(Photo by Andrew Neel via Unsplash)

Not all travel blogs are built the same.

For slightly under a year, I’ve been creating content on my travel blog to post about once a week. I blocked all spam accounts so there won’t be fake statistics on my Google analytics. When it comes to my travel blog, I have a few principles – a main one being it should contain things I truly want to feature about. If you haven’t realized, SEO is a b*tch to crack. With plenty of content being created everyday by countless people in this world, it’s a tough task to get your voice (in this case, your site) heard among the noise (in this case, Google results).

Everyone has a travel blog these days.

This particular travel blogger I admire, had mentioned in her article before to not target fellow travel bloggers. Because your target audience should be people who want to travel, not bloggers who are already travelling and writing about it. Well I guess there is truth and wisdom in this. I figured, I blog because I want to. If people (bloggers & none-bloggers) came across my site and found my articles useful, that will be a bonus. If one day, my blog has the power to give me new opportunities for travels, that will be double-bonus.

Shibuya Crossing on a random weekday evening. Guess how many of these people have a blog? Or are interested in someone else’s blog?

There are Facebook groups with ‘engagement threads’.

I discovered these things only recently. An engagement thread works this way: You leave your post link, and the 10 people who left theirs after you will visit your post and leave a comment. You will also do the same for the 10 links above yours. It’s like a loop. Threads like these guarantee engagement in the form of exchange — you give 10 comments to others, you get 10 comments from other others. A more positive way to think about this is that the practice also increases your knowledge – you never know what you can learn out of someone’s post, you see.

Engagement threads increase your blog visits and with a decent number of comments, it appears that your posts are indeed well-written and people enjoy them. Surely your posts should be considered high in value! At least it appears to, to the advertisers that want your blog to feature their services.

I’ve participated in engagement threads about 2, maximum 3 times, especially when I feel I did a killer post (a.k.a a post that took a super load of time and effort) and I needed to promote the shit out of it. Using these engagement threads, I’ve also discovered a few interesting blogs and learned about cities I’ve never heard of.

So today, there was a blogger who tagged a few people in a particular thread and mentioned that our comments had been too short and “impersonal”. Before you imagine I left irrelevant Instagram-spammy-like kinda comments such as “Cool!” or “Awesome!”, I did not. My comment was based on the blogger’s article which I’d gone through and replied accordingly to. My comment consisted of 2 sentences, not 2 words.

But it was not long or personal enough for the blogger’s liking.

I was a little taken aback by this response, and rather turned off, honestly. Because if someone had visited my post and took the time to leave a comment, I will appreciate the effort.

The blogger’s response made me think about various scenarios which I could apply to reviewing my own blog:

What if the reader just could not relate to your content?

What if your content was actually not that interesting?

What if your writing is actually not fantastic?

What if your site design is not great?

What if your photos have a disturbing tint because of the filters you put them through? (Sorry, I’m a designer after all and aesthetics naturally matter a lot to me.)

I began to ponder about the entire purpose of these engagement threads and the act of leaving comments being tactics built to pass through either the gates of SEO, or the blog’s potential clients — people/organizations that partner with travel bloggers.

And I kinda wondered if in a way, I’m contributing to ‘cheating’ others for trying to manipulate the SEO system. With that said, I still value the content of my travel blog a lot. I spend shitloads of personal hours just to craft one post. It gets tiring and does not earn me any income.

Travelling for the experiences

But this incident got me thinking real hard about WHY I blog, WHO I’m blogging for, WHAT do I want out of this blog, and will I still blog even if no one is reading? (The answer to the last question has been decidedly yes ever since I started a blogging habit more than a decade ago.) I started to think about the creatives, writers and artists that inspire me to this day, and what is it about their work that makes them inspirational. I will have another think about my travel blog and its directions.

It’s too early to tell whether I’ll continue to participate in social media engagement threads like these ever again, but one thing I know clearer than ever:

I prefer to build a loyal following using MY ways.

Even if those methods don’t guarantee results and are much more tedious. At least, they feel more solid and real to me.

You can view my blog at PetiteWanders.com, or follow my visual adventures on my Instagram.

Kristine Li is a Professional Designer that secretly hopes to earn money through travelling, curating & writing than from designing.

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