Kimmie Conner has always been a blogger at heart. She’s also always had a passion for photography and travel.
She started when she was 22, and she knew right out of the gate that she wanted to earn money from her website, Adventures & Sunsets. She documented her life in London and Australia as an expat as she honed her writing and photography skills.
Between learning the ins and outs of SEO, getting hit by Google updates, and weathering Covid, Kimmie’s journey has been a bumpy one, but her strategies work, and today, her blog is earning five figures a month.
Keep reading to find out:
- How she started blogging
- What she did during Covid
- Where her income comes from
- How much traffic she’s getting
- Her top marketing strategies
- Her thoughts on SEO
- Her keyword research approach
- How she creates content
- How she manages her email list
- Her go-to resources and tools
- Her best piece of advice for bloggers
- Her main challenge
- Her greatest accomplishment
- Her biggest mistake
- Her tips for other entrepreneurs
Meet Kimmie Conner
I was born in southern California to a British flight attendant mother and an American pilot father, so I like to say travel and an international lifestyle were in my blood from the start!
I grew up doing lots of sports, and actually got into UCLA as a track & field athlete (heptathlete), which honestly feels like a past life at this point!
Sports took up a lot of my life and I always loved going to the beaches around my hometown.
Why She Created Her Website
When I was about to graduate from college, I really had no idea what I wanted to do. I only knew that I wanted to travel and experience other places.
I definitely wanted to spend more time in the UK (where I have a lot of family), and also fell in love with backpacking after studying abroad my junior year and doing a short solo trip to Europe during my senior year of college.
I had always been into photography, ever since I could pick up my parents’ camera and try to capture hummingbirds in the backyard. I actually started to grow my Instagram account far before I started blogging.
I had a Tumblr blog page where I would use Photoshop to make interesting graphic art, too. I knew of a few travel bloggers that I followed on Instagram, and although it wasn’t super popular yet, I knew I wanted to try and do the same, as it mixed my passions and skills together.
After deciding to move to London upon graduation, starting my own blog seemed like the most natural next step. It took months to figure out the best platform to host it on and I checked out millions of how-to guides.
I began writing some opinion pieces for outlets like Elite Daily and Thought Catalog about my decision to move abroad. I started treating my blog like a journal after moving abroad, telling funny stories about making friends in London and even sneaking into the Marina Bay Sands infinity pool (my first viral article).
I was creating tons of content but had no idea how to monetize for the longest time. I worked tons of travel jobs along the way, from tour guiding to waitressing to sales. I passionately wrote about my travels, but it took me a few years honestly to get a full grasp of SEO to figure out how to actually make money.
By 2019, I finally quit my job in Melbourne to blog full time, but I got hit by a huge Google update, and then Covid a few months later (which was obviously a massive blow to travel bloggers)!
Not wanting to quit or pivot as this is really my passion, I worked my butt off through Covid to produce more content, hone down my niche, learn more and more, and strategize better.
By 2022, I was finally getting good traffic, and this year is the first out of 8.5 years that I have been truly thriving just from my blog!
We (my boyfriend and I) now have two more niche sites that we are developing with lots more ideas for the future.
How Much She’s Making
I actually just hit my first 5-figure month in August this year, which felt incredible after 8.5 years. It’s like, finally!
I would probably have made less than $1 an hour if you actually measured out the hours I have put into my blog, but to be at this point, it’s all worthwhile. And I can’t wait to go up from here and keep scaling, outsourcing, and growing.
At this point, most of my income comes from ads, affiliates, sponsored posts, and a bit of social media brand deals and destination press trips (but not nearly as much as I would like).
I’m happy to break down my awesome August month below, but let’s not talk about Google’s September updates just yet!
$2557 – Ad Income
$3764 – Affiliate Income
$4283 – Sponsored Posts
$1500 – UGC/Brand Deals
That was honestly a crazily lucky month in terms of sponsored posts and involved a few larger payments from a few months of affiliates, but I couldn’t be more stoked and hopeful that we can only go up from here!
I just ticked over 100,000 pageviews in January this year (which also felt amazing) and I actually reached up to 150,000 pageviews and 127k sessions in August.
Kimmie’s Top Marketing Strategy
I would say mastering SEO and increasing the output of quality content is my main strategy.
I spent way too many years crafting immaculate travel guides from my experience that got no traffic because: 1- the SEO was not good enough, and 2 – they were way too long, therefore they didn’t really answer anyone’s user intent.
