When Laura Peters canceled her plans to go to grad school, she had no idea what was in store. All she knew was that she wanted to go to Thailand and work as a teacher.
She discovered the concept of making money from a travel blog there, and her interest was piqued. That was in 2014. Although she worked on it for years, she still wasn’t successful. However, after changing her tactic, everything changed.
Today, Mike & Laura Travel is earning around $12k per month. But that’s not even her biggest earning asset. Laura diversified her income streams with a coaching program and a summit and is now bringing in $50k per month.
Keep reading to find out about:
- How it all began for Laura and Mike
- Why the blog didn’t take off initially
- What she did to change that
- Why and how she diversified
- How she tweaked their course
- Where their income comes from
- Her top marketing strategies
- How she approaches link building
- How she grows her email list
- The content creation process that works for them
- Her keyword research secrets
- Her favorite resources and tools
- The main challenge she has faced
- Her greatest accomplishment
- The biggest mistake she’s made
- Her advice for other entrepreneurs
Meet Laura Peters
My name is Laura, and I’m the owner and author of Mike & Laura Travel. I’m also the CEO of Scale Your Travel Blog, which is a coaching program for bloggers looking to start, grow, and/or monetize their websites through SEO, affiliate marketing, and email marketing.
My husband, Mike Abalos, and I work on our business together and when we aren’t working, we are traveling. We spend about 6 months of the year abroad in various locations, and our main goal is to find the best hiking trails worldwide.
When we aren’t abroad, we’re home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
How It All Began
I started my travel blog back in 2014. At the time, I had just backed out of going to grad school and decided that my path was leading me to Thailand.
I moved to Bangkok to be an English teacher in an elementary school, and as I was researching places to go on weekend trips, I stumbled upon a cool travel blog. This blogger was detailing her trip through Thailand, but what intrigued me the most was that she claimed to make money from her travel blog.
Prior to reading her post, I didn’t even know it was possible to make money with a travel blog. This new information captivated me, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a travel blogger and make money by telling people about my adventures.
Unfortunately, it didn’t go the way I planned.
I started my blog and I worked really, really, really hard at it for years. I tried everything. I wrote blog posts that I thought people would love. I learned and mastered Pinterest. I poured hundreds of hours into my Instagram each month, and yet… nothing worked.
It was a really hard time. Putting that much effort into something for it to fail was hard to stomach.
A Turning Point for Laura’s Blog
And that continued until 2019, when I started to hear an acronym get thrown around a lot. The acronym was “SEO”. Although it seemed scary, I started to dive into SEO and see what all the fuss was about.
For me, SEO was exciting. It seemed more mathematical, scientific, and stable than social media and Pinterest.
So I started to learn everything I could about SEO. I spent hours and hours and hours every day pouring over SEO and what it meant for our blog.
And that’s when things changed. We immediately saw an increase in traffic, and within 4 months of implementing SEO, we were able to apply for Mediavine.
Seeing this success, I knew we needed to diversify our income streams. Although the money from Mediavine was great, we needed something even more lucrative if we were going to fully sustain ourselves with our blog.
So, I dove into affiliate marketing and learned everything I possibly could about how to make more by recommending our favorite products, services, and platforms.
And while our affiliate marketing efforts were working well, I knew we needed to diversify further.
What if a Google algorithm swept through and completely drained our website traffic?
That’s when I realized we couldn’t depend on any platform to sustain our blog. So I learned email marketing and the power of creating your own audience.
A New Opportunity Arises
At that point, things were going really well with our blog. We were averaging about $8,500 per month from ads and affiliate marketing combined. Our email list was around 2,500 people, and we started regularly emailing our subscribers about blogging.
Because of this, we got many questions about how to monetize a travel blog. Through my journey, I learned that this information isn’t just sitting on a silver platter. It took me thousands of hours of research to know and implement everything that was working for our blog.
And that was frustrating. Why wasn’t there an ultimate resource for this? Why did travel bloggers have to muscle their way through their journey to monetization?
That’s when I decided to tell everyone I knew about how we were able to quickly grow our blog.
I took Amy Porterfield’s Digital Course Academy in September 2020 and launched our course, Scale Your Travel Blog, in January of 2021.
