September 2021 – SYDE Road – Blogging Behind the Scenes

September 2021 – SYDE Road – Blogging Behind the Scenes

Hello! Howdy! Hi! It’s that time of the month again! SYDE Road – Behind the Scenes. In this monthly series, I’ll be providing updates on what happened the previous month behind the scenes:

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through some of the links on this post.

Why did I start ‘Blogging Behind the Scenes’?

My absolute favourite posts from blogs (food blogs, financial independence blogs, other travel blogs, and even lifestyle blogs) have always been reading the behind-the-scenes or day-to-day life behind their niche.

I loved learning about how they’ve been feeling for the last month, celebrating their wins, and learning about some of the blogger’s personal lives that just don’t quite fit with their blogging niche on these types of posts.

But most of all, I am 100% an unashamed voyeur addict when it comes to reading up on a blogger’s analytics and income statements. If I could, I’d binge-read everyone’s updates and analytics.

Whenever I read a new blog and I find out they publish these kinds of posts, you bet your butt I’ll be going through their series like the nosy person I am. I’ll stay on their site for several hours starting from their first post and binge-reading up everything they have.

I LOVE seeing progress and nothing is more satisfying than reading about someone’s growth over months of hard work.

Now that I’ve been posting weekly since May 2021, I figured why not give back to the community and indulge others who have a similar addiction as I do?

So without further ado, let’s dive into the contents of this series. Happy reading!


Looking for more Blogging Behind the Scenes updates? You can read them all here.


What I’ve Worked on Behind the Scenes?

Let me tell you, when every blogger mentions that there’s so much more than content creation that happens behind the scenes they weren’t kidding. This month I spent so much time working on things behind the scenes I almost didn’t keep up with my own weekly goal of creating a new post every month.

Here’s a quick review of what I worked on behind the scenes – and some of these were multi-12/18-hour-day time sinks because of the struggles:

  • Finalizing and obtaining a business credit card
  • Updating privacy policy, terms and conditions, disclaimers, etc.
  • Fixing desktop and mobile performance – site layout, moving CDNs, fiddling with caches
  • Creating a monthly blog content calendar

1. SYDE Road officially has a credit card!

So if you read last month’s Blogging Behind the Scenes post, you may remember that I officially registered SYDE Road as a business! As predicted, it took quite a couple of weeks to

  • Get approved for a business credit card
  • Schedule an appointment with the bank to finalize details (what details you may ask? They to double-check your Master Business License is sound and need to ask for your ID)

In fact I waited until Sept 20th and my approved credit card never appeared in the mail. After following up with the bank, it seems like there was a system error and it was never mailed out. So while I ‘have’ a credit card, I’m still waiting for it to be delivered. 

2. Performance Optimization

Site Layout Changes

This was done for both aesthetic and performance purposes. Firstly, I noticed my main page: https://www.syderoad.com was loading SUPER SLOWLY (12-15s for mobile and almost 5s for desktop). 

Maybe I had too many modules and too many ginormous photos? In any case, I changed the layout (here’s a quick before and after comparison for new readers). Thanks to the layout change the loading time has been reduced quite drastically (but not as much as switching to a new CDN and caching system – more on that later below).

I took the ‘before’ from the wayback machine because I forgot to take a screenshot myself ;_; so naturally none of the images are showing up anymore. 

For anyone who’s reading this on a desktop… I hope you’ve noticed some visible improvements in terms of reading ease! I used to have all the blog posts set to the left with a sidebar on the right with ads, popular posts, and all those good things. I decided to sacrifice the toolbar on my website because I just didn’t like how the text was painfully stuck on left alignment. 

After removing the sidebar, I was seized by a rearranging frenzy and decided to rebuild my front page from scratch. So here’s a before and after of my home page. I’m still using the same Pepper+ theme that I got from Artisan Themes, but rather than tinker with too many personalizations, I decided to use one of Pepper+’s pre-built layouts instead. Everything just seems to flow better now that I’ve tweaked it less

Added bonus – SYDE Road now has a new logo and an HTML Sitemap on top of the standard XML sitemap!

Caching, Image Optimization, and moving to a new CDN provider

My website loading times have been absolutely horrid and this month was the month that I decided to really crank down hard and fix the issues. 

Last month I thought I fixed the CPU and memory issues by downloading some caching plugins and stuff. But nope. There were no drastic changes after monitoring it until the start of September.

