How This Blogger Makes $10k/month Traveling in China


What do you do when the job market looks bleak and you’re tired of waiting tables? You move to China!

Well, that’s what Robert Schrader did. He set off on a giant adventure that would eventually lead him to create 4 successful websites earning more than $10k per month.

After being in the business for 15 years, Robert has a wealth of experience to draw on and offers a unique perspective. In this interview, he shares his blogging strategies and philosophies, some clever monetization techniques, and much more.

Watch the Interview

He begins by offering a great overview of how he got started traveling and writing travel-related content, and how he came to create his very first site, Leave Your Daily Hell

, back in 2009, although it was not a travel blog at that time.

He talks about his fortuitous participation in a blogging contest that helped him realize the business potential of blogging, and his unconventional route to monetization.

Robert initially resisted niching down but eventually took the plunge. It’s a good thing he did, because his first niche site, Japan Starts Here, is currently his most profitable venture.

He has a unique approach to content that he talks about, even sharing the exact formula he uses for his articles along with his anti-keyword research strategy.

Robert talks about his reasons for starting his two other niche sites, Thailand Starts Here and Taiwan Starts Here, and reveals some of his productivity hacks for managing 4 different sites. 

He shares his strategy for planning his trips as well as his thoughts on updating content.

Robert has a somewhat unconventional philosophy when it comes to blogging, and this interview will absolutely provide some great food for thought.

Topics Robert Schrader Covers

How he got started blogging
How he started to make money
When he started reinvesting in his business
Monetization
Travel coaching
Starting his first niche site
The other niche sites he created
Where his income comes from
His writing style
His thoughts on AI
His productivity tips
Updating old content

Transcription

Jared: All right. Welcome back to the niche pursuits podcast. My name is Jared Bauman. Today we’re joined by Robert Schrader with leave your daily hell. com. Robert, welcome on board. Thank you, Jared. How are you today? Oh, I’m doing very well. You might be the very first person who’s ever asked me how I’m doing on the podcast.

Thank you

Robert: How are you doing? You know, I’m doing very well. I’m in a very busy period right now, which is good because uh, you know, Obviously as entrepreneurs, that’s what we want. But uh, It’s like very, very busy. So I don’t have a lot of time to contemplate and think. So actually it’s really wonderful being on this podcast.

Jared: Well, welcome. We’ll give you a chance to just kind of word vomit everything that’s going on in your life here. We’ve got a cool story today. Um, I know you’ve built not one, but a couple of different websites, a brand we’ll call it. I’m excited to dive into it with you. Cause we’re going to hopefully learn a lot from you.

Um, Why don’t you, you know, I kind of let the cat out of the bag in terms of your main site, but why don’t you give us a little bit of backstory and help us understand what led up to that, and then we can dive into that story.

Robert: Yeah, so I’ll do this as concisely as possible, but I think Basically what it is, is I am a person who grew up in very ordinary circumstances, but I always had really extraordinary dreams.

When I was a little kid, I had a world map on my wall from when I was about six. In fact, I think I got it for my sixth birthday. And of course, back then in the early nineties, Um, if you wanted to learn about something, you had to go to the library and get a book and read it and so on and so forth. So I spent so much time learning about all these countries on the map and, and dreaming of being able to go there one day.

Uh, but that was not aligned with the reality of my family for whom, you know, going to Galveston for a week was considered an exotic vacation. And so, um, my whole life, I kind of had these, these grand dreams, but. Even though I, I knew that I had the capability to achieve them. I didn’t know of a pathway that someone like me could use to get to that kind of lifestyle.

And it wasn’t until ironically. Uh, the Great Recession in, uh, 2008 2009, um, which was three years after I graduated college, that a sort of accidental turn of events kind of pointed me in this direction. So to give you some background, I had, uh, initially been a pre med major in college. My parents had kind of pushed me in that direction, even though I didn’t want to go in that direction.

Switched to creative writing about halfway through. And then after I graduated college kind of didn’t figure out what I was going to do until it was too late when the sort of, you know, what hit the fan during the Great Recession. And so, um, I ended up moving to China to teach English, um, kind of out of necessity, because for someone with my major and my lack of experience.

It was either that or continue waiting tables in the United States, and I didn’t want to be a 30, 40, 50 year old waiter. Nothing wrong with those people, but I had already done my time. So I moved to China to teach English. And it’s weird because once I got there, I realized that I really liked You know, I traveled some before then, but I, I had never been to East Asia and I really liked Asia.

I really liked the experience of traveling. Didn’t really like being a teacher, liked, you know, people and liked, liked getting to know people. But it’s funny because when I was over there, I applied to this ad that was for CNN go, which doesn’t exist anymore. But at the time it was kind of a local travel oriented CNN affiliate, ended up getting that writing some articles for that website.

Um, and then slowly but surely getting more English language writing gigs over there, less, I think, because of my skill and more because there just weren’t that many native speakers of English, uh, in Shanghai in 2010. Um, and, and the long story short is that over time I sort of found my way into digital content creation.

And I realized pretty quickly that it was probably going to be better for me to create and monetize my own content than get paid pennies on the dollar for content. I was writing for other people that was making them much more money than it was making me. So

Jared: take us back to what timeframe this was all happening in.

Um, right. Like when did the, when was, with the origins of, of, of your, you know, going over to China, you’re writing, you’re starting to write your writing journey. And then when you finally turned it into a website.

Robert: Yeah. So, so I moved to China in November of 2009. So again, right as the great recession was kind of receding.

Um, and, uh, it’s also a really interesting time in China because this was a year after the Beijing Olympics. It was back when relations between China and the U S and the West in general, or what’s much brighter before Xi Jinping, you had a man named Hu Jintao, who. A lot of people thought was this great reformer and China was gonna finally become like us.

And so it was a really optimistic and wonderful time to be in China. And then in terms of my writing career, I mean, this was kind of. When, before travel blogging was even a thing, I think Nomadic Matt maybe had started his blog a year before this, and there were a few other people, but, um, when I decided to, um, start Leave Your Daily Hell, um, which actually originally, it’s funny, I had started it simply as a means of keeping in touch with my family from behind China’s Great Firewall.

