah, the entire staff was laid off. It was very surprising. And after that, I just had no idea what to do.
I really didn’t. Cause when you come from a radio news background, there aren’t a lot of skill sets you have except for radio news. And so I was kind of stumped at that time and it eventually led into blogging and creating a website, but that didn’t happen for about a year and a half after my layoff. So that is where I came from.
And yeah, it really had nothing to do with niche sites or blogging or online business at all. A totally different career field.
Jared: Well, I don’t want to give you any ideas, you know, cause I’m pretty happy where I’m at. But if you used to do a radio if you used to be in radio, you might be a great podcast host.
Kristin: I did start one and so I’m like, yeah, I should do that. So I’m learning that side of the online business puzzle now too. So yeah, jumping into that. Do you
Jared: think that I mean, what, what, what caused you to go into websites coming from radio? I mean, like you said, I could think of some skill sets that radio would apply to, but like you said, that building websites is probably not one of the ones I would think of out of the gate.
So what caused you to get into building a
Kristin: website? Yeah. So it’s really interesting is, so I dabbled in freelance writing, I dabbled in voiceover after my layoff and I’m like, what am I going to do that would allow me to travel full time? Because my partner, Tom had just purchased a sailboat and I’m like, what kind of remote work could I do?
That was my next goal is to figure out kind of a remote. job and I was reading this article and it was on a website about digital nomads and it was about a woman named Michelle Schroeder Gardner who had a blog and it was a personal finance blog and she traveled full time in an RV and I read in this article she made 100, 000 a month and that was a light bulb moment for me and I was like, Blogs make money.
Like I had a blog in like 2005 and it was just what I was doing every day. You know, I rode the ferry to work in Seattle and I was like, that was my blog and it was really boring and only friends and family would like it. I’m like, how does a website make money? And so at that point I was very enthralled.
And it was that article that got me going into researching online business and monetizing a blog.
Jared: When you started your website, and we’ll get into the whole story behind it, but, you know, when you started that, did you have something else you were doing to, say, pay the bills, or, you know, do you have another job and you were starting on the side, or was it something where you’ve been laid off and so you just went full?
Full on on the on the website.
Kristin: Yeah, so I was doing some travel writing on the side. I was researching how to be a freelance article writer and travel writer. And so kind of at the same time I was being sent on trips. I know I went on one to Cabo to like review this new hotel. And so I was dabbling in travel writing and I was like.
This could be a neat remote work position, but it really doesn’t pay that much. And it requires a ton of hustle, like constantly contacting editors and pitching. And it was a lot of work. And so I was doing that and I was surviving on unemployment checks as well at that time. But the unemployment checks were running dangerously.
You know, reaching their end. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I really need to find a way to make money. And so I was getting down to that point where something had to happen and I had to start working really hard to bring in an income. You
Jared: were in many ways ahead of your time. I mean, we’ve had a lot of interviews on here.
About people who were jobless as a result of COVID, whether temporarily or permanently, some of them getting different forms of compensation or checks, but all with an expiration date coming and then having to start something online. You were doing this in 2016. Who knew you were four years ahead of what a lot of people were going to go through.
Kristin: I know. It’s just that layoff like made me try to figure out a different way to make money. Otherwise I’d still be in radio news now. And I did apply for other jobs after that layoff and I didn’t get them, which to me was surprising at the time. I’m like radio to radio, you usually jump right in. But for some reason, you know, the radio market’s changing a lot.
And so I knew I had to just figure out a different type of career path. Well
Jared: you started the waywardhome. com and thank you for You know, sharing that so people can kind of, you know, open it up maybe while they’re, they’re listening or they’re watching and that’s really what we’re talking about today.
I, I’ll say this at the outset, like I find a lot of people, myself included, their first site is definitely not one that they’re proud of. Definitely not one that goes on to do really well. Often that’s the one that we start, we make a lot of mistakes on and then it’s the second or the third one we get into that, that maybe does well.
Is this your first site? Is this the one you started? I didn’t, if so, like. Maybe talk about the beginning stages of how you started this
Kristin: website. Yeah, it’s my very first website the first besides the blogs I had in 2005 on wordpress. com That are still up, you know Anyway, I’m not encouraging people to read those.
But yeah, I started this knowing nothing about Blogging and I built my own website. It was June of 2017 on the Divi theme I remember doing that and I had the hardest time with it. My website looked terrible. I didn’t really know what I was doing doing and I was uploading images that were like five I don’t, I don’t remember five gigs or no, not gigs.
I don’t know what, it’s this huge file size for my images. And I remember I hired a tech guy and he’s like, what are you doing? And I’m like, I have no idea how to do this. And so I built my own website. You know, I didn’t have money to really hire people to help me out. And I started writing articles where I was interviewing nomads.
I was like, yeah, I was a journalist. I know how to interview people. I know how to share stories. And so that’s the kind of article I was writing was just interview based articles. Like I knew nothing. I didn’t even know what SEO was or that that was important. I just started writing and that’s. And how the website started that summer of 2017 was just these, you know, they didn’t even have headings or subheadings.
Like I literally knew nothing. And so that’s how the way we’re at home started.
Jared: Humble beginnings. Humble beginnings. So let’s talk, let’s talk through, you know, the early stages of the website and what you were seeking to do. And I know you have a story about really landing on the SEO side rather than maybe starting with SEO in mind as you’re, as you’re kind of.
Growth pattern. Like we just want to hear all the details about the perks, the pitfalls, the ups, the downs, like take us through those first couple of years as you were figuring this stuff out.
