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Blogging Tips [Updated December 2018]
Travel blogging has given me the freedom to travel the world for the past 8 years. Want to start your own? This detailed guide will show you the simple steps for how to start a travel blog.
I’ve been working as a professional travel blogger for the past 8 years, and earn six figures annually from blogging. So I regularly receive tons of email and questions asking for tips about how to start a travel blog.
I know, I get it. Seeing constant photos from my wild travel adventures on your Facebook or Instagram feeds makes it look like a dream job.
After all, I get paid to travel the world! I admit it’s a pretty sweet gig.
But travel blogging isn’t as easy as it looks. Far from it. I rarely share the huge amount of behind-the-scenes work that went into making this lifestyle possible.
So today I wanted to share a useful guide on how to get started travel blogging. Because that’s the first step if you ever want to become a professional blogger!
How To Start A Travel Blog In 2018
Starting your very first travel blog is actually pretty easy. If you follow my guide, you can have your own blog up and running today.
Now keep in mind the following advice is for those who are prepared to take travel blogging seriously, as some of these steps require spending money.
If you just want to blog as a hobby, you can always start a simple travel blog for family & friends on WordPress.com. It’s totally free! However if you’re interested in making a living with travel blogging as I do, keep reading.
1: Pick A Name For Your Blog
My first travel blog was called YearAroundTheWorld.com. Do you see the obvious problem with that domain name? Well, I didn’t, not until later.
I was backpacking through Central America, blogging about my experiences and having a great time — when I suddenly decided I wanted to travel for longer than one year. Whoops!
Make It Short & Memorable
Your travel blog domain name should be relatively short, easy to type, easy to spell, easy to remember, and easy to share. I recommend brainstorming by writing down a bunch of words you think will best describe your blog.
Adventure? Food? Culture? South America? What do you want to write about? Who are you? What is your passion? Write everything down and start playing with different combinations of words.
Try using a thesaurus. Ask your friends for advice & suggestions.
Avoid Hyphens & Numbers
This can be difficult to do these days, but it helps to avoid using hyphens or numbers in your domain name because otherwise you’ll be forced to explain it to someone. For example:
POTENTIAL READER: “You have a blog? Cool! Where do I find it?”
YOU: “Oh, it’s called expert hyphen vagabond the number 100 dot com.”
As you can see, this type of domain isn’t the greatest for word-of-mouth marketing, which happens to be a great source of promotion while you’re traveling and meeting people.
Avoid Overused Words
Avoid trademarked company names or words that may be overused in the industry. Sure, you can pick something like Nomadic Bob, Adventurous Wendy, or Wandering Clarence.
But domain names like that won’t stand out very much in the travel blogging niche because those ideas have already been taken by others who are more established than you.
You’ll have better luck in the long-run with something more original.
Think good & hard about choosing your travel blog’s domain name, because changing it, later on, isn’t easy (or fun). Be careful not to pigeonhole yourself either.
If you call your blog Twenty-Something Travel like my friend Steph (sorry Steph!), what happens when you turn 30? Branding yourself well can be important in the business of travel blogging.
I was thinking long-term when I eventually changed my travel blog’s name to ExpertVagabond.com because, let’s face it, at 3 months in I was HARDLY an expert.
Yet I was passionate about becoming a professional travel blogger and knew eventually this would be perfect. I’d just have to grow into my new name!
2: Set Up Hosting For Your Blog
What the heck is hosting? It’s not as confusing as it sounds. Most websites need to “rent” space on the internet. A place to store all your blog’s data, files, and photos so that people around the world can easily access it when they type in your domain name.
Hosting can actually be pretty cheap. I recommend new travel blogs get hosting with BlueHost. There are many different hosting companies out there, but BlueHost makes setting up a new travel blog crazy easy.
They offer quality shared hosting for a very low price (only $2.95 per month for 12 months through this link).
Plus they give you a free domain name! Even better.
[Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through these links, at no extra cost to you.]
Eventually, when you have hundreds of thousands of visitors per month on your blog like me, you may want to upgrade your hosting to a dedicated server. But those can be expensive (mine is over $200 a month)…
So if you are just starting out, getting a shared hosting account with BlueHost is much more affordable.
STEP 1: Click on the green button that says “get started now.”
STEP 2: Pick a hosting plan.
STEP 3: Check to see if your blog name (domain name) is available.
STEP 4: Add extra features if you want to.
Most of these you don’t need. However I do recommend Domain Privacy Protection. Otherwise, anyone can look up who owns your site, giving them access to your mailing address, email, and phone number.
3: Install WordPress Software
To start a serious travel blog, you want a self-hosted WordPress account. This means the WordPress software resides on your hosting company’s servers, not on a free WordPress.com account. What’s the difference?
