Updated on January 8, 2024 by Angelika
For me, 2022 ended with Judith Peters' annual year-in-review challenge, and my subsequent registration for her annual blogger program The Content Society for 2023 - exactly the right decision! Without Judith's weekly topics, instructions on different blog formats and the exchange with other bloggers, I might have given up already - because blogging is hard work! I realized that more than once in 2023. My everyday life as a travel blogger is very different from what I imagined before I actually embarked on this adventure. I imagined being on the road all the time, taking beautiful photos and "just" writing about my travels on the side (possibly on the road). Apart from the technical challenges of blogging and the associated problems, I spend an enormous amount of time researching, selecting, editing and uploading photos. And not just on the blog, but also for Instagram and Pinterest. Doing all this on the go with often poor internet is now unthinkable for me! I have to admit that I've asked myself more than once whether all this effort will really pay off one day. On the other hand, I'm doing exactly the things I love: I discover new, interesting destinations, learn a lot and create something of my OWN,which I can share with the world. Most of the time I enjoy it, but it requires perseverance and a strong will. Both are among my strengths - so I keep going 😅.
In this review of the year, you can find out what challenges I faced in 2023, what I learned, and what I discovered on my travels.
What Were My Resolutions for 2023? And how did it go?
- Make my website bilingual. ✅ Right in January, I translated my existing pages and posts on the blog with the help of the plugin TranslatePress It was a real tour de force. No wonder I only published one blog post in January. I remember spending a weekend in the Black Forest with my friends from the writing group, where I didn't take part in the writing workshop but worked on the translation of my website. But I had already informed them about this beforehand. At least I was with the others during the breaks, at mealtimes and at the evening get-together.
- Write 52 blog articles (one per week). I missed this target by a long way. I only published 18 blog posts. However, when I set myself the goal, I didn't realize that many of my posts would have over 5,000 words, some even close to 10,000. As of December 20, 2023, I have already blogged over 60,000 words this year. This record might not be so bad after all, considering that many articles in the blogosphere have less than 2,000 words.
- Send at least one newsletter per month to my subscribers. I started my newsletter in April and have sent out five newsletters to my subscribers so far. That's less than one newsletter per month. I think that's a shame, as I always receive very nice feedback about the newsletter from my readers. In 2024, I will make sure to send it out more regularly.
- Develop a freebie. I was probably too optimistic with my ideas of what I could achieve in a year. I first had to familiarize myself with "technical kung fu" (quote Judith Peters') around WordPress, plug-ins, SEO and newsletters and write some really elaborate blog posts before I can tackle the freebie. But it's definitely on my list for 2024!
- Improve my basic knowledge of Spanish in order to travel to South America in 2024. I haven't even tried yet and I don't know when I'll be traveling to South America - probably not in 2024. Right now, my blog has priority. I clearly realized in 2023 that I can't blog while travelling. In most accommodations, the Wi-Fi is simply so bad that it's impossible to work online. I can't understand how all the digital nomads cope with this.
- I want to take even better care of my health ✅. Well - admittedly, I haven't done much more for my health than in 2023, but no less either. My average number of steps per day has remained roughly the same or increased slightly. My weight hasn't changed either. I probably haven't eaten any fewer sweets, but I have further reduced my alcohol consumption. I have a glass of wine in the evening much less often than before. So, I think I've just about earned the green tick here 😉.
- Trips I would like to take in 2023: at least one road trip in Germany, at least one trip abroad, a trip to Innsbruck (to visit my daughter Anna), a Christmas market tour ✅. I've never found it difficult to achieve my travel goals 😅. This year I've been to Egypt, Tyrol, Munich, Weimar, Erfurt, Wartburg Castle, the Harz Mountains, the Baltic coast, Trier and the Moselle valley. I also went on a few day trips around my hometown of Sindelfingen, some of which I took you on in blog posts (12 of 12 August, 12 of 12 September as well as 12 of 12 November).
My Review of 2023
Understanding Google: My First Year as a Travel Blogger
In my blog contract with The Content Society, I see in black and white that I had 9 website visitors via organic Google searches in the month of January. This doesn't include readers who know me personally (and therefore access my website directly) or who reached my website via social media channels such as Instagram. They are people who enter a search term in Google and then click on a post of mine that is displayed to them. Those 9 visitors have now turned into several hundred per month.