Kristin: Yeah, totally. So at first, as I was writing those interview based articles, my goal was to help people that were curious about the nomad lifestyle and be inspired by stories of other people that were doing it.
And also there was some short term position I had done at a You. a newspaper called SF Gate, which is the online version of the Chronicle. And so I did some stints there to doing some web, web writing there a tiny bit. And I saw that sometimes when they publish these articles about nomads, they got a lot of hits and I was like, Hmm, maybe if I did a website that was all about nomads, these types of stories would get a lot of hits.
So that was my kind of mind. set going into developing the site, which is why I did those interviews. And I had friends at SF gate and they were like, they saw what I was doing with the site and they’re like, can I, can we republish some of those? And so that got me a leg up like in the first six months of the business is they republished them.
They used canonical links, which I didn’t know what those were at the time. But I said, sure, you can republish my articles. And that initially. Kind of got me a lot of traffic. So I’d say that was luck in the beginning and connections. How I had friends at that newspaper that were republishing several, many of my articles and maybe 15 articles they republished and got a wide viewership.
I got a lot of clicks, people on my email list. And so I did that in the beginning as well as Social sharing, which is not the way I would approach a niche site today, but I did Facebook group sharing. I’d find like, you know, sailing Facebook groups. I’d find RVing groups and van life groups, and I would just share my articles to these groups.
And that got me a lot of traffic in the beginning, actually. Surprisingly, I don’t think that would fly today. So I did that and I did Pinterest. And so I started uploading, you know, pins. I took a Pinterest course. So I thought that was the way to go was to do social sharing. That’s all I kind of knew about for the first six months.
And I was accidentally getting some Google traffic. It’s funny before our interview today, I was looking at some of my stats and I saw like I was getting 5, 000 page views a month from Google, totally accidentally. I didn’t know what I was. Doing. And I also think in 2017, this market wasn’t saturated at all.
There was nobody really writing about van life. There still really isn’t that many people writing about van life, but in 2017, like nobody was, so I put an article up about van conversions and suddenly it was like on the first page of Google and I was like, what, what is going on? I just. I looked at Google analytics and I was kind of seeing what was going on there and not really understanding why it was ranking, but that I accidentally ranked in about the first six months of my blog.
And I got on Mediavine in the first six months just by doing Pinterest, Facebook groups and accidental Google. So that’s kind of the story of the first six months and getting on Mediavine back when their threshold was only 25, 000 sessions. So it was easier at that time, I would say. I remember
Jared: those days.
Kristin: Yeah, those were good days.
Jared: Those are good. Yeah. Yeah. They were good. Man, I’m fascinated by a couple of things. I want to ask you about. So I think most website creators these days will have heard of SF gate and you know, it’s a pretty popular and definitely a strong domain and it’s, it’s, it’s, it publishes a ton of content.
I am knowing what you know now about SEO, you know, five, six years in. How pivotal do you think getting some of those articles, granted canonicalized, but with the proper canonicalization pointing back to you how pivotal do you think that was for some of that early SEO success your website was having?
And then I want to ask about some of the Pinterest
Kristin: stuff. Oh yeah, I’m sure that that. That had to have helped because yeah, their domain authority is very high being a news website. I forget what it is, 80 or 90. It’s really high. And so I’m sure that that helped in the beginning, getting me that Google traffic.
Cause most new sites, as we all know, take a while to get Google traffic. You’re not getting 5, 000 hits even after two months. And so I do think that that summer of publishing on SF gate really gave me a leg up. And so I’m still thankful to my friends over there for doing that.
Jared: Yeah, because I mean, it’s one of those things where certainly you hear about websites that are very new, sometimes getting a lot of traffic, but usually it’s on the back of like a very focused laser sharp SEO strategy that’s trying to sharpshoot something.
And when you say, ah, it’s kind of accidentally just publishing stuff and lo and behold, I’m getting all this traffic. I just feel like it’s got to have some connection to some of that some of the stuff that was happening with your content getting shared on SF gate.
Kristin: Yeah, and not only was it shared on SF gate, but they’re part of the Hearst media network.
And so it’s like 20 newspapers I was suddenly appearing in and getting shared everywhere. And I’m sure that had, you know an impact on it. But then later I was wondering, like, Do I have too many canonical links with these newspapers? I don’t know. I never was able to prove anything. But at one point I was like, am I sharing too many articles?
You know, should I stop? Like, I did question that after, you know, a year or two of sharing the articles, but I don’t know if that negatively impacted it or not.
Jared: Ah, so interesting. Okay. Well, I mean, let’s, let’s transition to some of the stuff you were doing with Pinterest and Facebook. And I think, you know, like you said, much more common.
In 2017, 2018 to be building websites on the back of of the social media platforms. And like you said, it allowed you to qualify for Mediavine within six months. That’s, I’ll say quick to begin with, I mean, you talked about how you were living paycheck to paycheck, about how you were travel writing, about how you know, your unemployment benefits were coming to an end, like, Maybe get in a little bit to that process there in those first six months and how close and how pivotal it was that you, you did make this work so quickly.
Kristin: Right. Yeah. In the beginning, I learned pretty quickly about media vine. I don’t really know why, or I don’t remember where I first heard of it, but I did join a bunch of blogging, Facebook groups, and I was, you know, taking courses and I was just, I treated it as. I’m going to get a new degree in online business and in blogging.
Cause I didn’t know what I was doing. I was like course after course. And so I’m, I’m sure I learned about Mediavine and I became laser focused on Mediavine because I put Google ads sense on my site and it was making, I forget like 10 cents to a dollar a day or something. And I’m like, Oh my gosh, this is making nothing.
