How to Create a Wildly Successful Travel Blog

Travel has always been big business—in fact, the travel and tourism industry provides the number one service export in the United States—but it’s become a true juggernaut in recent years thanks to the ever-increasing popularity of travel blogging. The Internet has made armchair travel easier than ever before, and with thousands of bloggers making travel not just a hobby, but a lifestyle and career, the potential audience for an exceptional travel blog is enormous.

Cashing in on the bounty offered by the travel industry requires more than slapping up a quick prefab website and shopping for sponsors. For starters, it’s not all free plane tickets and comped margaritas; your eyes must be wide open to the significant challenges that accompany building a successful travel blog. In addition, it’s critical to invest time and research in discovering the right niche for your new blog. Whether it’s focused on a specific region, age group, or other category, finding the right niche can make all the difference between a blog that soars and one that falls flat on its face.

Your blog needs a home on the Web, and researching the right hosting provider is very important. Travel blogs often feature lots of photos and videos, so make sure you carefully evaluate potential hosts to make sure they’ve got the bandwidth, storage, and other features your new blog requires.

As with any other blog, creating your own original content will be an another essential part of your success. High-quality content that’s useful, actionable, and interesting to your target audience will go a long way toward building an following that can provide lucrative ad revenue or even be converted into customers for your inevitable travel book. And don’t forget the photos! Investing in quality photography gear (and training, if necessary) can have a big impact on your blog’s readership and shareability.

In addition to the original content you’ll be sharing on your blog, smart use of social media in your promotional efforts can pay off handsomely. Engaging your audience and participating in discussions, as well as sharing a variety of content (rather than simply broadcasting your own) will go far in building and growing your online following and fandom.

Ready to chase your dreams and document your globe-trotting adventures for the masses? Before you grab your laptop and your camera, remember that focusing your vision and audience, choosing the right tools, and creating compelling content are the first steps on the journey to travel blogging success.

Travel Blog

How to Create a Wildly Successful Travel Blog

If you’re familiar with long exposures, fluent in shutter speeds, and know your way around Photoshop, you might be interested in photography. And what better way to share your passion with the world than to create your very own photo blog? Here are some simple tips to help you get started.

Choose Your Niche

In order to stand out from the many photography blogs already out there, you’ll need to pick a niche to focus on. When choosing your focus, consider the following:

  • Does this topic excite me?
    • If the subject matter you’ve chosen doesn’t excite you, it probably won’t excite your audience.
  • Do I know about this topic?
    • You can’t expect people to respect your authority on a subject if you aren’t an authority.
  • Are other people interested in this topic?
    • If your focus is small, you might also narrow your audience.
  • What makes you different?
    • You’re unique and your blog should be too.
    • Capitalize on your strengths, whether that’s your composition, writing style, or technical skills.

There are plenty of niches to consider:

  • Food
  • Fashion
  • Nature
  • Animals
  • Weather
  • Graffiti
  • Sports
  • Portraits
  • Panoramas
  • Events in your own life

Here are three photographers who have really found their niche:

  • Jasmine Star (jasminestarblog.com/)
    • A talented writer who puts effort into understanding her subjects’ stories and then tells those stories in a romantic way.
    • Her words are just as good as pictures, so she leverages that strength.
  • Ryan Brenizer (ryanbrenizer.com/)
    • Ryan is very skilled technically, so he blogs for other photographers as much as his clients.
    • He documents his technical tricks, teaching other people how to take amazing pictures.
  • Laurens Kuipers (blog.laurenskuipers.nl/pixelpost/)
    • A Dutch photographer focusing on architecture and natural landscapes.
    • Laurens makes sure to include living things in many of his images, whether they’re man-made structures or pristine landscapes.

What’s in a Name?

People will come to your photo blog because of your photos, but they have to get there first.