So for those of your listeners who don’t know, all social media was blocked in China in mid 2019 because of a protest up in the Xinjiang region. Um, and so, I got there not realizing this, not realizing that I couldn’t communicate with my family through Facebook or Twitter or anything. And so I actually started the website initially just to kind of chronicle my daily life in Shanghai.

Um, but over the course of the eight months that I taught English and, you know, me getting all these online content writing gigs, Um, I converted the blog into what would become sort of a travel website as I escaped. So leading up to that, again, I was only in China for eight months and towards the end of that time, I realized that the teaching thing wasn’t really going to work for me.

I didn’t have the, um, I actually, I would almost say I had too much ambition for it. I don’t mean to insult any teachers who are listening. But particularly when it comes to teaching English in Asia, you’ve got a lot of people that they come over there because they want an easy life. And I wanted something more.

And so as I sort of got to the end of that period and I was amassing enough gigs, many of them not very glamorous, you know, I mentioned the CNN go thing, but most of my most lucrative gigs were for like content farms. And so as I got enough money to where I kind of didn’t need to have a real job anymore.

I realized that I was going to really pursue this travel blogging thing. So, in July of 2010, eight months after I arrived in Shanghai, I booked a one way ticket to Saigon, Vietnam, and um, that was kind of where Leave Your Daily Health started to become a travel blog. Although, it took a couple years after that for me to really monetize it.

It, um, you know, it’s not, back then there weren’t all these websites and podcasts and resources for people who wanted to be able to monetize their content. It was kind of just throw the you know what at the wall and hope some of it sticks. And it took a long time for it to stick in my case.

Do you want me to continue going? Yeah. Yeah. Go for it. Okay. Cool. Cool. I, I felt like I kind of reached the medic. No, fine. Your connection has cut out. Oh no! I noticed you had a worried look on your face. I’m so sorry about that. Is it still happening?

Is it still happening?

Oh no, what’s going on?

Are you there, Jared? Yes, I am. Are you there? Oh, okay, cool. Oh, I am. But you said my connection had cut out, so I didn’t know, um, if it just came back. Okay. It just came back. Okay. Okay. Good. Good. Good. Good.

Jared: Um, I’ll make a, I’ll make a cut note here, which is fine. Um, Uh, okay. I made the cut note. And let me, let me just ask the next question, because that’ll make a nice cut part, a cut spot for that.

Yeah. How’s that sound? Yeah. Perfect. Okay. So 2010 is when the website kind of officially got off the ground. I mean, that’s a long time ago. We’re talking almost 15 years old. It’s, it’s, it’s going to be interesting to try to dissect all the different strategies you’ve used. Maybe what was trying to think we only have like an hour here, but what was like the initial success for you?

Where did this go from being. As you said, a way to communicate with people back home, which was very blogger esque of that time period, right? And now travel blogs have turned into something totally different. Like, when did this go from being, you know, was there a moment where it went from being one thing to the next thing?

Robert: There was. So, um, Again, I left Shanghai in July of 2010. I flew to Vietnam. I traveled for several months, ended up back in the U S just cause honestly, I’d been away for almost a year and I missed everyone, but, um, probably about a week after I got back from the U S I had just sort of casually applied to this.

Blogging contests in Thailand, which I had visited during my travels. And I really liked, but, um, not thinking I was going to get it. And lo and behold, a couple of weeks later, I got invited to participate in this blog contest in December. All expenses paid trip back to Bangkok. Um, alongside some of, uh, the biggest travel bloggers in Asia, there were only a couple from the U S that were invited, but a lot of people in Asia who had been doing this for quite a long time, and, Although looking back, I think that, um, I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I think part of the reason I was invited is because there just weren’t that many people who applied.

But at that time it felt really momentous that, Oh my God, I’m in the big leagues. I’m around people who are doing this for a living and without naming any of them. The reality is that some of their blogs are fantastic. Some of them were terrible. And I say this not to insult them, but because Being in that situation and seeing that all these people were doing that for a living, I realized, hold on, I’m a much better writer than at least half of these people.

Um, and I’m much younger, so I have much more time and energy. If they can do this, I can do this. And so that I think was kind of my sign that there was something more to be made of this than just some kind of vanity project. And that, that again, that was less than a year after I bought the domain. And that was less than six months after I left China.

Now, of course, getting from that realization to the point of being able to make your first dollar, especially back then was a very long road, but, um, that was really where the seed was planted. So it wasn’t very. Set point of time.

Jared: Oh yeah, that’s great. I that’s, that’s really an interesting marker. I remember when I was starting my first business at a young age and I went into professional photography, there was a moment when I realized, cause you know, you kind of spend a lot of time thinking I’m not very good.

And to your point, I still wasn’t very good, but I, I was at an event where I saw other photographers and I was like, Oh, okay, I can hang at least kind of long ways to go, but I could hang. Right.

Robert: Yeah. And I think I knew that I could hang. And I knew that, look, the thing about blogging, that’s really interesting is it’s not one skill, right?

It’s writing it’s photography. It’s SEO. It’s web design to a certain point. I mean, part of the reason that I learned, and I guess we’ll get into this more later, maybe, but part of the reason I learned web design and development is because I couldn’t afford to pay anyone to build a website for me. But as it turned out over the years.

Um, not having to pay for those services as a lot of my colleagues were, you know, from time to time and being able to slowly sort of evolve my website instead of having to spend 10, 000 on a big redesign every few years, it actually freed up a lot of my other resources. to actually travel, you know, instead of, uh, having to wait for someone to invite me somewhere as a lot of travel bloggers did back then and still do.

So, yeah.

Jared: So 2010, it gets off the ground. What’s their trajectory for it to start making money? Not that it’s all about the finances, but as it started, I,

Robert: I, I, I would actually, I think that at the end of the day, if you are not making money from your passion, then you don’t, unless you were born wealthy or have parents that are financing you, then you can’t continue pursuing your, right.