And I heard that Mediavine, you would get like. It was like 10 times that much. So that was my singular goal was to run a traffic based business that could just be monetized with ads. I didn’t really even know what affiliate marketing was. I was learning through the courses I was taking, of course, but I wasn’t interested in writing affiliate articles and selling things.
I was interested in creating a resource that was free information that would be monetized with ads. And so that’s like, kind of like a news website is. I know they do affiliates, but they’re more like, here’s info, here’s info. And that’s what I wanted to do. And so I got on Mediavine six months later and was making like 20 to 30 a day.
And then I got my first private advertiser who was paying me. And I don’t know if I should do that with Mediavine. I didn’t know at the time, but he was paying me for these other display ads for 500 a month. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I’m making money. And it was pivotal at the time because I was living on this.
sailboat with my partner, Tom, and the sailboat was like not running. It’s, it was a total restoration project. I had no running water at the time. I had no stove. I was like cooking on a, a camp stove. I was doing my work at the gym during the day, like to use the wifi. I had no wifi. I didn’t have a shower, so I was kind of living in this very like kind of camping.
lifestyle, a rugged lifestyle in the Bay Area in San Francisco to avoid paying rent because I wasn’t making money and so therefore I wasn’t going to pay rent and so I roughed it in the beginning while I waited for this site to make money and I attribute that a lot to my success because if I had had to pay rent, I would have had to go get a job and I wouldn’t have had this luxury of making no money for a long period of time and so yeah, so it was really exciting when I started making that.
520 a month or whatever it was after six months.
Jared: Boy, Google talks about wanting you to have experience. And I would say that you have epitomized quote unquote, the wayward home. You’re living in a sailboat with no
Kristin: running water. I know, it’s like I was back in the 1800s, and my, my grandma to this day calls me a pioneer woman, but the sailboat does have running water now, thankfully, but back then it was, you know, being restored, and so, yeah, it was, it was a tough time, actually, in life trying to figure out this online business thing, and not knowing if it would work, I had no clue, I just knew I had to try it, and so it was a leap of faith.
Jared: You know, I was at the gym a couple weeks ago and I saw someone over in the corner on their laptop. Now I have different ideas about what they might be doing.
Kristin: They might be living in their van using the Wi Fi.
Jared: That’s right. They might be an avid follower of your website. They probably are. Oh, sorry. I’m having fun with it.
It’s such an inspiring story. Probably a good time for me to ask. I do like to ask this a lot, just to give listeners kind of context into where it is now, right? You’re telling the story about how you started this in 2017 and 2018. Just really quickly fast forward to it, and then I, we’ll kind of go back to unpacking.
Where is the site at now? What kind of income does your website generate today for you? Yeah,
Kristin: the site’s doing amazing now. It’s running about 25, 000 to 30, 000 a month, depending on the time of year. It’s a seasonal site, but I think last month it was like 28, 000 or so. This month we’ll see what happens, but the summer is the best time when people are searching for like van life and RVing kind of articles.
Cause it’s summer. But in the fall it drops down to maybe. 20, 000 in the winter, and that’s not bad either, but it’s doing really well now. And it’s like beyond my wildest dreams. I’m just like, how’s this happening? I pinched myself and I don’t have to like work every day or struggle. And so it is really an amazing thing, how big it’s gotten.
And it’s about at 400, 000 monthly page views now on average. And so that’s really exciting for me.
Jared: Congratulations. That is yeah. Life changing income to say the least. So really well done. Okay. Let’s get back into it. So you, you qualify for Pint for Mediavine six months in. I think, I don’t want to ask too many questions about the social media strategies you were using back then.
Cause like you said, there, some of them are a bit dated, but at the same time, like how much of an influence does social media have on your website right now? And maybe we could parlay some of the stuff you were doing back then. Into what you’re seeing work now on, on social media.
Kristin: Yeah, for sure. So I started farming out the Pinterest work, maybe a few years ago.
I was still getting traffic from Pinterest up to maybe 50 to 70, 000 monthly page views from them. So I didn’t want to just stop doing Pinterest cause that’s still income getting those page views. And so I hired a Pinterest agency and they’ve been managing my Pinterest for maybe three years now. And so it’s totally hands off for me and it is expensive though.
One thing I love about the Mediavine dashboard is they now have this feature where you see where your revenue and traffic are coming from. And while most of mine is from Google I think it’s like maybe 12 per month and add revenue from Google, but Pinterest is still two to 3000 a month in revenue, and so I pay them maybe.
And so for that, you know, I, I parsed the numbers. I’m like, okay, it still makes sense for me to have a Pinterest agency, but I don’t do anything with it. I don’t really know what they’re even doing and I don’t look at it. And so I just hire that out. But that’s the only, social strategy. I do now. I do have a Facebook page and group, but those really aren’t driving any traffic products.
I don’t really focus on that. I know some people have success with it. But I don’t focus on that at all. So I’m mostly like a Google, Google personnel. I’m like a hundred percent into Google. I love it. And so that’s my, it’s been my strategy for the last, since 2019, I guess.
Jared: Okay. Yeah. Fair enough. Good. So you’re on Mediavine.
Clearly you’re getting somewhere around 25, 000 page views a month. You’re six months in on the journey. You know, not making life changing income at this point, but when did things start switching for you to where you started approaching SEO and what caused you to make that switch or that transition?
