These are 13 of the Best Tips for Starting a Travel Blog
I cannot believe that my blogoversary is coming up in June. A YEAR of writing about places, people and experiences I loved. It has been a challenge as blogging certainly isn’t a simple online journal retelling my adventures. It isn’t putting “The Best Stories Told Between the Pages of A Passport” in a digital format. It is in fact a full-time job. After nearly 2 years, I can definitely give you the round-up of all round-ups to get YOU on the right track to starting a travel blog. I haven’t had the best year in some of the blogging adventure, but in other ways, I have and it has proven serious illumination.
Many out there look at starting a travel blog thinking it is the ultimate of luxury jobs. A career so fun and rewarding. I see the wheels turning in some people’s heads to whom I converse about what I do and I just wait for that moment where they utter “Gee, I am thinking of starting a travel blog. What do I need to do?” (Insert smirk and “where do I begin” question here.) So in response to the overflowing number of such questions I receive daily, I have decided to start a fresh section on the blog with advice and tips from my own experience. My third year of blogging will hopefully prove more lucrative, more enjoyable, and more rewarding if my set goals are attained. And I wish the same success for you. Here are my 13 points to get you travelling and starting a travel blog in the right direction.
Starting a Travel Blog- 13 Tips
Decide on a Niche
This was my biggest problem when starting a travel blog. Still is really. I struggled and continue to struggle in choosing a definitive what I wanted to do and I am still morphing my current blog’s focus to the new niche I have decided to feature.
“Travel” as your niche is just too generic nowadays to survive. People in every corner of cafes, schools, houses, hostels, you name it, are writing blogs with the same ultimate purpose- to be the world’s #1 digital nomad or expert in guiding readers through content. With this huge competition, you seriously need a niche that is unique and that gives you enjoyment to write about.
When I started my blog, I thought about writing mainly about my travels in the 40 countries I have visited. There wasn’t really any direction or focus on the posts other than information to my readership. This wasn’t going to make me stand out in the blogosphere against so many established bloggers. Don’t spend all this time and effort writing posts that don’t have that hook to get readers returning.
If you enjoy particular areas of the world, or you specialize in that region, write solely about that and have a monthly feature on a new out-of-the-area destination. Or if you are particularly fond of a specific activity or sport, why not do a blog participating in that sport in countries around the world. Pick something that is more specific than travel. Choose a travel-related topic, and give readers some value in each post.
Need Niche Help? Create a Mind-Map
So there is the preconception that choosing a niche is simple. It is not. This niche will be your blog’s focus to get readers hooked on your writing and content. To hone in on what you should write about and what you enjoy, create a mind-map.
Put the word “Travel” in the centre, circled, then create sub categories linked to the centre of all the things that interest you. Next, decide based on your experience, which one will give you a satisfying amount of content that will continue to grow with topics? If you choose something too specific, you may run out of ideas and restrict your opportunities to work with brands. For example, I thought about writing about coffee around the world. I am such a coffee nerd that I thought I would never run out of topics. However, as nice as it was, there were few opportunities for growth, sponsorships, and working with brands. So instead, I created a section on my blog that focuses on local coffee shops around the world which works well with my local tourism focus.
So I decided to go local and with a passion-specific holiday focus. I opted to focus on local tourism and Walt Disney World Vacations which brought a whole new audience and perspective to the site. I researched what readers would enjoy and get something from and also felt a section on blogging would do this corner of the internet a whole lot of good!
Choose a Catchy Name
The first thing I must do in this piece of this post is express my disdain for the words below. Please, I beg you, PLEASE when starting a travel blog avoid the following words when selecting a name. They are seriously overused and, can pin you to a specific style, destination, or even niche with future difficulty in making potential changes.
First a little about the word I HATE the most: Nomad.
I hate this word. The blogging community has taken this word from its original dismal definition to describe a writer with no fixed address. It really has been overused within the community and would not give you that step above the rest. Also, can you seriously see the word “Nomad” in a title of a luxury travel blog or one that focuses on cruises for example? Didn’t think so. So unless you plan on writing and travelling in this manner for the duration of your blogging career, or don’t mind a massive re-brand years later, avoid this word. Re-brand you say? I did. As your blog’s name is your brand. It is essential to think of it this way.
The rest of these words listed below have the same stigmas attached. They are boring, they are overused, and quite frankly, make some larger brands cringe at the sight of these titles. Be original and find a name that speaks to you and what your mind map revealed:
Off the Beaten Path
Road Less Travelled
Use and Learn WordPress
So I’m not going to lie, I have a resident website expert who has helped me a great deal with my site as I am the dumbest when it comes to code and setting up sites. With a bit of frustration, tears, growls, and in the end, celebrations, my blog was born.
I cannot express enough however, how important it is to use WordPress over Blogger, Squarespace, Wix and other competing providers. These guys are great for starting out, but if you want your blog to be a business, it is important to start with the right foundation.
Take a WordPress course and get the knowledge you need for starting a travel blog with the right settings in place. In a course you can learn how to choose a theme, which plugins are important to have implemented, and how to SEO your blog like crazy. I am still learning the ropes. Heck, this beautiful site is a product of my expert’s handy work and sleepless nights.