I am one of the few bloggers I know who struggles to write shorter posts! My content was comprehensive and great quality, but no one was searching for it.
Since 2022, I have been publishing at least two 2-3000 word posts per week following a few select themes I have decided on for my site, along with the help of a writer I finally hired (outsourcing sooner is also something I wish I had done). This helped me scale faster and better than ever before.
I taught my writer my SEO research method (which draws upon certain platforms for research as well as other top 10 results) and hope to bring more writers onboard soon too for my main and niche sites.
Oh, and something that helped me scale a lot too was finally understanding that I would need to publish content about places I had not actually been to keep up the article volume I needed to scale.
Sharing research-based content (rather than personal experience) is a no-no for many travel bloggers, but I want to make money and live off of this thing!
I’m also one of the only bloggers I know that has a large focus on festivals. I have been to music festivals on 6 continents and have developed my own type of article I call a “review-guide” that reviews my experience at a festival as well as serves as a guide for others who go in the future.
I break down 17 categories of the festival from the fashion, genres, crowd, security, money, timings, and more to serve as the most informational resource on that event on the internet. My festival review-guides usually do really well on Google.
I’m also a part owner of a new Croatian sailing company providing affordable luxury for young (and young at heart) travelers, called Fjaka Sail.
I was a tour guide in Croatia for 3 summers and joined an old coworker on his project with my boyfriend after his partner dropped out. We are going into our second season this year and I am the marketing/content lead of the business.
Her Thoughts on SEO
SEO is of the absolute utmost importance!
I essentially narrowed down to a few article themes that I repeat over and over for different destinations, based on search volume.
My strategy is basically using Google’s other top results for my keyword (as long as they align) to see which headings are mentioned most, and creating an outline from that (it’s more complicated than that, but that’s the gist).
I make sure to include often-mentioned headings as well as other unique ones that align with user intent and to include plenty of similar keyword variations that also have volume, depending on the main keyword.
My passion still lies in writing about my own experiences, which I still do as often as I can! But the hard truth is that a travel blogger cannot simply experience (or afford) as many places and things as the volume of content required of them.
It took me 4 years of writing about my own experiences to make a few pennies! But my favorite thing is going on press trips and writing SEO-researched articles about the destination, along with photography and social media.
I stick to my topics and keep writing similar articles with different destinations. I use KeySearch for my main research and I always cross-check keyword volume/difficulty with Semrush to make sure it’s at least similar and worth writing.
I should probably pay for Semrush by now, but I usually don’t need more than their daily free search quota or I steal my boyfriend’s Semrush/Ahrefs subscription as he has been an SEO professional for about a year now!
I’d say it’s pretty vital to have plenty of good links, but good content that matches user intent is the most important. For me, a small number of super high authority links helped me more than huge amounts of lower authority links.
I use HARO and Sourcebottle as much as I can, contribute to blogger collaboration posts, and do some link swaps (ideally 3-way).
The funny thing is, my best links and biggest blog boost actually came from a super viral TikTok video that I had that news media outlets picked up. You’ll find some if you Google “KFC pyramids,” it was such a random video that blew up.
I reached out to each journalist writing about my video and asked them to credit my blog. My DA went up 6 points within a few months! Getting press mentions/attention in other ways sometimes proves the most helpful.
Her Content Creation Process
No matter if I’m writing an article from experience or research, I always create an outline using my own SEO knowledge and also what Google considers to be the top results for the keyword already, because if I already know what Google wants/expects, I can simply make my content similar but better.
I also get a lot of sponsored posts, but always put tons of work into them to make them helpful, relevant, and keyworded in my niche. I try to publish at least two articles a week and I don’t mind exactly what they are as long as they are helpful.
Her Email List
I have an email list but I have been known to neglect it a bit. I have a few opt-ins to do with certain content topics I have a lot of (such as Melbourne, Australia) and Mediavine’s spotlight Subscribe.
I have yet to really make the best use of my lists, to be honest. I do newsletters every month or every few months with my recent content/what I have been up to, travel deals of the moment (which I usually get from emails from my affiliates), featured products, and featured destination/blog posts.
How Much Time She Spends on Her Blog
I go full-time, but when I’m traveling so much, it’s hard!
I have always been known to prioritize a bit of an adventure in a new place over work (which can always lead to content!), which is why it’s important even for travel bloggers to settle down sometimes!
