Travel blogging is a huge and growing industry – there are over a whopping 200 million travel-related blogs on the net with hundreds more being launched every day. While it’s definitely possible to make a full-time income it’s not as easy as it looks. We’ve been professional travel bloggers for nearly eleven years and we’re honoured to be ranked as one of the top travel blogs in the UK. So where to start? Can you really run a business as a digital nomad? To help answer the question we get asked the most, we’ve put together this step-by-step guide on how to start a travel blog and turn it into serious business…
Decide on your niche when you start your travel blog
Yes, travel is already a niche but to really stand out you’ll need to focus on a smaller section within travel for example; budget, luxury, adventure or even just one country. We first started out as a very general travel blog focusing on stories and travel tips all over the globe but when we changed our focus to under-the-radar and beautiful travel destinations we increased our audience and received a lot more mentions and links.
This is also a good stage to decide whether you’re going to become a multiple author site or a solo blogger. There are pros and cons to both – with a multiple author site you won’t need quite as much stamina but it’s also much harder to keep a strong voice on your blog.
Think about your branding
Next you’ll need to think about how your website is going to look and feel. Branding basically means a consistent theme – from your website name and the design to the style of your writing and even the font you choose.
Even how you’re posing in your profile photo (and even what you’re wearing and the background!) can make a difference to your branding so make sure it all fits together in a tight theme. Decide on a theme, whether it’s going to be offbeat, stylish, fun etc. and make it as memorable as possible – you’ll need to stand out amongst all the zillions of other travel blogs out there!
Buy a domain name
Okay, now you’re ready to start setting up. It’s not easy to find a good, original travel blog name these days but it’s very important to get this bit right (remember this will form a huge part of your branding). We’d suggest finding around 10 – 15 decent domain names and get the opinions of friends and family too, the crowd always seems to know best!
Always have your branding in mind when making your final decision and of course, it’s important to be travel-related too. When you’re ready, buy the domain name. We purchased ours from the UK registered site 123 reg (this is also a good European option too) but if you’re based in the USA or Canada then 1 & 1 is a very popular option.
Realise the importance of a beautifully designed site
The design of your travel blog is your chance to stand out – if your site looks professional, advertisers are much more likely to take your site seriously. You’ll also increase traffic and affiliate commissions.
It also helps with rankings – the better your site looks the more people will hang around and look through your pages, and the more you will be rewarded with traffic. If you don’t have a handy web designer friend or a large budget for a website agency, you still have options. The most popular and user-friendly platform for blogging by far is WordPress but then you’ll still have to choose and buy a theme (themes start from only $29).
Choosing the right theme provider is very important – a poorly designed and coded theme can lose you traffic and conversions – so it’s best to stick to trusted names.
If you are going to start a travel blog and run it as a business, you’ll also need to take your logo very seriously too as this is going to form another very important part of your branding. If you’ve got a bit of money to invest I would consider getting a graphic designer with a great reputation to design your logo.
Brush up on your writing skills
Writing is going to be your main focus so yes it’s definitely going to help if you have a little bit of a flair for it or even like writing! I always enjoyed creative writing back in my school days but I was definitely rusty when we started the travel blog! One of the first things that threw me a little was how long it took to craft and structure an article…and how tricky it is.
You’ll also might find yourself worrying about whether it’s good enough before you hit that scary publish button! Yes, you’ll get quicker and improve your skills more and more as time goes on, but to get your blog noticed (and to get links back to it in order to gain traction in big, bad Google) your content has got to be of a decent standard. To get your writing into a blog-worthy shape before starting out it’s probably worth looking into a writing/coaching course or even a self-help ebook specifically aimed at blogging.
Also admit when you need help! You’ll be in danger of burning out if you try and write every post yourself so accept guest posting, ask friends or even hire writers when needed.
Think about your images on your travel blog business
Blogs are extremely visual and images can add a huge amount of value to your storytelling – in fact, imagery can often make or break a website so it’s in your interest to get the best possible images you can. They encourage social media sharing, can add real insight to your posts, and make your blog far more memorable.
If you remember to use alt-tags, images are also excellent for rankings. If you want to take travel blogging seriously (especially as a business) it would idea to learn how to take a good photograph or two! If you don’t have a natural flair for capturing images there are lots of places you can hone your skills if you find that practice doesn’t make perfect.
Get to grips with running your site
The more simple aspects of blogging on a WordPress site like editing content, posting new pages and adding images are pretty straightforward and easy to pick up. Other functions like adding plugins etc. may take a bit more time to learn.
Launch with a fanfare and make friends quickly!
When you’re ready to launch we would recommend doing it with the biggest fanfare possible – telling everyone you know and shouting about it from your social media channels (that you should have set up already in preparation – this will help both SEO and driving traffic to your site).
A big launch will help gain you as much traction as possible with Google and get your blog noticed. Don’t see other bloggers as competitors, instead make friends with them, comment on popular travel blogs, join blogging sharing groups. Be as active, engaging and likeable as possible!
How to grow your site
Popular techniques now involve ‘link bait’ articles, pitching personal travel stories to the press, running voting contests or competitions, guest posting for top travel blogs and also mentioning other travel bloggers and hope they return a little love too! We mostly used ‘link bait’ as our strategy: articles designed to be highly sharable, controversial or emotional, published with the purpose of catching the attention of people so they get shared and hopefully get linked to more!
Our first link bait article was Top 10 cool and unusual hotels in New York. It was the first article to go viral when we first started the website and even got a mention from Lonely Planet. It still holds many top rankings over ten years later.
Think about how to monetize
It’s all very well knowing how to rank and gain traffic but it’s also very important to have a monetization strategy! There are many ways you can monetize your blog – affiliate schemes, AdSense, banner and video placements, advertorials, sponsored competitions, copywriting for other publishers, and when you get to a certain level, paid campaigns with tourist boards and pitching for sponsorship.
Also, think about selling your own products. For example, David Hoffman from David’s Been Here invented, manufactured, and branded his own inflatable travel pillow (which cleverly contours to your neck for maximum comfort) and is successfully selling the product through Amazon.
Go on a travel blogging course
If you really want take the business of blogging seriously then we would definitely recommend investing in professional blogging courses. Nomadic Matt’s Super Star Blogging is the first one we’d recommend. Matt is the world’s most successful travel blogger and before the course, he used to sell an ebook guide about how to build a successful travel blog which we actually used ourselves to turn this travel blog into a successful business. The course shows bloggers exactly where you need to focus your time and energy, how to grow an audience, write highly sharable content, and how to develop your brand as well as more practical things.
Travel Blog Success is the other professional travel blogging course we’d recommend. It’s an online course and community where you can find the information and resources you’ll need to create your own successful travel blog, including starting up, building it, effective ways of promotion, and making money with your blog. It even covers subjects like how to increase your site’s loading speed (which helps rankings). Run by a group of successful experienced travel bloggers, it has propelled many a travel blogger into the professional league. Also, try the Blogging Fast Lane for some other awesome tips on blogging.
Although running a successful travel blog isn’t an easy thing to achieve, it’s definitely possible to turn it into a serious business if you work hard enough (and have a strategy in mind) and the rewards are huge if you do make it. Yes at times it can feel like you’re juggling several very wriggly hamsters in the air at the same time but there are not many jobs that allows you to be your own boss and travel the world at the same time! I know we wouldn’t change it for anything. Good luck!