excerpted from www.ordinarytraveler.com
So you have a passion for travel and would like to learn how to start a travel blog? Great! Travel blogging is a fun way to keep logs of your adventures, make friends, and trade tips with the larger internet voyager community. But let’s get one misconception out of the way: if you’re expecting to immediately become internet famous, have a huge following, and get paid to travel the world solely through blogging, there is a long, tough road ahead of you.
Still, if you’re serious about wanting to blog professionally — or even just for fun — a little challenge can be encouraging! Like travel, you’ll find starting your travel blog gives you ample opportunities to try new things, develop new skills, and live new experiences. Starting a travel blog is very easy — you don’t need to be a techie to do this (trust me, I’m quite a tech idiot myself). You don’t need to spend lots of money either. And you can get your own blog running in just a few hours. But a successful travel blog requires time, dedication, investment and lot of hard work. If you are not ready for that, you might be better off being a hobby blogger. There’s nothing wrong with that! For hobby bloggers, I recommend you create a blog for free at WordPress.com
STEP 1: BRAINSTORM YOUR BLOG NICHE & NAME
A blog name could make or break you; having a name that sticks with people will make you stand out, while using a common name won’t get you noticed, ever. Branding is very important in travel blogging — and it helps (and saves you time) if you get it right from the start. It’s not easy or fun changing it later.
What Are You About? You’ll have to know what you want to blog about and how to distinguish yourself from the many other amazing travel blogs out there. Luckily, none of those other bloggers are you, so even if you are writing about the same thing — travel — the way you approach your travels will be different. Take some time to think about what makes you and your perspective on travel unique. What am I about? What type of travel do you like most? What defines you? Backpacker or a jetsetter? Young or old? An experienced expatriate or just ready to take your first airplane flight? Often travel bloggers find that the appeal of a traveling lifestyle intersects with other interests such as photography, cooking, architecture, climate-specific sports, or something else. If you have a particular profession or hobby that traveling lets you indulge, why not concentrate on that?
Write down adjectives. and play around with different word combos. Use a thesaurus to find unusual words. Try to come up with creative combinations that have never been used before. Your travel blog name should give readers an idea of what type of traveler you are — whether you are an adventurer, a slow traveler or if you travel with your family.
One other option is to simply use your own name. It’s a great way to secure your ‘virtual real estate’ (preventing someone else from registering your name) plus you get more professional credibility.
Keep it Short and Simple. Make sure your domain name is short, straightforward and easy to spell and remember. Use words that most people know and can spell and pronounce. Don’t overcomplicate things and use words that are long and pretentious. Avoid hyphens or underscores as they’ll just make it more difficult for people to remember. Try not to use names with an order: for example, Monkeys and Mountains which I love, but I always have difficulties remembering if it’s “Mountains and Monkeys” or “Monkeys and Mountains”.
Do your Research. Find out what names are already taken in the travel blogging world and what names are commonly used. A quick Google search will give you a hint of what’s out there. You’ll find that there are WAY too many blogs that use the words ‘nomadic’, ‘adventurous’ and ‘vagabond’. Avoid using these common names and try to come up with something that will make you stand out.
It’s also important to make sure you’re not using a trademarked company name — as you can face getting sued.
Think Long-Term. Don’t limit yourself by using a name that indicates age or a time period. Try to think about the long run and not just the present as a blog name is something that is (more or less) permanent if you plan to be in business for long.
STEP 2: GET HOSTED
A web host is a company that stores all the files and photos for your blog and delivers them to the user when they type in your domain name. It’s basically a landlord that’s renting out space on the web to you. If you want to create a blog, it’s mandatory to have a web host.
There are many hosting companies, but the most popular and most reliable is BlueHost. I personally use BlueHost: affordable at $5.95 per month, free and simple installation of all the popular blogging tools including WordPress, 24/7 customer service via phone, email, or web chat.
Follow the simple prompts to sign up. Check to see if your blog domain name is available.
Choose a domain extension. I recommend using the standard .com, but .net and .org work just as well. I would steer clear from other extensions like .us or .biz, as they are not as familiar to most people.
Plans. Once you have found an available domain name, you will be taken to the registration page where you’ll have to make payment. Choose a plan that suits you. There are three basic hosting plans to choose from: starter, plus and business pro. I recommend going with the PLUS plan, which starts at $6.95 per month for 36 months. It’s the most popular plan for good reasons: the low fee includes unlimited websites, website space, email accounts and email storage. Even if you’re a newbie blogger, think long-term and consider what you may need in future.