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I spent several days researching caching services, image optimization options (like moving from jpg to webp), and CDN comparisons to deliver cached web pages faster.

After several days of researching and looking at my own web host provider (GreenGeeks) this is what I ended up enabling on my website:

Since Litespeed Cache and Quic.Cloud are both by Litespeed Server, the two products work seamlessly together and provide me with:

  • page optimization
  • CSS + JS minification
  • Image optimization with the ability to serve the compressed webp images or jpg depending on the user’s browser compatibility
  • Additional node servers across the world for accelerated web page load speeds for foreign countries (though let’s be real my 90% of my traffic is from North America) 

Initially, I used Cloudflare as my CDN as it was recommended by GreenGeeks but after trying both Cloudflare and Quic.Cloud I ended up settling with Quic.Cloud since it saved me from downloading an additional plugin onto my WordPress site.

I’m happy to report that my pages now load under 2 seconds for desktop and under 10 seconds for mobile. Could I make more improvements to the load times? Absolutely! I played around with the cache settings and at one point my pages were loading at sub 500ms and sub 2 seconds for desktop and mobile respectively. The downfall? I suddenly lost all Open Graph abilities meaning none of my Facebook or Twitter photos were loading at all! I ended up reverting all the changes and I’m at basic cache settings.

More fiddling is needed to optimize things further but I’ll need more time to really streamline everything. Also, I’m no system admin, so if something breaks the best thing I have is to restore things… and right now I don’t think it’s worth paying for a system admin …. So I continue to struggle alone with my technical issues until I make more $$$ from this site to cover the added expenses. 

3. I have a monthly blog content plan!

So if you read last month’s Behind the Scenes, I’ve literally been creating posts based on whatever I feel like working on for the week. I’ve finally stepped it up a bit and I now have a monthly blog content plan. Hopefully, my post content is more in line with the seasons and events on a monthly basis.

Ideally, I’d like to have a rough idea of what to write on a quarterly basis, but I haven’t had the chance to sit down and look beyond a month at a time yet. 

I hope I can start organizing my social media posts as well but right now my main focus is to continue refining my blog posts since that’s literally the meat and potatoes of this travel blog haha. 

Achievements and Struggles of the month

Achievements:

  • I created some downloadable content on a blog post! That’s a step that other blogs have mentioned that is important to growing their email subscriber list right?
  • I’ve finally set up some affiliate links on posts that I’ve created in September.
  • I overcame my fear of cold emailing places and sent out an email to every single business owner on my post: “Places in Ontario Where You Can Stay with Alpacas” to read and review my post for information accuracy. And almost everyone got back to me! Bonus points? I was very kindly offered a FREE night’s stay at one of the locations without even asking for anything as a thank you. There are good people in the small business world *cries tears of gratitude*
  • Several of my posts are actually on the front page of Google for several search terms! Hurray! To be honest I didn’t know how to check this until recently so it’s nice to know that some of the pages are actually appearing on the front page instead of like.. Page 150 or whatever I thought they’d be at… so I’m happy!
  • CPU and Memory Usage Issues are improving. This was a major pain point from last month so I’m pleased to say that I’m making progress here. It’s not yet perfect but I’m doing better. 
  • Angelo is part of the Field Scout Program by Hipcamp, a photography program that offers us a one-night free stay at a listing in exchange for site photos. We haven’t used the program yet but because we’ve taken photos at several Hipcamp locations during the summer, he got the very cool opportunity to provide additional feedback to the team! It’s always nice to have corporations reach out and find out how they can better their programs!

Struggles:

  • Mailchimp, Mailmunch, Convertkit – mailing disasters abound – I spent the better portion of September trying to figure out which marketing and mail management system was best for me. Last month I had already set myself up with Mailchimp and started a monthly newsletter. This month I tried fancying things up, testing different sign-up forms on different pages, and trying out Mailmunch for prettier layouts. Unfortunately, I didn’t get access to their nice layouts because I was on the free account. Then I realized that if I wanted to start offering downloadable content, the free Mailchimp account wasn’t going to work. I spent many desperate hours trying to figure out how to get Mailchimp working to send downloadable content, only to realize the automation path was no longer possible for newbies ever since they implemented the customer journey feature. Also, I’m not a fan of Mailchimp’s User Interface AT ALL. So a couple of hours later, I ended up switching to a premium trial version of Convertkit… and I love the onboarding and setup process way more. Goodbye Mailchimp! You were great for a month, but I’m leaving you for a better and easier-to-navigate product!
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Personal Life Updates

