Ever thought of starting a travel blog? If so, I would encourage you to give it a try, and here is why:
Why you should start a travel blog today
It is a fun way to make some extra money
Blogging about something that you love can be a lot of fun. If you’re interested in running a travel blog, just give it a try, setup your blog according to this guide, and publish content regularly for awhile.
After a month or two of following the strategy outlined in this guide, your travel site should at least be bringing in 2,000 to 3,000 page views per month and somewhere around $100 per month, if not a lot more. If you still enjoy what you are doing, just keep at it and keep growing.
Even if you want to quit, you will still probably bring in some money every month from the work you’ve already done. That money or the challenge of getting more page views might be enough to get you hooked and make you keep working to grow your blog.
Blogging technology is easier to use today than ever before
It used to be a big challenge to figure out how to publish content on the web. WordPress has made that a lot easier, and it has gotten easier still in recent years. Later on in this guide I’ll show you how to quickly setup a great looking WordPress site. After you have WordPress up, it’s easy to login, hit “add new post,” write something, and hit “publish.”
It also is easier to reach your audience than ever before
Sure, Google has made it so that people can search for and find the content they are search for since the early 2000’s. However, with the rise of social media it is now even easier to get a blog following and reach your target audience.
There are so many avenues now to find your audience. Some social media sites you can use include: Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Instagram, and a whole lot more!
This niche has a huge audience looking for specific info and willing to spend money
Travel is a great niche to be in as pretty much everyone travels. Most people now plan out there trips online and even purchase their tickets and hotel bookings online. This gives travel bloggers a great opportunity to find those people searching for specific travel information, give them that info, and then get an affiliate commission when you send those users to book their trip.
A simplistic example of this could be that you write a guide covering the top things to do in Jamaica. On the page, you can then have a booking widget for users to use to research booking their trip to Jamaica. Users find your excellent guide either through search engines, social media, or other avenues. They end up on your site and read your content. They then decide to look at how much it costs to book a trip to Jamaica using your widget. You then get a commission.
If you operate as a business, you can write off travel expenses on your taxes
I’m not a tax expert, so please refer to IRS guidelines about this one.
If you get a big enough audience, you can quit your job and travel the world
I think it is pretty much every blogger’s dream that they can get a huge following which enables them to live off the income generated by their blog, which in turn would allow them to quit their jobs and travel the world.
This dream might be a tad unrealistic for new bloggers, but you will never reach that point if you don’t start out. It actually is surprisingly not that difficult to get a few thousand page views per month if you work for it (again, read the rest of this guide to find out how).
Depending on your strategy to monetize your content, you could turn a site with somewhere around 50,000 page views per month into a decent living (like $2k per month).
Ready to move ahead with starting a travel blog? If so, the next stage is to plan out your site.
Choose your niche
According to businessdictionary.com, niche marketing is:
“Concentrating all marketing efforts on a small but specific and well defined segment of the population. Niches do not ‘exist’ but are ‘created’ by identifying needs, wants, and requirements that are being addressed poorly or not at all by other firms, and developing and delivering goods or services to satisfy them. As a strategy, niche marketing is aimed at being a big fish in a small pond instead of being a small fish in a big pond.”
You’ve already decided that your niche is travel, but you probably want to niche down a bit and market towards a specific segment of the travel industry.
It typically is easier to write for people that are similar to yourself, so if you are a college student looking to travel on a budget, then that is what your blog could be about. Perhaps you are a single Mom looking for travelling opportunities with your child or children. Again, maybe you would want to write for people like yourself.
Some other niches could be romantic trips for couples, trips to meet singles, travelling on a budget, specializing in a region or country, specializing in cruises, taking an angle like writing for rock climbers, or boat enthusiasts, or dog lovers. There are really no end to the ways that you could define your audience and specific niche.
As mentioned, I would recommend writing for people like yourself. Also, make sure you don’t niche down too far to the point where your potential audience is tiny. You want to have room to grow.
Some things you might want to consider when picking your niche are:
- Do you have a specialty?
- Do you have a built in audience?
- Is there a specific audience you are targeting?
If you already have a built in audience or know where to find your specific target audience, then you can segment your niche down based on that and can write specifically for that audience.
Plan your content
Content length matters
Having longer articles helps you in a ton of different ways.
Search engines like articles that are longer, as they are likely not “thin content.” If you are writing long articles, it is more likely to cover the topic in some depth and thus provide value to readers. Those readers are also more likely to link back to the long, in depth articles.
