I’m often asked how to start a travel blog. If you are thinking about setting up your own travel blog then here are my tips based on more than a decade of blogging.
I’ve been blogging for more than a decade. My team won ‘Best Business Blog’ for the company blog I edited way back in 2007. And just this year I won a Wordball 2016 award for my writing on the origins of Dutch football.
Outside Write is my third travel blog. I ran a niche interest diary while cycling around Spain, and then ran a beer blog for a few years. Along the way I’ve learned quite a bit about travel blogging and become what’s known as a ‘microinfluencer’.
Here are my key tips on how to start your own travel blog:
1) Find your travel blog niche
There are so many travel blogs out there, so you need to cover an area that not only interests you but will also appeal to a wide audience. This is crucial if you want to generate authentic traffic to your travel blog and an engaged social media community.
“The riches are in the niches,” as they say. If you go for something general you will face a lot of competition, so do your research and think about what new angle you can bring to the mix.
I picked football travel, culture and history for Outside Write as whenever I am abroad, which is quite often with work or holiday, I always liked to catch a local football match. Then I realised there was a whole community that did the same, so decided to serve that audience and inspire other curious people.
2) Pick a good website host for your travel blog
I use WordPress as a content management system (CMS) to design my website. There are some great free templates, but I also use paid-for technology from Elegant Themes to customise and improve my travel blog layout and user experience.
You will find you will change your layout a lot once you’ve started your travel blog.
3) Gear up for travel blogging
Blogging evolves so quickly – we’ve gone beyond pure words – so you need to make sure you have the right gear to create engaging video and image content on your travel blog.
I find that my iPhone 5S is fine for images – I’ve even taken photos that are used in print magazines via my iPhone, the quality of the camera is that good. The other feature I use on iPhone is the Voice Memo app to record podcasts with people in situ. To make sure the sound is of the highest quality, it’s best to use a lapel microphone to capture the audio at close quarters.
For filming and high quality images I use the Olympus PEN E-PL7 camera. Not only does it take some fantastic shots and video content, but it also has a flipable screen for you to take selfies and difficult angle shots. The only downside is it doesn’t have a mic jack, but I sync up Voice Memo recordings with my voice in the video.
4) Establish your look and feel
Once you have set up your site, you need to pick a user-friendly, mobile-responsive design for your website. There are loads on WordPress, as I mention above. You will also need to think about your tone of voice and content format. Will your travel blog feature embedded YouTube-based video content or be mainly word-based? Google loves long-form content if you hope to generate traffic from search engines.
People invest in people, so it helps to put yourself front and centre of your blog.
5) Enable your content to spread
You want people to share your content. Make it easy for them by putting social share buttons at the top of your travel blog posts. This should include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ (yes, this is still used in some countries), and WhatsApp for mobile devices.
Encourage comments but use a filter – you will get a lot of spam comments, that’s just part and parcel of being a travel blogger.
Investigate some time in learning search engine optimisation (SEO). Study the principles of how to rank highly on search engines. This way you can get traffic from people invested in researching for travel ideas and tips.
6) Monetise your travel blog
If you want to make money from blogging it is tough. According to research from media list company Vuelio in 2016, just 8% of UK bloggers say their blog is their main source of income. Only 28% receive more than 10,000 unique hits. You need volume and an invested hardcore of followers to generate make money.
There are many ways to monetise your travel blog and you should include a disclosure to make sure people know they’re being marketed to:
Affiliate Links: These enable you to earn a cut of money from purchases made by people who visit your travel blog, click on a link you’ve embedded in a post – such as a review – and buy that product. Look at Amazon Associates or Skimlinks, among others.
Adverts: You can supply space on your site to host ads via Google Adsense or sell space privately to brands. They will want an honest reflection of your traffic to see if it’s the right fit for them.
Sponsored posts: Sometimes known as ‘native advertising’, this includes content supplied at an agreed rate by an advertiser to read like a normal, informative feature but with an emphasis on their product or service. You need to make it really clear to your readers that a post is sponsored.
Likewise, if anyone takes you on a press trip for your travel blog or gives you free entry to an event, for example, then you should disclose it.
7) Lay out a content plan for your travel blog
If you organise your upcoming content ideas then you can better manage your time and scope out the type of content you’re going to create for your travel blog. You can also let your growing community know what they can look forward to.
8) Get social
As I mentioned above, people invest in people, so you need to get active on social media to share your content and enable people to spread it. As a travel blogger you will need a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram as a minimum, and may even want to explore Snapchat.
Consider guest posting on other bloggers’ sites. They may even offer you content too. This way you get known in other people’s networks.
Make sure you install Google Analytics and Search Console (Google Webmasters) code into your site. Familiarise yourself with the tool so you can see where your travel blog’s traffic is coming from, the most popular content, dwell time, bounce rate, and lots of other important data – such as where people are dropping off your site.
Do this regularly. I check into Google Analytics every morning.
Use this data to inform your content strategy for your travel blog going forward. For example, if you are creating three-minute videos but learn from YouTube Analytics that people are switching off after 50 seconds, then you need to create shorter videos.
10) Promote your travel blog
Make sure you get onto blogger lists to ensure that public relations (PR) and marketing people can find you. As your travel blog gets more popular, so you will receive lots of approaches from brands, so you need to decide how you will work with them.
Create an ‘About Us’ page – see ours for an example – to outline clearly to PRs what interests you and how they can work with you.
At the end of the day, when you start a travel blog you need to create engaging, interesting, engaging content, and look at the data to see what works and what doesn’t. You will find your voice eventually, and travel blogging can be really rewarding.
Did I miss anything? Please leave your travel blogging tips in the comments box below. Happy travelling!