Are you planning on taking a trip, and considering a travel blog to chronicle your travels, and even help subsidize them? Here are 17 simple rules for travel blogging, so you can set off for your travels on the right foot.
Start Travel Blogging Well in Advance of Traveling
You don’t want to be futzing around learning the technicalities of blogging whilst on the road. Also, if you have any intention of monetizing your travel blog or seeking sponsorships to subsidize your travels, you’ve got to have established content and a following, which takes time to build.
See Also: Before You Quit Your Day Job…
Select Your Domain Carefully
Choosing your domain is akin to choosing the name of your business; you want it to be catchy, easy to remember, and topical. Check your domain ideas to ensure they’re not already taken, then purchase the domain, and set up a hosting service and content management system.
If this is already confusing to you, Nomadic Matt has a course that covers setting up a money-making travel blog from the ground up: The Business of Travel Blogging
Find a Niche
Travel blogs are a dime a dozen; just about anybody who takes off on a long trip has visions of regaling the world with their tales of travel – and hopefully making some money at it.
In order to differentiate yourself from these masses and make your blog worth visiting, find a niche you’re interested in exploring that you have (or can gain) some expertise in.
Stick to Your Niche
Once you have a niche, stick to it. The more relevant your content is to your niche, the more loyal your (relevant) audience will be to you.
Know Your Audience
In developing your niche, you’ll also be developing a target audience. Know who you’re writing for, and tailor your content for them. You can’t be everything to everybody; if you get noticed by a certain segment of the population, you stand to become better known than if you try to cater to everybody.
Monetizing and getting sponsorships will be much easier when you can define your audience.
Build an Audience Before Monetizing
The best advice I got in my first year of blogging when I asked an advertising dude how I could start to monetize my site, was simply to keep blogging. Nobody would be interested in advertising/sponsorship opportunities until I had an audience to speak of. So instead of littering my travel blog with google ads and diluting my content with sponsored guest posts, I simply focused on pumping out quality content and building my audience. The rest came in time.
Comment and Post on Other Travel Blogs
One way to build an audience is to get out there and gain exposure on other sites. Know your industry by reading other travel blogs, and become a part of the travel blogging community by thoughtfully commenting on their posts.
As you network within travel blogging circles, you might get an opportunity to do a guest post for another site – do it! This will provide exposure for your blog to a new audience, and will also provide valuable back links to your blog.
Set a posting schedule and stick to it. Technically the more often you post, the more traffic you’ll build, but don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. Also, you might be full of ideas at the beginning, but you can bank those ideas; it’s better to pace yourself and schedule posts in advance than to burn out too quickly. Posting 2-3 times per week is generally sufficient and sustainable.
Write Something You’re Passionate About
It will be much easier to write regular posts if you’re passionate about the topic at hand. This is why it’s important to select a good niche for you and your audience, and not just focus on what niche/topic is going to make you money.
I spoke to a travel blogger who developed her site solely with an aim to monetize. To this end she did everything right, and she made some decent money – but she hated it. She felt like she’d sold her travel blogging soul, and eventually shut down the blog when she found something more inspirational to do.
Pictures really do tell a thousand words, and internet readers lap them up. Especially when it comes to travel blogging, it’s important to illustrate your story with photos.
Create Descriptive Titles
I used to write really abstract (I thought they were brilliant and artistic) titles, but they didn’t particularly serve me well. Internet readers want to know what they’re going to get before they click on your article, so the more you can tell them in your title, the better the chances are they’ll click through. This is also important from a search engine optimization point of view; your key words need to be in your post title.
Structure Posts for Scanners – I Mean, Readers
Most internet readers are scanners; they want to read your post without really having to read it. Refrain from lengthy paragraphs, and organize your content with sections and headlines that make it easy for a reader to scan through your article to get a sense of what it’s about. If they like what they see/scan, they’ll take a closer look.
Work Social Media
Having a strong social media following is imperative to building an audience and eventually monetizing your travel blog. Many of the ads, sponsored trips, and even the freelance writing gigs I land are contingent on my ability to use social media to get the message across. Be aware that this can be an enjoyable – but slightly relentless – task, requiring you to post and interact with readers daily.
Personally, I work Facebook, Twitter, G+, and a wee bit on Instagram. Pinterest also seems to be hot these days.
Once you’ve got an established blog, audience, and social media following, sponsorship opportunities will open up. These vary greatly depending on your travel blog’s niche and audience. I’ve gotten anything from free/discounted accommodation, to rail passes, to fully-paid trips.
For more information, see: Financial Travel Tip #52: Getting Sponsorships
Also, if your primary motivation is to receive free accommodation by virtue of having a travel blog, check out the book Next Stop Who Knows: How to Save Money With Complimentary Stays. You can find a review of the book here.
Select Advertising Carefully
Once your travel blog gains momentum and popularity, you’ll likely be contacted by all manner of advertisers looking for text links, guest posting opportunities on your site, and sidebar/banner ads. Some of them will be relevant to your audience and niche, and many won’t. Some will pay well, and many won’t. Some pay flat fees, and others work on an affiliate or CPM basis.
Make sure that any advertising options you choose will ultimately serve your audience. If your travel blog is littered with irrelevant and distracting text links, badly written guest content, and if your sidebars are crammed with distracting ads, you’ll lose readers.
If you’re in the travel blogging game for the long haul, don’t go for the easy money if there isn’t a value offering in it for your readers.
Consider Freelance Writing
Not many travel bloggers make a full-time living with their travel blog alone. Some pad their income with consulting or social media marketing services, many produce digital products like e-books, and others work as freelance writers. Many travel bloggers (myself included) employ a combination of tactics to pay the bills. Check out where and how I make my money here.
Freelance writing goes hand-in-hand with travel blogging nicely (assuming you’re a gifted writer); my travel blog serves as a portfolio of where I’ve been published, and I regularly feature other articles I’ve written. In fact, I can command a high rate for online freelance articles because of my established reach and audience, and my ability to create valuable back links to other publications. Not only that, but I can often incorporate valuable links back to my own travel blog from these publications I write for, which makes it a very symbiotic (and profitable) relationship.
See also: How to Become a Travel Writer
Attend Industry Conferences and Events
I haven’t been very good at this part thus far, but there’s no doubt that you can up your travel blogging game by attending industry conferences like TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange), PTBA (Professional Travel Bloggers Association), and others.