So it is about the money in some sense, but yeah, it took a while. So I think ironically, one of the reasons that I kind of treaded water for as long as I did. Is that I still had all these online content farm gigs, which of course are unglamorous, and I’m so glad most of them, most of that content doesn’t exist anymore.

Most of it was written under a pseudonym, but it was actually, um, You know, I was being subsidized by that. And so in the beginning, I didn’t probably try as hard on my blog as I would have if it was my only source of income, it wasn’t until the one content farm I was working for really decided they didn’t like me.

And probably December of 2011 that I realized, Oh shit, like I really. I really need to find a way to make money from this blog. Otherwise I’m going to have to go like get a job, which for an entrepreneur, that’s like, that’s like a death sentence. And, um, at that time I started joining a lot of Facebook groups about sponsored posts.

So I had never heard of sponsored posts for them, but as I quickly learned, At that time, that was the main way that travel bloggers were monetizing. You know, back then you didn’t have Mediavine. You didn’t have a lot of these premium ad networks for non big publishers. And so unless you wanted to try to get use SEO to get up to millions and millions of views and be able to make some money via AdSense, The main way that you are going to be able to monetize your content was sponsored posts.

And so I joined a bunch of Facebook groups, um, where we would exchange contacts for sponsored posts and really initially started making money that way, which of course is very unglamorous and sexy, but it’s just the way things were done in 2012 when we all thought the world was going to end. Um, and, uh, yeah, so simultaneously with that, though.

Um, I did start getting more into obviously traveling more, which as a travel blogger, in order to create content, you have to go places, you have to take pictures, you have to do things, you have to be able to tell stories, and with though that the money that the sponsored posts brought in, It empowered me to start traveling to more and more interesting places, to buy a better camera, to start buying multiple lenses, to finally get a tripod, to, you know, continue upgrading my other tech.

You know, as I mentioned earlier, I already had the design and development skills and, uh, you know, from having worked for the content farms, I think, Even though I didn’t ever do the plug and play keyword thing, I just, I think I just had the SEO style writing down, you know, in terms of really staying on, on topic in terms of really structuring my writing in a way that made a lot of sense, both to search engines and to people.

And so, um, so yeah, the sponsored posts are really important because that enabled me to focus full time, uh, on my own content. Which was a huge thing. Um, and then obviously just as it had taken me a couple of years to get to that initial monetization, I mean, it really took me many years to get my photography, I think, especially up to a level where it matched my sort of articulateness that I just came out of the womb with, where I was really able to sell the whole package and say, no, um, I, I’m a real travel blogger and I’m legit at this.

Um, and, and I think where. Um, you know, around that time was when I came up with the idea of next monetization, which was launching what I called at the time, my travel coaching, which is basically, uh, where I, I wanted people to pay me to plan their trips, which at the time seemed unbelievable. It’s funny. A friend of mine who did coaching for MBA programs, basically helping people get into Ivy league MBAs.

She had actually proposed this to me. She’s like, Robert, you’ve been traveling for, um, you know, three years now, this is going into 2013, which seemed like forever back then. Now, now it seems like a small moment of time, but she said, people will pay you for that expertise to be able to save time planning their own trips.

They will pay you. And so, yeah, I think, I think once I launched that product and of course it took me a couple of years before anyone, before any number of people were willing to pay me enough for that to become its own thing. But, you know, I think with the money I had starting to come in from that, the kind of reliable income of sponsored posts and the boldness that I started traveling with and, and taking photos and really just going full hardcore with this.

Everything sort of started building and, and really contributing to this legitimate brand that I had. And suddenly it became easier to sell sponsored posts. My content was ranking more, my, my website looked better, uh, and people were slowly, but surely starting to pay me to plan their trips. And it, it very quickly became that I was a online content farm writer who had a vanity travel blog.

And then suddenly I was a real travel blogger and this was just my career.

Jared: You know, your path is a bit unconventional. If you, oftentimes we’ll get someone on who has say a travel blog or a website and you know, they wrote a bunch of content, they used SEO to rank for it. They’re making money off of, you know, display ads and affiliate income.

Um, which might be what you’re doing now, but your build up sponsored posts, a travel agent, uh, services, like you kind of went in what would be considered nowadays, very unconventional routes to monetize your, your brand.

Robert: I did and I think part of it is that again in the days before Mediavine I knew That the trade off of getting pennies on the dollar for AdSense and the the disruption that it would cause my users in the way it would cheapen my content, you know, Mediavine ads actually, quite frankly, are often very beautiful and very well integrated.

But back in the old days of AdSense, it was an eyesore. I didn’t think that was worth it. Um, the other issue I think in particular with travel bloggers is part of the way that a lot of travel bloggers used to indirectly monetize their content. Um, Is they kind of whore themselves out for sponsored trips.

They would only go on trips that were paid for. And so any other money they made, um, they kind of got to pocket because they weren’t actually paying for their own travel, which I guess in the short term was great, but it resulted in 90 percent of travel bloggers going to the same destinations all the time and writing the same kind of content.

And I think going this unconventional path allowed me to finance my own travel and really figuratively and literally. Kind of go on my own path, which I think has, has contributed to my longevity. You know, with the display ads, what’s interesting is even though I was very late in getting to that game. I was one of the OGs on Mediavine.

You know, I joined Mediavine in 2017, my first site. I now have three sites on it. And, um, so I think by going that unconventional path, gaining financial freedom, mostly using my own innovation and, uh, you know, word of mouth and, and, and the trust that the quality of my content conveyed, it allowed me to enter that part of it at a much higher level than most people and not having to deal with any of the riffraff that they did.

Uh, you know, back in the early 2010s, so

Jared: wow, maybe I always like to ask this question at some point in the interview, if you could, let’s, let’s pause and look at where you’re at right now, if you could give people where you’re at, anything you’re comfortable sharing, whether it’s, you know, monthly traffic, um, uh, revenue, uh, just, you know, high level, but just give people a sense of, uh, How you’ve built this over the last, I mean, God, we’re nearing 15 years almost.