  • Your blog’s domain name should be short, catchy and memorable.
  • Be creative, use these ideas to create a unique blog name:
    • Make a list of keywords related to your blog then look for synonyms and etymologies of those words.
    • Compound two words (Facebook)
    • Add a prefix or suffix to a word (Friendster)
    • Tweak a word (Travelocity)
    • Blend parts of two words together (Netscape, Microsoft)
    • Make up something completely new and unique (Squidoo, Etsy)
    • Use a phrase (Flickr, StumbleUpon)
    • Misspell a word (Digg, Topix)
  • Make sure no one else has something similar to yours.
    • Check social media networks to make sure the name is available there as well.
    • Use knowem.com to check hundreds of social media sites.
  • Avoid hyphens, they can diminish your credibility.
    • Arguably, they indicate spam and can make it more difficult for you to earn links.

Set Up Your Site

Once you know what you’re going to call your blog, it’s time to create it. You’ll need a hosting company, a domain name, and a platform to begin.

Hosting Company

These companies provide you with:

  • Bandwidth (so people can visit your site)
  • Storage space (pictures take up a lot of space)
  • Tools and plugins for your website

There are plenty of companies that can help you make a website, many of which are fairly inexpensive (or even free), like:

  • Wix
  • Yola
  • Weebly
  • GoDaddy

Typically, you can purchase your domain name from your hosting company, allowing you to bundle domain registration and hosting all in one place.

Pick a Platform

Not only do you need a place for your website, you also need a platform to run it. A platform is software that runs your website on a hosting server. WordPress is a good choice for a number of reasons:

  • 48% of the Technorati’s Top 100 blogs use it.
  • WordPress powers nearly 75 million websites worldwide.
  • You can use WordPress in 40 different languages.
  • They have a large support community and numerous of 3rd-party resources, in addition to their dedicated support team.
  • There are 29,000 plugins for WordPress (and new one gets added almost every hour).

Alternative Blogging Software:

  • Koken
    • Koken.me CMS designed for photographers

Focus on the Visual

Photography is all about what you see, and people coming to a photo blog expect to see a nice-looking website. High-quality images are important, but the way those images appear on the page is vital.

Themes to Customize WordPress

Themes are the way you present and control information on your blog.

  • Pick a theme that showcases the main focus of your photo blog: the photos.
  • A great theme will be clean and simple, without a lot of visual clutter to distract from your pictures, and one that gives you a lot of room.
  • Example themes:
    • Nishita
    • Duotone
    • Modularity Lite
    • Anthem
  • You can find these directly on the WordPress site under the “Themes” tab, or from sites like Theme Forest and Elegant Themes.
  • While you can find themes for free, expect to pay around $50 for one that looks professional.

Plugins

Plugins add widgets to your blog, giving your website greater flexibility.

Plugins to help with photo blogs:

  • Lazy Load
    • Data-rich pictures can slow things down on your server if you post long strings of images.
    • This plugin only loads images when the user gets to that point in the post.
    • Saves your readers load time and bandwidth on your site.
  • Flickr Feed Gallery
    • If you already have a presence on Flickr, you can connect your account to your website, making it even easier for people to check out your photos.
  • NextGEN Gallery
    • One of the most popular WordPress photo gallery plugins, NextGen Gallery makes arranging your images quick and easy.
  • Soliloquy
    • This plugin lets you create responsive sliders that you can embed on pages and blogs.

Blogging essentials:

  • Disqus Comment System
    • Part of the fun of creating a blog is interacting with your audience.
    • The Disqus comment system makes commenting easier and replaces the standard WordPress comment system.
  • Akismet
    • Any website receives its share of spam, but Akismet compares any comments it finds on your site to its library of robo-content.
    • If a comment looks like it was made by a bot, Akismet filters it.
  • Addthis.com Share/Follow buttons
    • Make it easy for your readers to follow your website and share it with others by adding social media buttons.
    • Addthis.com’s plugin even lets you track which social media platform your audience uses most.
  • WordPress SEO
    • This plugin makes creating searchable content even easier by letting you examine keyword density, write your own meta-descriptions, and check for alt-tags on your images.

Point-and-shoot or DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex)?

The equipment you use will affect the quality of your images, though expensive equipment won’t guarantee a better picture. Here are some things to consider when getting your camera.

