Beginners Guide to Travel Blogging
Critical First Steps + 7 Pro Tips to Make $$$
How many times have you been surfing the web, or checking your Facebook or Instagram feed, and stumbled upon a travel blog that left you wanting? More often than not, probably many times.
And that’s the thing about travel blogging; it is super alluring since it seems somewhat effortless, loads of fun, and a way of earning some extra cash - maybe even a full time income with some serious perks.
You are in the right place!
The truth is, while the opportunities to earn a living from blogging are growing, for every success story there are countless others who never "make it".
We want you to "make it" - whatever that means for you, but usually at least part of it means that you can support yourself financially.
We are continually shocked by the continued growth in travel blogging. Since we started Jobaroo over 10 years ago, we have noticed it keeps getting bigger as more tourist boards, hotels and brands seek out the massive loyal audiences that the internet brings and those audiences continue to grow.
What We Will Cover;
The big questions that once answered will put on the right path... or not.
Pro tips to setting up a travel blog
From starting out to established
At the very outset, it’s important to note that travel blogging is not a cake-walk. There’s much behind-the-scenes toil that does not get captured in the envy-igniting snapshots and travel anecdotes on these blogs.
Check out 15 of the most successful travel bloggers.
Having said that, starting a travel blog apart from providing a great way to connect with family and friends it may in fact be the door to more exciting travel experiences, a fulfilling and monetizable dream, and successful entrepreneurial adventure.
Watch the first minute of this video - it is pretty funny and informative.
Before diving headfirst into travel blogging, however, you need to ask yourself these questions:
1) Do I really have the time and resources for frequent travel?
Do you want to cover where you live?
Financially successful travel blogging and its glamorous presentation requires frequent traveling. Even as not every blog post needs to relate a personal experience, you’re unlikely to succeed at a travel blogger unless you are able to offer your own inputs and with reasonably regular frequency over a decent period of time.
If you are just starting out, then you need to at least consider that it may take a year or two to gain some real traction and beyond that you will want to capitalize on your hard work.
Alternately some travel bloggers cover their home turf and do very well from that. For example, we met Lou Mongello from WDWRadio (a Blog and Podcast that is very successful) at TBEX which covers what is going on a Walt Disney World where Lou lives.
2) Can I sustain a blog?
To have people coming back to your blog again and again, you naturally need to give them content bites to feed on at regular intervals. That, in turn, requires regimented ideation and content generation. Would you have the time to churn out fresh ideas and embed them in engaging posts on a biweekly basis, if not more often?
Sustaining any blog requires dedicated attention and work. Do you think you’ll be able to commit to that?
3) Am I doing this for creative expression or the money?
When you’re starting a travel blog, you need to have some clarity on what your end goal is. Is your blog a simple medium of self-expression or do you wish to capitalize upon its monetary potential?
In most cases, the answer is a weird mix of both. The key is to think carefully about what your primary goal is and approach the act of blogging the same way. If you’re blogging as a hobbyist, your selling point, strategy, and parameters of success would be different. If you’re doing it to augment your income, these criteria would be different again.
Before we get into the 4 things, there are some great inexpensive courses out there that can take you step by step through the process. One of the best is from a well known (and very successful) travel blogger who you may know call Nomadic Matt. His course is definitely worth a look.
OK so, once you are sure of your motivations and commitment to travel blogging, the task of launching the blog begins. This phase of blog initiation is potentially challenging for some and fun for others. It may even seem tedious if you are not tech-savvy. But once the blog is up and running, you’ll probably be well-primed for the journey that lies ahead and you will also have a leg up in many situations where you can help others set up websites.
1) The theme and USP of your blog
If you want to succeed, your blog should have its own story; why it exists, what purpose it seeks to serve, and who its audience is. All of this needs to be preserved and propagated in each post of your blog.
It is important to have a thematic cohesiveness to your blogging enterprise. For instance, you could cover specific types of travel experiences such as cruises or road-tripping, or a particular niche of tourism such as cultural centers or natural wonders.
You should also have a specific lens through which experiences are curated. You could write from the perspective of educating the reader about places, providing anecdotal entertainment, or exploring them as characters (wedding-site mongers, recluse-wanderers, adventure-junkies, and so on).
It is only when you have something fresh, foreign, and fabulous to offer your audience that it will develop a penchant for your blog. The difference between just one-of-those-blogs and a viral blogsite is its ability to relate, inspire and entertain.
2) What's in a good name?
It goes without saying that your blog name should be distinctive. It should set you apart from the others and also convey something about your specific style or motives for blogging.
It is important to avoid cliché epithets which include words like “adventure”, “nomad”, “gypsy”, “travel”, and so on. These are too pedestrian and hugely overdone.
Make the name appealing, but without being crass. While some words or slangs might seem “cool” at the time of creation, when you are later pitching them to invite collaborations or sponsorship, you might be quite embarrassing.
Try to get yourself an easy URL and a .com domain name. While simple it is important to make your online-home more easily accessible.
3) The technical aspects of blogging
Launching a blog into cyberspace requires some labor. If you’re not confident about doing it yourself, you can enlist the help of a more web-savvy person. You may even get paid support, in which case your effort it highly minimized. However, if you wish to continue blogging independently, it is recommended that you get the hang of the nitty gritties from the very beginning.
The first step to launching your blog is setting up the hosting. There are scores of hosting companies out there and only research/reviews can tell you which may be a reliable one.
A good hosting company (like Bluehost who we use) should responsive customer support, good speed, and decent security. You should begin by searching for budget hosting companies and choose one that enjoys a fair reputation.
Go in for a basic package, which you can later upgrade when you have more clarity about your requirements. Acquire your domain name and then you’re good to go.
