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How Kalyn Franke’s Travel Blog Earns $8k/Month From Ads, Affiliate Marketing, and Book Royalties

When Kalyn Franke did a study abroad program in London, she only expected to be there for a few months. But one thing led to another, and she ended up never leaving.

As the visa she had at the time didn’t allow her to work full-time, she started a blog in 2015 to stay busy. Girl Gone London offered her a creative outlet to talk about the interesting things she was doing there.

When Google started to rank her posts, she realized she was on to something. Today she’s earning $8k/month through multiple income streams, including ads, affiliates, and even book royalties.

Keep reading to find out:

  • Why she decided to stay in London
  • What she originally posted on her blog
  • How she came to write a book
  • Where her income comes from
  • How much she works on her site
  • How much traffic she gets
  • Her main marketing strategies
  • How she grew her Facebook group
  • Her thoughts on SEO
  • How she approaches keyword research and link building
  • Her content creation process
  • How she grows her email list
  • Her favorite resources
  • Her go-to tools
  • Her biggest challenge
  • Her greatest accomplishment
  • Her main mistake
  • The advice she would offer other entrepreneurs

Meet Kalyn Franke

My name is Kalyn and I’m a 31-year-old dual American and British citizen living near London. I came to the UK when I was 19 as a study abroad student, and one thing led to another and I met my now-husband who is British, and have been here ever since.

I grew up in Orlando (yes, I’m a Disney fan) and lived in the suburbs until I decided to make a change for college and attempt something new, which is how I ended up at the University of Pittsburgh for my undergraduate degree. 

The “Pitt in London” program was my leaping point into London, but I really did only expect to stay for one semester!

I did my master’s degree in public relations and have always loved to write and create content. 

Before working for myself, I had multiple 9-to-5 jobs in all kinds of areas, including working in customer service for a food delivery box, working at a bookshop, working with American study abroad students in London, and also working for a section of the UK government as a communications assistant.

Why She Created Her Website

Girl Gone London really started as a complete hobby. 

While on one of my visas in the UK, I wasn’t allowed to work full-time, so I wanted a project to keep me occupied, and I began writing stories about my life in the UK as an American and articles that I thought other people moving to or visiting the UK might want to know. 

I had absolutely 0 intention of turning it into a business, and the early posts were very personal: a random recap of a trip to Copenhagen, a story about my training for my first 5k, and other life stories.

Eventually, I realized I was starting to rank in Google for specific search terms (again, that I had no idea I was even “targeting,” I just wrote what I thought was helpful) and I got my first sponsored post opportunity for a mere $50 or similar. That was what helped me see that this could be a business.

The site started around 2015, and it wasn’t until 2021 that I was able to make it my full-time job, so in between was a lot of hard work, trial and error, and learning how to run a professional travel site.

Today, it’s not just a website, but also a book called Girl Gone London, available on Amazon, and a series of courses and resources I provide to my readers to help them plan their trips to the UK or their moves. 

The book was self-published through Amazon. 

My husband created the cover and I wrote and formatted the book, and to date it’s sold over 3,000 copies and made me almost $20,000 in royalties.

How Much Money She’s Making

In total, the site plus other related income streams bring in around $8k per month, though of course, this can fluctuate in travel with high seasons and low seasons.

My average income is split through multiple income streams with this site, with a rough breakdown of what a typical month might look like below:

  • Ads (Mediavine): $3200
  • Viator affiliate bookings (tours, attraction tickets): $3500-4000
  • Other affiliate bookings (hotels, theater tickets): $500
  • Amazon affiliates (products): $650
  • Girl Gone London book royalties: $250
  • Products and services (a travel guide on London, London travel itinerary planning): $300

I started trying to turn the site into an actual business around 2017/2018 and I didn’t reach these levels until around 2021, although the site had existed even before that, so it’s all factored into the long process that can be building a sustainable online business.

I typically spend about 20-30 hours per week working on the site, though I do take significant amounts of time off throughout the year and have built it to a point where I can take a few weeks or even a month or so off and not worry about it. What a blessing!

My site averages around 100,000 sessions per month. Below is a screenshot from August of 2023. 

Her Main Marketing Strategy

I’m big on SEO as my marketing strategy, but in terms of other options, I have a very active private Facebook group with almost 10,000 people where I engage with them constantly and have built up a community of people who are planning on traveling to or moving to the UK.

This keeps me connected and enables people to get to know me as a person, so when they’re thinking of where they’re going to purchase their guidebooks or services from, they’ll trust me and my products or my recommendations.

This isn’t just a site that doesn’t have a face to it. It is very much selling myself as the expert in this area and sharing honest and human responses to people’s problems and getting excited with them for their trips.

Growing the Facebook group was all through the blog at first. In each post that was relevant, I created a special call-out box to encourage people to join the group for more information and I’d recommend that to anyone who wants to start a Facebook group attached to their blog.

The Facebook group itself is purely a free group with lots of information, but I do sell my courses and products within it by linking to them when people need help, which is a great way I’ve found to create additional income for myself (and sharing affiliate links when it is allowed by that particular program). 

The Importance of SEO

SEO is the most important thing in my business, overall. 

It’s #1 for me because I don’t want to have to be always attached to my site, pushing out content on socials.

Also, I don’t have the amazing social media skills that some other travel creators do and prefer to do the writing and keyword research, so that’s what I stick to.

My SEO strategy is nothing new or revolutionary. I don’t actually use a ton of tools. I just use KeySearch to look up keywords in my niche and then look for related keywords to include in the post and try to write the best possible article on the topic. 

Keyword Research

I come up with random ideas and throw them into KeySearch to see what it spits out. 