I worked really hard for this in 2023. 18 blog articles in one year doesn't sound like much. But when you consider that my posts contain just under 3,000 words on average, that puts it into perspective. Many articles by other bloggers only have between 500 and 1,000 words. My longest post this year (The 25 Best Christmas Markets in Germany in a Historical Setting) had almost 10,000 words! The Christmas market article was the shooting star among my blog posts. I published it in September and to date it has already been viewed over 300 times, which is not a given for a blog as new as mine. I'm a little proud of that.
But the post about the German Christmas markets was not my most successful article. Surprisingly, it was a post with "only" 3,151 words: Würzburg sights in the surrounding area - the 11 most beautiful destinations. Google likes this post so much that I got a so-called "featured snippet" for it, which is probably also the reason why it is clicked so often.
In addition, the featured image appears quite high up in the search results - that results in a few additional clicks per month.
Incidentally, the article about the Würzburg region is the first (and only one for 2023) with which I have received a royalty from VG Wort because the article has already reached enough readers. For me, this is my biggest blog success of the year 😃.
Unfortunately, I still can't answer the question what kind of posts Google particularly loves. I have the following assumptions, but I can't prove them:
- There are not yet many expert articles on the subject.
- The article contains well-researched information that cannot be found in every other article on the subject.
- The article is neatly structured - lists are particularly popular.
- The article is well linked internally.
- The article contains appealing photos.
You see, I am an analyst with heart and soul 😅. In 2024, I'm sure I'll get to the bottom of Google even more and at least find out what works particularly well for me as a travel blogger.
The Frustrating Question: Why am I Such a Slow Writer?
The goal of the annual blogger program The Content Society (TCS) is to publish one blog post per week, i.e. 52 posts per year. In addition, there are blog parades and blog decades (you write and publish one blog post on each of 10 consecutive days). I realized early on in the year that this goal was utopian. I think it was when I was working on my tutorial Plan Route with Google Maps . The task of writing a helpful guide on an expert topic was a TCS weekly topic, so it was to be blogged within a week. It was immediately clear to me that my topic would be a guide to route planning with Google Maps, as I had often been annoyed at not even being able to find step-by-step instructions for this on Google. From my previous job as a business process analyst, I know that step-by-step instructions must contain the complete process from A to Z with detailed and clear descriptions of the individual steps so that everyone can follow them.
I probably wouldn't have tackled the topic if I had known how much time I would spend on it. Because, of course, I needed a screenshot for visualizing each step. I also wanted to cover and illustrate all the points related to the topic (for example, how to save the created route to your cell phone for offline use). In the end, I worked on the guide for over a month. But it was worth it, because I now rank pretty high with many - sometimes highly competitive - keywords related to Google route planning. More on this in the next paragraph.
I spend a lot of time researching for almost every one of my posts, which sometimes drives me almost crazy. I simply can't write anything without checking that the facts are watertight. It's my damn perfectionism! At the moment I'm experimenting with ChatGPT,to shorten this time-consuming research work. But since I check and edit every output of the AI, I'm not sure if it really saves me time.
Another reason why I often work on extensive blog posts for longer than a month is that I blog bilingually. Once the article is written in German, it's time for the translation. For this I use TranslatePress as a plugin and DeepL as a translation AI. DeepL translates relatively well, but I still have to do a lot of editing on each text. From time to time, I have considered whether I should give up bilingualism. However, I can see that certain articles - for example the one about the Würzburg region, UNESCO World Heritage Sites or the most beautiful cities in Germany - are also frequently clicked by English-speaking readers.
SEO: Don't be Afraid of Contested Keywords!
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is an important topic for bloggers. If we want our posts to be found by potential readers in Google, we need to write about topics that are searched for by as many users as possible. There are tools such as Ubersuggest, SISTRIX and others that help us to find suitable search terms/keywords. I learned how to find the right keywords for my topic "Travel in Germany" and other important SEO knowledge in the comprehensive 2022 course SEO for starters by Sarah Depold*. In The Content Society we dealt intensively with the topic of search engine optimization in SEOptember. But we were also able to discuss our SEO topics in regular Zoom meetings throughout the year, which I find very helpful.
