Creator-First Future: Meet Nikida from Theme Park Hipster

Without creators, there is no open internet.

One of our goals with the Creator-First Future campaign is to humanize the effects that changes to search algorithms or generative AI have had on publishers by sharing their stories directly with our industry partners.

We also know that it’s important to share those stories broadly, amplifying the voices of the creators whose content and contributions have helped build an entire industry.

So, meet Nikida Metellus, also known as NikkyJ, founder of Theme Park Hipster, the number one resource for solo theme park travelers. Learn how she turned her passion into a thriving business and the steps she’s taking to sustain it.

Tell us about your blogging journey.

I got into theme parks at a very young age. My family lived in Florida, but we couldn’t just pick up and go to the parks, so whenever I went, it was a big deal. It was like Christmas for me. I always told myself when I grew up — because we always make those manifestations when we’re younger — I am going to go to theme parks whenever I want, and no one’s going to stop me!

When I graduated from pharmacy school, I was driving an hour and a half to work every day and coming home late to do it all over again. I was so depressed. I went to Epcot for their Food and Wine Festival and had such a wonderful time. On the drive back home, I started to cry, thinking, “I have to go to work tomorrow.” I wished I could make visiting theme parks my life.

So, in 2012 I went on YouTube and searched “how to start a blog,” and that’s when I started Theme Park Hipster to help adults feel confident going solo to their favorite parks.

Three images on a banner titled "Nikida Metellus - Theme Park Hipster". From left to right: 1) Person smiling while wearing a "Hogwarts" sweatshirt. 2) Ornately trimmed topiary bushes shaped like animals in a garden. 3) Person posing in a playful squat under a grand archway entrance of a theme park.

Back then I would talk about things I liked, but no one would find my website because blogs were more diary-based and were just starting to become more informational. No one was searching for “how is Nikki enjoying the theme parks.” No one knew me.

I still worked full-time as a pharmacist. I didn’t know how to go from being a pharmacist to being a blogger or how it would pay the bills. I started reaching out to people and searching online about blogging and how to grow it. I had to learn how to get people to find me. 

SEO sounded intimidating because all I wanted to do was write about being an adult who loves theme parks. For years, I was in this cycle of not knowing how to get traffic or be found. One of the coaches I worked with said if I started working really hard, I could monetize with this company called Mediavine. About seven months later, I applied and it was amazing. Then 2020 happened. 

In 2021, things got better because everyone was on revenge travel. I was able to leave my job as a pharmacist and become a full-time theme park blogger. I loved helping people with their trips and helping other passionate individuals realize they could travel like this too.

When the Helpful Content Update rolled around in September of 2023, I was at Cedar Point, one of the more popular theme parks on my website. I got a text from one of my friends in Mediavine asking if my traffic was affected. Around September 19th or 20th, I realized it was serious. 

What sites did you see jump in the search results? Where were people suddenly getting their information?

Let’s go back to Cedar Point. Cedar Point’s website is very surface-level. When I had search queries for things like “the best rides at Cedar Point,” I created listicle articles that got straight to the point. But Google started serving the Cedar Point homepage instead.

The user would land on Cedar Point’s homepage and have to navigate through tabs to find a list of rides. This started happening for everything, even simple searches like “the best Mexican restaurants at Epcot.” It would just show Epcot’s website with a list of restaurants.

None of those searches were relevant for me anymore.

What changes have you made to your content strategy as a result of changes to Search?

In the beginning, we didn’t know what was happening. We hoped it wasn’t permanent. We thought maybe our content wasn’t deemed helpful, so we started updating it. I didn’t do anything drastic like changing my website domain because my site isn’t a niche quick-flip blog; it’s something I love.

So, I went back to update old content from 2019 and 2020 that was ranking but hadn’t been updated. My husband built software that helps us identify and update outdated blog posts compared to competitors. We started with that, but nothing changed. 

In the midst of all this, it’s been hard work, trying to stay motivated, knowing this might be the end. It’s been hard for me because I wish I had a site that I wasn’t so attached to emotionally. 

