You love to write and you want to travel. Retirement is coming up and you’ve decided to devote your life to travel writing. As part of that plan, you want to start a travel blog. Great idea!
Now, how exactly do you start a travel blog?
Most travel bloggers are simply travel writers who blog. These folks write articles for print magazines, and enjoy the pay and perks that go with that. Print travel writers maintain a blog as a way to promote themselves and to share stories, photographs and video their magazine editors may not want. That’s a great gig if you can get it.
Devoted travel bloggers have a different road to go. They travel on their own dime and publish stories they are passionate about and know their audience will eat up. Based on their site traffic, writers can “monetize” their travel blog in a number of different ways I’ll tell you about later.
If travel blogging sounds like the future for you, here is a step-by-step process to starting your travel blog on the road to success.
Find a niche
There are so many blogs in the world, including thousands devoted to travel, you have to find yourself a niche to occupy.
Having a blog about “Travel” just won’t cut it with readers or with search engines. What’s needed is a defining hook to help you stand out from the traveling hoards.
Here some examples of travel blog niches:
But you can specialize further. Like, Luxury Travel for Poor People.
Once your niche is established in the minds of your readers, it may be ok to deviate occasionally, but for the most part stick with your niche.
Register a dynamite domain name
Your domain name is your blog’s identity. Choose it wisely.
The general rule is to find something that rolls off the tongue easily. You don’t want to hear people struggle with it mispronounce it. Much less, mispronouncing it yourself!
Also, use keywords in your domain name. If your thing is budget travel, use something like, travelingonabudget.com. Avoid overused and cliche’ words.
Finally, use a name that is catchy clever or funny. It will help people remember you.
Related: Create a WordPress Website Step 1: Domain Name Registration
As a travel blogger, you have to know how to do everything related to your site. When you’re on the road and your site goes down, you have to be able to bring it back up. You can’t rely on your techie friend to save your ass while you’re climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.
You could go with a free hosted, 3rd-party blogging platform, but, nahhhhhh. Go with WordPress.org. It’s the most popular blogging platform on the planet for good reason. Then, become a WordPress ninja.
This includes knowing how to posting on the fly, sizing and uploading images, optimizing your post for search, and doing general website maintenance. No way around it.
If you want your site to be found in search engines you need to make friends with Google.
In addition to registering and verifying your site in Webmaster Tools, it’s important to place your Analytics tracking code in the right place and know how to read the Analytics reports. That’s how you’ll know what’s working.
Having a growing subscriber list is the basis for all blogging. These are your core followers, the people you can count on to read your posts. Cultivate them by asking for signups all over your site.
Find yourself a good 3rd-party email server to send email alerts as soon as your posts are launched and check the reports regularly to see how many subscribers are opening them. You have to know who’s reading what.
There’s no way to get around social media if you’re going to be a travel blogger. Social media is the best way to cultivate your following and promote your posts. These are the top social channels:
- Facebook Page
- Google +
Once you’re chosen the 3-4 channels to focus on, you’ll find them to be the best places to post thoughts and images you would not normally post on your blog. Before you can monetize your blog you have to build a massive following.
Related: 8 Top Social Media Channels to Promote your Blog
Build a beautiful site
As a WordPress ninja, you could build your site yourself. At least that way you’ll know where everything is. But, DIY might be self limiting. You may not be able to break from the standard template.
If your design skills are stunted, you might want to enlist the help of a web designer who can customize your WordPress theme the way your want and make it look like nothing else on the Web.
I would NOT suggest paying for a someone to create a custom theme for you. Some day you might want to make big changes. Locking yourself into a custom theme might inhibit future growth.
Related: How Custom WordPress Themes are Worse than Premium Themes
Write amazing posts
All of the above is window dressing when you consider your ultimate purpose, which is to present great travel writing. As a travel blogger, you must follow the standard travel writing conventions.
While it is beyond the scope of this post to tell you how to write great travel stories, I can suggest you educate yourself about the craft.
Travel Blog Success has a 27-lesson package that teaches you how to launch your travel blog, from SEO to WordPress to how to tell great stories.