In online courses and SEO podcasts, it is often said that new bloggers should focus on keywords with so-called "low SEO difficulty". These are search terms for which there is (supposedly) relatively little competition, and for which they are therefore more likely to appear at the top of the Google search results. Accordingly, as an inexperienced blogger, you should concentrate on an SEO Difficulty below 40 or even below 30. Unfortunately, in my niche (travel in Germany) there are hardly any search terms with such a low difficulty. I therefore ignored this recommendation and blog on the topics I have something to say about. For example, I shouldn't have written the article Plan Route with Google Maps if I had followed the experts' recommendations. As you can see in the following table, the SEO Difficulty (SD) of the search terms on this topic is well over 40 and yet I was able to achieve a good ranking for these difficult terms as a newbie. Even for the keyphrase "route planning with Google Maps" with 246,000 (!) search queries per month according to Ubersuggest, I am now in position 15.
As you can also see from the table, I do not rank for the keyphrase "Plan route with Google Maps" contained in the post title, which I had originally identified as the main keyword for this text, but for all other possible combinations of terms that Google users type into the search field.
Conclusion: I am no longer put off by a high SEO difficulty!
12 of 12: A Great Blog Format for My Day Trips
12 of 12 is a blog format for which Caro from Draußen nur Kännchen offers other bloggers a monthly platform. On the 12th of the month, you document your day with lots of photos, 12 of which are published in the post. I enjoy reading and writing other bloggers' 12 out of 12 articles - especially since I decided to always take a trip on the 12th of the month, which I can then report on in 12 out of 12. I usually explore a place nearby - this year it was my home town Sindelfingenthe half-timbered town Herrenberg and Schiller's birthplace Marbach am Neckar. I also blog 12 of 12 on longer trips if I can. Unfortunately, this wasn't possible during my trip to Egypt in October, as we didn't have internet on the Nile ship. On my road trip to the Harz Mountains and the Baltic Sea, there was a 12 of 12 from Neustadt in Holstein, in December from a day trip to Cochem,which I undertook during a long weekend in Trier.
I love this format - on the one hand because it offers the opportunity to publish a blog post once a month that can be created quickly, and on the other hand because I think it's a good way to give my readers an initial overview of a travel or excursion destination with several pictures and a few words. So stay tuned for my 12 out of 12 of the year 2024!
Endless Blog Topics: My Trips in Germany This Year
In May/June I did another big Germany road trip: The stops were Weimar (one of my favorite cities in Germany!), the Harz Mountains (where Quedlinburg was our base), the Baltic Sea coast (where Timmendorfer Strand was our base) and Kassel. My friend Jutta accompanied me for most of the trip. On this eventful tour, I discovered cities, which I will dedicate a new paragraph to in my blog post about the most beautiful cities in Germany : Quedlinburg, Goslar, Lübeck and Wismar. I wrote about this tour in my Month in review May/June .
In July/August I was in Innsbruck with my sister and her best friend. We spent three lovely days with my daughter, who lives there, and went on two wonderful hikes with her.
On the way back, the three of us (without my daughter) stayed in Munich,for four days, where we completed an extensive sightseeing program including the Residenz, Pinakothek der Moderne and Lenbachhaus. I've been to Munich before to visit a friend, but this time the focus was on sightseeing and museums. Munich's museum landscape is absolutely impressive and has something to offer for all kinds of interests!
Last but not least, I went on a Christmas market trip to two of the most beautiful cities in Germany: I was in Erfurt and in Trier. Both cities surprised me very positively and will soon be included in my article about the most beautiful cities in Germany !
