Bloggers Around the World: Isabel Leong on being an Affiliate Travel Blogger

By Ian Fernando

Blogging is still a very popular way to generate income. I started off blogging to help me journal my online career. This blog still makes money from affiliate links to this day.

It isn't hard to start an affiliate blog in a crowded internet. You just have to find your niche and stick to it. The only problem as a blogger nowadays is generating not just one form of content via your blog but via all social platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, etc.

It definitely is more work than when I first started.

So it was great to hear another blogger surviving the super crowded niche of travel. I even started a travel blog but then I got bored of it, it just turned out to be a lot more work, lots of content creation!

Below, I have transcribed the video for your reading pleasure...

Ian: [00:00:04] Hi, guys. Ian Fernando here. And as you know, I'm actually traveling in Colombia. And I had the opportunity to meet a bunch of bloggers that actually do affiliate marketing. And I was actually very inspired. And I had to like get them down to really talk about what they do in affiliate marketing. And I have here with me, Isabel. She is from Singapore. I met her through one the we work groups or network groups, you know. And she told me she was a blogger that does affiliate marketing. I was so into him like it's been a while since I met a blogger that does affiliate marketing. So what I want to do now is let Isabel really introduce herself. Explain why she's traveling? Why she's in Colombia? And tell her about your blog.

Isabel: [00:00:50] Yeah, sure. So I'm Isabel, I run travel blog, I've been traveling since 2018. And with the pandemic, it's really helped me to travel even more full time now. So I've been traveling nonstop since 2018. In October, I flew from Singapore to the U.S. and then to Costa Rica, Mexico. I lived there for five months. And then I came over here and it's been a month since then.

Ian: [00:01:22] That's awesome. It's crazy. I actually love traveling. And I've been traveling for six months, six years straight. So since you left Singapore, how many months or years have you been traveling straight since?

Isabel: [00:01:34] It's coming to be about nine months.

Ian: [00:01:38] Nine months?

Isabel: [00:01:39] Yeah. 

Ian: [00:01:41] That's pretty good, you know. And as a blogger, when I started blogging, I was just writing this is what, like 17 years ago. I wrote about my adventures online, right because it was all my trial and errors and I just wanted to record myself. What made you start blogging?

Isabel: [00:02:03] Yeah. It came pretty naturally for me because I've always like journaling. And then I was traveling as a student for a semester long, for six months in Europe. And I had all these pictures and I wanted to document my travels. And so I thought, what better way than to start a blog. And so I just came out of the name, started sharing my itineraries and my travel tips and my student hacks online and just documenting my way around Europe.

Ian: [00:02:34] Europe, Europe's pretty expensive, you know.

Isabel: [00:02:36] Well, it can be. But when I was a student, they had all those student discounts.

Ian: [00:02:43] That was lucky day.

Isabel: [00:02:44] Yeah, there was carpooling, also so Travel hacks.

Ian: [00:02:47] Now, what do you like about blogging besides, the pictures, the social media attention? Do you like journalism? I don't even like writing. I have a lot of you guys correcting me in my blog and rewriting some of my blog posts because I'm a horrible writer, but I'm a writer that speaks from the mind or write from the mind onto the post. Whereas I'm talking to a professional here. You know, you enjoy it where I've been lacking on my blog posting lately. So what else do you enjoy about blogging besides just the writing?

Isabel: [00:03:18] Yeah. So apart from really sharing my story, well, there's so many things. I mean, especially because I'm in the travel field and when I filled up my traffic enough, sometimes I do get sponsorships with tourism boards, with hotels, with tour operators. And I get to experience things that I wouldn't normally have done or I might have to be a millionaire to do it. So it's really those out of visible experiences that I get to do. Thanks to my travel blog. And through the blog, I've been able to meet different people over different countries instead of just being in a physical, physical place and meeting people physically. With the blog I've been able to connect with a lot of digital nomad.

Ian: [00:04:06] Yeah. That's one huge benefit about blogging. You know, like you get to just write something about the experience. And if somebody is like, you know what, I want to either get experience from you, we want to sponsor some of your content, let us give you this stuff for free. Write about us. You know, in this world of content like content-content, blogging, I think is still an old age true fact that still work today. Do you agree?