The 36 month package gets you the lowest monthly rate, while the 12 month package has a lower up-front cost. Either is a good choice.
Get extra add-ons. You’ll be asked to choose from a list of add-ons. I don’t think it’s necessary to opt for any — except for the Site Backup Pro ($2.99/month), useful for backing up your site in case of malware, hacks and viruses.
Don’t stress too much about these extra add-ons though, you can always add these at a later time if you need them.
Once your account is setup, try logging in to your account by going to the BlueHost homepage and clicking the login tab at the top. Enter your domain name and the password you chose when registering.
STEP 3: INSTALL WORDPRESS
WordPress is the world’s largest publishing platforms. Almost every blogger uses WordPress, even major publishers like CNN and BBC also publish their content using this platform. Get a self-hosted WordPress account as you’ll get full control of your site and you can customise it or sell advertising if you want. Bluehost offers easy one-click WordPress installation, just follow the steps and you’ll get it installed in no time.
STEP 4: CHOOSE A RESPONSIVE WORDPRESS THEME
A WordPress theme is a site layout and design. It gives your travel blog its design and look — but you can easily customise it to make it look unique. To choose your theme, click on the “Appearance” tab on the left menu and you’ll see that several themes are already installed on your blog. These are usually simple and basic themes that can work for just about any type of blog (unless you’re thinking of setting up an online shop or something special).
The right theme will also take into account the kind of layout that will be most intuitive to you and your readers. Will you be a heavily image-focused blogger? Are you more comfortable writing lots of articles or in creating video content? The right theme will let you customize your site to fit your blogging style. You can search by color, layout, and more by clicking “Feature Filter”.
In order to activate a theme, hover over the theme and click the “Activate” button. That’s it!
If you don’t like any of these pre-installed themes, there are thousands of free themes out there Keep in mind that some themes might not look as nice when viewed from a different device. Check that your theme is responsive before installing/purchasing.
STEP 5: CONFIGURE YOUR BLOG SETTINGS
Now it’s time to play around with WordPress and get yourself familiar with the platform. You’ll find every feature and plugin on the left menu. Clicking on ‘Dashboard’ will always bring you back to the home screen.
1. Set your blog title. To do this, click “Settings” on the left menu. On the Settings screen, you can change your “Site Title” and also the subtitle “Tagline”. For the Site Title, I would advise entering your blog name followed by the words ‘travel blog’ for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) purpose. It will make it much easier for people to find your travel blog.
Scroll to the bottom and click the “Save Changes” button. Once you save these changes they will immediately be live on your site.
2. Permalink setting. Permalinks are the permanent URLs of your individual weblog posts, as well as categories and other pages. To change it, click “Permalinks” under “Settings” on the left menu.
The most recommended permalink structure for a WordPress blog is Post Name. Post name permalinks are short, sweet and are search engine friendly. Avoid the day and name structure which is not optimised for SEO.
3. User details. I recommend changing the user details so readers can know the person behind this blog. To do this, click on “Users” tab on the left menu, then click on “Edit” under your username.
Your nickname is the public name that will appear on all the posts you make, so keep this in mind when selecting it. I also advise adding your biographical info with a summary of who you are, where you’ve traveled to etc. This appears at the bottom of each blog post. Once you have made all the necessary changes be sure to click the “Update Profile” button at the bottom of the screen to save the changes.
STEP 6: INSTALL PLUGINS
Plugins are additional tools that you can add to your WordPress blog to make it more efficient. There are hundreds of free plugins available that can do just about anything on your blog. Consider them mini apps for your website.
There are plugins for creating contact forms, backing up your site, adding social media buttons, or enhancing your site’s visibility to search engines. But you don’t want to have too many plugins as they can slow down your site.
Plugins are easy to add from your WordPress dashboard. WordPress offers its own plugin and widget marketplace. Click “Plugins” from the left menu and choose “Add New”. In the “Search Plugin” field, type in the name of the plugin you’re looking for and then install and activate.
Here are a couple of plugins I recommend:
• Akismet – Controls the spam comments you’ll get. Overtime, you can get a lot of them and you don’t want to be manually deleting these.
• W3 total cache – Helps to keep your site running fast.
• Easy Social Share Buttons – Allows people share your content more easily on social media platforms.
• Ultimate Google Analytics — Installs Google Analytics, the industry standard of measuring your site’s visitors and traffic
• EWWW Image Optimizer: A must-have for photo-heavy blogs, this lets images load faster and use less bandwidth.