You know, I
Kristin: don’t know exactly how I learned that I better be doing SEO, but you know, it was probably from one of the Facebook groups I was in because I was really into those blogging groups and I’d been taking some other courses and I was on people’s email list and I’m sure I saw in there that like SEO, SEO, and then I learned about a course that I should take.
Cause. Called stupid, simple SEO that all these bloggers were recommending it. And it was early 2019. And I remember that was maybe a year and a half after I started the website or so. And I remember being at my gym. The gym was like a nice gym at how to cafe with wifi and stuff. And so I’d sit there for hours and I remember like a period of four days.
I was there like 10 hour days and I was like, just. Into this SEO course. And I started implementing the changes immediately. I was like a go getter. Like, I’m going to make this happen. I’m not going to wait around. I need to get this traffic. And it’s funny because I was just looking at this today and I was like, my traffic went way up, I think I wrote it down that I was getting like 20, 000 page views a month when I started, that was before the course that was from Google.
And then after that, it was. 120, 000 by May. So January, 20, 000 by May, 120, 000 by just by following some of these SEO ideas. And a lot of that was maybe updating old posts. And also the concept at that time was looking at your competitors and writing better posts than what they had on page one of Google.
So that was the strategy I followed. And so by the summer of 2019, you know, I was making, I was, you know, had a lot of page views. They were up to like maybe 300, 000 monthly page views by. Two years into the blogging journey and that was the summer of 2019. And so that’s the singular course I took ss e o course at that time that totally changed my blog’s trajectory.
And so that was incredible and that’s really what turned things around for me and made me a ss e o convert because I was like, it works. Yeah, ,
Jared: a lot of people don’t get converted. ’cause it, it can take a while. So that’s that’s pretty quick results. What are, like, let’s, let’s, let’s kind of drill into these things.
That’s rapid growth. If you could, let’s spend some time unpacking what things you did to get that kind of dramatic growth. You mentioned seasonality. So January to summer, there’s some seasonality, but not that much. What are the things that you did along the way to, to kind of get that growth in Google?
Kristin: Yeah. So all I did was. I think another thing that helped was that, you know, I followed this course to a T and one of the modules was like, how to write a blog post. As I told you before, I didn’t really even understand how to use headings and subheadings and bullets and all these things and like leave space and, you know, all these things I know now.
But I learned that in that course. And so I think my writing got better. The, you know, the SEO I implemented was way better. I was targeting you know, these articles that other competitors had on the first page of Google. And I was in a niche that wasn’t. Overpopulated and I think that really helped a lot during that time.
As I said, now it’s more and more populated, but back then I just don’t think people were writing about this. So the competition was very low and I did have those links from SF gate, which I’m sure helped, you know, I had I think all that just contributed to massive SEO growth in that six month. And also like I was hit by a Google update after that, though, which we could talk about at some point, but that was in late December, 2019.
So I saw this huge skyrocketing growth and then it was like cut off and I was hit by that update in 2019, but I, I, it gave me this glimmer of hope that it can be done and that I can achieve like a lot of page views from Google, but I do think it was that writing and just. Doing the correct keyword research and just knowing that on page SEO as well, just how to put the keywords in and naturally and stuff.
So just everything I learned about SEO really helped at that time.
Jared: The the, the, the process you went through to kind of go back and update all these old articles, how many articles did you have on the site at the time? Did you pause publishing new content to focus on this? Or, or did you kind of continue to publish new content at the same time?
Kristin: I think I was publishing new content at the same time. You know, I was doing my own writing back then. I now have hired writers, but at that time I was just working on pushing out, you know, as many articles as I could based on those new strategies I was learning and updating the older posts and then finding all these new topics to write about.
So I was kind of a writing machine back in those days, an activity that I don’t do very much now. But back then, I definitely wrote like all my own posts and I just put so much effort and energy into it. And I don’t, you know, I don’t remember how many articles I had at that time. Now I have like 430. So I would guess if we go back a number of years, maybe it was like 100 or something.
You know, that’d be just a guess. I’m not totally sure. But it’s not like I have thousands of articles on my site driving all that traffic. So yeah, it wasn’t that many.
Jared: A quick aside. Did anybody at the gym ever ask you if you were going to work out? Totally, they were all just like, yep, she’s here doing her thing.
Kristin: I know you did start to recognize people, but what was funny is other people also worked at the gym because I had this cafe that was beautiful. And I think they just wanted to get out of their house. And I was in this really rich areas. Everybody, I’m sure, had a mansion and they had you know, the fanciest cars that you could ever see.
And there’s a little old me in the corner and like, I’m not telling anybody I live in this area. like, beat up old van out there and on a sailboat that doesn’t really work. And, but people did start to recognize me and they’d say hi to me, but they never asked like what I did until a couple of years into it.
And one man was like, are you Kristin with the wayward home? I’m like, what? I thought I was incognito, you know, incognito. And he said, yeah, I live on my sailboat in Sausalito. I’m on your email list. I was like, what? And so I felt like my cover was blown. I was like, Oh no, he’s going to tell all these rich people that I’m like this broke living out of my van.
I was like. Kind of nervous about it, but it’s fine.
Jared: Well, I think it’s, it’s, it’s fun to it’s, it’s fun to hear these. So I mean, like, yeah, there’s a lot of digital nomads that are building a side project, whether it’s a website or a, you know, a SAS or an e commerce, but they’re building on the side while they’re traveling or doing other things. But again, this story is so fun.