September has been quite a busy month for us. Here’s a quick overview of what we’ve been up to: 

  • Training: 
    • I’ve been taking some webinars to get a better understanding of what it means to convert a blog into a business and what income streams are achievable
  • Social: 
    • Met up with one of my university friends that I haven’t seen since pre-covid to catch up on life. Maybe I’m just rusty with socializing with people in person but I definitely felt more conscious of the dead air in between our conversations. I need to relearn talking to people in person haha
    • I restarted playing Persona 5 on the ps4 and strangely enough, my best friend and I started video calling each other since she’s playing it as well. We’re helping each other finish the game since we both restarted it this month
  • Family
    • We celebrated some family birthdays
      • my dad’s big 65th birthday 
      • Angelo’s niece just turned 2 
      • Chu – my brother’ beagle turned 7
    • We celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival with a bunch of mooncakes with my family
  • Reading:
    • I’m an avid manga, manhwa, manhua, webtoon reader so I have about 10-15 series that I follow regularly. Every so often I’ll end up binge reading a series from beginning to the end (or the latest chapter). This month I started and finished Cheese in the Trap 
  • Watching:
    • Like the rest of the world, we started watching Squid Game and Money Heist. We’re still in the early episodes of both and I don’t really get the hype yet
    • My long-awaited Foundation TV Series, based on Isaac Asimov’s books has finally released the first two episodes. I like it so far and I’m definitely going to keep up with the weekly releases. 
  • Random: 
    • We learned that Limone can catch wasps with her mouth. This was a shocking revelation when an unfortunate wasp made its way into our apartment and was promptly quick-snapped by Limone. We were so proud of her quick reflexes but also terrified that she would get stung in the mouth. Our neighbour’s dog got stung by a wasp on her paw two weeks before this incident!

SYDE Road – Analytics and Income Update

Blog Income

In September, SYDE Road earned me CAD 4.42 or about USD 3.49

Income breakdown:

  • Advertising: CAD 4.42
  • Affiliate: CAD 0.00

So if we were to compare this to last month’s blog income of CAD 11.25, it’s a pretty significant drop. 

Since last month’s income was mostly thanks to my Perseid Meteor Shower article (which is no longer relevant until it rolls again next year), I was prepared to see the number drop back to my usual CAD 0.80-2.50 range.

Technically the fact that I made over CAD 4.00 dollars this month came as a happy surprise. Instead of flatlining, I’m SLOWLY… veeeeeerrrryyyyy slooooooowly but surely making some steady improvements!

Since I *just* implemented affiliate links into some of my newer posts this month, I’m not surprised that I haven’t made any affiliate sales yet. 

Blog Expenses

This month’s SYDE Road expenses cost me CAD 353.44 or USD 279.21

Right now I have a *general* idea of what content I want to focus on writing in the future but I need some way to hold myself accountable and to stay focused. I decided to purchase a blogging course to give myself some structure to help me along the way.

The course doesn’t start until October 4th and it runs for a full quarter, so I’m looking forward to seeing how much progress I’ll have made by then! *fingers crossed that I’ll be happy with the outcome!*

Blog Statistics

I’m going to give myself a high five!! Why? Because last month I said that I’d give myself one if I managed to see more than 1,000 page views next month and I exceeded it.

So how much traffic did I receive in September 2021? 1,662 page views.

Here are some stats for the voyeuristic folks out there and how it compared to last month:

  • September Page Views: 1,662 page views (-21.7%)
  • Unique Sessions: 1,188 (-27%)
  • Sessions: 1,319 (-27.7%)
  • Social Media Followers: 180 (+41.7%)  followers = 34 (+209%) (TikTok) + 93 (+12%) (Instagram) + 42 (+35%) (Twitter) + 11(+450%) (Pinterest)
  • Email Subscribers: 0 (0%) (there was 1 that signed up this month but they didn’t confirm their subscription *sobs* so I’m still stuck here)

Overall my statistics are a lot more positive than I expected. I expected a significant blog view drop (like 60% drop), but surprisingly my blog received more visitors than I expected. 

Let’s look at how my stats compared to last September. In September 2020 (when my blog was still dead) I had 290 page views. So year over year, my traffic increased by 570%. Heck yes. Steady content output is definitely helping with traffic!