Anyone who knows me knows that I also like to take trips to other places in the surrounding area on city breaks. From Erfurt, I drove to the classical city of Weimar, to the medieval Christmas market at Wartburg Castle and to the Bach city of Arnstadt. From Trier, I took a road trip through the Moselle valley to Cochem. On the way home, I made two detours in Saarland: I visited St. Wendel,where, in addition to an impressive basilica, there is the Saarland's most beautiful Christmas market . In the Benedictine Abbey of St. Mauritius in Tholey the abbey church was refurbished in 2019 with magnificent new windows by Gerhard Richter. (3 windows in the choir) and the Afghan artist Mahbuba Maqsoodi (29 windows). The works of the two very different contemporary artists create a surprisingly harmonious overall picture in one of Germany's oldest Gothic cathedrals.
A Milestone: My Newsletter
The newsletter was also a monthly sprint topic at The Content Society. I had already learned the basics of newsletter marketing in 2022 in the WordPress and Divi course by web designer Birgit Hotz , but not yet implemented. At The Content Society, there are instructions and video tutorials on all important blogging topics, which were also a great help to me when setting up my newsletter with ActiveCampaign.
In April, I sent out the first newsletter to my subscribers, most of whom I knew personally (family and friends). I'm delighted that a few new readers have signed up over the course of the year, including some from abroad 😃.
Originally, I had planned to write one newsletter per month. In the end, however, there were only five in total. Actually sending out the newsletter every month is one of my goals for 2024!
Increasing Reach with Pinterest
In July, I took part in The Content Society Pinterest Sprint. Pinterest is a visual search engine that many users use to find blog posts about their favorite topics, which they pin to their online pinboard to find them again later. As usual, the TCS course platform offered detailed videos and instructions on the topic of Pinterest. As I wanted to delve deeper into the topic, I also booked the Online course "Pintastische Reichweite" by Julia Burget.
I created my first pins for my existing blog posts and was able to attract more people to my blog in the first few months than I did with Instagram, for example, where I have been active for almost three years. However, I have to admit that I can certainly reach a lot more users with Pinterest if I create new pins more regularly. Another goal for 2024!
Trip to Egypt in October: The World in Turmoil
I had already booked a trip to Egypt in March. Two days in Cairo were to be followed by six cruise days - three on Lake Nasser and three on the Nile. Egypt was a bucket list destination for me and I was looking forward to seeing the incredible millennia-old buildings and art treasures with my own eyes.
It was only a few weeks before the start of the trip that it became clear that my Australian friend Paula would be accompanying me. We met years ago on a Garden Route tour in South Africa and have been on many fascinating trips together since then. The trip to Egypt took place from October 10 to 19. Beforehand, I had booked three nights in Frankfurt to visit some museums. In the morning of October 8, I heard on the news that Israel had been invaded by Hamas the day before. Like many others, I was shocked. In the evening, I sat in an Indian restaurant opposite the MotelOne Frankfurt-Römer,where I had booked my room, when a demonstration (pro-Palestine) apparently deviated from the planned route. From the restaurant, I was able to observe the angry crowd while the police via loudspeaker tried to persuade the demonstrators to keep to the prescribed route. The atmosphere among the protesters was charged, and the whole situation was scary for me and the other diners. For a few minutes, I wondered whether I would get back to my hotel across the street in one piece. Eventually, the police managed to get the demonstrators to stick to their predetermined demonstration route after all. Back at the hotel, I wondered how the situation in the Middle East would develop and whether this trip to Egypt was really a good idea. As we all know, the situation escalated further over the next few days and developed into a war. I was worried - but as there was no travel warning, I flew to Cairo on October 10.
We had a fascinating journey during which we hardly got any information about the conflict as we had no internet access for days (especially on Lake Nasser). On the last day we anchored in Luxor and visited the Valley of the Kings, the Karnak Temple and finally the Luxor Temple. After the sightseeing program, we boarded the bus that was to take us back to the ship. After a short drive, the road was blocked by a crowd of people demonstrating against Israel's attacks on Gaza. Our coach was surrounded by angrily chanting Egyptians. I was scared - and saw that my fellow passengers felt the same. Luckily, after a few minutes, the bus driver managed to navigate the bus onto a side road and us back to the ship. That night, we were driven to the airport in Luxor, from where we started our flight home. We had a wonderful time in Egypt with many interesting and unforgettable experiences, but in the end we were all glad to leave the region and fly back home.
