Publisher Interview: A Dangerous Business

Writing a blog can certainly be risky. 

From publishing your very first post to taking the leap to go full-time, blogging is sometimes a nerve-wracking venture. 

Some Mediavine publishers add a whole other layer of risk — our travel bloggers who roam the world and share their experiences (and gorgeous pics) on their sites. 

We’ve talked to a few of them in the past, like Jeremy Jones of Living the Dream RTW, solo female traveler Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse and Andrzej Ejmont’s family of travelers at Wanderlust Storytellers. Today we’re excited to add another to this adventurous mix. 

Meet Amanda Williams of A Dangerous Business, a travel publisher who took the plunge into blogging full time. We’re so excited to sit down with her and chat about her journey. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, and your everyday life. 

I live just south of Cleveland, Ohio, with my husband and our furbaby, a ginger cat named Weasley. I’m a full-time travel blogger, and spend a lot of time traveling and blogging.

When I’m not doing either of those things, I enjoy watching bad TV, being outdoors, and finding fun fitness classes to try (currently tap dancing, kickboxing, and yoga are all on the weekly schedule!).

How did you get started blogging? 

My blogger “origin story” isn’t a super exciting one: I started my travel blog because I was bored at work.

In my former, pre-blogging life, I worked full-time at a small newspaper as a copy editor. I had a lot of downtime at work, and also found myself needing some sort of creative outlet since you don’t get to do much writing when you’re a copy editor.

I started my blog as a hobby in 2010, not knowing a single thing about SEO or social media, let alone that people were actually out there making money from blogging. It wasn’t until I decided to go back to school to get a master’s degree (2012-13) that I started to think of my blog as a potential business.

How long have you been a Mediavine publisher? How did you first hear about us? What drew you to Mediavine as a partner for display advertising? 

I’ve been with Mediavine since April 2017, and am constantly kicking myself for not joining sooner!

By that point, I was blogging full-time and trying to diversify my income streams. I was using things like Google Adsense and Amazon CPM ads (RIP) sparingly alongside affiliate marketing, and was starting to hear from some of my travel blogging friends about ad networks like Mediavine.

Once I knew some other bloggers using and liking Mediavine, I decided to go for it. I definitely had a bit of a mental block about giving myself “permission” to make money from my blog (I think a lot of female bloggers do, actually, and we should talk about it more), and joining Mediavine definitely helped me get over that and acknowledge that I DO deserve to be paid for all the content I create. Just because you love something doesn’t mean it can’t also make you money!

Describe your experience with Mediavine. What do you love about working with us? 

My experience has been excellent, and I’m a total Mediavine fangirl!

The most valuable part, to me, about being part of this network isn’t necessarily the money. I mean, yes, it’s important.

But I stay with Mediavine because the team is amazing and I truly feel like they want their publishers to succeed. I’ve gotten to know several of the Mediavine team members at various conferences over the past year, and they’re all super talented and lovely people!

How has your Mediavine ad revenue changed your life for the better?

Financial freedom. Anyone who’s tried to make ends meet on a freelancer’s salary before knows that it can be a stressful existence. I never became a “digital nomad” because I simply couldn’t find a way to balance traveling and hustling for work in a way that didn’t leave me curled up in a ball of anxiety.

Mediavine has helped me earn not only a very steady income, but also a high enough amount that I don’t have to rely on work I have to chase. Knowing that my site is earning even when I’m not actively working on it means I can spend time on other projects, or just completely take time off!

As a travel blogger, the added revenue also means that I’m much less dependent on sponsored trips in order to travel. I much prefer to pay for my own trips anyway, and my Mediavine revenue has helped me book some truly incredible adventures that I’ve loved sharing with my audience.

How do you think the blogging industry has changed since you started your website? 

The industry is ALWAYS changing, and it’s certainly very different than it was when I started back in early 2010. I mean, I started before Instagram and Pinterest even existed!!

Back then, most bloggers who were making any money at all made it by selling links and sponsored posts; very few people were getting paid to work with travel brands or destinations, and “influencer marketing” certainly wasn’t a thing.

There’s a much bigger emphasis on valuable content and professionalism than there was when I started (which isn’t surprising, really, since very few people were blogging professionally about travel back in 2010, and most travel blogs were written as personal diaries!).