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In terms of social media followers increasing – I’m thrilled! Most of my month was dedicated to working on performance issues on my blog. I definitely did not work on my social media every day. 

While you’ll probably hear me complain in person about the endless hours I put into creating the 30s videos for TikTok and Instagram… I really don’t have much output to show for it once I count how many things I’ve posted. 

This month I created 6 TikToks, 8 Instagram posts/reels, maybe tweeted 40 times(?), and used Pinterest on a weekly basis.  I thought I’d mostly maintain the number of followers, so I’m ecstatic that every social media saw some growth this month. 

What Worked Last Month

Moving to Litespeed Cache and moving to Quic.Cloud’s CDN was probably the best thing I could have done for my website’s performance. I’ve already mentioned all the details in the Achievements part. So yes! If you can’t tell I’m VERY PLEASED with how everything ended up working. 

Refining SEO on older posts. Most of my posts are NOT on the front page of google. The travel niche is ultra-saturated after all. So you bet that I’m figuratively holding one for dear life when one of my posts does happen to make it to the front page. 

To ensure they stay on the front page as much as possible, I’ve gone back to my best-performing posts and refined the SEO on them. I *think* it’s working since they’re still on the front page and several more keywords on the post are moving up Google’s search engine results. I’ll take this as a win for this month 🙂 

Misses Last Month

Setting up a ”work with me” page. With all the site layout changes, troubleshooting cache plugins, moving email marketing items, etc. I missed setting this page up. 

I’ll… get around to it eventually!

Creating downloadable content for a poorly performing post. I thought my ultimate guide to camping with a dog would have more blog views this month. I guess in my head I thought that more people would want to camp in early Fall to take advantage of the remaining warm weather. 

I spent some time creating a downloadable checklist for people to refer to when they’re packing for their next camping trip with their dog. Right now.. There’s been crickets and zero downloads. Considering how that particular post received less than 10 page views this month. I’m honestly not surprised. I should have picked a better-performing post before spending time to create downloadable content for posts that aren’t performing well. 

Psst! Did you enjoy the blog income? Want to keep up with my progress? Consider signing up to receive a notification whenever the next Behind the Scenes Post drops!

Future Plans

Content

I expect the month of October to take a hit in terms of content creation. At the very least I don’t think I’ll be working on creating a lot of social media. The blogging course that I purchased needs me to do some offline thinking of products, planning posts, etc. so I don’t think I’ll be able to post as much as I’d like next month.

However, I do have several trips planned in October (including one very exciting sleepover with alpacas!) that I’m hoping to review and post before the end of the month!

Planning

For the month of October, I’ll be working on the blogging course. I think the course will force me to really focus on one particular niche of dog-friendly travel. So imagine I’ll be building out a network or mini-hub of hopefully useful posts on that particular topic next month.

Personal 

We booked another Guess Where Trip to take with our friends this fall! So I’m really looking forward to enjoying a nice planned out road trip again. 

Also! Thanksgiving is coming up. We’re debating if we should make our own turkey this year. Last year we had a Friendsgiving turkey session with our neighbours…. I didn’t stick the meat thermometer far enough into the bird and we ended up waiting until 10 PM for the turkey to finish cooking. I’m super hesitant about trying it again this year. 

… and this concludes September 2021’s Behind the Scenes post! 

As I’m posting this, I can’t imagine there being much present interest given how everything about my blog statistics and earnings is minuscule compared to other bloggers. But honestly, I do wish more bloggers who have Behind the Scenes posts shared more about their journey to their first $1000 more. I’m here to showcase it all from our very very early beginnings to however far this travel blogging journey takes me!

If you made it all the way down here, thanks so much for giving this post a read!

Want to read more Behind the Scenes posts? You can binge them from the beginning here. 

Have a question about what goes on while blogging behind the scenes? Let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them in the next post!

SYDE Road September 2021 - Behind the Scenes Income Report. I made $4.42. Pinterest Pin

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Maria is the founder of SYDE Road, a blog about adventure and often-times dog-friendly traveling. She loves researching and planning for trips and is the 'project manager' for many of the small group adventures documented on this blog. She believes that while it is always best to go into a trip with a plan, the best planned trips are always the ones that have time built-in to explore and get a bit lost. Her itineraries are detailed with safety hints and tips, but are also peppered with unique travel stories and experiences that are the result of free time, getting lost, or stepping off the main trails. She aims to inspire others and give people the confidence to travel the world and get a bit sidetracked!

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