Isabel: [00:04:30] Yeah, I suppose so. Like I would definitely prefer reading somebody's personal experiences than trip advisers. Top 10 things to do in Colombia.

Ian: [00:04:41] Yeah. I mean, everybody read reviews and comments anyway, so they'd rather. And when you want to go in depth, they will be like, oh, let's go to this blog. And how do you, you know, you just came from [] you told me, like, how would you experience climb the Rock Mountain? You know, people just want to experience depth. Now, monetizing the blog, it's very interesting topic because you do affiliate marketing, I do affiliate marketing. I did a lot of affiliate marketing on my blog, and I went into CPA affiliate marketing side. What style of affiliate marketing do you do on the blog?

Isabel: [00:05:16] Well, it's quite straightforward. Like because it's a travel blog I write about travel experiences, I write about places I've stayed. And so most naturally, I link to hotel bookings and tour bookings and I get affiliate commissions through them. Occasionally this is like travel gadgets, travel items that I bring. I have a list of like travel gifts for him and for her. And so sometimes I get commissions from there too.

Ian: [00:05:44] What are the commission styles for, like the hotels, flights, you know the basic travel necessity. What are the percentage or the commission payouts?

Isabel: [00:05:54] It really varies. It could be twenty five percent or it could be eight percent. It really depends on the company.

Ian: [00:06:02] Yeah. And that's like coming off on like, if the flight is five hundred dollars or four hundred or the hotel is like.

Isabel: [00:06:11] So like, for example,, if you're paying like two hundred dollars for a night and the get a percentage of it. So I get twenty-five percent of that percentage of it. So it's not like I get twenty-five percent off two hundred dollars. So thereare only a few dollars.

Ian: [00:06:31] Got it, interesting. I didn't actually know that. I thought there was a direct connection from you to bookings. OK. Interesting. Now, what about the physical products like, you know, when you go get gadget gear for travel like, what are the commission structure there?

Isabel: [00:06:49] There's not so much. It's the same as the Amazon stuff that I usually, like that everyone promotes, like a few percent, maybe like eight percent, ten percent, only a few cents.

Ian: [00:06:58] Is affiliate marketing, the main revenue source of the blog?

Isabel: [00:07:03] No, I have a few. So I run ads on my blog. So they pay by per thousand impressions. So that's one. And then I also do sponsor postings where brands like to get mentioned on my blog posts. That is the by far the easiest way for me to earn, because it really is just like mentioning the brand naturally in blog post.

Ian: [00:07:28] No. I do some sponsored post, too. And there are certain companies like, Oh, can you mentioned these. Would you work with companies like that? That would be like let's say you experience that company in a bad light, but they want to, you know, we're having some weird brand reputation right now. Can you say this about us?

Isabel: [00:07:53] No, I don't usually do that. So I mean, I would rather not mention them at all than to get paid to put them in a good light when I personally experience not too good stuff about them.

Ian: [00:08:05] Yeah, a sponsored post is a very shaky topic. A lot of people will kind of sell their soul to just get, I don't know, I don't know how much you charge for responsive posts, right. I know from my blog, it's certainly like I just five hundred dollars for mine. And then any other [] or whatnot, right. So what else on a blog for good revenue stream? There's a lot of ways to make money through blogging.

Isabel: [00:08:31] Yeah. Those are the main ways. And then I mean, on the site, I also do SEO as well. So I have a section on my blog about blogging. And so I teach them about blogging. And sometimes if they do like follow my advice and all that, I do promote Web hosting services, for example, or sometimes they purchase through to my SEO course. So then I earn money through that, too.

Ian: [00:08:55] Yeah. So information products, sponsored post, ad revenue, affiliate marketing. You know, there's a lot of ways to make money in blogging. And I've learned this through the years, I was pretty excited to meet Isabel to to share her knowledge on it. Now you do organic. I do paid. How much time vested do you put it into one blog post that will start earning commission? And how long is that before you see the first dollar?

Isabel: [00:09:25] That's hard to quantify. Like I usually write for the sake of sharing the information and not really to generate money out of it. And so like, for example, my last place of residence in Puerto Escondido. I wrote a few guides about it, all keyword optimized, all intended to help it rank on Google. It's very hard to quantify because like it's kind of like the traffic is proportionate to the amount of ad revenue I get. So it's kind of a whole blog. Like it counts over all the blog posts that people have seen and not just a single blog post.