Ultimate Travel Writing Course The course you should take if you’re just starting out and wondering if travel writing is for you.
Matador U Travel Writing School Teaching you how to market your piece and compete in a competitive web environment.
London School of Journalism This travel writing course is an ideal starting point and covers the whole field of modern freelance writing.
Become a killer photographer
Travel blogs are nothing without images. That old saying, “A picture is worth a 1,000 words” is not an overstatement in travel blogging. You gotta have ‘em.
Fortunately, digital cameras have delivered a whole new world of photography. We can shoot, preview, download and post an image within a span of five minutes. No more waiting for your slides to come back from Kodak.
But with great photographic power comes the responsibility to learn how use it. Digital cameras have so many settings it can take years to make use of them. It’s worth learning as much as you can about taking great pictures
Here is a list of Travel photography Quick Tips from National Geographic
Be a joiner
Nobody works in a vacuum. If you want to learn how to be a better travel blogger while making connections to people who can help you, join up with colleagues.
Professional Travel Bloggers Association’s mission is to promote the interests of travel bloggers within the industry by supporting and fostering the needs, careers and relationships of travel bloggers.
Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC) Brings together the country’s most highly respected professional travel writers, bloggers, photographers, videographers and tourism industry experts.
British Columbia Association of Travel Writers – Presents a platform for BC-based travel writers to network and educate each other through its annual symposium and monthly Meetups, among other benefits.
Meetup – This online meetings site has travel blogging groups around the world
Facebook – Travel blog-related groups, such as: Travel Blogging 101, Travel Blogging for the Design Minded Set, We Travel We blog, Travel Bloggers Network, and Travel Blog Chronicles.
Attend travel-related conferences
Conferences are an excellent place to network with like-minded bloggers and industry representatives. You’ll learn how to write a sponsored post and maybe even find a sponsor for that post.
When you have enough success at travel blogging, you can go to these same conferences and speechify.
I’ll say this again: to make money off a blog you need tons of traffic. Exactly how much traffic is a fast-moving target. Maybe you need 5,000 unique monthly visitors, perhaps 50,000. It all depends on your blog.
What I can say is, once you have tons of traffic, there numerous ways to monetize your site.
You can monetize actively or passively.
These are the kinds of sales you have to solicit, negotiate and fulfill.
Sponsored posts — these are posts you are paid to write. A company will pay you write nice things about their product or service, which is fine if you are a sincere fan. But the trap about sponsored posts is if you are not a fan and it shows, your audience will see through your fake raves and stop reading.
Product placement — similar to sponsored posts, a company will pay to be included and linked to in your posts.
Services – offer a service on the side — i.e., training, speaking, stock photography — which are supported by the posts you write on your blog.
Contests – give away a product or service you provide, or get a sponsor to pay for the prize, in exchange for something the readers give you.
These are the sales you set up and then sit back and watch the money roll in.
Affiliates – one of the best ways to monetize. Great for sprinkling into posts. Affiliate links can be placed all over your site — in widgets and in posts and pages — and when each sale is complete you receive a percentage. For items in the 3 digit range, affiliate sales can really add up!
Advertising – static or rotating ads can be placed in your headers, sidebars, footers — or more annoyingly — in your posts. These could be affiliate or flat-rate ads.
Directory – listings of businesses in the destinations in which your blog is focused. Advertisers pay your more for extended listings and perhaps sponsored posts. With a built-in market, you will have endless topics to write about.
Subscriptions – make people pay to read your writing. Have exclusive information that only they can read, special offers only they can accept. This method works best when you are an influencer first.
Membership – similar to selling subscriptions, you form a group who will pay dues to get and share exclusive offers and information.
Related: Create a WordPress Website Step 9: Monetize
Get your Travel Blog On The Road at BCATW 2105
You can learn more about travel writing at the BC Association of Travel Writers 2015 Symposium this Saturday, April 18, in Vancouver, BC.
The theme is Ecotourism: Tread Softly, Write with Impact. I will be the emcee of the program, which includes keynotes from author Jack Christie and photographer David Smith, an editorial panel and industrial panel.
More details are at BCATW2015.
Are you planning to start a travel blog? How will you do it?