Doing nothing with your website? Me too. I moved my travel blog to Substack
After 6 years on WordPress, I decided it's time to build an audience. Sound familiar?
This week's newsletter is one part about why I moved my travel site and another part about building your marketing efforts through a platform like Substack.
I’ve had ClairesHoliday.com since 2017. I started the site after embarking on a year-long desire to travel the world. I quit my job and traveled once a month while I consulted. I started the site to be more intentional about travel and use it as a way to document self-discovery and growth.
I didn’t do it to gain followers or rank in SEO or any of that stuff. I mostly did it for myself—a digital journal of my travels, complete with photos.
Along the way, I found some readers and followers, but WordPress doesn’t have that community feel like Substack does. It felt as if each time I hit publish, it would go out into the black hole of the internet. I don’t know who my audience is. Because of that, I found myself not motivated to write.
This is especially true after starting two Substacks and getting a solid feel for how the two platforms are different.
I realized it was time to say goodbye to WordPress and get with Substack.
Cost: I don’t have a big product or service to sell, so why pay for a website? Substack is completely free.
I know where my published pieces are going: Having an easy way for people to subscribe to your work is incredibly appealing. I write, publish, and then boom. It goes straight to my subscribers’ inboxes.
I can see my readership growing: This gives me purpose and inspires me to write and share.
I’ve learned the importance of readership
Seeing the growth (traffic) of my Substacks (slow and steady) is fun. Each time I get an alert that I have new subscribers it feels so satisfying and rewarding. I am grateful that people see the value in what I write.
When I publish on Substack, I know it’ll reach a set number of people. It may not be thousands of people, but it’s a concrete number, and to me, that matters tremendously.
I plan on writing more for Claire’s Holiday and would be curious to see how I could grow it on Substack—especially with an exciting upcoming trip to Norway in May!
Oh yes, let’s not forget the cost. WordPress costs me over $100 yearly for the domain name and website template. I’m not exactly going broke, but I look at it this way—I’ve paid a total of $600… a nice chunk of change that could’ve been a part of my Norway budget.
Should you move your site to Substack?
This isn’t a let’s bash WordPress newsletter. I actually love WordPress and their templates are awesome, as is their customer service. Once, a rep gave me 2 years for free because I mentioned the increase in the yearly fee was a bummer. My professional site is still on WordPress. But holding on to Claire’s Holiday on WordPress just doesn’t make sense anymore.
Plus, the more I thought about it, holding on to a site with no real purpose (audience or readership) bothered me. It’s the equivalent of throwing out perfectly good food because you’re traveling for the next week.
Migrating to Substack is a way I can keep going with my site for free and expand my readership.
If you have dormant websites on Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress, I urge you to consider… what’s the benefit of holding on to them? I understand that some authors (for example) like to have a site to use as a kind of digital business card. Some folks do this on Facebook too. But the challenge is you’re probably having a tough time with traffic and even if you post content, you likely don’t have a way to gather an email list.
If these things don’t matter to you, then that’s fine, it’s probably best to keep it as is. But if it does matter, why not move it to Substack where you could post content and grow an email list with a built-in system already in place? It might just spur you to create new content and grow an audience.
Here are a few quick resources for you that explain a bit more about all this marketing stuff in detail:
How to market yourself when you suck at tech and why I use Substack.
This is part 2 which explains what kind of content to write.
Here’s a guest blog post that explains the nuts and bolts of why Substack works.
Migrating to Substack is a cinch
Literally, you click a few buttons, and poof, your site’s content is moved to Substack. It took me two minutes to move 6 years’ worth of content from Claire’s Holiday to Substack.
There were no broken links or weird image sizing… everything except the featured images moved over perfectly. These are the little thumbnail-sized images you see on the homepage next to each article in Substack. I guess I’ll have to manually add those in at some point, but I’m in no rush.
Ta-da… here is ClairesHoliday on Substack.
When I migrated ClairesHoliday.com, I went into WordPress and downloaded my site as an XML file. (I just Googled how to do it and found this page in WordPress.)
After I downloaded the file, I went into Substack settings and uploaded the XML file there.
I know, I know. I sound like a Substack commercial. I don’t mean to, but when I really like something, I can’t help but write about it. 🤓
I guess you can say moving my travel site to Substack is a kind of experiment. I'm curious to see if I can grow an audience and what direction I will take for the site as I continue writing about the wonders of travel.
Let me know if you have any old websites that could use a reboot from a Substack migration.
Bonus: The backstory of Claire’s Holiday
When I first started the travel blog, I quit my full-time job because I was burnt out. Like, burnt to a freaking crisp. I loved many of my co-workers, but I wanted more freedom and autonomy in my days. This was way before remote work was mainstream. If you were a remote worker, you were super lucky.
It took me four months to secure a few big clients from my network. They wanted me to help them with writing and content strategy. When I knew I’d be okay, I put in my notice to quit and I left the office in San Francisco. I traveled to Spain, New Zealand, Japan, Ireland, Australia, Alaska, Chile, Australia, Montreal...
I visited friends all over the U.S., catching up and taking small road trips. I learned to snowboard and after the pandemic lockdowns ended, I lived in Hawaii.
I used travel as a way to escape my anxiety and fears. Back then, I was scared I wasn’t living to the fullest, afraid that I would feel regret later in life. But I learned there’s no running away from those feelings, even when I’m trekking the Andes or sipping on a pinot at a winery in Chile.
Travel has taught me so many things. For one, it opened my eyes to how privileged I am, and two, I could probably sleep and shower just about anywhere.
I look back on those years and I’m delighted that I was able to live my life on my terms. I still have a bucket list of places I’d eventually love to tick off, but that urgency to spontaneously buy a plane ticket and scramble to figure out an itinerary just isn’t there anymore. Traveling is a lot of work and eats up a lot of brain space. I need that brainpower to write my memoir.
I still love to travel, but I don’t have to go anywhere. I’m perfectly content with working on my book, writing these Substacks, and embarking on other creative endeavors that light up along the way.
I recognise a lot of this. First had a Squarespace site for a few years, until I decided to make the shift to Substack. What. A. Difference. The community that you get here, the interactions and collaborations, plus the finding great stuff to read yourself. It definitely makes it easier for people to find you, and for those people you were finding / telling yourself, it does not matter much to them where they can find your content.
I can so relate to this. I've felt far more motivated to write now I can directly connect with my readers and am inspired daily by the wonderful writers on here :)