HOW TO START A SUCCESSFUL TRAVEL BLOG
Starting a travel blog is an awesome way to document your adventures around the world. It gives you a focus and a creative outlet to share all of the amazing places, experiences, and people you meet along your travels. I started my travel blog as a hobby like most people but within a year it had become my obsession and my full-time income.
A QUICK RECAP ABOUT STARTING MY BLOG
My travel blog is now ranked in the top 50 travel blogs in the world (ordered by traffic). With more than 450,000 page views per month, my personal travel blog was one of the few blogs on the list that was written solely by me, run by just one person and written by someone under 30. I quickly realized that blogging was challenging but incredibly fun and compared to Youtube and Instagram, it was much easier to make a passive income. Through affiliates and advertising, my blog now earns me a passive income of almost $200,000 USD per year.
When I started my travel blog I had no experience in blogging, WordPress, web design, marketing, affiliate marketing, and many more areas. I did have some experience in photography and was in the last semester of my journalism degree at Hawaii Pacific University. I would work on my travel blog at the back of the class! I didn’t ever expect I could earn a lot of money from the blog and to be honest, it isn’t why I started it. This blog is now three years old and continues to grow.
BEFORE YOU START
In this blog post, I want to show you all of the key things I did when I started. How did I have 12,000 page views in my first month? How did I reach 100,000 page views in just over 14 months? This guide will teach you the very basics in how to set up your blog with a domain and a hosting. It will show you how to kick things off but it will also guide you on how to skip all the irrelevant advice you will likely hear from someone who did things in their own way and had a quick rise because they did it differently.
I have been blogging for almost a year now and while I am not a six-figure entrepreneur, it has opened up a lot of opportunities for me and I make enough to survive while on the road. My aim was always to be able to fund continual travel. After 10 months my blog is viewed more than 75,000 times a month and is on track to be viewed 100,000 times per month by the end of my first year of blogging. More importantly, I get emails each day from people thanking me for helping them plan a trip to the Philippines, Oahu or other locations around the world. I get to explore the world, improve my photography and challenge myself in so many different areas.
1. CHOOSING A NAME
- Choose an evergreen name: If you want your blog to last a number of years pick a name that will still be relevant even if you change your lifestyle or blogging topics. For example, if you call it ‘teenswhotravel.com’ it will be quite awkward when you are 20. When I was deciding my blog name with my partner at the time we discussed some names that incorporated couples into the title. We split up a few months later and it would have been a bit an issue for the blog if it was called ‘thetravelingcouple.com’.
- Go for something unique: Nothing against them but I think there are enough blogs with the word nomad, travel, backpacker, and wanderlust. This is your first chance to let your personality and creativity shine through. Journey Era represents is a bit obscure but I still like it three years later. After graduating I felt that this next era or period of time would be a huge journey and I had no idea where it would take me. Three years later it is still the Journey Era and it still makes sense.
- Make it short and memorable: The shorter the better. Correct spelling and no hyphens, dots or dashes are perfect. Imagine having to tell people about my website ‘journey dash era’ (journey-era.com).
- Ranking: Having the world ‘travel’ in your title isn’t going to help you rank for travel articles. I don’t rank better for articles about ‘journeys’ because of my name. Choose the name you want and remember people don’t click on your articles because of the URL they click because of the article title.
- You only get to pick it once so go big and go bold
- Don’t stress: The final piece of advice I have for choosing the name is to not let it consume you. Yes, you will be stuck with the name but don’t spend a month picking it. That is one month you could have spent with the blog up and running.
2. CHECK THE DOMAIN AVAILABILITY
Once you have come up with a name you need to check if it is available. It can be quite frustrating because what you may find is that all of the ‘good ones’ are taken. To check if your name is available you can use a site like Domainr.
Type your name into the search bar and it will tell you if someone already has the name. Sometimes you can purchase that domain off someone else but generally, it is best to find one that is available already.