Even if my schedule and routine are all over the place (like they currently are on my USA road trip), I still stick to working on blog and email stuff on Tuesdays and Thursdays (updating old posts, publishing new ones, answering emails, pitching, etc.), Instagram planning and photo editing on Mondays, TikTok and video creation/editing on Wednesdays, and tying up loose ends on Fridays.
Her Favorite Resources
Personally, I utilized a lot of other bloggers’ guides to start a travel blog that were free on the Internet, and have since created my own guide to starting a travel blog.
I also got a lot out of Make Traffic Happen’s SEO books and even a personalized audit that helped me turn my direction back in 2021.
There are a lot of blogging Facebook groups that provide a great sense of community and help for both new and established bloggers. I love the “This Week in Blogging” email newsletter that I recently subscribed to.
But the best thing I could say here is to attend blogging conferences as those are really the best possible way to launch yourself into motivation and success. Not only are there tons of informational sessions on exactly how to do things, but you get to hang out with and chat with other established bloggers and creators, all learning something from each other.
I always feel so at home at blogging conferences, finally being surrounded by “my people” when many at home don’t even understand what blogging is. My first TBEX in 2017 really lit a fire under my butt to get better, and I did. I recommend TBEX, Traverse, and WITS, from experience.
Her Go-To Tools
My favorite tools are:
Trello: I have different Trello boards for planning upcoming blog posts, keeping all my destination/brand pitching organized, affiliate programs to keep track of, and sponsored posts.
My cameras: I was team Nikon for years until I finally could afford a Sony a7riii. Oh my goodness, this machine is incredible. I will never leave Sony and I absolutely adore this camera. I have the 28-75 lens which is great for anything, and recently got a 70-300. I also love my DJI Mavic Pro drone.
Adobe Lightroom: I have my own presets and have gotten very proficient at Lightroom over the years, even through some event photography jobs. I use it to edit all my photos and have a similar vibe to my blog posts and Instagram.
SEOTesting: I pay about $30/month for a subscription to a service called SEOTesting, which I actually love. You can run timed tests when you update posts, compare URLs, get monthly updates on content groups, and more…
But my favorite thing about it is that you get daily emails about your traffic/click numbers and how it compared to the week before, weekly emails on winning and losing posts and other updates, and also an email whenever Google Search Console has discovered a new URL on your site, which is good to make sure new posts are getting crawled.
I also have a whole list of my favorite products in my “What’s in my Bag” article on my website.
Her Biggest Challenge
Honestly, I would say the most challenging thing is never really knowing if I was doing the right thing, or being confused why things were not ranking or working or getting traffic (because in the blogging world, something could be going wrong or not working for a million different reasons, as we all know).
Some careers have a cut-and-dry path to success, but in this field, you never know.
Google could be having a bad day, you could have a literal coding issue on your site, your host could be messing something up, or something could be caching wrong due to a plugin…. And it’s hard to ever pinpoint an issue’s origin.
I think if I hired a coach or an expert to tell me things I was doing wrong way earlier, I could have been doing much better more quickly. Hiring a developer was one of the best things I could have done to free up my own time and confusion!
Her Greatest Accomplishment
I would simply say that being able to say that I live comfortably full-time off my blog is my most important accomplishment.
After a ridiculous amount of ups and downs, a huge blow with Covid, Google updates, and having all my family and friends at home confused as to what exactly I was trying to do and if I would ever stop… It’s awesome to be able to show the world that it can be done.
I also love to inspire others to follow their passions, too, because you really can make a life out of what you love… In my case, it was adventures & sunsets!
What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
Oh my gosh, so many things!
I wish I had focused hard on SEO and how to monetize right off the bat; blogging is not journalism!
I wish I had known to hire a coach or ask for help starting out or learning the right way to go about things from the start (which, to be fair, is much easier in 2023 than in 2015).
I wish I had taken the time to learn about keywords, backlinks, link rel tags, internal linking, niching down, and so many other things before I blindly started writing about my life on the internet.
But I really wouldn’t change my journey for anything.
Her Main Mistake
As I mentioned earlier, my biggest mistake was trying to do everything myself.
I did none of these things and my blog was dead in the water for a long time!
Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
It’s an absolute load of work, but when you finally create passive income streams for yourself and get the hang of it, there couldn’t be a better feeling ever, especially if you left behind a restrictive job and now have all the freedom in the world.
There are infinite ways to make money blogging, and there is so much room for all of us here.