- Your website is “MyTravelBlog.com” rather than “MyTravelBlog.WordPress.com”
- You own your data and have full control
- You can sell advertising on your site
- You can install plugins & custom themes
- You can use Google Analytics tracking (important)
Yes, you want to use WordPress too. Not Blogspot, not Blogger, not anything else. WordPress is the king of blogging, and probably always will be.
Most professional websites use the WordPress blogging platform these days, even major brands like the New York Times, BBC, Time, Beyonce, etc. You’re in good company!
Installing WordPress with your BlueHost Account is super easy — because it’s done automatically with the click of a button.
Once installed, you’ll be able to log into the WordPress dashboard with your new username and password. Welcome to the club! You now have a travel blog. That wasn’t too hard, was it?
But wait, there’s more!
4: Learn How To Use WordPress
Feeling intimidated about WordPress? Don’t worry. Because it’s the industry standard when it comes to blogging platforms, and has been for years, there are TONS of useful tutorials online that will teach you about anything you need.
Here is my favorite free WordPress training resource:
- WordPress Lessons (free guide)
Basically, spend a weekend learning how to use your dashboard, how to tweak your site’s settings, how to post an article, etc. You’ll get the hang of everything with practice.
If you have any questions about setting up your WordPress blog that isn’t covered in the tutorials, simply type your question into Google and you’re sure to find an answer because WordPress is such a popular platform for blogging!
5: Download A Professional Theme
Your new WordPress blog comes with a couple of standard “themes”, or designs for your site. While this is ok for playing around in the beginning, if you want to take this seriously and eventually make money with your travel blog, you should buy a premium design.
Professional blog themes cost between $25-$80, and they’ll greatly improve the look and functionality of your site.
I’ve changed themes a few times over the years, but the current one I’m using is called WP Prosperity. I’ve also tweaked the design a lot using my background in web-design, customizing how it looks & acts. Another great place to buy blog theme designs is a marketplace called ThemeTrust.
Many professional themes provide a support forum where you can ask questions about customization, and someone will help you get the look you’re after using CSS/HTML coding. Or, you can hire a designer through Upwork to do custom design work on your site.
You may also want to have a cool logo created. I used a site called 99 Designs for mine. A professional logo really makes your site and brand stand out from the thousands of other travel blogs online.
6: Install Essential Plugins
You can think of WordPress plugins as third-party apps for your website. They give your blog additional features. Most plugins are free, some you have to pay for.
You can download new plugins in the “plugin” section of your WordPress Dashboard.
Here’s my recommended list of plugins to install with your travel blog.
- Akismet – Protects your blog from spammers leaving comments on your posts. Not perfect, but probably the best one out there.
- Yoast SEO – Very important plugin for optimizing your articles for Google search, plus integrating Google Sitemaps and Analytics.
- Easy Social Share Buttons – Nice social media sharing buttons for your articles.
- WP Rocket – Caching plugin that speeds up your travel blog
- Imagify – Automaticaly optimizes your media library images for fast loading
There are others of course, but these will get you started.
7: Important Things To Consider
Create An About Page
One of the first things you should do on your blog is to create an about page. This is one of the most highly trafficked pages on any travel blog, because it tells people who you are, gives your background, and explains why someone should follow you.
Keep it fun and personable. Let your readers know who you really are!
Embrace Social Media
If you want to build a successful and profitable travel blog, posting regularly to social media is important.
Learning how to master social media is a huge topic, one that I cover more here: Secrets Of Professional Travel Blogging
To begin, sign up for all the most popular platforms, and keep your social media username the same on all of them if possible. Otherwise, people can get confused.
A note on social media. Sometimes people ask me if they should start their travel blogs on Facebook or Instagram instead of having an actual website.
No, I don’t recommend relying on Facebook or Instagram. You don’t have any control over those platforms, and they could easily disappear in the future.
Use social media to promote and support your blog. Don’t build your business on a platform you have no control over, it’s just too risky.
Write Your First Post
This can be about anything really. For example, tell people why you are starting a travel blog. Maybe share what you’re packing for an upcoming trip.
Or if you just returned from a vacation, share some of your best highlights from the journey!
Whatever the topic is, writing a blog post will help you understand how to publish images, headers, and all the other formatting that comes with publishing on WordPress.
8: Should You Enroll In A Course?
This isn’t a requirement to building a travel blog. But like anything in life, if you want to get good at something, investing time & money to be trained by professionals works wonders.
When people ask me for travel blogging tips, I usually recommend joining a specialized blogging course like Nomadic Matt’s Superstar Blogging.
Why? Because becoming a professional travel blogger, as in someone who makes money with this, is more difficult than it looks.