Longer articles also give you more chances at hitting on keywords and phrases, thus getting more longtail search traffic. Long tail search traffic is the traffic searching for very specific things. It is nearly impossible to show for the keyword “travel,” but you could probably show up for the search “the best things to do on vacation in Black River Falls, WI.”
In general, we also think Google might give preference to long articles over those short ones. This makes sense as a 500 word article is probably “thin content” whereas a 4,000 word article is more likely to be of substance.
An easy way to write in depth travel articles is to write guides that cover topics completely.
For instance, you could write a complete guide to a specific Carribbean Resort (with affiliate links each time you use the resort name and a few prompts for people to book a trip). That guide could include a sections on booking a trip, the best time of the year to go there and some warnings about hurricanes, the different hotel rooms available, the different places to eat various meals, the top activities to do there, and anything else you can think to write about that specific resort.
After you have visited somewhere, whether it is some tiny restaurant in Hong Kong or a huge and popular resort, be sure to write a review of the place. Include large, high quality images. Don’t be afraid to write about your experience rather than just covering the place in general. You should include details and features if possible. Also, add affiliate links if you can.
Once you write a review, you can also post it on review sites and possibly add links back to your review on your blog.
Lists post are incredibly popular. In fact, most of the top articles in the travel category on StumbleUpon (which I cover later) are lists and include numbers in the title.
Some of them include: “50 unpredictable and non-cliched places to travel to…,” “5 things to do in desolation sound,” 23 underrated vacation spots around the world,” and a whole lot more. People just love clicking on lists and this type of article will likely do better on social media. You should also submit these types of posts to StumbleUpon, which I’ll cover more later on.
You can use lists for a ton of different things in travel. It could be related to a specific place, or list off the top places in a category around the world, or maybe you just make a checklist for people to use when travelling.
Viral content is any content that you are hoping will go viral and get a ton of shares. While anything could really by viral content, for this post type I mean that you could take other people’s viral content that is widely shared and try to use it for your own ends. This will bring in traffic and get links. If you find viral content early enough, you can really capitalize on it as opposed to something that is already widely posted. Writing a clickbait headline helps.
Please be sure to either get permission to share others content or use sharing buttons from places where the content is posted. For instance, you can post a YouTube video on your site, or embed an image or gallery from Imgur. You cannot just take an image or video off someone’s private site without asking.
Similar to guides and lists, tips could fit into either of those categories. It also doesn’t have to be about a location. It could be something like the “Top 8 tips to packing your backpack” or “Safety tips you need to know when travelling in Asia” or “tips to avoid getting mugged in Barcelona.”
Budget related posts
Another post type in the travel niche that seems to do really well are the posts related to your budget and trip planning.
This could be something like “travel the world on $1 a day” or “go to Europe for a week fo under $500.” You could do the cheapest countries to visit, or to eat in, or highlight any type of deal.
Diversify your content types
Rather than just writing posts, you might try to do videos (YouTube is basically an entire web ecosystem onto itself), infographics, podcasts, webinars, or any other type of media you can think of.
After you write an article, you might try doing some keyword research on your topic to see if there are certain keywords or phrases you should specifically target.
You can do this using Google’s Keyword Planner. Just type in your topic and see what comes up. Try to target keywords that have low or medium competition yet bring in a decent amount of traffic. For your title, write the whole thing in and hit search. Try to figure out a title or keyphrase to go into your title that has 500 searches per month and medium or low competition.
Some other keyword tricks for your posts that you can use are:
1. In your title, after you publish your post, go back and add 2015 to the end (or the current year). Be sure that the 2015 doesn’t go into the permalink. Next year, go back and change that year to the next year. This will get you search traffic for people that include the year in the search.
2. Add a lot of questions to your post, and then answer them. More and more people are using conversational search or Google suggest search, which are just using ask Google or typing questions into Google or Bing. If you have that exact question in your article, you might show up at the top spot for those searches. Keyword planner doesn’t help with these types of searches. Just type your questions into Google and target the first one you think you could do well for.
Find your writing tone and style
Tone is maybe not as important as style, but I just wanted to mention that you can feel free to be a little personal in your writing. You don’t have to sound like a professor, you can feel free to write however you naturally would or even as though you are talking to a friend.
You also can include personal stories and share opinions. Research has shown that people are more likely to fall in love with a brand that has strong opinions than one that tries to be neutral. Just don’t go overboard or stray from your topic to much.