It started out as a course that led you through SEO, affiliate marketing, and email marketing. And while people loved it, we saw some students fall through the cracks. This bothered me because I knew that with our strategies, they would 100% see success with their blogs.
So, I asked them why they decided to quit. They told us that while the information was really good, but it was too hard to bridge the gap between the information I gave them and actually doing it themselves.
And that’s when it clicked.
Laura Tweaks Her Course
There are so many courses available these days, but the biggest thing they’re missing is helping their students bridge the gap between information and skill.
So about 6 months after launching our course, we decided to include everything we thought people needed to take this information and put it into action. We added done-for-you tasks like keyword research, blog post outlines, blog post reviews, and a site audit, among other things.
And that was the secret sauce. I looked at it as if we were patching the holes where students were falling through.
Before this change, most of our students saw good results, but with the added support, all of our students who put in the work see jaw-dropping results. Recently, our top student had her highest month, bringing in over $30,000 from ads and affiliate marketing.
There have been several iterations of Scale Your Travel Blog as we work tirelessly to create the best resources and strategies that help our students move forward.
As someone who struggled to monetize their blog for years and years, my ultimate goal was to show others how it can be done in the fastest way possible. And I have confidence that we’ve done that with Scale Your Travel Blog.
Her Current Income Streams
We have multiple sources of income, including Scale Your Travel Blog, Travel Blogging Summit (our live blogging event), and our travel blog, Mike & Laura Travel. We also invest in niche websites to sell them in the future.
Each of these sources of income varies based on the time of year and our current focus. Here is a breakdown of our income:
- Mike & Laura Travel: $9k-14k per month. We also use our travel blog as a billboard to promote Scale Your Travel Blog. It has been one of the biggest contributing factors to the growth of our program. We attract travelers through Google for free and convert them to webinar sign-ups/Scale Your Travel Blog students.
- Travel Blogging Summit Live Event: Our revenue from our first year was $51k. For our most recent event, it was net $21,000. Our goal next year is to profit $100k+. Our next event is in Nashville, Tennessee.
- Scale Your Travel Blog: $40k-50k+ per month
The majority of our travel blog income comes from affiliate marketing. I used to be an online ESL teacher, and the companies I worked for wanted more teachers.
They rewarded current teachers for recruiting new teachers with $100 per successful teacher that teaches a certain number of students. This was a significant portion of our income for the first year of blogging.
During the pandemic, this was especially helpful because although we wrote about travel, we also covered digital nomad jobs like teaching English online. Being diverse with our content helped us combat the pandemic’s negative effect on travel.
Laura’s Top Marketing Strategy
Our number one marketing strategy is SEO. SEO is the reason we were able to grow our business to begin with.
As I mentioned, I tested various ways of marketing, including social media and Pinterest before I discovered SEO. Unfortunately, everything else turned into a hamster wheel of endless work and little payout. The return on time invested was terrible.
I was tired of putting effort into things that *might* bring us success. SEO proved to be the strategy that worked every single time.
SEO is not only our number one marketing strategy but our entire business. We teach travel bloggers, travel agents, and travel-based companies the importance of SEO in their business.
SEO is what got us to where we are and keeps us where we are.
Since there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to SEO, summarizing our overall strategy would be difficult.
However, to break it down, we spend about 40% of our time writing new content using up-to-date SEO strategies, 40% of our time accumulating backlinks, and 20% of our time learning and testing new SEO strategies. This includes listening to podcasts, growing new blogs outside of the travel niche, meeting with experts, etc.
Link building has always been important for growing a website, but following Google’s algorithm update in the summer of 2022, I’m seeing the importance of link building increase.
Now more than ever, Google wants you to have authority. They want you to be the expert in whatever it is you’re talking about. And link building is one of the ways to prove your expertise.
We have always used link-building strategies like HARO submissions and collaboration posts. But a few new strategies that have been working really well for us are podcast features and image exchanges.
As for image exchanges, we are simply offering our photos for use in exchange for backlinks to our website. As travelers, we have an abundance of travel-related photos. And with Google’s new algorithm shift, unique images are rewarded more than stock images. So, this exchange is a win-win for both parties.
These could be companies we’ve taken photos of, landmarks, destinations, etc.