I then look at the sidebar to see what other suggested searches it recommends and I kind of go down the keyword rabbit hole, writing down ones that look like I could rank for them. 

Each keyword research tool has its own difficulty scores, but essentially in KeySearch I’ll go for anything that has a 40 or under difficulty based on the authority of my site.

I also write quite a few articles that I don’t even bother doing keyword research for, but know that people are searching for. 

For those, I’ll just write the post first and then use KeySearch later on to find related keywords and plug them into the post, but I won’t write the entire post around keywords. 

Once you know your audience well enough, it’s possible to know what they’re looking for without needing to use a keyword research tool 24/7.

Link Building

I definitely do link building, though I did it more frequently in the earlier days of the site before I had built up my authority.

Currently, I submit to other travel blogs using guest posts and sometimes collabs, where I submit a piece of information they’re looking for and they link to my site in response. 

I have been covered in multiple news outlets over the years just for my thoughts on expat life as an American, which are nice natural links that I didn’t have to pitch for. 

I just became an expert in this subject by way of living it and have done travel podcasts and similar things.

Kalyn’s Content Creation Process

Currently, the site has 364 published posts. I try to create content in silos of topics, but I definitely have shiny object syndrome when it comes to keywords and posts and do jump around a bit. 

However, since the niche is already quite tight, London and UK travel, it all tends to add to the general topical authority of the site anyway.

I have a major list of keywords that I use that I have researched and constantly add to, and from there I’ll grab the keyword, put the post into draft mode, and do the title and outline. 

Then, I fill in the outline (not always chronologically), and once the writing is finished, I’ll go back in and add photos, links, and the other finishing steps to get it published.

Because I live near London and am always traveling around the UK, many of the photos are my own, which is an important part of this site because my readers rely on me to share my own experiences and information and I think trust my content more because of it.

Kalyn’s Email List

I have an email list of multiple thousands of people at a time, but because planning trips to the UK is typically a once-in-a-lifetime or once-every-few-years experience for many people (especially visitors from abroad), I really have to focus on the initial email series that they get instead of having them on my list multiple months or years from now, when they really just might not need my information anymore.

I grow the list with newsletter opt-ins on my website, offering them free resources like free London guides or just the promise of extra information that I don’t share on the website (which I honor and stick to by providing that in my emails).

Her Favorite Resources

I’m a huge fan of podcasts like Side Hustle Nation, Food Blogger Pro (even if you’re not a food blogger, you can just take what they’re sharing and apply to your own niche), and the Niche Pursuits podcast.

For mindset, I like the Mind Your Business podcast with James Wedmore.

When it comes to other resources to learn the ins and outs of things like SEO and building a blog, I’ve always used free resources like the Mediavine blog (available to everyone to read) and the tips on SEMRush as well as general information shared in reputable Facebook blogging groups

Her Go-To Tools

I keep it relatively basic compared with other people. I am mostly using:

  • KeySearch (keyword research),
  • Agathon (to host my sites and to offer a bit of support in the technical elements),
  • And ClickUp to keep everything organized.

Currently, I use just a couple of writers to help me, and I manage the rest myself. 

Her Biggest Challenge

There are two main ones that come to mind.

First, I was hit by the November 2019 Google update, which almost halved my traffic overnight. 

It was extremely disheartening because it’s always almost impossible to know what you’ve done “wrong,” but I decided to keep going and am glad that years later, it has fully recovered and grown way beyond what it was then!

Second, Covid was obviously a huge challenge for anyone in travel, myself included.

The site went from making thousands per month to hundreds (if that) per month because no one was traveling to the UK, everyone was on lockdown, and there was hardly any traffic to make any money on at all.

Luckily for me, I was still employed at a full-time job at that point and the site was not my main income in 2020 yet, it was just additional income.

Coming out the other side of that is partly what has inspired me to diversify my income streams through the site, however, as I don’t want to rely on just one source.

Her Greatest Accomplishment

Being able to turn blogging into my full-time career with a full-time income has been my most important and meaningful achievement.

I loved some of my other jobs, but I hated not having control over my life and when I could take off or where I had to be during the day, and having a vision to take Girl Gone London from a hobby to a fully functioning business will always be the best thing I’ve ever done.

What She Wishes She Knew When She Started

I actually wish that when I started out, I had known how much potential there was in online business. I would have been interested in it had I known, but I really didn’t think about it as anything more than a hobby.

While I did enjoy it, I would have still enjoyed it if I had started learning about SEO and making money from a blog earlier. 

It’s still a relatively unexplored area for most of the general public. Even if you spend all of your time reading things about making money online and the success stories, think of how many people in your personal life have no idea it’s an option!

Her Biggest Mistake

Honestly, overall organization.

I’ve lost out on brand deals or made mistakes that were costly simply because I found it overwhelming to keep track of everything and organize everything. It’s boring, but I’ve realized that the boring stuff is also important and can impact the bottom line if you’re not on top of it. 

Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs

Be careful about what information you take in and who you listen to.

I mean this in both a “make sure to vet the people you get information from to make sure they’re telling you the truth” way (i.e. stay away from the spammy ads on YouTube with expensive cars in the background), but also make sure you surround yourself with people who are actually successful in running their own businesses.

It can be easy to accidentally surround yourself with only people who are earlier in their journey or on the same steps of their journey as you, but this can lead to an echo chamber where people share why they think things aren’t possible or are too difficult and suddenly you’ve lost motivation because that becomes what you consume.

Meanwhile, people in other social/online/business circles who have found success are all sharing their encouraging stories with each other and why it is possible because they’ve actually done it.

Make sure some of those people are your mentors or are in your life so you hear the success and the “what could be” to keep yourself going. 

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