You’ve really epitomized like the rags to riches of stories. It is
Kristin: pretty hilarious. It’s hilarious to think about like what I went through at the time and not what I’m going through now and just how different it is. But yeah, it was, it was a struggle at first, but it’s something I’m thankful I did because it look at the, the business now allows me to travel full time and do what I want and barely work.
And I’m like, this is great. I
Jared: love it. I love it. Let’s talk about you know and again, there’s lots of questions I have written down. So we’ll still get into a bunch of stuff. But I do want to hear where your income, you mentioned it in terms of Mediavine, it can kind of split down, tell you Pinterest, so Pinterest is making, I wrote down like just maybe 10% of your, your ad revenue, but are you, are you doing other forms of of, of monetization affiliate or your own product, your own course?
These are things we hear about. And then I, I do want to ask you about your newsletter because you mentioned that and a lot of people don’t add a newsletter, but, but you did it at a pretty early stage. So maybe talk about the just the monetization methods you’re using, and then we can get more into that newsletter you
Yeah, sure. So it’s mostly ad revenue now, kind of like what my goal was in the beginning to have a traffic based site that’s ad revenue. But then, you know, I also learned about affiliates and started doing more affiliate income and I’m still trying to increase that side of my business because I am a little scared of ad revenue because in 2020 during the COVID lockdown, the ad revenue just increased.
Yeah. It like almost went away. I think the month of March of 2020, I made like 3, 000 in ad revenue. And I think at that time I was making like 13, 000 and that was scary. I was like, wow, this ad revenue thing is kind of like, not, I can’t depend on it. And so ever since then, I’ve been trying to build out more affiliate articles.
And so. I think I had one of my best affiliate months recently was about 9, 000 in affiliate income, and that was way higher than any of my other months. So I’m still trying to build that out, and with van life products, and as I said, and hopefully I’m not giving people a lot of ideas, but the van life niche is not oversaturated.
Yeah, probably shouldn’t be saying that, but there’s still a lot of good products out there for me to write about. And so that’s been part of the increase in my income recently is trying to focus and I’m building out my own van now. So I’m able to review these products that I’ve been using. And so that’s helped increase affiliate income.
So I’d say while. You know, ad revenue is like a 15, 000 part of my monthly income. Maybe the affiliates is between five and nine, if I’m lucky. And then I have started developing a course that I have and a couple other small digital products. And those bring in maybe 1200 a month. So still a much smaller piece of the pie.
My goal is to grow my own products. Cause I do think that’s where the true big, big money lies. When people start developing their products. I know one travel blogger, I think she brings in like 80 K a month and that’s not ad revenue, that’s, that’s products. I know some people do build it up to have that much ad revenue, but you need a lot of page views to, to accomplish that goal where I think an email list and a product and a, you know, a funnel can bring in a large amount of income, but that’s not something all niche site owners want to do as well.
That’s a whole other side of. Business that requires a lot of learning and effort and work. And so I’m thinking and learning that part of the business now. Yeah.
Jared: You know, it’s so funny because I feel like van life is a very popular thing nowadays. I guess you, you did say it’s increased in popularity since you started the website, but that there’s still a lot of opportunities.
So. It sounds like you’re being diligent about that. The the newsletter, when did you start the newsletter and you know, let’s talk about about the structure of it, what you send out how often you, you send emails
Kristin: and that sort of thing. Yeah, I started that immediately. Right when I started blogging, I took a course called elite blog Academy, which was 800 and that was a lot of money for me as someone who wasn’t really making any money.
It’s not something I’d particularly recommend now because I’m more SEO focused, but at that time, that’s the only thing I knew about. And one thing, one of the modules was to have an email list right away. And so I did that. I started gathering emails and right away. And a lot of that was through my Facebook group sharing.
The people would come to my site and sign up for the email list. And so that’s grown, that’s been another, like, not super easy thing for me. I’m not really an email marketer. I have, I struggle with what freebie to offer, how to get people into my list and how to get them to buy things. And so that’s been something that’s not come very easy to me.
I think SEO is way easier and something I like. better, but I love connecting with the audience now on my email list. It’s now one of my favorite things. I have 25, 000 people on there and I send one to two emails a week, and I’m now learning to tell more story based emails. And I’ve noticed when I do that, I’m telling a story about my life as a nomad in a van and a sailboat, people respond to those.
I get tons of responses because a lot of people on my list are. Aspiring nomads, curious about the lifestyle. And so I try to paint a picture of the good, bad, and ugly. And so my last one was about my use of a composting toilet and how much I hated it. And that got a ton of responses. So I’m trying to be just real and honest and also figure out how to sell my products
And so that’s what I’ve been using my email list for, and I I continue to learn about that to this day.
Jared: So maybe a follow up question to that, is it it, I mean, you clearly were all in on the email newsletter. Pretty much from the outset. And I think this is a question that a lot of newer website builders are really brand builders are going to, are wrestling with, which is.
Every time I put time and effort towards, say, something like an email list, I’m taking time away from the other ways I would grow the website, maybe from publishing content or posting on social media. You were able to prioritize that time, even though, I mean, you were barely paying your bills, really. And how did you justify that time?
I mean, knowing that an email list has a, has a great longterm benefit, but in the short term, it wasn’t really driving much revenue for you.
Kristin: No, it was driving no revenue for me. And it’s still something that I struggle with because, you know, paying for an email list is expensive. I forget what my monthly bill is, but it’s.
It’s either 150 or 200 bucks for, you know, 25, 000 subscribers. Sometimes it really comes in handy. Like when I did a pre launch of the new course I was working on, I did a, like a five day email launch, and I think I sold like 5, 000 of it in five days. And I’m like, Oh, this is where the email list comes in handy.