Robert: So an important thing that happened, I’ll get to the details later, but in order to explain them, I have to provide some more context. So I mentioned how I had joined Mediavine initially in 2017. Uh, but in 2018, I made a really interesting decision that I’d resisted for a long time, which was to start my first niche website.

Japan starts here. Which incidentally is now my most profitable and a highly traffic site by a long shot. Um, and I had done this for a couple of reasons. Number one, because I really love Japan. I had been there many times. I wanted an excuse to go back. You know, I had moved to, uh, Thailand in the wake of the Trump election.

I was one of the Americans who kept, one of the few Americans who kept my promise on leaving the country if he won. And, um, suddenly being in Asia, it was much easier for me to get to Japan and a whole host of other countries. So I started this, uh, this second website. Um, and the reason that that’s important is because these days, uh, I now have four websites, three of which are monetized on media vine and, and offer travel planning services and are regularly making money.

And so these days I would say, you know, um, probably combining all those four sites, I get around. Somewhere close to half a million page views a month. It really varies, and I’d say the majority of those are now from the Japan and Thailand site. So I have leave your daily hell. Then I have Japan starts here, which was started in 2018.

Uh, Thailand starts here, which was 2019. Taiwan starts here, which was 2020. Um, Taiwan starts here is not quite to the Mediavine level yet. It’s not. Not quite there, but I actually just added Thailand starts here a few months ago. And so, yeah, between those four sites, I get about half a million page views.

Um, you know, income wise, it really varies. Um, you know, I have months where I, where I only make a few thousand dollars. I’ve had many months lately where I make well over 10, 000, which. Again, I guess, compared to some of the big, big guys is maybe not a lot, but for me, for a kid who grew up in the Midwest and, uh, you know, for whom going to Galveston was an exciting adventure and who waited tables till I was 24 years old, the idea that I can now make in a matter of days, what I used to make in a month is, is huge.

For me and inconsistently, not just every once in a while. The idea that I now, um, granted, I am a pretty frugal person in general, but the idea that I can now buy a business classified anywhere in the world with cash and not really think about. What I’m going to have to scrimp and save elsewhere is a huge thing for me.

Jared: I mean, I think everyone at this point would be very excited to hear from a publisher, an online publisher that’s, you know, finding success, especially in the last year or so, as many bloggers have had their income destroyed. So, you know, congratulations. And

Robert: they have. There is something to it. Although what I will say with that, with the, um, with the helpful content update and then the core update in March, I try not to talk about that too much because, you know, in reality, I think in some ways, I’m just lucky that I wasn’t affected by that.

I know people. Who’s content I really respect and I really like who I consider in my same echelon who were decimated by those updates there. I don’t actually know that there’s a rhyme or reason to what Google’s doing. Um, I just know that again, I don’t want to talk about this too much because I don’t want to get jinx number one and I don’t want someone to go try and destroy me.

But, um, I wasn’t really affected by those updates. And in fact, with the March update, a couple of my sites really gained. Um, but I think that’s part of why, though. Given that I am doing so well right now, I think my goal beyond, uh, you know, being very responsible with my money, um, and obviously trying to keep the cash flowing.

It’s also kind of always keeping in the back of my mind that, especially with Google being as erratic and, you know, AI focus as it is now, and I think there are quite a few people who work at Google who just simply aren’t very good people and don’t care about publishers. I’m also trying to think about what, what would be my next step if I do get hit by one of these future updates?

It’s very scary. I mean, I, I, I really feel bad because a lot of the people that have been hit are people who started around the same time I did. Maybe not people that I always liked or was good friends with, but people who, um, who went through, uh, the same trials and tribulations that I did, who now are being told by Google or by their, um, algorithmic overlords that I think even John Mueller was on Twitter the other day.

He said the most condescending thing. He said, you had a good go at it. Now it’s time to do something else. It’s like, what? And you just filled out a job application at Google and now you get to be the judge, jury, executioner, piece of crap. Um, but yeah, so I, I, I, I feel thankful to be doing well. And I do think that, um, it’s because of this 15 years of work, the foundation that I’ve laid that I’m able to do this, but I am under no illusions.

It could be taken away at any time. And I, again, I don’t necessarily think there’s a rhyme or reason to what Google is doing.

Jared: And that’s scary. Well, you wouldn’t find many here that would disagree with you. That’s for sure. We talk about it weekly on the news episodes that Spencer and I host. It’s tough right now to kind of connect the dots about what leads to success and what doesn’t, but I’m going to attempt to.

In this interview, at least unpack what you’re doing that is working well. And maybe if we could use that as a good transition, like I talked earlier about how a lot of people and a lot of travel bloggers are going to focus on maybe earning money from a media vine or a raptive, maybe earning money from, from bookings and affiliate earnings from bookings and tours and things like that.

Like from a high level, you’ve got a number of sites, you’ve got a specialties that you focus on, on these sites. But what are the core tenets of how you’re bringing in your money? Has it shifted to Mediavine being the most profitable? Where are we at right now with planning trips? Like I want to understand maybe a bit more detail to how you’re earning that income on a monthly basis because I think there might be some interesting things for people to learn there.

Robert: So I would say to back up a little bit if we can, You know, back in the sort of sponsored posts, golden age, that was really my golden goose. That was for a few years, the only way I was really making money. And as that started to dry up, when Google started to punish people for what they called spam, um, and we can get into maybe later what, what actually is and isn’t spam, but I started realizing I was going to have to differentiate, uh, my income.

I was going to have to diversify. And so that’s kind of been a pillar of my blogging business. You know, for almost a decade now at this point that, that you can’t put all your eggs in one basket, you have to have multiple income streams. And so I’m lucky enough again, that, that around that time, that was when I launched the travel coaching product, which now is still doing very well.

Now, what I will say, 90 percent of the trips I plan are to Japan. That is the one where people really seem to have. It’s kind of the magic formula, right? Where the average traveler to Japan is pretty well healed. They have a lot of money. They don’t have a lot of time and they get very intimidated by Japan for whatever reason.