Ian: [00:10:09] Got it. But don't you have to concentrate on a keyword for a blog post or do you not focus on your blog post on a per keyword basis or do you just write just because of sake of writing.

Isabel: [00:10:20] Yeah, I know. I write it. I write. I do write based on keywords that I've researched. And it's hard to say, I would usually say, like, if I'm lucky, sometimes three months, sometimes six months. So it really depends. And then there's the time investment for link building as well.

Ian: [00:10:37] Yeah. And yet sometimes you have to buy those links.

Isabel: [00:10:40] No, I don't buy them because it's not generally good practice. But yeah, I try to do that organically everything. Yeah. So it's hard to say. I think between three months, six months. And that's when I see things ranking. But then once it starts ranking, you can just put it off on its own. You don't have to constantly promote it. And that's why I like organic, because that really just does your keyword research. You write up the article and you're pretty much done. You just wait for it to rank and do it for the ad revenue to come in.

Ian: [00:11:13] That's good. That's good, man. I always have a good argument with people with this, because I'm always like, man, I'd rather waste money than waste time, right. And when people hear me saying waste money, they're like, oh, why would you want to waste money? It's not about wasting money. It's about gathering that amount of data fast enough. Will this blog post convert with a type of context I have. Should I changed my context, right versus you can't really test it on with SEO if the content actually converted.

Isabel: [00:11:42] Yeah. But I also like to say that with SEO, for example, I have this post about best places to visit in Greece in October.[cross-talk] So ever since I wrote it a couple of years ago, every single year it starts bumping up when it comes to August, September. Even now, I started to see a rising trend in the article again, and I've never really touch that article since it was first published.

Ian: [00:12:08] Do not go back in there and maybe try to tweak it a little bit, try to hopefully increase it a little bit?

Isabel: [00:12:13] Yeah. Here and there, like I would try and update it to the latest year. But apart from that, there's no major changes or major time taken to redo the post.

Ian: [00:12:23] Yeah. I need to get into your organic. It's just I just don't have the patience for it, you know, like how do you have, how does one person gain patience?

Isabel: [00:12:32] I mean, OK. So I started a second site as well. And there was a website that I'm trying to put in my SEO strategies to make it work. And I mean, of course, it's been a year. I've got just a few clicks, but I'm still hopeful because the keywords that I'm targeting, they are really non-competitive, but they have very good buying power. And so, yeah, I'm hopeful that people who are searching those keywords, they actually have the mindset, buyer intent. And so it would hopefully convert in time. Yeah. And when it comes, they would just continuously do the conversion.

Ian: [00:13:12] That is good. I have to think of that nature sometimes. Now, as far as blogging, I'm assuming you're hosted on Word Press, right. What plugins are good for a beginner blogger to have on their blog?

Isabel: [00:13:28] Yeah, sure. For caching, I do recommend WP rocket, it's paid. OK, there is a free one called SG optimizer. Yeah, and that's free and that's pretty effective.

Ian: [00:13:43] That's with SiteGround I believe.

Isabel: [00:13:44] Yeah. And I used to use short pixel to smash for compressing the images. So those two are really important for optimizing website. And what else do I use?

Ian: [00:14:02] Do you use anything for like link tracking where your affiliate links?

Isabel: [00:14:04] Yeah, Pretty Links. I use it to cloak my affiliate links. And so because sometimes affiliate partners, they would change the links from time to time. And so we have just the Pretty Links. I could just go to the back end and change the original ugly links to the updated ugly link. And then I could just be like So any time people click on it, it's going to be to the updated link.

Ian: [00:14:34] Ok. I kind of don't like Pretty Link that much. I use the free version because its just quick, but it doesn't provide a lot of good stats.

Isabel: [00:14:43] For stats I use, I can't remember it offhand. I'll give it to you after. MonsterInsights.

Ian: [00:14:53] MonsterInsights, that is a good and a shout out to my boy [] company, he's always buying plugins and all that stuff.