But in the beginning, you know, I wasn’t developing products. I wasn’t really doing anything that required. Me to have an email list, but I knew that maybe someday down the road, I would want to develop products and I think so if you’re offering, you know, a product or a coaching or something related to you or your business, having an email list is important and it’s good to start building that, you know, no, like trust factor very early on because then later when you have things to.
People will jump on it. And that’s what I found with my list now is if I have a product that comes out, like people just buy it like crazy. And so now I’m in this mindset, like, what else can I develop for people? And I use my email list to create surveys, to figure out like, what do they want to And so that’s really helpful when it, when I try to figure out what direction to take my business.
And I also want to write a book about van life, which it’s with a literary agent now, and I’m trying to get that published. And if I tell them like, Oh, I have an email list of 25, 000, that increases my chance of getting a publisher because I have a built in audience. to sell this book. And so there’s all these different factors that led me to think that I needed to do this, even if it initially wasn’t making money, because I knew down the road, I would want to start developing products or books or something I wouldn’t want to sell.
And so it has come in handy and I’m still needing to monetize it more to cover the convert kit costs. But I do recommend it if people are going to be developing products or services. That’s great.
Jared: That’s good. Yeah. Well, clearly it has come into handy. Let’s talk about where the site is now. Whereas like how many articles do you have on the site at a current venture?
Kristin: Yeah. So I currently have about maybe 430 articles on the site and I barely do any writing now. The only writing I do is if I’m recommending products I personally use or van build products that, that I’ve used recently just to give that personal experience. But in 2019, after my SEO efforts, started to really grow and I started to really make money.
That’s when I first started to hire writers was the fall of 2019. Some of those writers are still with me now, but right now I have a team of, I think it’s. Five it’s four or five writers. I’d have to tally it up But so I have the writers and they are experts in their field. And so I have An RVing writer who actually lives and travels in his RV I have a tiny home writer and she lives in a tiny home And so I really try to get that experience when I hire people.
I have another writer who lives in her van to Two writers live in their vans, actually. So I assign them van life related content. And so I try to assign people content that I know that they’re going to be good at and that they have experience with. And so I put their name on the article, of course, and then I support other nomads.
And so those are the people that do most of my writing. And then I have a virtual assistant I hired through Oh, what’s that website called? I don’t remember, but it helps you hire a Filipino virtual assistant. And so I have a virtual assistant. Online PH, something like that? Yes, yes, yes. Online PH.
So I hired a Filipino virtual assistant and his main project is to take these writer articles, format them, upload them into WordPress, find images, basically do the work to keep the website going with these new articles. And so the site is only publishing about, you know, four to five new articles a month.
And sometimes I assign these writers to update old articles. I’ll do the research. I’m like, this one’s dropping in rankings. Will you update it? They’ll update it. And then it goes back on page one. And so I’m the kind of the higher level brainy brain strategy of the SEO. And then I farm it out. And so that’s how I keep it running where I do have to do way less work and I can spend more time like traveling or doing other things.
So I just sort of. I delegate a lot. It’s like my favorite thing to do now.
Jared: So you have you have a team of your own writers. Like what, have you put together a bunch of systems? Or is it very much open ended in terms of how they’re writing? I’m curious, you know, how you’ve refined a process. To bring on, you know, three or it sounds like three or four writers, a VA you know, you have a, you have a team now.
Kristin: do. Yeah. The process for the writers at first was I would create outlines for them and tell them sort of how I liked the articles to be structured. But that was in the beginning. And I haven’t done that now in months or years. I just, what I do now is after I do the keyword research, I plug the keyword I want into Surfer SEO.
That’s what I use now to create articles. And all I do is I have a spreadsheet for them. Like they each do one article a month. And so I’ll just put, you know, I’ll put the Surfer brief, I’ll put the word count. In there and I just tag them. And so they know what article they’re assigned for the month.
And then my VA knows to go to that spreadsheet and look at the surfer brief and then import that into WordPress. And for him, I did create a lot more training videos and structure than the writers. Cause the writers are already really good SEO writers. I read their work before I hired them. I. spot check them now and then to make sure they’re writing articles I approve of, which they are, and they consistently write good articles that get traffic and make me ad revenue.
And so, and then the VA, I did create like bulleted documents that he can follow what I, of what I want in the WordPress uploads. And then I also created a bunch of videos for him using loom, just kind of showing him what to do and what I was expecting from him. And then I would. Sometimes and I still spot check his work and I have him write me a daily progress report of what he’s been working on and he does some other things with my business to like social media, scheduling and other things.
But that’s how I’ve structured that system. So it was pretty easy to put together, but it works really well now and frees up a lot of my time to work on some other things like You know, product creation and thinking of other ways to monetize my email list and to learn these other aspects, podcasting, because these are all just other things to learn, you know, they all take dedicated time and effort to learn.
And so there’s a lot out there to keep me very occupied.
Jared: Yeah. Each of those is a specialty in and of itself in many ways. It sounds like you’re still doing the keyword research. What’s your, and if I’m wrong, tell me, but what’s your keyword research process look like?
Kristin: Yeah, I am still doing my own keyword research and I almost exclusively use.
I really love hrefs and what I do that’s kind of different than some people is I abandoned that effort that I used to do, which is I would look at my competitors and figure out what are their top pages and posts so I can write a better article than them. I did that for a long time when I first started, but then I started to feel uncomfortable with that.