Um, and so my expertise, it turns out is very valuable in that. And it’s especially valuable because since I started this niche site, I mean, I’ve probably been to Japan over 50 times. I lived there for a year. I, I studied Japanese. I been to every single prefecture in the country. Okay. most of them multiple times.

And so I actually now have this depth of knowledge that very few native English speakers in the world have. And so I would say that, that the good news is that this is something that doesn’t directly depend on my Google traffic. Now, the bad news is that a lot of people discover me via organic search.

And although I have some word of mouth, I have a certain level of email list. One decision that I made very early on is that I wasn’t going to mess around with social media because I think it’s, um, I, I just think that one of the, the mistakes that bloggers and creators make is they try to dip their toe into too many ponds.

And I think that you really need to focus on one thing. And now the bad part of that is, again, if you focus entirely on your own platform, you really are very vulnerable to the sort of. Capriciousness of the Google algorithm, but I just I just can’t be bothered with social media now, especially almost being 40 Am I really gonna go on tik tok and dance?

um, so Hey, you never know when you missed your calling. Who knows? That’s true. That’s true. And um, but yeah, so um Can you refocus me again? I’m so sorry. I was kind of riffing and I forgot your original question. No, it’s fine.

Jared: It’s great. Just I’m curious where your buckets of income are these days. You have a lot of buckets income and you have a lot of sites.

So it’s going to be interesting to hear about that.

Robert: So, so, so the travel planning in particular for Japan is a big bucket of income. I’d say that some months that’s as much as 50%. Sometimes it goes down to 25 or 30. That’s a huge bucket. I would say I do still do some sponsored posts. So that’s probably You know, anywhere between 10 and 20%.

I have a number of affiliate links. I don’t go as crazy as some people did, which I would argue, even though I just said there was no rhyme and reason to Google’s penalties. I think some people really did overdo the affiliate links. Um, mine are a little bit more, more targeted. I mostly do like hotel bookings through booking.

com and usually at properties that I know and have stayed at and that logically fit into the itineraries. So that’s a big part of it. Um, Mediavine I would say is, you know, again, kind of like the, the travel planning, probably between a third and a half of my income, a half on the really good months, a third on the ones that’s not.

But I think again, the diversification of my income has been key because if one goes down, usually another is going up. And so my income is staying pretty consistent. Um, but I, Going back to the content for a second, because I think this is really important, you know, a few years ago Before a lot of the really bad core updates a lot of these groups on Facebook that had previously been devoted mainly to finding sponsored Posts started like coaching people and to oh This is what you need to do to make your content conform to Google and in the travel blogging space that’s There became this conventional wisdom that actually the best way to make money on Mediavine was to write these behemoth 5, 000 to 10, 000 word guides, which basically would mean that the content’s really long and there’d be a lot of ads in it.

And so you’d make a lot of money per page view. But I would actually argue, I don’t know how much you’ve looked at my blogs, but my average blog post is around a thousand words, rather than going into gory detail about every little thing that there is to do in a place, I kind of focus on the main ideas, because I want someone to be able to read through it in a few minutes.

And, you know, it’s almost like I create the content that I wish I’d had when I was planning trips where I could quickly understand the lay of the land and, and get the broad strokes of my trip down. And that serves another purpose, of course, because if you provide too many of the finer details for free, people don’t have an incentive to pay you to plan your trip for them or plan their trip for you.

So, um, that kind of served a second purpose, but I honestly think that that’s another thing that people might have been penalized for is that they’re creating these 5, 000 to 10, 000 word. Add and link farms basically on their websites that actually aren’t especially useful to travelers. I mean, in the travel blogging space, I don’t know what people are doing in other niches, but, um, but yeah, so I, I kind of, I mean, I, I, I think as I, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve never been too much into like what Google says you’re supposed to do in terms of SEO.

I think ironically, sort of coming of age in the era of content farms, Which, um, you know, ironically, they told you not to stuff your keywords. They basically just wanted you to be on, on topic and very concise and authoritative, I think keeping those sort of core competencies in mind with my writing and not actually focusing too much on what Google wanted and rather focusing on, um, on providing useful content.

And then. I think I do have a template, but I kind of created it myself and working within that frame, I think has been very useful for my audience, but it’s also been really good for me because, um, you know, I, I get to create something that it’s, it’s not a, it’s not a hassle to create and it’s actually, um, It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s useful for me even too.

So you

Jared: rely mainly on traffic from search for all of your, all of your blogs. Um, what’s like, well, you’re doing it, you’re doing it. Well, what’s your high level approach? You kind of went into it already, but I’m just curious for you. You’ve talked about the importance. Previously of, of, of good imagery. I heard you talk about that.

Um, you’ve talked about how you structure content in, in that, you know, not as long perhaps as what historically has been advocated for. Not as affiliate heavy. Like what, how do you approach your content? And then I’m going to ask you some questions about how you handle four websites. But first, like, how do you approach content?

So we can kind of get into your head a little bit on that, on that front.

Robert: Yeah. So I think, uh, again, a few years ago, I, I, I don’t remember exactly when it happened. So you’ll have to forgive me, but I kind of. I kind of realized that a certain format for my content was going to be really useful and basically what it is, it’s like a three paragraph intro, um, a beginning section that’s like two paragraphs.

Five sort of, um, I don’t, they’re not bullet points, but five sort of very short paragraphs about whatever the main idea of the article is a paragraph to kind of two paragraphs to follow that up. And then an FAQ section and a one paragraph conclusion. And once I came up with this, um, this format, I realized that whatever I decided my keyword or main topic was going to be.

It was very easy to stretch that sort of into a thousand to 1200 words. And so the way that I approached that then is, um, really the core of my content strategy is coming up for useful, coming up with useful queries. And what’s ironic is that for a long time, I actually did use tools like key search or Google’s own keyword research tool, but what I realized is that kind of going with my gut as a traveler.

And thinking about the things that I would have needed to know as I was planning a trip somewhere has actually been way more helpful than doing any keyword research at all. Because again, unlike a lot of these, um, travel content creators, some of whom don’t even take trips, some of them, uh, you know, they’re just, uh, I, I don’t know what they’re using for inspiration.