People find it easier to read short paragraphs than huge blocks of text, especially on the web. Try to make each paragraph no more than three sentences and don’t be afraid to have some one sentence paragraphs.
Use lots of sub headings
To help break up text and make it scannable, use a lot of headings. In WordPress, you use these by using the top bar of the on page editor and hitting the “kitchen sink” button, which then shows a second row to the top bar. Then you get a dropdown that starts with paragraph. Just highlight text and change the dropdown to a heading type.
Use lots of images
Again, to break up the big block of text, use images. People digest information in images faster and feel more connected to images than just text.
It’s been shown that large, high quality images do much better than small ones.
Don’t be afraid to have unique photos of things you think are interesting or that help to describe or show your travel experience. Not every picture has to look like it belongs in a tourist guide.
Also, keep in mind that you’ll be sharing all your photos on social media sites to bring in traffic. You’ll want to watermark your photos.
You could also post your photos on photo sharing sites and even let others use your photos or sell them.
Develop your brand
Your brand is basically who you are online. You want to have something engaging, easily identifiable, professional, and possibly unique. It’s important to keep branding consistent.
One good resource on branding that I like to link to is Neil Patel’s Complete Guide To Building Your Personal Brand.
It used to be that you wanted your domain name and brand name to include your keywords. That is no longer necessarily true and you might even be penalized for it, if Google deems that you are trying to game the system with your domain name.
Instead, try for something unique and one-of-a-kind. It can still be descriptive as that might help to explain to people what the brand is about. However, you are really making something that is yours and is identifiable.
I would avoid using hyphens in the domain name. If you are a travel blog, you’ll also want to avoid .us or any country domain extensions, as those do well in the one country they are for but sometimes don’t do as well in other countries. Instead, go for a .com, .org, or .net.
Having a logo doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have an actual image for your brand. It could just be a name in text like the Simply Compelling logo. Just get something and use it across your site, on images, and on social profiles.
I would recommend picking no more than three main colors and then using different shades of them if you need more. Use those colors across your site and branding.
Looking for color ideas, try this canva article.
When picking your fonts, be sure they are web friendly and make sure the main font is easily readable. For headings, you might want to do something bolder or that contrasts with your main font.
How will you monetize?
How you are going to monetize your travel blog is one of the most important things to figure out.
Growing an email list is the best way to truly own your audience and market to them again and again.
If someone gives you their email address and lets you into their inbox, that seems to be more personal than just liking you on social media. Plus, they will see ALL of your emails whereas posts on social media might not reach them.
Not only can you use emails to get people to return to your site to read new posts, you also can send them deals and market other items to them via affiliate links.
About those affiliate links, here are some programs you can join (search for them in Google with the name and affiliate):
- Hotels Combined
Some good strategies for using affiliate links are:
- Use in text links. When you mention a place, link it. When you mention a deal, link it. When you mention anything you can be an affiliate for, link it. These convert better than banners.
- Link your images.
- Write product reviews.
- Write about deals and coupons.
Just running ads on your site is also a good way to make some money. This could be AdSense, InfoLinks, or any other ad company.
As mentioned above, the banner type ads don’t covert as well as affiliate links, but you should still be able to get $5-10 per 1,000 page views from them. If you bring in enough traffic, that can ad up to a good amount of money. Some sites make their money with AdSense alone.
Create a product
One great way to make money on your travel site is to write an ebook or actual physical book and sell it to your readers. You also could then sell it on other sites like Amazon.
1. Buy your web hosting and domain name
To be a professional blogger or website owner, you can’t just be on free sites like Blogger or WordPress.com, where you don’t have complete control and can’t have revenue streams.
You need your own domain name and hosting.
My preferred hosting solutions for beginner’s are BlueHost, DreamHost, and HostGator (ads). I would just go with the one of those that has the best deal going right now (subscribe to my email list to get deals!).
For both the domain and hosting, you get better deals if you sign up for long term plans.
2. One click install WordPress
After getting a host and domain name, you can use the one click install to setup WordPress. All the hosts mentioned above have that and I can help with that.
Here are some one click installation guides:
3. Select a WordPress theme
The WordPress theme is basically the design of your site.
For a travel site, you want a site that is responsive (as in it adjusts to various screen sizes), has a lot of white space, readable text, room for big images, and sharing buttons (if it doesn’t have these, you can add them). Other stuff you might want includes space for widgets and ads, multiple post types, ability to change colors and fonts easily, and maybe image sliders.