I’m like, why am I just. poaching these articles and like trying to write better articles of what they’re writing about. Why can’t I just find my own articles and topics to write about that nobody’s done yet? And so I switched over my approach and I started to look for like low competition long tail.
Keywords that kind of nobody was writing about yet. And that was a really different strategy in the beginning. Volume was something I was really interested in. Like I want keywords with only a really high search volume. Like I didn’t really even look at difficulty levels or anything. And those were harder to rank for, and people were always trying to beat me out of those and like find my top pages and like write better articles.
And it becomes this game of one upping each other all the time. And so I figured like, I’m going to just find these other keywords. If they have a lower volume, it’s fine. So I started experimenting with that. And some of these keywords only have a volume of 50 or 20, like low. But what I found is since nobody’s writing about them yet, they attract tons of other keywords.
And so one of the examples that I was looking at earlier today was best induction cooktop. For van life. No, that’s a long tail keyword. And that keyword has 50 that’s listed in a trust of having a 50 volume search volume. So I published that, you know, a couple of years ago and now it’s ranking for like 750 keywords.
HRF says it’s getting 200. Organic traffic per month, which I think it’s probably higher because Ahrefs not always right on the money for that, but it sells me these induction cooktops because not, there’s not like 50, 000 articles out there targeting that keyword. And so that strategy has worked well for me, both with the affiliate.
Type articles and for informational articles as I’m deep diving into. And where I find a lot of these is I look at my own site. I go to Ahrefs and I do a site search for the wayward home. And then I look at what are my new keywords. And then I, I look at new keywords ranking between like. 50 and 70 position, so they’re like, really, like, not really ranking that high on Google, so they’re probably not an article I’ve written, it’s not like an exact keyword I’ve targeted, it’s like random other keywords, and so I look through these random other keywords, and I’m like, I don’t have a topic on that, I don’t have a topic on that, I don’t have a, so I find this wealth of, a gold mine of keywords, just looking at my own Site and what Google is ranking me for that.
I don’t have articles written about. And that’s been my main strategy. Sometimes I’ll go on to a competitor website, but I don’t look at their top pages and posts. I I’d use filters where I put keyword difficulty of zero or two or something very low and like a volume of 100. And I just start to look at those little gold nuggets that they don’t have an article on yet that I can just, you know, capitalize on.
And then I rank for all these other keywords. And so that strategy has been working really well, I would say. And so that’s my new. Strategy is I don’t care about volume anymore. I just care about, you know, if somebody’s written about it or not, because I think when you’re the first to write about something and you’re the first to land on Google, your article is more likely to stick and stay on Google for longer.
At least that’s what I think. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but that’s what I found for me.
Jared: That’s great. Yeah. And for those listening who don’t have Ahrefs, you can do something similar in Google search console. And they don’t give you your, well, actually they do give you your average position, but you can also look at maybe something that you’re getting impressions for not many clicks for, but you haven’t written an article on.
And that’s another way to kind of go about that too. That’s great. Yeah. And that’s a good strategy too, because once you have a website that’s a little bit more established like yours, you’ll start ranking for. I don’t want to say random things, but things you haven’t covered, but there’s nothing out there for it.
And Google’s like, well, I guess you’re the best option for this topic. No one’s really written about
Kristin: it yet. Exactly. So I have, it’s what’s funny now is I did that, you know, starting a couple of years ago and now I’m seeing some other blogs out there that are. competing for those things that I did. And I’m like, those are my articles.
But I know how it works. You know, I know how the game works and that they’re now beating me because now my article is two years old and they’re writing a new one with that keyword I found. And I tell my writer, like update this, we got to get back on top and it tends to work. Not always, but as soon as I update that article, two year old article, it just goes back in the rankings.
And so I have to constantly monitor my competitors and see if. You’re grabbing my keywords now, but I know it’s the SEO games. I’m not mad about it. It’s just what we all do. So yeah, I
Jared: just, it’s funny you bring that up. I just yesterday, the day before, just shared a tweet where a couple of years ago I found this very similar to what you talked about.
I found this, these keywords that I was ranking for in like spot 50 and I, it was nothing like what I wrote about, but when I looked at the topics. No one had written about it. And it was a bit of a whim. I’m like, ah, how much traffic would these really generate? Well, it’s worth, let’s do five of them. So I wrote kind of five articles around this topic.
And man, they just… Exploded in terms of traffic. So I really built that that silo outward about 25. Well, it’s been a couple of years and I’ve had some larger competitors come in and smash me on this keyword.
Kristin: It’s so
Jared: sad. It is sad. It’s kind of like, well, yeah, go
Kristin: find some more. I know it happens.
They’re using us for their ideas, but you know, that’s how it is.
Jared: So we talked about links at the very beginning and you. Speaking of goldmine, I, I would say probably struck it rich when you had that connection to SFGate at least the beginning. But in terms of link building, like I’d be remiss to ask about a site that’s generating upwards of near 30, 000 a month and ask what you do about links.
Do you do you, do you pursue any backlink strategies or do you build any links on your own or how are you getting links to to your website?
Kristin: Yeah, I barely focus on link building strategies actually I think I have been lucky that I have been quoted in some articles by some bigger newspapers and publications.
So I’ve had an article written about me like in Lonely Planet, for example, I had a local TV station in San Francisco interview me. I was on a TV show in Portland. My friend was the host cause I was in media. She’s a good friend of mine. So she interviewed me there. And so I do think that being interviewed in the media.