They’re using a lot of stock photos, which I also think has gotten them penalized, but, um, but yeah, so I think that, that, that ironically getting away from the keyword research Has correlated. I don’t know if it’s caused, but it’s correlated with my traffic increasing. And with me, I think having a little bit more unique voice on the internet.

Jared: I do have to say, I’m scanning through your Japan content as I, um, built up to this and, uh, and as we, you know, we’ve been talking and stuff and, uh, you’re very concise in your writing style, which is. Probably pretty refreshing and certainly we’re seeing more and more of that, you know, doing well. So I could see how hearing you talk about it, it really aligns with a lot of what you’re writing.

Um, you know, probably could tell me, I’m curious, given your focus on unique imagery, given your passion for, I mean, really becoming a part of, uh, of what you’re writing about, like, does AI play any role in any of your work, um, in your workflow, whether it is content or it’s other areas of what you’re doing?

Robert: Not at all, not at all yet. And honestly, I, I am honestly really afraid of AI, um, and not just because I love the Terminator movies. Um, but I, I really think that until, until we figure out whether it’s through legislation, whether it is through, um, I was going to say, whether it’s a corporation deciding to be benevolent, we know that’s not going to happen, but until we figure out a way to deploy AI without putting ourselves out of business in the process, I don’t even want to mess around with it.

You know, I’ve had contact companies contact me and say, Oh, like we’ll pay you a certain amount of money per hour to train our AI and it’s like, absolutely not, you’re going to have to pay, you know, several million dollars that I can put into my retirement fund. If you want to use. Me to train your AI. I know I haven’t used AI at all.

I think it’s, it’s horrifying. Um, and I, again, until it’s better regulated until it’s, there are guardrails put up, I don’t even really want to mess around with that. No, I do all of this myself. I, um, I’m a very productive person. I’m a very type a person. And I make my schedule weeks, if not months in advance.

And I plan, I plan it to where when I’m now not on the road traveling and sort of in my intake period. Then I’m in a very sort of ultra productive output period in the sense that there are some days where I write as many as four to six articles in a single day. So,

Jared: well, you took the words right out, right out of my mouth.

That’s where I was going next with having four sites about different countries and, and, you know, places that need your attention, not using AI, like walk us through your productivity. Tips, if you will, or how you manage it. I’m just curious to learn because that’s a lot.

Robert: Well, so I would say in terms of my productivity tips, one of the biggest things for me, and I’ve always been again, I’ve always been pretty type A.

I’ve always been an early riser. But I think creating a schedule and holding yourself to it is so big. Waking up at the same time each day, giving yourself a certain amount of time in the morning to do other things, you know. I usually have what I call my power hour, where I’ll go through my inbox and answer emails, I’ll watch a couple stupid videos on YouTube, I’ll get my iced coffee, I’ll Maybe eat something.

I’ll, I’ll goof around a little bit, but, but really having being able to have a period where, you know, you’re going to be doing work where you have a specific thing to do, or at least a specific goal you want to hit for each hour, um, and, and really being committed to achieving that. And then more importantly, Achieving that many, many times so that you prove to yourself that you can.

I think that’s the most important thing for the, and what I will say is again, given that I’m a travel blogger, I have two very different sort of work days. When I’m out on the road, it’s getting up at the crack of dawn. You know, bringing my camera and my lenses in my bag and hitting up everywhere I wanna hit up, and taking photos constantly, and making notes constantly.

And again, it’s the, it’s the intake period where I’m taking everything in. I’m recording it, I’m documenting it, I’m making note not only of where I’m going, but how I’m feeling. You know, sometimes those are the times where the article ideas will come to me. I’ll be like, Oh, this should be really useful.

And that might be able to put an affiliate link in it. Um, but, but then when I’m at home and I’m really in my output period, it’s about not being [00:39:00] distracted by the comforts of, you know, city life in your almost forties and really being disciplined. I mean, ironically, I think what I’ve told a lot of people is that In order to be successful as an entrepreneur, and again, I realized there are exceptions to this rule, but to some extent, you almost have to structure it as if it is a real job.

I find, for example, that working normal hours is really important for me. And then the secondary benefit of that, of course, is it allows me to have a social life in the off time, right? When I first started doing this, not only would I get up early and be really disciplined in the morning. But I’d kind of check my email 24 hours a day and I’d make myself too available and it wasn’t sustainable.

I think that’s the other thing. Be really productive during the times that you’ve set aside for achieving some goal, but give yourself time off and really be off during that time because you want to be able to fire on all cylinders at the times that you’re firing on all cylinders.

Jared: How do you plan your travel schedule?

And the reason I ask is, I’m curious, if you, um, I would imagine many travel bloggers might look for keyword tips Use keyword tools, that sort of stuff to kind of look at what places they need to visit inside of a certain region that they want to focus on inside of a certain area they want to write about next.

Sounds like you go maybe cut against the grain a little bit in that. Like, how do you plan out a trip, especially as it relates to the fact that you run a travel blog about

Robert: it? Yeah, so I have never gone that way. And in fact, I, I’ve always been really kind of turned off by people do it that way. I mean, not, I don’t want to sound too judgmental or, or, or hoity toity, but like, I just am like, God, you have to have some poetry in what you do, right?

You can deal with the keyword stuff after you get back, but I’ve always gone where I wanted when I want it. Now, what I will say is since I’ve kind of. largely abandoned my more global focus and really focused in on Asia and particular on Japan, which again is by far my busiest and most profitable site.

Um, I’ve honestly been guided a lot by season. So, you know, um, where is, and isn’t the best place to go in Japan is largely based on the season. I mean, um, at a high level, you obviously have the cherry blossom season in the spring and then autumn colors, um, that are very nice everywhere in the country, but a lot of other Destinations in Japan have times that they’re more or less beautiful than one another.

