So you’ve decided that you want to start a travel blog (or any blog, really). Well let me tell you, there is a lot more to it than you can probably every thought. This shouldn’t deter you from getting your blog started, but you should be aware of everything that you should keep in consideration before you put your blog together. I’ll walk through my top 15 tips for starting a travel blog in this post, so that you don’t have to go through the growing pains that I went through when I first started over a year ago.
1 | Selecting a Blog Name
Choosing your blog name can seem like the most daunting of tasks. Contrary to some advice out there, I don’t think you should sweat this too much. If you don’t already have an idea in mind, just start jotting down words that are relevant to your niche. Get a specific as possible here. If you are only pulling up words that have been used to death (e.g., nomad), feel free to pull out the thesaurus and mixing things up a bit.
As soon as you come up with something that really resonates with you, you have to do some research. Is there a website out there that is already using that name? Are there social media handles available? If it’s taken, be prepared to go back to the drawing board. As soon as you find one that is free, lock it down! This means purchasing the domain and securing all the social media handles that you can right away. (Even if you don’t plan to use social media for a while).
2 | Website Hosting
This is a big one – you need to find a place to self-host your blog. If you’re like me, you probably don’t really know what this means. To explain it simply, it just means that you’ll have full creative license over your site. Platforms such as blogger.com or wordpress.com are great for a personal / private blog, but if you are looking to make some side income, you need to be self-hosted. While there are a few options in the market for ways that you can do this, the best option from all experts is WordPress. There is a bit of a learning curve, but you’ll have full control over everything on your site, and access to the best widgets / add-ons available in the market.
For an affordable hosting option, I recommend Siteground. They have plans for as low as $3.95/month, which is an absolute bargain. As your website traffic grows, you should consider BigScoots as they offer very affordable rates (less than $40/month) and have the capacity to handle up to 750,000 site visits/month!
3 | Setting up a Quality Website
Your site should be something that you love. This means that you should actually invest in a great theme – preferable one that is customizable and SEO-friendly (we’ll get to this term in #6). If choosing a great option right away seems a little scary, I recommend that you start with a free theme for a bit while you look for a theme that truly suits all of your needs.
To find what you’re really looking for, you should peruse the sites of bloggers and find a few examples that you really love. You can then follow a few steps to try to figure out what theme they are using, click here for more information. After you find a theme that you like, you should do research on the developer to make sure it’s a good theme. Themes should be lightweight and mobile-friendly, just to name a few key qualities. My personal recommendation is that you use a Studio Press theme (like me). These themes will not slow down your website, and have so many great options for customization.
4 | Building a Brand
Some folks will talk to you about selecting a niche, but I think that it’s more important that you build a strong brand. At the most simple level, your brand is how you help others. For example, I help people afford the travel of their dreams. I chose this as my brand as I am not really interested in being super niche in one travel destination, for example. But that might be you! Take some time to really think about this as you build out your site and start writing posts. Everything that you offer should all center around your brand.
Another aspect of your branding is the colors, fonts, and images that show on your page. To do this, I recommend pulling colors and pictures that you really like, then thinking about why they make you feel this way. Then think about if that is the feeling that you would like to convey on your blog. Once you have the right feel down, you should put together a branding board so that you can pull this over to your website, and how you’re building it out.
5 | Creating Quality Graphics
Another part of having a professional website is having professional looking graphics on your site. This includes the pins that you feature on your posts, headers on your pages, and other clickable areas on your site. The best resource you can use to get started creating is Canva. Best of all it’s totally free! It’s a great resource for you creatives out there. If actually getting started on your own is intimidating, check out The Complete Blogger Template Toolkit. It has so many items that you can use and modify as you desire!
6 | Writing Quality Posts
When I started blogging, I had no idea that the length of the post was as important as it is. You should make sure your posts are thorough and well-researched before pushing that “publish” button. As you’ll see in #6, the length and quality of your posts is important for showing Google that you have a quality website, and therefore deserve Google traffic. Often, if you write posts that are AT LEAST 1500 words, you’ll have more detailed information than many of your competitors. And the longer you can make them, the better.
A second component to writing great posts is making sure that you do proper keyword research first. Use sites such as KeySearch to learn what folks are actually searching for in Google, and write to those keywords. For additional tips on what to add to your post, use Answer the Public and LSI Graph for related keywords to add to your post.
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7 | Getting Blog Traffic
Traffic is pretty much one of the most important aspects of blogging, and it is definitely is one of the most challenging parts. There are several ways that you can generate traffic to your blog, but there are two primary methods that I’ll discuss here: (1) Google / Search Engine and (2) Pinterest.
Google Traffic / Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Google traffic is what you should always be striving for when you start your blog. I highly recommend that you take some time to get educated on how to do proper keyword research and how to incorporate those keywords into your posts. At the highest level, you need to write comprehensive, and well thought out posts, and always, always, always write with the reader in mind. How are you helping the reader solve a problem?
Ever wonder how Google knows what you’re planning to search before you actually finish typing out your question? This is because there are other bloggers / writers out there who have written to specific questions before. Google is making an educated guess on what you are searching by what exists on the web and what you’ve searched in the past.
As a blogger, your goal is to be at the top of page 1 on the search so that you can get as much traffic a possible to your blog. If you are looking for an excellent course in how to drive traffic to your site, I highly recommend Stupid Simple SEO. This course is very thorough, and has helped me grow my traffic more than 2x over the past few months – and it’s still climbing!