The Palestinian conflict has been with me and all of us all our lives. Again and again it disappears from our consciousness until something terrible happens and reminds us that it is constantly present, but that we all like to suppress it. The two demonstrations in Frankfurt and Luxor, which I witnessed, made me very aware that we will not live in peace until this conflict is resolved.
Tagline Sprint in November: Bucket List Deutschland
In November 2023, I developed my tagline Bucket List Deutschland during a "tagline sprint" at The Content Society. In focused and creative Zoom meetings, I - like many of my fellow bloggers - found my perfect tagline with the guidance of Judith Peters.
As a former financial controller who used to deal with "claims" in the sense of financial claims or demands, I learned during the annual program The Content Society by blogger coach Judith Peters on the importance of a concise marketing tagline (in German called "Claim", which is a pseudo-anglicism) for self-employed people and entrepreneurs. My tagline "Bucket List Deutschland" perfectly reflects the focus of my travel blog. The idea of my personal "Bucket List Deutschland" was born during the pandemic, when international travel became impossible. By exploring German regions, I developed a new enthusiasm for the beauty of my home country. In my first year as a travel blogger, I concentrated on creating extensive listicles - for example about the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, most beautiful destinations, Cities, Road trips as well as Christmas markets in Germany. My goal is to give readers the tools and information they need to create their own bucket list for Germany, whether they want to explore a city, a region or the entire country. I hope that my careful research and compilation of highlight lists will help my readers find and discover their very own favorite travel destinations in Germany.
My 3 Favorite Blog Posts of the Year
Weimar Sights - The Complete City Guide (with map) August 11, 2023:
I love Weimar because it is a really beautiful city that has a lot to offer culturally. Goethe, Schiller, Bach, Liszt, Nietzsche and many others spent a considerable part of their lives in the city of the classics. In addition, the Bauhaus was founded here. I have already visited Weimar three times and have packed all my knowledge into this article. Here you'll find detailed descriptions of the most important sights, hotel and restaurant tips as well as the perfect city tour to get to know Weimar in just one day.
This article contains my personal Bucket List Deutschland. I love culture, art, beautiful cities and landscapes. The UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany are a kaleidoscope of places worth seeing, from the Viking settlement of Haithabu in Schleswig-Holstein to the monastery island of Reichenau in Lake Constance. I have the ambition to visit all 52 German UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the next few years - I've already done over half of them! This article is particularly close to my heart because I learned an incredible amount about German history during my research.
Best Travel Guides Germany: Forget Lonely Planet! from November 3, 2023:
The rant was once a weekly topic in The Content Society in 2023, but I couldn't think of any suitable topic at the time, so I put it off until later. Then in October, when I came across the Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2024 list, I was very annoyed not to find a single German destination among the recommendations. I took this as an opportunity to take a closer look at the Lonely Planet travel guide Top destinations in Germany* - and found my perfect topic to rant about! The article also contains an overview of really good travel guide books for Germany.
My Year 2023 in Numbers
- Published articles: 18 (without this year in review) with over 60.000 blogged words
- Most read blog post: Day Trips from Würzburg - the 11 Most Beautiful Destinations
- German-speaking website visitors: 1872, non-German speaking website visitors: 430
- Domain Authority of my website: 13/100 (was 0/100)
- Instagram followers: 2238 (was 1883)
- Kilometers run: 840
What Else Was Going On in 2023
My Goals for 2024
- Trips I would like to take in 2024:
- Two road trips in Germany and getting to know new regions and sights.
- Visiting five German cities that I don't know yet.
- A major trip abroad, for example to Brazil or South Africa.
- Advancing my blog:
- Write 52 blog posts.
- Send a newsletter to my subscribers once a month.
- Create a freebie to attract more newsletter subscribers.
- Revise my About Me page and my homepage.
- Create three Pinterest pins per week.
- Spend more time with people who are good for me (one or two appointments per week)
- Read in the evening (fiction!) instead of watching TV or sitting at the PC.
- More cinema, theater, concerts, wellness (one activity per week)
- Take care of my health (check-ups, at least 3 - 4 exercise sessions per week)
- My motto for 2024: "On a bucket list mission through Germany"