So I’m actually going on my next trip on Saturday. And for example, um, one of the very niche things that I’m going to be doing on this trip, because again, by this point, I’ve literally been everywhere in Japan multiple times is that, um, Their, um, Japan is not only famous for cherry blossoms, but they’re famous for hydrangeas, which are called ajisai in Japanese and hydrangeas are blooming around this time.

And there’s one particular temple in Kamakura, which is a popular day trip destination from Tokyo. And, um, because I’ve never stayed overnight there, even though I visited there probably 10 times on a day trip, I’m going to kick my trip off, um, with a couple of days there in hydrangea season and get some shots there.

But what’s interesting is. There will be something like this that inspires me to go at a certain time. And then be once I have that seed planted, my mind just sort of get that. This is another part of my creative process. Actually, I sort of start realizing, Oh, what are some other parts of the country that are really good at this time?

Or in some cases, what are some parts of the country that maybe no one is going to at this time? Can I, Can I chart a new path? Can I, can I go somewhere? And I think particularly as I’m really digging deep into the country now, I’m going to places that foreigners almost don’t go at all, which is really exciting.

And I would say that maybe that’s also part of my advantage in the content department is I’m creating content for Um, queries that the keyword finders don’t even know to track because, you know, they, the content for it doesn’t exist in English yet. So, um, so that’s kind of a convoluted answer, but I would say that, no, I, I don’t uh, I don’t use keywords or, or any quote unquote content needs to plan my trips.

I don’t. I think before I kind of just went where I want when I had more of a global focus. And I think now with Japan, my desire is just to kind of see everything and do everything. And I think like many Japanese travelers, I just let the seasons guide me with that. But beyond that, it’s really, it’s really just about creativity and going where not going where the wind takes me.

That sounds stupid and it’s not accurate, but. You know, again, using, using the destination and, and, and routing selection process as part of my creative process, the other sort of benefit of that is because a lot of these places I’m going, there isn’t a lot of content that exists. And so I’m kind of piecing things together like Frankenstein’s monster is this is a great crash course for me before I later maybe plan this same trip for someone else.

Because. I think that’s part of why that service has endured, is that I’m a real traveler who’s doing this. I’m not a travel agent, you know, you used travel agent earlier and I’m sure you just used it off the cuff, but I would really say I’m more of a travel consultant in the sense that I’ve done all this before.

I’m, I’m advising people on things that I’ve actually done myself. The problem with travel agents, which is why I think so many people are attracted to my model, is that I’m someone who’s actually done what you want to do and I have learned the hard way. Like, I’ve made the mistakes so that you don’t have to.

So you’re exactly right.

Jared: I didn’t even know the difference until you just, uh, educated me. The, um, well, I, and it, so it brings up an interesting point. And I asked this question a decent amount, especially with someone who’s been blogging for as long as you have, you’re going to so many destinations and travel is especially particular around this topic and that’s updating.

Old content. Yeah. How much. How much time and effort do you put into updating old content versus writing new content? And from a higher level, how often are you circling back on destinations maybe several years later to see what’s changed? Like not only in the tactical practice of updating content as SEOs think, but also just in the travel capacity as the world changes around you.

Robert: Yeah, so I would say there are two different answers to that the first of which relates to leave your daily hell Which of course has a more global focus and I would say Just because of how big the world is how short life is and how absorbed I am in the other sites I really only return to the countries that I like really really like so so that’s kind of a simple answer, but I go back not so much because I want to update the content, but because I want to be there again.

And I think that the updates to the content happen simply because I’m at a different phase in my life. I, uh, you know, frankly, I’m much more skilled in terms of being able to tell a story. Visually and with words. And, um, so it’s, it’s not so much about the chore of updating content as it is the joy of being able to see these places with new eyes and hopefully offer something better to my readers.

Um, with regard to Japan, I think what it is, is just that, you know, again, I keep circling back to this, but it’s really true. Japanese people are so obsessed with seasons and they’re so into seeing, seeing places in different seasons. There’s even this one garden up in Kanazawa on the North coast that literally.

Was planted not only to, to change with the four main season, but, you know, Japanese have like dozens of subseasons and literally this garden is, is almost to where it’s a different experience every single day of the year you would go. And so I kind of approach it like that, where I’m kind of, I’m seeing new destinations all the time, but I’m going back to places often anyway, to sort of see them in different light, with different colors, with different.

You know, sort of, um, uh, accoutrement and it’s, uh, yeah, it’s, it’s, I kind of update, not because I feel like, oh, you know, my, my serps are really slumping on this article. It’s more than I actually am going back to a lot of these places and I’m realizing, oh, I like that picture better. Um, I realized this thing about this garden or this castle or this temple that I didn’t before.

So again, it’s, it’s uh, maybe it’s not the smartest business decision, but, um, because I guess some of the more, the more committed ones are literally they’re going through all these tools all the time. They probably hire someone to do it for them and they’re, they’re doing it. They’re, they’re making the decision about what to update there.

But I do think updates are important in the sense that, um, it’s not sustainable to be, especially the older you get to be traveling, you know, seven, eight, nine months out of the year, and depending on your new content to bring in travel. And frankly, you know, as you can imagine, a lot of my most, uh, lucrative content is content that has existed for many years.

Now, part of it as well, though, is some of it doesn’t need to be updated as often. And one of the things going back to the very beginning. That working for these content farms taught me is the more evergreen you can make your content, the better, um, you don’t want to have something that’s super, uh, you know, um, uh, prone to changing, you know, I, I do have certain content, for example, about various annual events and things like that.

But I really try to focus on things that don’t change very much and Japan makes this really easy, of course, because with thousands of years of history. You know, the ancient capital of Kyoto, there’s not really a lot that changes over the years there. And so it’s kind of a built in guard against that.

But yeah, I try to update my content where helpful and necessary. And yeah, if I see a major slump in rankings, I probably think, okay, there’s something I can do, but I think I approach it much in the same way. I approach creating new content, which is that. If I go back somewhere, or, or you know, sometimes I, sometimes it’s less sexy than that too though.