For theme ideas, check out my article overviewing the top new premium WordPress themes for June 2015.
Otherwise, check out the top premium WordPress travel related themes on Themeforest (ad).
4. Get some logos and graphics made
After you get a domain and hosting, install WordPress, and get a theme installed, you are ready to add your own branding. This includes colors, a logo, images, graphics, etc.
You’ll be using the logos and graphics all over the place. The logo will go on your site, on your social profiles, and probably over images to watermark them. For the image watermarks, I recommend including your web address so people that only find the image can find your site. You can figure out what other graphics you want. This could be large images to use for a series of posts, images for a slider on your homepage or blog page, maybe small images that work as ads either in your sidebar, widgets, or in ad networks on other sites.
5. Install Plugins
You’ll want to install some WordPress plugins to add functionality, security, and optimization to your site. I recommend:
- Jetpack for site stats and related posts
- Akismet to block comment spam
- WordFence for security
- WP Super Cache for site speed
- WordPress SEO by Yoast to optimize for search engines
- Contact Form 7 if you want a contact form
- SumoMe for subscribe forms and sharing buttons
You’ll also want to add any advertising or affiliate widgets you wanted to use.
6. Start publishing content
Okay, your site is up and setup. Now you can actually start creating and publishing content.
In WordPress, just go to the dashboard > posts > add new to write a new post. Hit the publish button towards the top right to publish.
It’s that easy. You are now a publishing travel site!
Now that your site is up, you need to promote it.
First, I’d recommend optimizing for search engines as this can be a huge source of traffic.
You’ll want to use the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. With that plugin, optimize towards keywords (I wrote a section on keyword research above). Also, be sure to write a unique meta description.
You should also add links to your site, and be sure to use nofollow for any affiliate links. To do so, go to the text tab and add that line into the link code, so it should be:
Social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and a ton more are a great place to get links, get traffic, and reach your target audience.
Good sites for a travel website to target would be StumbleUpon, Reddit, and any sort of image sharing site like Pinterest.
For StumbleUpon, you basically need an active account and you can submit your articles to the travel category. Lots of sites get millions of views this way, although most sites get a few dozen and disappear forever. You also can use StumbleUpon to find blogging ideas by looking at the recommended articles in the travel category.
Above is a screenshot of my travel recommendations page from StumbleUpon. You can see there are a lot of articles that have over 100k page views. You’ll also see that you could use this as a place to get blogging ideas.
I also have articles showing how to use each of those social sites I mentioned:
You might also consider using Facebook’s boost post feature to promote your posts cheaply to a huge audience. That is a good way to grow your followership when you first start out.
Facebook also has these multiproduct ads that seem to be awesome for promoting vacations. Check out this Moz article about it.
The best way to get your brand out there and to get traffic and backlinks is probably good old fashioned networking.
Follow related blogs and make friends with the other writers. Leave comments on their blogs, ask for interviews, do roundup posts, do best blog posts, etc. All that stuff can lead to more exposure for your site and you could get backlinks from those other good travel blogs, which are exactly the sort of links you want.
Another way to network is by doing press releases or by doing interviews. Going that route you are hoping to get backlinks and articles about yourself in publications of note.
One service to potentially get interviewed or used as a source by prominent journalists is HARO (Help a reporter out). I have a guide to using that service: A Guide To Using HARO
There are a lot of travel forums out there. Join some, start posting, and eventually there will be opportunities to drive traffic to your site and post links that will help with SEO. You might even be able to post a link on your profile page and in your signature (the line under all of your posts on the site).
Questions sites like Yahoo Answers and Quora are a good place to get links and traffic. After you build up your profiles by answering some questions in your niche, you’ll be able to post links. You then can link to your site when it is appropriate. Then, whenever someone looks up that question, they’ll see a link to your site. Those links are also great for SEO.
Keep at it!
Your travel blog probably won’t find overnight success. It takes time to build your social profiles, grow your email list, get backlinks, and grow your audience.
If you just regularly write good quality posts that are long and have good images, along with creating other awesome content, and then promote your content and your site in the manner that I’ve outlined, you will slowly grow your site and have success. Before you know it, you’ll have thousands of people coming to your site each month and should be able to make at least a few hundred dollars each month of your site.
It could be a lot more.
If you’d like more tips on running a WordPress site, subscribe to our email list. We also write all kinds of articles that will help you to grow your online audience.