Many stock photo libraries allow this. Additionally, there are lots of Facebook groups for image collaborations. We have our own in Scale Your Travel Blog, but there are others that are free for anyone.
We are constantly testing different link-building approaches, so this changes frequently. But, we’ve also found that although link building is important, it’s even more important to use the right keyword research strategy.
Other Effective Marketing Strategies
The marketing strategies we use vary depending on which area of our business you’re referring to.
With blogging, we use and teach a specific keyword research strategy involving forums and other user-generated content. This helps us rank at the top of Google every time we write a new blog post, and it’s what helps our students gain traffic to their websites really quickly, even if they are new to the blogging world.
When we hear that other website owners are struggling to get into Google search results and grow their traffic, we can assume that they likely don’t know about our keyword research strategy.
Laura’s Email List
We have an email list of about 17,500 people. Email lists are the best way to set your blog and business up for success in the future. Relying solely on other people’s platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Google, Pinterest, etc) to drive traffic to your business could be detrimental if something goes awry.
We grow our email list through various measures, and it’s always one of our main focuses.
First, we have freebie opt-ins on every blog post we write. This will give our readers a quick win in exchange for their email addresses.
Second, we use our blog as a billboard for our consulting/coaching business. We are always sending our travel blog traffic over to our webinar through banner ads, widget ads, and more.
We also use quizzes built into our blog to gather email addresses. These tend to work well for list building.
Additionally, we do email list collaborations with other bloggers or people in our niche. If they have an engaged email list like we do, we offer to promote their freebie opt-in to our audience if they share ours with their audience. This has worked really well for us.
And finally, we are continuously running Facebook and Instagram ads to our webinar, which leads to our travel blogging coaching program. We do this because we know that the majority of travel influencers are struggling with their social media accounts.
They want to make money traveling, but they aren’t sure how except through social media. Our goal is to teach them the power of SEO so that they don’t need to race around the social media hamster wheel anymore.
Her Content Creation Process
Our content creation strategy varies based on the area of the business.
At this point in our blogging journey, we are hiring writers to help us create blog posts. We track the posts that we purchase from writers to determine if they have a positive return on investment. If they don’t, we figure out why and fix them so that they start seeing more ad or affiliate revenue or we add more relatable freebie opt-ins to get readers on our email list.
We like to batch our work for the coaching side of the business. Therefore, the Q+As and training sessions I do in Facebook groups get repurposed by Mike for our YouTube channel and email newsletters.
We also have a team of seven high-level SEOs and copywriters that help us implement different marketing strategies and help us take care of our current clients.
The strategy behind everything we do comes from testing. While some people call it “failing” we call it testing. We need to test to see what works the best, then we do more of what’s working. We are constantly testing new marketing techniques.
Her Keyword Research Strategy
Our keyword research process is actually one of our secret sauces. It’s something we teach within Scale Your Travel Blog. Basically, we help people show up on Google quickly by considering forums and other user-generated content.
Because forums are user-generated content, it means it’s “thin” content. We win every time we compete with that type of search result.
It’s one of the best ways to rank at the top of Google and stay at the top of Google. Algorithm shift or no algorithm shift, you’ll always be okay if you use user-generated content to your advantage.
Achieving Current Revenue Levels
For travel blogging, I started my website in October 2014. It took me about five years to learn that SEO was the way to go. At that point, we were still making no money from our site.
Once I switched to SEO, it took us about 16 months from 2,000 monthly visitors and $0 per month to 55,000 visitors and $8,500+ per month.
With Scale Your Travel Blog, we started in January 2021. Our offer was much different then, and we were just getting our feet wet. We’ve since added more experts to our team, which has allowed more students to join us.
Our highest month was August 2022, and we hit just over $70k with Scale Your Travel Blog. That’s approximately 20 months after starting our consulting business.
And while these numbers seem crazy awesome, it hasn’t always been easy. Entrepreneurship is a bumpy road, but if it was easy, everyone would do it.
Her Favorite Resources
Podcasts are my jam! I attribute a lot of our success to the podcasts and courses we’ve taken over the years.