Has a really good backlink. And so I have maybe 10 articles I was interviewed or quoted in that are like major media publications. And so, but I didn’t really pursue those so much. Like I think I was in business insider and HuffPost. I do have my VA looking through Harrow links on a regular basis and he forwards me some that are interesting, but there’s not a lot that really pertain to my niche on Harrow.
I have, you know, responded to a couple of them, but. I’m an active link building efforts. I guess I’m basically like not doing anything. So yeah, I don’t really focus on that. I focus more on creating that content and maybe someone wants to link to me. And I have seen that happen. Some bigger like vehicle review sites have linked to me.
A couple, I think like a magazine Esquire or something linked to me. I don’t even, I can’t even. Find the link, but it’s in my H refs database. So some, I don’t really actively do it, but I am getting linked to just from putting out good content. I think.
Jared: I would imagine that not knowing your industry, but for a van life blog website, that getting quoted in the lonely planet would be probably the, the, the best link you could probably have in terms of authority plus relevance, plus trust.
Kristin: Definitely. Any of those travel sites or any major news media site, I think are all like really good, so I’m glad that have been quoted in those.
Jared: I want to ask a question as we kind of wrap up here and kind of come to the end about it. And I’m starting to ask this more and more as we, as we kind of knuckle into 2023 and beyond.
And that’s just any thoughts on the role AI is going to play in your site and your, your processes and whether it’s content or whether it’s more on the process side, like have you looked into and where are you at in terms of the A. I. Challenge or opportunity that exists with, with, with content and with the websites these days.
Kristin: Yeah, that’s definitely a huge opportunity. And the only AI that I’ve really used is the koala writer AI. And I’ve only used it on my, I have a new niche site I developed actually in January of 2023. And so I’ve published some AI articles on that that are part me, part AI. I’m still a little bit afraid.
I know that Google has said, you know, they won’t. Penalize AI if it’s relevant and good, but I’m still kind of scared of it. And so for the wayward home, I have not been using AI. I just really love creating information that’s very relevant and based on experience because I do think my niche is also an experience based niche.
I mean, I think AI would probably work. better for other niches possibly, but I love having my writers that are nomads writing these articles based on their experience. And I like supporting nomads. I do know AI is big and maybe I should be using it more. Maybe I’d get more traffic and ad revenue, but I just like my current business model.
And AI is often like not. You know, it’s still kind of wrong. Sometimes you still have to really fact check it, but I am enjoying using it on my new niche site, which I’m not as worried about in terms of authority and what Google is going to do with it. So I’m experimenting over there. I don’t have enough results on that to really say anything about it, but I’m impressed with the speed that it does churn out articles.
And I can see just how blogging. It’s going to be a crazy ride, but I use chat GPT for other things, you know, like. Podcast topics or intros or working on my emails and funnels. I use chat GPT as kind of a online brainstorming assistant, but I’m not really using it extensively for content creation, especially on my flagship site.
So I’m sure that’ll change over the years as you know, we see what AI does, but right now I’m still a little bit hesitant with it. Good.
Jared: Very good. Yeah. Good. It’s food for thought for everyone, right? Good to hear your perspective and where you’re at. Hey, so let’s see, where can people follow along with what you’re doing?
Learn more and I, I know that more and more you’re getting more and more active in terms of creating resources to help other people figure out, you know, I think specifically a nomad lifestyle and those kinds of things. Maybe share where people can, can learn more about you and follow
Kristin: along. Yeah, of course.
So my main site is the wayward home. com and so people can go there and that has all my articles and social links or even on Instagram and the new threads, however that’s going to turn out. But I’m on the wayward home over there. I have a Facebook page, the wayward home, a podcast, the wayward home. So everything’s under that umbrella and so people can gladly, you know, come.
Follow me, send me an email. I try to personally respond to every email that comes into my inbox. I love helping people figure out how to live this lifestyle, how to make money on the road. It’s all like super important to me and I’m passionate about it. And so it, yeah, it’s become more than a niche site.
It’s like a brand and it’s my passion. And so I would love to have more people come over, say hi and just follow along for sure. So yeah, that’s exciting.
Jared: I mean, I know I said it throughout the interview at different stages and, you know, I’ve been hosting the podcast here for a couple of years now. We’ve had a lot of really inspiring stories of people who have come from, you know, really tough situations or really tough knocks in life and built these amazing brands.
But I can’t think of a, of a better Rags to Riches story. Maybe there is one that we’ve had, but I can’t think of it. You certainly are going to be up there in the top. Realms of, I mean, down to your last dollar, living on a boat that didn’t have running water, working out of a gym to get your content published.
Yeah, man, congratulations. What a story. I’m so glad you came on and shared it with us and that you got into it and shared exactly, you know, all the steps you went through to, to build your business to where it is
Kristin: today. Oh, for sure. I was really excited to share. And I think what I want people to learn about my story is that I knew nothing about this stuff, as we talked about in the beginning, nothing about blogging or online business or what any of this was, and for someone like me to get successful means that anybody can get successful if you just have determination and the willingness to learn and take courses and invest in yourself.
Because if I hadn’t taken courses, I wouldn’t even know half of what I know now. And I’m Still investing in courses and coaching programs. Even to this day, I just bought a podcasting course. Like the learning is ongoing and it always, it never stops. And so people just have to know that it takes effort and learning.
You’re not just going to jump into this and immediately make money without knowing about it. It’s going to take some effort and some dedication for sure.
Jared: Well, congratulations, Kristen. We’ll get some links in the show notes there for people who are watching or want to access those. And until we talk again.
Kristin: Yeah. Yeah, thanks so much for having me. It was really fun.