Isabel: [00:14:59] Yeah. So yeah, with regards to track your affiliate links, they do have outbound links, MonsterInsights. They do provide outbound links, tracking info that I use.

Ian: [00:15:10] Nice. Now, for someone that want to start blogging. A lot of people are saying that blogging is dying because we have to Tiktok, Snapchat, Instagram, everybody's going to video. What is your argument between video and visual readable content? Do you think visual readable content will be gone or will it coincide with video and image media? What do you think about that?

Isabel: [00:15:38] I feel like there's two sites of I mean, there are two types of people that would consume media. One of them would go into video and one of them would just search best Nike shoes for trail running. And they would look at the comparison and read the reviews like people who are more detailed I guess versus a video, because there's only so much you can pack in within 10, 15 minutes. You can't really cover all the pros and cons, whereas content, a written content you can cover quite a detailed description of it.

Ian: [00:16:10] Yeah. You can really go down like a rabbit hole, you know. Now, we'll be going to our last couple of questions. The travel is very competitive, right. When it comes to blogging or information. How are you able to compete with the competition? It's such an early blog, right. How old’s the blog?

Isabel: [00:16:30] My blog is since 2015. So it's not that young.

Ian: [00:16:33] Yeah. So I mean, it's still pretty young. But in travel, it's such a competitive space. How are you able to compete with that?

Isabel: [00:16:42] Yeah. I always tell my students and people in the travel blogging, there are always new bloggers coming up. And there is this trend where everyone is meshing down, which means like somebody who's been living in Scotland is just going to write everything about Scotland. And so these sort of blogs would rank well as someone would search about Scotland. So it's really about populating. And populating as much of the articles, as many of the articles that you can about a specific topic or a specific destination are a specific, like vegan travel or conscious travel [].

Ian: [00:17:21] But how would like, for example, you're moving around almost every month. I mean, you're going to be talking about Columbia for one month and it might be.

Isabel: [00:17:31] Yeah. For me, I mean, that doesn't work very well. But then again, I've been like battling this dilemma. And I figured that I didn't want to narrow my experiences just because of the blog, just because I wanted it ranked. I want to like personally, I wanted to be able to experience everything from land adventures to see adventures to different countries. And so, like, I'd rather have everything because I still treat it as a personal journal of some sorts as well, so I would rather cover everything.

Ian: [00:18:00] That goes to my last question, right. When I started blogging, it was more of a personal journal, a personal journey, I really didn't care about keywords. And I just naturally rank over time. Do you think a person should start blogging based on keyword topics niche or should they be passionate about it and just get into it and just write and just let the Internet do its thing or really try to strategize content and not worry about passion?

Isabel: [00:18:26] So that depends on your end goal in mind. Do you want to monetize the blog or do you just want the blog as a personal portfolio for you? So if you wanted to monetize it, then of course you need to grow your traffic as soon as you can, as much as you can. And then that's when you have to like everything has to have a strategy. If you wanted to write a blog post, it has to connect with your end goal. And, yeah, you would have to do all the keyword research and really optimize the whole blog post. Whereas if some people just want to use a blog as a personal portfolio.

Ian: [00:18:59] That's what I kind of do with mine.

Isabel: [00:19:00] Yeah. And it built, it complements your personal branding, and there's nothing wrong with that I feel. It's really nice as well.

Ian: [00:19:07] Yeah. Well, guys, that's about it for our little interview. I want to thank Isabel for taking this time to have this nice interview in this little park, mall we're in right now. Do you want to say anything to the audience real quick? Go shout out your blog or anything.

Isabel: [00:19:22] Yeah. You can follow my adventures on I am on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, everything YouTube. Yeah, and it's all on my blog. And if you'd like to learn about SEO, I also offer a free course and there's a link on my blog to access that as well.

Ian: [00:19:38] Man, that was a good pitch. But alright guys appreciate you watching and make sure you like, subscribe. Talk soon.

Ian Fernando
Involved in the internet space since 2002 and have been through the ups and downs of this online industry. I am a traveling digital nomad, media buyer, online strategist, and many more online titles.

Start Affiliate Marketing Today.

An high overview of how to get started in affiliate marketing. $ straight forward videos on understanding the basics of affiliate marketing and generating revenue online.