Buy Server Space
Maybe I should become an affiliate for Bluehost, but I am going to tell you right now that you need to buy server space. This is so important. Host your blog the right way. Don’t rely on others. Your blog is YOUR business, YOU Baby, YOUR bread and butter. You are your blog’s BOSS. By controlling the server space, you are keeping it the way you want it to look.
So when starting your travel blog, Bluehost is a great host. They work best with low volume traffic and can get you on the right foot at building your brand.
However, as my blog grew, I had to change my server and went with the delightful Siteground. Their service is faster, their packages are reasonable, and their online chat is top notch for any hiccups you have.
Don’t Use too many Plugins!
Don’t make the mistake I made and download so many plugins when you don’t know what you are doing. There are essential plugins that you need to download and implement to make your site run smoothly and then there are others that are more of a luxury to have.
Ensure you have these plugins installed:
Yoast SEO – a brilliant plugin to ensure your keywords and readability are up to scratch. I personally use the premium as they have great additional features like 301 redirects for any slugs you change along the way for SEO purposes.
Jetpack – a protective plugin for your site. If your site goes down, it will email you to let you know.
Wordfence – I have had over 25,000 hack attempts blocked by Wordfence. Do yourself a favour and download this security to ensure your information is protected
Akismet – This plugin reduces spam from your website. Filter out those spammy comments!
Pinterest Button – This one will allow users to pin your articles to Pinterest Boards
WP-Smush – this reduces the size of the images in your WordPress media library
WooCommerce – If you decide to have a shop
Shareoholic or other sharing plugin – this will allow for sharing of your articles on multiple social media platforms
Set Up Your Social Media Platforms
Once you have established your name and bought your domain, be sure to capture your name on all the social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. If the name is taken, be inventive so that the handle you use still points back to your site.
Once you have captured these, begin building your profiles to reflect your brand and niche. If you are new to certain platforms, do purchase literature or read other blogs about the do’s and don’ts.
One piece of advice that I received was to focus completely on two social media outlets at a time. When you get those up and running, begin the others. If you start all at the same time, you will be overwhelmed and perhaps set them up incorrectly.
Do a Content Dump
What I mean by this is write down all the topics you wish to write about, the categories, and the sections you want on the blog.
Plan ahead 6 months of where you want your blog to go, where you want to cover, what you wish to offer readers, and what you wish to invest. By doing this, you have a plan and can build your blog as efficiently as possible. I floundered for awhile on deciding what to write about. If you want to be successful, try sticking to your plan to achieve your goals.
Become Chummy with Google
What I mean by this is to connect your blog to Google Analytics. This way, you can track your traffic and see where you are attracting the most hits. This number will be super important when working with brands. Most of them will request these statistics which will help them decide on whether they will work with you or not.
Choose Affiliates WISELY
When you are first starting out, you will think that each email you receive to work with you as an affiliate for their product is a step forward and a great opportunity; however, stop and think whether it is within your niche or just looks like a ploy to get more clicks, do-follow links, and money from readers. I use only certain affiliates on my site – World Nomads as I believe in Travel insurance, and other travel-related companies. I have received requests for ceramics, toys, and other household items that certainly don’t scream travel to me. I politely turn down these opportunities and have not looked back.
Avoid all the Pop-ups and Ads!
Google HATES pop-ups. In fact, there was a PSA released last year from them stating that they will be cracking down on sites with overbearing numbers of pop-ups that either block the content continuously or insist on personal information before proceeding.
Pop-ups hardly ever work nowadays, clutter your site, and can slow your site down significantly. Plus, ad pop-ups aren’t always for your niche! For ages the ads featured in the pop-ups were of skincare, technology and other things. Nothing ever was about travel or my niche.
When you set up your email subscriber area, avoid the pop-ups and create an evergreen sidebar feature that doesn’t annoy your readers that stop on by.
Make Sure You Have an About Me Page
Yes, you must write a section about YOU and your background. Make it punchy and interesting, add photos, and background info on your skills and experience.
Include your most recent posts, posts that you are proud of, sponsored posts, or some of all of these. Also include all your social media handles and your latest video if you have a channel.
Make sure there are lots of pictures and that they are interesting and fun! If you are a travelling guru, you must be aesthetic and show yourself in a variety of experiences.
Avoid Comparisons, High Expectations, and Envy!
My biggest piece of advice is this one. Comparing to other bloggers is the worst thing you can do as it will make you change your direction too many times, make your to-do list very overwhelming (oh this blogger did this, maybe I should do this and do that, and maybe I should change my niche altogether…), and make you fall victim to this thief of happiness and progress. It will lead to blogging misery and in some cases, concession to the blogging world. Don’t concede. Don’t give up.
The average blogger doesn’t make any money until 2 years of hard work, networking, content development, and built followings are established. Only the luckiest of them all who have friends possibly in the industry can make it big in less than this amount of time.
I became very disheartened with my progress, my struggle with traffic, my lack of support from the industry and did fall victim to the comparison game. It is tough, it is HARD WORK, and it isn’t (as many think and have the attitude) just about freebies.
If you put these 13 steps into action when starting a travel blog, you will be on the road to success. The best thing you can do for yourself is allow for TIME to make things happen and for the growth. Your blog’s success can be measured with the three P’s. Just remember them: Patience, Planning, & Persistence.
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