• Easy Social Share Buttons: Allows your users to like, share, and subscribe to your content from 20+ social media sites as well as lets you track relevant analytics.
• WordPress SEO: Helps you analyze your site’s SEO and suggests improvements to help readers find your site more easily. Or Yoast SEO – Essential to optimise your posts and pages to make them search engine friendly.
• FD Feedburner Plugin — Manages your feed (new content).
• Google XML Sitemaps — Makes it easy for search engines to find your content.
• Jetpack — Adds a ton of easy to use features to WordPress like the ability to add images in your sidebar menus, publish your posts to Facebook, and see how many people have visited your blog.
SumoMe: A collection of tools to help boost your site’s subscriber count.
• W3 Total Cache: Improves site performance & loading time.
• Wordfence Security: Helps protect your site from virus and phishing attacks — absolutely necessary if you plan on handling monetary transactions through your site.
• Google Analytics by Yoast: Collaborates with Google Analytics to demystify traffic stats and help you improve your strategy for attracting readers.
• WPTouch Mobile Plugin – Makes your travel blog mobile friendly.
STEP 7: JOIN TRAVEL BLOG SUCCESS
Now that you’ve learned how to start a travel blog, your next step is to master all the skills involved in becoming a travel blogger – writing, photography, SEO, html, digital marketing, social media management, graphic design, what to charge for advertising and how to pitch companies for partnerships. You’ll learn everything about optimizing your site, networking with potential clients, negotiating for deals and getting press coverage on major publications and much to learn if you want to succeed. Speed up the process for what it can take you years to pick up all that on your own.
The best course in the industry is definitely Travel Blog Success, created by the industry’s top travel bloggers and tech experts. Their in-depth course covers everything you need to know about the business of blogging: from writing to the technical aspects,.
The course is inexpensive and provides 27 comprehensive lessons. What’s best is that you’ll have access to a large blogging community in a private forum and Facebook group where you can learn from the best and pick the brains of those who have been there.
It can be taken at your own pace (a lot of you have a full-time job) and you can read the detailed tutorials as many times as you want. Besides the tutorials, you’ll also have access to audio interviews and webinars, as well as job opportunities on their job boards and forum.
Here are the courses offered by Travel Blog Success:
• Travel Blog Success membership
• Bloggers, Brands, and Tourism Boards: A Guide to Successful Partnerships
• Blogger to Bylines: A Guide to Freelance Writing
• Videography for Travel Bloggers
STEP 8: CONNECT TO SOCIAL MEDIA
For travel bloggers, social media can be an immensely powerful tool to help you reach an even bigger audience and build a community that is engaged. There are many social media platforms and each of them has a different purpose, so spend some time on each one to see which fits you best.
Most people’s primary channel is Facebook, followed by Twitter and then Instagram. Again, you need to experiment and observe to see which platform works best for you. Each channel requires a different type of posting and content curation. Avoid sharing the same photo/update across all channels. Be sure to check the analytics for each platform to find out the best time to post and when to post.
Facebook. 2-3 posts a day following the rule of thirds. In general, I always try to share a variety of updates – one-third of them would be personal updates that give readers a peek into my life on the road; one-third are questions directed to my followers to create some engagement; and one-third are some interesting and viral content from others.
Twitter. 4-5 posts a day with links to my blog posts. Images create more engagement, so I always try to include photos in my posts. I also tag relevant profiles and include hashtags whenever possible.
Instagram. 1 post a day, usually more when on the road. Tag the location for people who are nearby to find your photos. Also include up to 10 hashtags again for your photo to pop up in searches. Take the time to research which hashtags are most popular for a particular destination or activity. Also take your time to craft a detailed description so followers are more likely to comment and interact with you.
New Channels. In today’s era, there is always a new social media platform popping up everyday. As a blogger you need to evolve along with the changes in trends and dabble with new platforms. The latest social media channels that are taking the world by storm are SnapChat and Periscope.
STEP 9: START AN EMAIL LIST
In the world of internet marketing, an email list is the most important thing for every business (and blog). An email list is basically a list of email addresses from people who have subscribed to your newsletter. Getting an email address is the first critical step to figuring out who your reader is, and hopefully in the future, your customer of some sort.
Few travel bloggers actually make building an email list their priority (including myself), which is such a shame. If your goal is to build a community, you should spend some time setting up a monthly newsletter and inviting people to subscribe to it.
For those starting a travel blog, I recommend using Mailchimp which is what I personally use. It’s free until you get 2,000 people on your list (that will take time to do!) The only problem is it does not offer an autoresponder feature unless you pay a minimal monthly amount.