My favorite podcasts include:
- Amy Porterfield: Online Marketing Made Easy
- Rick Mulready: The Art of Online Business
- Pat Flynn: Smart Passive Income
I also have a trick that I like to do when searching for new ideas and content. I simply go into my podcast player and instead of searching for the name of a podcast, I just search for the topic I want to learn more about.
For example, if I am struggling to get backlinks to my site, I would go to my podcast player and search “backlinks.” If I wanted to learn more about Facebook ads, I would search “Facebook ads.”
I’ve found a lot of great resources this way and then I don’t have my blinders on or only focus on the podcasts I like to listen to. I’ll listen to anything at least once, and if I find it helpful, I’ll listen to it repeatedly.
Laura’s Top 3 Tools
Mike and I do a business audit for ourselves once every six months to ensure we are profiting on all ends of our business, so we just went through all the tools we use.
ConvertKit is our email marketing software. We would be lost without all the amazing tools that Convertkit has for content creators. This includes email automation, product creation, and more. We’ve tried other email marketing tools in the past, but the versatility of ConvertKit blows everyone else out of the water.
Additionally, Ahrefs is our keyword research tool of choice. Again, we’ve used other tools like SEMRush and Keysearch, but we’ve found that Ahrefs is so much more robust. We love finding gaps in the competition that will ultimately help us or our students make more money from our blogs.
And finally, we couldn’t live without Notion or a business organizing tool. Everything we do in our business is set up through Notion. This includes delegating tasks to our team, keeping our students organized, and automating things that can be automated.
Of course, we use plenty of other tools, but these are the ones that are vital to the success of our business.
Her Main Challenge
My mindset was the number one thing that held me back as an entrepreneur. I didn’t even know that mindset was important to the success of a business. As it turns out, it is the number one thing that will hold you back.
It took me several years to understand money differently, to work up the courage to put myself out there, and to go after everything I wanted without hesitation.
To combat this, I recommend listening to the book You’re A Badass At Making Money by Jen Sincero. This book helped me think about money in an entirely different way, focusing on logic, not emotion.
Additionally, I recommend investing in courses, memberships, or masterminds to help you grow into the entrepreneur you want to be.
Her Greatest Accomplishment
While the success of our business is awesome, it’s the success of our students that keeps me going. Entrepreneurs everywhere would agree that the ups and downs of business are NOT easy. If it wasn’t for the successes that our students celebrate, I probably would’ve quit a long time ago.
I remember when our first student hit the 6-figure mark with her blog; it was the world’s greatest feeling. When another one of our students gets to join Mediavine, I cry with joy. It means everything to me when a student doubles their affiliate income in just 30 days.
Their wins are my wins. And being able to positively affect people and allow them to work for themselves is everything I need to feel successful.
What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
If I could talk to 2014 Laura, I would tell her everything will work out. While some entrepreneurs aren’t keen to share the struggles they had to overcome to get where they are, I want to make sure everyone knows that it isn’t always frills and rainbows. Running a business is difficult.
If I had a dollar for every panic attack I’ve had over the past four years, I would double our monthly income. But it’s worth it every step of the way. I can’t explain how I have grown as a businesswoman and as a person through my journey, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
There are ups and downs, but everything always pans out. And I wish I would’ve had that same sense of confidence when I first toyed with this idea back in 2014. I think I would’ve made the leap a lot sooner.
Her Greatest Mistake
Until 2019, I didn’t invest in my blogging education. I refused to do so for several reasons.
a) I was living and teaching in Thailand, and I was earning approximately $700 per month. I didn’t have much money to spend, so it was easier to save the little money I made.
b) I didn’t know if it would actually work. I didn’t trust the marketing strategies I had heard about because it was so foreign to me.
I cringe at the thought of where our business would be if I had invested in myself back in 2014. But we all make mistakes, and we all follow our own path. I just wish I had a mentor to show me the right way from the beginning.
Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
My advice is two-fold. First, I highly recommend focusing on your mindset. Limiting beliefs will keep you stuck for a long, long time. Work on what’s possible in your mind and you’ll be able to achieve it in everyday life.
The next thing your business needs is SEO. SEO is long-term marketing whether you’re a big corporation or a small business. Don’t settle for short-term marketing gimmicks like social media. If you really want to be successful, grow through SEO and build an email list on top of it. I am confident that it will be what changes your business model forever.