3. CHOOSE THE BEST HOSTING
You might be wondering what exactly is hosting? It is the place on the internet you will rent each year for your website to live. It stores all of your blog’s data, photos and files. Luckily hosting is very cheap. I recommend new travel blogs choose their hosting with Bluehost. There are lots of options to choose from but Bluehost is the most reliable overall, has the cheapest prices and makes it very easy to set up for beginners.
5. INSTALL WORDPRESS
You want to start a serious travel blog, which means you need a ‘self-hosted’ WordPress account. This means that the WordPress software lives in your hosting company’s servers, not in a free WordPress.com account. But what is the difference?
- Your website is Journeyera.com not Journeyera.WordPress.com
- You own all of the data and have full control
- You can advertise on your site (your future income)
- You can use custom themes, plugins and have full customization control)
- You can use Google Analytics to track your statistics
WordPress is without a doubt what you want to use not Blogspot, Blogger, Wix or even Squarespace. WordPress is the most widely used platform and probably always will be. WordPress is used by all of the professional blogs and even big companies like BBC and NY Times.
Installing WordPress with your new BlueHost Account is very easy. It just takes one click of a button and then the rest happens automatically.
Once it is installed, you can log into the ‘backend’, which is your WordPress dashboard with your username and password. You now have a travel blog and are ready to start fitting it out and then adding content.
6. GET A LAYOUT FOR YOUR BLOG
Your new WordPress blog comes with some basic themes but you if you are taking this travel blog seriously, you will probably want to purchase a theme. I searched on Themeforest and found the Falive theme, which suited my minimalist, white-space style.
A professional blog theme will cost between $20 – $80 and the will improve the functionality and look of your site a lot.
You can then make any custom changes you need by doing the coding for it. If, like me, you have no idea how to do that you can find professionals on Fiverr, to help you for $5-$20 for small issues. I have used Fiverr a lot when setting up my site or for bug fixes. I don’t know much about coding and to be honest you don’t need to these days with WordPress.
7. CREATE A LOGO
I had my logo made on Fiverr for $5. I gave someone three images and they combined them all in an original watercolor painting and then converted it to a digital png. file and jpg. file. Not bad for five dollars.
I didn’t want a cheesy cartoon like I see so often on blogs. I also didn’t want my blog to be all about me so I kept myself out of the title and the logo. I wanted it to be written and photogrpahed by me but it was all about the travel. This logo kept things pretty neutral and as you can see three years later it is still doing the job for me. It is another part of the website that isn’tt as important as you make it out to be at the time.
8. DOWNLOAD THE ESSENTIAL PLUGINS
Plugins, Plugins, Plugins. These little guys are great. A plugin is essentially a minor customization to your blog. Some of them make your blog look prettier, some are social media sharing tools and others will help you with SEO. There are thousands to choose from to help you do all kinds of tasks. These are the essentials that most people add to their blog.
9. CREATE YOUR PAGES
Get creative. Everyone has the same pages if you look at travel blogs. Destinations, about, media kit, lifestyle, food, health. I decided I needed the about page and I liked the destinations page but I also added a gallery and a weekly page. On THE WEEKLY page, you can see my weekly reviews from my time on the road!
To create a page, simply click “New” and then select page. You can then build it out however, you like. Like I said earlier, I don’t know how to code, so I keep everything very simple. There is no need for fancy components in my opinion and often it can slow your site down. I just put the information and photos and it has worked for me.
10. GET SOCIAL
This is an entire blog post in itself, actually, it is an entire blog post for each platform at the least. I’ll give a brief overview of how I use each platform.
Let me just say that each platform is its own beast. If you learn how to tame one it doesn’t mean you know a thing about the other. I know some people who generate 50,000 page views a month from Pinterest but their Instagram is hopeless or they have an awesome Instagram but don’t know how to convert readers to their blog posts. Here is my breakdown of how to use each social media platform.