Aweber is another popular option and is said to have better features than Mailchimp. But it’s a paid service and you’ll need to have some basic html knowledge to use it effectively.
STEP 10: NETWORK WITH OTHER BLOGGERS
Friends in the blogging community often help each other out, offering support and advice whenever needed. Keep updated on what you’re doing and discuss exciting things happening in our circle.
These days, the travel blogging community is a rather sizable one, and it can be quite overwhelming to make genuine connections in the crowd. Thankfully, there are plenty of Facebook groups created to discuss specific aspects of travel blogging. Here are some groups:
• Travel Bloggers — general topics
• The Business of Blogging — more technical and business aspects
• Travel Press Trips — for press trip alerts
• Professional Travel Bloggers Association — only for members
• Travel Photography Community – photographers will find this useful
Before joining each group, read the rules or guidelines first. Feel free to ask questions and respond when someone offers you advice. Always take the advice with a pinch of salt, as something that has worked for others might not work for you. Try to get a variety of opinions and test them out to see which works best for you. Lastly remember to give back and help others out when it’s a topic you’re familiar with.
Conferences can also be an extremely useful way to connect with other travel bloggers, potential clients and partners as well as attend workshops and training. These educational workshops usually aim at educating new travel bloggers, so you’ll be sure to meet plenty of others who are just starting out like you are. While it’s easy to make contact with people online, nothing beats meeting in person. These conferences provide the opportunity for you to network with brands and companies, creating the first bridge to future partnerships.
• Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) – the largest and most popular travel blogging conference
• Social Travel Market at WTM – a small section of the massive World Travel Market dedicated to social travel
• Social Travel Summit (STS) – for a small, elite group of travel bloggers that are a part of iAmbassador
• Travel Bloggers Conference (TBC) – organized by the PTBA (Professional Travel Bloggers Association)
STEP 11: BLOG CONSISTENTLY AND KEEP AT IT
As a new blogger, write as much as you can to develop your voice and build up your content base. Choose a publishing schedule that works for you and be consistent with it. If you only have time for 1 or 2 posts a day, it’s ok! It’s better to spend time crafting well-written and well-researched articles rather than sloppy short ones. Just make sure you consistently publish the same number of blog posts each week (or better still, on the same day of each week). Consistency will get you loyal readers.
To get ideas for blog posts, read as many travel blogs as you can and see what’s popular and what’s not. Get a feel for the type of articles that particularly resonate with readers and see what kind of topics get the most attention. Don’t forget to leave some comments on blog posts you like and link to these posts in your own blog post.
It takes time to build an audience. It’ll take at least a year for you to gain a reasonable level of traffic and for advertisers to come knocking on your doors. Be patient and most of all, remember to keep doing what you love — it takes time, but it’s worth the adventure.
The first 4 steps are laid out by Bluehost (also my hosting site) and are easy. I am a computer luddite and had a slow learning curve as I have had no help at all developing this web site. And it looks it – it is quite unprofessional looking. But the primary intent is a place for me to record whatever I like – it is my travel diary, source of travel information and forum for all the things I am interested in. I use the Book List and Cook Book all the time for example. If others find it useful, then that is a bonus. There is not possible to contact me. That is purposeful but I will give my email address here
I sell nothing on this site and make no money from it. Many travel bloggers only blog about things that they have monetized. I think the complete lack of commercialism is refreshing.
There are advantages to doing everything yourself – updates and changes are easy. I constantly update posts especially in the Travel Section. I believe this is the best travel information in the world. Tell me if you find any post better than what is on my site. The posts on Flights, Accommodation and Security are particularly thorough.
This year, in my Travelogue – The Trip, I have added tips on travel for each country. I believe they are all invaluable advice about dealing with the nitty-gritty of travel.
There are no pictures because I don’t carry a camera but more likely because I don’t know how to add pictures (and don’t care enough to learn how to do it – I’m sure it is quite easy). When I look at other travel blogs, photography is often dominant. I personally don’t think they add anything more than some visual interest. Most of the photography is not that great.
I need to install more plug-ins that would make stuff easier, and do steps 6 and 7. At the present time, I am linked to nobody. Knowledge of this site is completely from word of mouth. I am so low on Google search engines that referrals from there are rare. But I average between 50 and 100 hits per day. I will win no awards for travel blogging even though it is the largest site in the world (without the Kayaking, Hiking, Diving and Ideas page).
And in the next 3 years, I will double my country count when I visit Africa and Europe for the first time. 130 countries seems like an easy goal.