The second step is installing the content management system through which you’ll be operating your blog. The usual candidate are WordPress and BlogSpot, though the former is far more popular amongst personal bloggers. It looks more professional, has easily accessible usage tutorials, and a more intuitive user interface.
Once you install WordPress and enter in your User Log In details, you are finally the owner of your WordPress-powered travel blog.
Sign in with your credentials and you’ll see your Dashboard; from here you can access all the important blog locales such as your posts, static pages (like About Me), comments, appearance customization options, settings, plug-ins and so on. It may be a good idea to watch some tutorial videos to understand the WorkPress UI.
Once you’re comfortable with the basics, it’s time to think about adding plugins. Plugins are additional site features which enhance the functionality and user-experience when using a blog. Keep in mind that there is such a thing as too-many-plugins. Choose the ones that actually do serve some purpose vis-à-vis your blogging goals. Some good plugins include:
- Akismet, which removes spam and spam-esque comments
- Comments Not Replied To, which shoes unanswered comments
- Contact Form, which allows users to email you directly
- Yoast, which is a powerful SEO plugin
- Mash Share, which allows users to share your posts on various social media platforms.
When the essential virtual machinery is in place, you can go ahead and improve the graphics and presentation of your website.
You can outsource certain cosmetic tasks such as logo/banner designing, image-inclusion, etc, to freelancers who are seeking such projects on various websites. You can look for suitable helping-hands on Fiverr or 99 Designs.
4) Creating your business and brand
If your aim is to earn money off of your travel blog, brand-building must begin from the very get-go. Do not take this key requisite lightly. Many bloggers begin with casual posting and have to later work backwards to establish their brand.
In order to keep ahead, make sure to furnish your basic Static Pages at the very outset. Have your About Me/Us, My/Our Story, Contact Page, etc updated and relevant.
If you are able to generate interest from the basics of your brand story, i.e., who you are, why you’re blogging, and how you can be reached, you already have an informed audience. An informed audience knows what to expect from your blog and why they want to come back to it. That creates loyalty and brand value.
Another initial investment you should make is getting Google Analytics. It allows you to track your traffic, see which kind of content is receiving better response, and measure your growth.
It’s a great tool if you’re in it for the long haul, as long as you are not obsessive in your tracking.
Most importantly, think about your business strategy at every step. How’re you going to capitalize upon your content’s reach? How will you increase your influence and readership? What are your goals for the month, the quarter, the year? Which brands do you aspire to working with?
All these questions need to be answered in a carefully planned and systematic manner along the way. Do not lose sight of your goals – remember, slow and steady…
Making Money With Travel Blogging
A novice travel blogger might wonder about exactly how travel blogging pays. There are several ways in which to do that and typically, it’s a combination of several methodologies that will bring in the big bucks. It is important to remember though, that at the end of the day, it is primarily the extent of your influence and reach in the virtual world that’ll finally earn you money. Naturally, you won’t find your coffers filling up the day you launch your blog, but there are other ways you can earn money in the early days of starting your blog that help you to become a better writter or marketer.
You need to be patient, persistent, and professional, of course. That’s when the money will begin to trickle in.
Ways to Earn Income Before the Blog is Established
One of the quickest ways to make money is through writing for others. This is especially awesome in the early stages of you blog as you can use it as a case study. Websites like Freelancer and Upwork enable you to get that work. Of course if you are in Australia common options for backpackers to get money quickly are Farm Work and Hospitality Work.
Freelance Website Creation and Online Marketing
There are a truck load of small businesses who want from someone who knows how to set up a website and do social media. The cool thing about creating your own blog is that you gain experience in all these areas. Sure, at first you won't be able to compete with sophisticated and expensive marketing agencies but often that is not what small businesses are after - they want results at a reasonable price.
Established Travel Blog Ways to Earn Income
Paid Marketing Campaigns
Once you have a decent followership for your blog and parallel social media accounts, you can begin pitching your work to different entities such as travel & tourism companies, destinations and resorts, tour guides and services, and so on. This is usually facilitated by sending them your media kit which provides a concise account of your influence in the market. These entities may then pay you to promote their businesses via your blog and social channels. If you’re eyeing the paid-marketing pile of money, have a strong will, for there’s bound to be many rejections along the way. Big brands typically go in for paid marketing via big, established travel bloggers.
In some cases, a brand may want you to promote their product or a service experience through a comprehensive post. On other occasions, other bloggers may you to cover their writing or enterprise on your blog. In either case, you need to ensure that your sponsored posts match the overarching theme of your blog. If your blog or social media channels become overtly promotional by detaching from your original blog story, readers may quickly dismiss you as a money-chasing-no-substance enterprise. Beware of such tendencies and plan your sponsored posts accordingly.
This is the most steady and lucrative way of making money through blogging, provided you have a wide audience. Affiliate marketing enables you to promote the products of others through your blog, in exchange for a commission. It is best to keep your affiliate partnerships relevant to your travel writing; consider enterprises such as AirBnB, Booking.com, and so on. Do not establish affiliate partnerships with unrelated businesses which may again put off readers who dislike irrelevant advertisements.
Consulting and Collaboration
Once your travel blog is well-established and well-monetized, you may also take up travel/blog consulting. You can help people with their travel plans or even their blogging dreams, at a fee. You could also consider collaborating with other travel bloggers from your pool of influence for a few posts to increase readership. With the foundation laid well and routine operations in place, such innovative ways of blog monetization become viable options eventually.
Keep Going – Do Not Give Up
Any successful enterprise on the internet, be it blog-based or otherwise, requires a significant gestation period. This is perhaps the biggest challenge for new bloggers – working tirelessly without significant reward for a protracted period of time. However, for your travel blog to succeed, you need to give it time.
And if you strategize intelligently, you are sure to generate a decent income from travel blogging. Your only mantra should be to keep at it, to not give.