As a new blogger, getting Google traffic is just really not going to happen for several months after you get started. To address this, it’s important to have another source of traffic to help you still grow in the meantime. As a visual search engine, Pinterest is the perfect place for doing this. Most people don’t realize that Pinterest is not a typical social media platform, as it encourages users to go off the platform to other sites.
By learning how to create proper pins and setting your account up the right way, you can start getting traffic early on in your blogging journey. Pinterest does have a bit of a learning curve to it, and I recommend checking out Pinterest Ninja to get started. Once you have the basics down, I also recommend that you read Pinteresting Strategies – this ebook helped me grow my traffic exponentially, as soon as I started implemented the strategies there.
8 | Social Media Considerations
Outside of Pinterest, I think that social media should really take more of a back burner to the rest of your blogging activities. But as I mentioned in #2, you should hold all of your social media handles as soon as you finalize the name of your blog. If you have one platform that you really like, and don’t feel would be a burden to use, then get started on that one. I personally tend to use Instagram the most (outside of Pinterest), but don’t really do much on Twitter or Facebook. You simply can’t focus on everything!
9 | Your Email Handle
When you set up your blog, your host should provide you with the option of setting up your own email handle. Usually this means that you need to get a Gmail account first ([email protected]), then have that be applied to an email that is something like: [email protected]. Getting a personalized email handle seems much more professional that simply relying on a Gmail account, so you should really do this as soon as you get your blog set up. Your blog hosting company should provide detailed instructions for how to do this with them.
10 | Email Marketing
Ah email marketing – this is something that I admit I have a LOT to learn about even now. But as a basic first step, you should get your email marketing platform setup so you can start collecting emails right away! (Something I wish I did from the get go). If you are starting out and don’t want to pay for the service just yet, you should look into using a program like Mailerlite. Once you get more established and are seeking more functionality, check out a program like CovertKit (which is what I use now!).
Both are great options for you to use to put in opt-ins on your blog. Regarding opt-ins (or lead magnets), you should develop helpful checklists, ebooks, email courses, or other reading materials that are relevant to the post they’re reading. For some great reading on email marketing, I recommend you check out Meera Kothand’s website. She’s pretty much a legend in this area.
11 | Blogging Costs
One thing to note is that blogging costs can really add up! The most common costs include a combination of the following:
- Hosting Fees
- Email Service Fees
- Stock Photography Fees
- Tailwind for Pinterest Automation
- Plug-In Costs
- Learning Costs
- Keyword Research Fees
- And more!
When you’re first starting out, it’s important that you try to start small. Use as many good and free services that you can at first and then add on expenses as it makes sense.
12 | Blogging Income
What I didn’t know when I first started out is that there are a variety of ways that you can make some extra cash on your blog. Some of the top ways to do this include:
- Affiliate Marketing: In affiliate marketing, you earn a small commission for products / services you promote on your site. A few top networks for travel bloggers include the GetYourGuide, Booking.com, Amazon, and Share-a-Sale affiliate programs.
- Ad Networks: Google AdSense is the most popular, but premium networks such as MediaVine and Monumetric really offer the best payout rates. You’ll just need more traffic in order to qualify for them.
- Selling Your Own Products: This is usually the most profitable of the areas listed here, with many bloggers offering digital products or services to their readers. These range from ebooks, to ecourses, to consulting services. Common platforms for selling to an audience include Teachable and Shopify, just to name a few.
There are other ways to make income, but this summarizes the way MOST bloggers earn an income.
13 | The Importance of Networking
One of the main reasons why bloggers don’t succeed is because they don’t stay in the game. It is important to find a group of bloggers that you can learn from and who can keep you accountable. I recommend joining a few blogging groups on Facebook to get started. My favorite groups for connecting with others are Blogging Like We Mean It and Blog What You Love. Once you’ve gotten the digital connections down, it’s a great idea to consider attending a blogging conference. I went to my very first one this year – TravelCon by Nomadic Matt, and it was SOOOO worth it. The connections I made there have been so helpful.
14 | Continuous Learning
Like any new hobby or skill that you take on, it is so important that you never stop learning new skills. I have invested quite a bit into my blogging education, and it has been absolutely worth it. If you don’t know where to start with your blogging education, here are the course that I recommend (in the order you should take them):
- Nomadic’s Matt the Business of Blogging: This course provides all the foundational knowledge that you should know to get your blog started off right, and the program comes with the technical instruction needed to set up your blog correctly. It is geared for travel bloggers, but the large majority of it applies to ANY blogger.
- Pinterest Ninja: Get all the basics of pinterest down so that your account starts off on the right foot!
- Pinteresting Strategies: Get advanced tips for growing your pinterest traffic rapidly after you set up your account.
- Stupid Simple SEO: Learn all the essentials for getting your site optimized for google search engines.
Other course may interest you, but I really recommend that you start with these and implement everything!
15 | The Time Commitment
As you can probably tell from this post, starting a blog is a much larger time commitment than just writing a post here and there. (This was the biggest eye-opener for me when I got started). You are essentially running a small company when you start a blog, which means that there are a plethora of items to keep in mind.
Manage your time wisely, and if you do have a predictable schedule, set aside the same time each day (or certain days) where you can just focus on your blog work. Plan your work schedule out by using tools like Trello to keep things organized – this will keep you from experiencing overwhelm, which is what I think causes many bloggers to give up.
In Summary | Tips for Starting a Travel Blog
I hope you found this 15 tips for starting a travel blog helpful! By keeping all of these items in mind BEFORE you get started, you will have no issue starting your site the right way.
What was the most surprising to you? What questions do you have? Let me know in the comments below!