You need to learn how to build an audience. You need to learn how to use social media. You need to learn how to market yourself. You need to learn how to work with brands. You need to learn how to implement good SEO.
Can you learn everything on your own? Sure. But let me tell you from personal experience, it takes a long, long time. As in years. With plenty of frustrations & wasted effort along the way.
Learning exactly what works, and what doesn’t, from professional travel bloggers who are making it work, is HUGELY helpful.
9: Figuring Out What To Write About
Now it’s time to begin creating content for your travel blog. When you first start out, I recommend publishing new articles at least 1-2 times per week. But remember, quality is more important than quantity!
Take your time to craft excellent, useful blog posts that have impact. You want your articles to inspire wanderlust, but they should include plenty of actionable tips too.
Share your favorite (or not so favorite) parts of a country. Give tips for fun things to do, share your crazy travel stories, show-off your beautiful images in photo essays, create a short video tour, or give food recommendations.
Try writing about different topics to find your voice, and see what kinds of posts actually resonate with readers. For example, road trip guides do really well on my site, but I didn’t discover that until later. You need to experiment!
Need some ideas? Here are some of my most popular blog posts.
What If You’re Not Traveling Now?
Are you still planning your travels? Well, you can write about that too. Share different ways you are saving money for travel or maybe a bucket list of activities you want to try.
However my favorite strategy is to write about what you know.
As an example, let’s say you live in Richmond, Virginia. Maybe you don’t think it’s an interesting city to write about, yet there are thousands of people looking for travel tips about Richmond every day.
Share what you know with them! Help these people have a great trip, and they will become regular readers.
TripAdvisor recommends 225 things to do in Richmond. That’s easily a year’s worth of blog posts right there.
Network With Other Bloggers
Remember to read other travel blogs for inspiration and ideas, and leave thoughtful comments on their articles. Link to other people’s blog posts from your site when appropriate.
Become an active member of the travel blogging community.
10: Start Making Money With Your Blog!
At first, your only readers will be family and friends. But that’s ok! We all started like that. To begin making money with your travel blog, you need to have a larger audience than just family and friends.
The more traffic your blog receives, the more money you can make with it. It takes time to build an audience and grow traffic. Don’t focus on making money right away, focus on building your audience.
Basically, affiliate programs let you recommend things like clothing, travel gear, photography equipment, tours, or even hotels you stay at within your blog posts. You then earn a small commission whenever someone clicks on one of these tracking links and buys something.
Another option is showing display ads with Google Adsense, which lets other companies post banner advertisements on your travel blog.
How Much Money Can You Make From A Travel Blog?
Honestly, the sky (and your imagination) is the limit. In the beginning, you won’t be earning too much though, and it really depends on how much time you put into it.
All these income streams grow only when your audience grows. So that should be your first priority moving forward!
Attracting new readers to your blog with great travel content.
To give you an example, you might be able to make a few hundred dollars (or a few thousand) per month after a year of blogging. It really depends on all kinds of unknowable factors.
While it took me about four years to start earning over $100,000 a year from blogging, others I know were able to achieve this milestone even earlier!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Really Make Money Blogging?
Yes. To become a successful travel blogger though, you need to provide value to others. Blogging about your day is not the same as writing a helpful destination travel guide. In addition to the fun articles, produce stuff people are actually searching for!
How Much Does It Cost To Start A Travel Blog
The up-front costs for starting a travel blog are pretty cheap. If you sign up for hosting with BlueHost, it’s only $2.95 a month (2 year minimum to get that big discount).
Plus, you’ll probably want to download a nice profession theme for about $50.
On top of those expenses, you may want a nice logo designed too. Using a site like 99 Designs, you can have one made for another $50. So all-in, you’re looking at around $200 in up-front expenses over two years — about $8.33 a month averaged out.
Is Travel Blogging Over-Saturated?
While it may seem like everyone and their grandmother has a blog these days, most people don’t take it very seriously. Only the most dedicated make a living with it. So it’s really up to you how much effort you put in.
Do You Need A Laptop & Camera?
Yes, you’ll need both. They don’t have to be top-of-the-line, but you’ll want a computer for writing and sharing blog posts, and a camera for capturing images from your adventures. Here are my favorite cameras for travel.
Setting up a travel blog is easy, but please be aware that building an audience is much tougher. You shouldn’t expect to see any large reader numbers for at least a year, maybe longer.
That’s one full year of blogging on a regular basis, and putting in at least 10 hours a week (most professional bloggers work over 30 hours a week).
Yes, it’s a dream job, but travel blogging is still a job that requires hard work. Creating a successful travel blog won’t happen overnight either.
But no risk, no reward! Good luck, and happy travel blogging. ★
READ MORE BLOGGING TIPS
Have any questions about how to start a profitable travel blog? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!