Now, I do updates for my readers and the theme park community on Theme Park Hipster, but I’ve had to realize I can’t focus on building traffic through search engines. I want to make sure that when it comes to the website, my readers still have the most accurate information.

And now I have to really go in on social media.

Have you discovered any new traffic sources?

Social media is kind of hard because it takes a lot of your time with little reward. There’s been a lot of trying to change my mindset to think “okay. This is your brand. How do you help people with your brand?” 

It’s like laying those little seeds.

My husband has been helping me by creating a tool that generates social media captions from blog posts to help me save time.

How have you engaged with your audience during this time?

I started focusing on email and social media. I’m also focusing on YouTube. I’ve always wanted to focus on YouTube, but because most revenue came from the blog, the blog always won.

YouTube is labor-intensive, especially if you’re doing more intricate edits versus your blog post where you can get your photos together and see immediate return on your investment. But YouTube is where you build your community. 

I’m also really getting into email, treating it like its own platform. I have to treat it like it’s Nikida’s Google.

You have to spend time here and send more than one email a week. You have to make sure you get very strategic on the emails that you send, whether you’re sending three a week or one every day Monday through Friday. 

You have to make sure that people are excited to read your emails because now your email is your Google. It’s your number one place that you have to get people to your site. Get them used to knowing that when they click on your links, you have the best things for them.

Do you have any advice for other creators navigating these changes?

When I talk to creators, I always advise them to view their entity as a business, not just a blog.  We have to get our mind off of blog posts, traffic, revenue. Your blog is just one component of your business as a whole.

It’s hard for us bloggers because we really love blogging — I love blogging — but we need to realize that blogging might not be the main priority going forward. Technology changes, and we have to adjust. 

I don’t want to be like Kmart. I don’t want to be like a thriving store in the 90s that couldn’t keep up with changes. I advise bloggers to look at technology and use it to their advantage.

Yes, AI sucks, but how can you use it to make sure you streamline business tasks?

You need to build a strong brand that people will follow regardless of algorithms. You can’t sustain your business long term with someone coming and getting their answer and bouncing. 

Three images in sequence featuring Nikkida Metellus as "Theme Park Hipster": the first image shows her smiling in a sunny park setting, the middle image captures her smiling with a character in a bustling theme park, and the third image depicts her posing next to an animated character from a popular movie.

Video is big right now. Focus more energy on video content. Go back through your blog posts and see which ones need video. Use video to build up your brand and think of your website as a place where people can learn more about you instead of just a source for quick answers.

When someone finds you on YouTube, you’re telling a story; you’re showing them things and they get used to your voice, your personality, your quirks. They love you, especially on TikTok. 

For short-form video, take your listicles and make a series of the best, I don’t know, apple pies for Thanksgiving. You already have the imagery. Put some text up there and that’s how you can start. And now people on TikTok will go find where you are, saying “I like this person…you got a website? Okay. You got a YouTube channel? Okay.”

It is kind of hard for bloggers to accept that or maybe we didn’t build the strong brand that we thought we built, and not saying that Google gets to determine that, but I think that if we build a strong enough brand our fans sort of just find us regardless. It wouldn’t be dependent on any kind of algorithm. 

What is bringing you hope right now?

What brings me hope is the community around the theme park world. When I receive emails from people — especially because I specialize in adults going to theme parks by themselves — when I get emails from people who were afraid to visit theme parks alone but felt encouraged by my content, it reminds me why I started this.

If I wasn’t passionate about theme parks, I wouldn’t have continued. There’s always something new in the theme park world, and I love sharing those experiences. 

Knowing that I’m helping someone with their first trip or offering new advice keeps me going. So that’s the hope I have now. I know that it’s not over. It’s just changing.

Check out Nikida’s site, Theme Park Hipster, when planning your next theme park vacation. Send your friends her way for their trips, too. For more from Nikki, find her on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook.

Visit our Creator-First Future campaign page to learn more about how we’re working to protect content creators and the open internet and to share your story about how changes to Search algorithms and generative AI have impacted your business.

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