Sometimes I’ll click on an old article, I’ll be like, holy crap, like. That was a few cameras ago. Like that picture is not very good. I’m going to need to go back there on my next trip and do better. Um, cause that’s the other thing I would say is, and I’m, you’re a photographer, so you can understand this. I think not, it’s really important with, from other people to take feedback.

Um, Literally, but not partake it seriously, but not personally, but I think even more important than being able to receive feedback from others is being able to be your own harshest critic so that a lot of it never ends up coming to pass in the beginning. And that’s been a huge thing for me as well. And blogging is being able to be honest about where I’m excellent.

And honest about where I can and really need to improve.

Jared: So as we start to kind of come to a close here, I think one big question that keeps coming to mind is you’re, you’re very efficient. You’re type a, you get stuff, I can tell you get stuff done. So what’s the drive behind the four different websites?

The devil’s advocate would be why not just focus on one or one or two. Um, and then, you know, How do you balance Japan up against the other specific travel sites you have up against your broad travel site? And yeah, how do you determine

Robert: where your time goes there? So it’s interesting. So part of the reason this is really funny, but Japan was a, Japan starts here was a very deliberate choice to branch that off because in advance of the 2020 Olympics, which of course never ended up happening really because of COVID, I could tell that Japan was about to, to blow up in a big way.

And so I wanted to be able to capitalize on that. I did capitalize on that, but the other sites kind of came up haphazardly in the sense that I actually launched Thailand starts here initially because I needed to change themes on my other site. And I, I wasn’t really adept at like creating a staging site.

So I was like, Oh, I kind of wanted to start this third site anyway. So I’ll just build it using a new theme and then I’ll copy and paste those over to the other sites. So it actually started in a really unsexy way. Um, and then with Taiwan starts here, I launched it in 2020. Cause I got trapped in Taiwan by the pandemic restrictions and I literally had nothing else to do and it was to keep myself sane.

You know, I couldn’t really travel to any of these other places. So I was like, well, I can travel within Taiwan. So I might as well create a website about it. And I think in the years, there I’ve, I’ve kept each website for a different reason. Obviously I’ve kept the Japan website because it’s so incredibly lucrative.

And because I love Japan, I’ve kept the Thailand website because I do like Thailand as well. It sort of pairs well with trips to Japan in the sense that. If I’m already all the way over in Japan, continuing on to Thailand is not a big thing. Um, and especially since adding it to Mediavine, I now have an incentive to continue making it better and growing it.

And then Taiwan literally sits right between the two. And I think that as you know, if I can be honest, leave your daily hell is not doing as well as it used to. I think partially because in, in Google’s latest updates beyond these sort of wipeouts that it’s done to these sites, it’s really favoring things that are more nichey.

It’s favoring things that are more specific and people that have a narrower range of expertise. And so even though, again, with the exception of Japan, I wasn’t really deliberate in honing in on these other countries, it’s actually been really nice because long term, I don’t know that I would have been able to sustain myself with Leave Your Daily Howl alone.

Now, the good thing is, is that these three countries, Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand, um, they just kind of happened to be my favorite countries in the world. And so it’s really nice because having these separately, um, it kind of justifies me being able to. Go back here again and again when many travel bloggers kind of the name of the game is seeing as many countries as possible and,

Jared: you know,

Robert: whatever, which is fine.

I did that for a while. But the other thing that’s really good about having three separate sites is that the chances of one of them getting dinged in one of these upcoming updates, I guess, is relatively high in the long term, but the chances of all of them getting dinged at once is not. You know, and so it kind of gives me, uh, again, talking about, uh, uh, diversifying your income.

It’s also diversifying your creative output and not putting all your creative eggs in one basket. And, um, you know, the other thing I would say is just as leave your daily, just as content farm led me to leave your daily hell, which led me to Japan starts here, which led me to these other sites. I think by continuing to branch out in all these different ways that I do, Whatever comes next, it, it’s sort of that natural organic creative process.

That’s going to lead me to where I need to go, which is why I do believe that no matter what happens with Google and AI, I have the skills and the talent and the drive that I’m going to be able to make it work. And I’ll tell you one thing, I am never going to have a job again. That’s what I told myself 15 years ago.

And I, I, I remain committed to that never going to happen. So,

Jared: well, that is a perfect way to bring this interview to a close because, um, It’s fun talking to someone like you who has been doing this for almost 15 years. And, um, you know, you referenced a lot of the, the, just the trepidation and the volatility over the last year or so, but just someone who has that perspective of 15 years and has watched their, you know, you have a very clear vision for how your career has progressed and it hasn’t been happenstance or accidental, but it has navigated as.

Situations change. I remember sponsored posts that that is bringing me back, but I remember that as a, as a huge driver. And now if you said that to people, um, you know, they would, they would say that’s just not a, uh, hasn’t been a viable business strategy in a long time, but you’ve adapted and changed. And so I think it’s great perspective, good reminder.

And I appreciate you coming on where if I’m guessing you’re not on social media, where can people follow along with what you have going on?

Robert: No, I am on social media. I’m just not obsessed with social media. Okay. So I’m on Instagram. A business driver

Jared: for you.

Robert: Yeah. So I am, so I, I am on, uh, Instagram. I’m on there as Leave Your Daily Hell.

Japan starts here. Thailand starts here. Taiwan starts here. Uh, posts on Leave Your Daily Hell the most, um, but, uh, I, I’m on all of those. Obviously, my websites are the best place to find me. I am on Twitter for a couple of the websites, but honestly, I usually just use Twitter for, um, you know, getting into political arguments and, you You know, something else that I probably can’t discuss on here, um, that a lot of men use Twitter for, but, um, yeah, um, my websites are really the best place to find me, going straight to the horse’s mouth, so to speak, um, and yeah, so, uh, so that, that would be, that would be where you can find me.

Jared: Robert, thank you for coming on board. Thank you for coming and sharing about your, um, your websites. Thank you for sharing about your, your, like I said, I mean, you’re near nearing 15 years in doing this. Congratulations on your success. Thank you again.

Robert: Yeah. Thank you very much, Jared.



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