I have no doubt, though, that everything will look completely different again in another 5-10 years.

What are the best and worst parts of blogging for you?

When I was younger, I always used to think I wanted to be a teacher. I’ve always enjoyed learning and teaching others about what I’ve learned, but I discovered when I was in high school that teaching kids was just not my calling.

But as a blogger, I feel like I get to teach people every day — I teach them about how to travel better, and about the cool destinations and experiences that are out there.

Sharing my knowledge with others and helping them to explore the world is the best part of travel blogging for me. Having someone tell me that I inspired them to visit a place or to take a trip they may have otherwise not taken is an awesome feeling.

I also love my group of travel blogger friends — I’ve met some amazing people in this industry!

The worst parts are a lot of the behind-the-scenes things. The constantly-changing algorithms and constant need to just DO MORE can be very taxing. And I think many of us have been beaten down by the fakeness that abounds on many social platforms now, and the pressure to contribute to it.

What has been your biggest success as an influencer?

I think just being able to tell people that this is what I do as a career (and that yes, I make good money doing it). My dad used to ask me when I was going to get a “real job,” but now he brags to everyone he meets about what I do. I’d definitely call that success!

Who are your FAVORITE bloggers. Who inspires you? Why do you like them?

I read a LOT of blogs, you guys. And yes, most of them are written by women!

When it comes to just really stellar writing, I love Brenna from This Battered Suitcase and Flora from Flora the Explorer.

For unique, off-the-beaten path adventures, I look to Sherry from Ottsworld (who is also so fun to watch on Instagram Stories).

For laugh-out-loud writing that still has lots of practical travel tips, I turn to Lia and Jeremy from Practical Wanderlust and Ashley from My Wanderlusty Life.

And then there are the ladies who just inspire me from a business perspective; ones who are killing it on all platforms like Oneika from Oneika the Traveller and Kristen from Be My Travel Muse.

What are the most popular 3 posts on your blog?

My top posts of all time are:

What are your 3 personal favorite posts on your blog? *

I feel like this changes frequently, depending on whether I’m on an informative or inspirational post kick. Some of the posts I’m very proud of include:

What tools and resources do you use to manage your blog? What could you not live without? Why?

I use “the usual” blogging tools like WordPress and Google Analytics and Search Console.

I use Keysearch for keyword research, MailChimp for my email list, Tailwind and Canva for Pinterest, and CoSchedule and MeetEdgar for other social media scheduling. For editing, it’s Lightroom for photos, and a mix of Adobe Premiere Rush and Animoto for video. And I also love Trello for keeping track of my never-ending to-do list.

The one resource I probably turn to the most, though, is Facebook groups. I’m in a lot of blogger-related groups, and there’s always at least one to turn to for any question I might come up with.

What is your biggest traffic source? What strategies have you used to make that your top traffic source?

Google. It turns out I was writing SEO-friendly content before I really even knew what SEO was.

When I started taking my blog seriously, I started approaching new blog posts by asking myself, “What would I want to know about this place if I was planning a trip here?” And it was often those questions (many of which weren’t covered by other sites at the time) that drove traffic to my blog.

SEO is still my top strategy, and I always keep it in mind both when planning travel and when plotting out my editorial calendar.

Do you have any advice for bloggers on how to grow their traffic?

Focusing on SEO and Pinterest will definitely be the most beneficial in the long run, so the sooner you can get a good grasp on them, the better.

But blogging IS a long game, so you need to be patient. There’s very little overnight success in the blogging world, and you’ve got to be willing to put in the time and work in order to see returns.

Anything else you’d like to add to help other bloggers grow?

If you’re approaching a blog as a business (i.e. this isn’t just a hobby you’re going to get bored with a year from now), don’t be afraid to invest in that business.

Growth-wise, this might mean paying for tools to help you schedule content and research keywords, or paying for advertising to make sure your content is being seen by the people who will read it. Sometimes you gotta spend money to make money!

What actor would play you in a movie based on your life and career?

Oooh. Maybe Zooey Deschanel, because she’d be the perfect mix of smart-and-adventurous- yet-still-really-awkward.

What’s your favorite quote?

The one that inspired the name of my blog:

“It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien