I remember the day I decided to start a travel blog. I was in my early twenties and had started to grow weary of my 9-to-5 advertising job and the endless sea of Excel spreadsheets that made up my work day. I had also just started traveling on my own. It was a rather novel idea for me at the time to realize I could afford to travel on a budget, even with an entry-level salary. After a budget trip to Colombia, I wanted to start a website where I could share travel tips and stories with friends, family, and readers around the world.
One day after work, I opened WordPress and created The Pin the Map Project on a free template. The moment I pressed publish on my WordPress blog, I could not have anticipated just how far this little website would take me. I could not begin to know how I would quit my job years later to become a travel journalist, how I would speak at travel conferences, launch a travel magazine, and travel from Borneo to Nicaragua on the wings of my writing. The moment I decided to turn my passion for travel into a blogging business, countless doors opened up to me. Often I am asked by readers how to travel blog, and while there is no easy answer there are definitely steps to help get you started.
1. Setting up your new travel blog
For those just starting out, you can opt for a free website hosting service such as Wix.com, WordPress or Squarespace. When starting The Pin the Map Project, I chose a free WordPress template and gave myself three months to determine how dedicated I would be to blogging, before putting my money where my words were and hiring a web designer.
Once I hired a designer, The Pin the Map Project was moved from the free template of WordPress.com to WordPress.org and paid hosting on Bluehost. Deciding to pay for hosting and transfer from a free template means you’ll have more flexibility with your website’s design and access to more WordPress plugins. For the past few years, my website has been hosted on Bluehost until recently when I made the big decision to transfer over to Dreamhost.
For additional reading, check out: THE 8 THINGS I DID WHEN STARTING A TRAVEL BLOG
2. Know your niche
When starting a travel blog you need to figure out what your website will be about. The immediate answer may be travel, but with so many successful travel websites out there, it helps to find a specific niche. For example, if you’re an avid solo traveler then focus your content on solo travel, solo traveling stories and solo travel tips. If you’re a cruiser, then write about the best cruises to take, landing a budget cruise and cruising hot spots. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, then make your blog an adventure travel destination with tips on where to skydive, etc. The key here is to tap into your passion and start creating content that helps define your blog and grow your audience.
3. Get really social
Blogging is all about social media so utilize every platform to promote your work. For travel blogging, especially, Instagram is a key tool in creating visually stunning photography to help drive people to your content. When starting out, open a new Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube account. Make sure that all social media accounts are cohesive in the sense they have similar messaging, profile photos, headers, and content.
For more reading, check out my HONEST GUIDE TO BUILDING A BLOG FOLLOWING
4. Start thinking about SEO
Once you’ve set up your blog, decided on your blog’s focus and set up your social accounts, it’s time to start thinking about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO is an important part of any digital marketing strategy and using SEO in the right way can drive large volumes of people to your website. Essentially, SEO is what allows people to find your blog when using search engines like Google. SEO uses keywords—that should ideally appear in your headlines and posts—to drive people to your site.
If your head is spinning at the thought of SEO (you’re not alone!) then make sure to download the Yoast plugin on WordPress, which does all the heavy lifting of SEO for your blog automatically. It also helps to hire SEO marketing services to help advise on SEO strategies to get your blog traffic.
5. Now let’s talk about money
The dream, of course, is to have a wildly successful travel blog that will generate tons of money effortlessly, as you sip coconuts in Thailand. While this dream is achievable, let me manage expectations right now. In the 6+ years that I have been travel blogging, nobody I have met made money just from blogging. Almost all of the successful digital nomads I’ve come across are doing about a hundred things at once in order to live comfortably and stay far from the office.
When it comes to monetizing your blog, you will need display ads placed on your site. The Pin the Map Project uses Gourmet Ads, which is a premium food and travel ad network. In addition to running ads on your blog, you can monetize your work by working with brands on sponsored posts, selling products through your website, affiliate marketing and more. Get creative with your blog!
For more reading, check out my HONEST GUIDE TO MAKING MONEY AS A TRAVEL BLOGGER