Point-and-shoot

  • Less expensive
    • Expect to pay $50-$500.
  • Smaller, easier to carry
    • The Nikon Coolpix is only 1 inch thick.
  • Not as many lenses are available
    • Most point-and-shoot cameras don’t have interchangeable lenses.

DSLR

  • Pricey
    • High-quality cameras and their lenses can cost between $1,000-$7,000.
  • Bulkier
    • DSLR cameras tend to be larger, as are the lenses.
  • Adaptable
    • The wide variety of lenses allow you to take pictures of things far away, extremely close, or moving quickly.

How to Get the Perfect Picture

Great photographs require the perfect blend of lighting, composition, and shutter speed. Being mindful of these will help you create exactly the image you’re looking for.

Lighting

  • Take pictures outside, if possible.
    • The sun provides a wonderful, free light source.
    • Avoid bright, cloudless days.
      • Intense light can wash out your subject.
      • It also casts strong shadows.
    • Cloudy days diffuse the light, allowing you to create softer images.
  • Position your lights on boths sides of your subject.
    • This eliminates shadows to one side or the other.
    • Backlighting makes it more difficult to capture details.
    • Lighting from the front can be harsh.
  • If you use a flash, be wary of reflective surfaces.

Composition

Largely a matter of personal taste, composition is the act of visually composing the images inside the frame of the picture. Classically, there are some “rules” of composition:

  • Divide your picture into a 3×3 grid.
    • Arrange important elements along these lines and intersections.
    • If you place an element of your picture to one side, balance it out with something on the other side.
    • Find something in the photograph that leads the viewer to what you want them to see.
    • Symmetry is pleasing, but something that breaks symmetry adds tension to a scene.
    • Consider your viewpoint
      • Eye level is standard, but you might be better served by being:
        • Very close
        • Far away
        • To the side
        • Looking up
        • From behind
    • Backgrounds can be distracting
      • A plain background makes it easier to focus on the subject of your photo
    • To create depth, layer the image with objects in the foreground, middle ground, and background.
      • Overlapping, or partially obscuring one item with another one, adds depth to an image.
    • Framing a picture with buildings, natural objects (trees, mountains, etc.) creates a forceful image that draws the eye to the subject in the center.
    • To reduce the visual “clutter” in an image, crop the picture so that you can focus on your subject.

Shutter Speed

  • The faster your shutter speed, the crisper your image will be.
  • Slow shutter speeds make your images blurry, which can be an interesting effect.
    • At 1/30th speed, raindrops in a thunderstorm will be streaks of white.
    • At 1/250th, the raindrops hover in mid-air, allowing you to see each droplet.

Uploading Pictures: Dos and Don’ts

Do:

  • Upload your pictures as JPEG files (the best format for viewing images on the web).
  • Resize your images to the maximum your theme demands.
  • Edit your pictures before uploading them.

Don’t:

  • Upload your originals to your blog (anyone can download them after that).
  • Forget to save your original files before editing them.

Don’t Forget the Content

To increase your blog’s rankings in search engines make sure to include alt-text in your pictures (giving the search algorithms something to scan).

Alt-text

  • Stands for “Alternate text”
  • Shows up when a cursor hovers over an image.
  • Add this information by clicking on the image in WordPress and then filling in the “Alt” field.
  • Use hyphens to distinguish keywords. (Example: “cute-puppies-field.jpg” not “cutepuppiesfield.jpg)
  • Don’t use too many keywords, or the value of each one will be diluted.
  • Remember: Bing and Google look at the words on your page in order to determine what your website is about. Besides alt-text, you can boost your site’s search engine ranking by writing about:
  • Camera/equipment reviews
  • The story behind each photograph
  • Photography tutorials
  • Photographers you admire

Blogs are a great way to share your passion with the world, and if your passion is photography, it’s easier than ever to show off your art.

“Photography is the only language that can be understood anywhere in the world.” – Bruno Barbey

Sources

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Discussion

2 Comments to “How to Create a Wildly Successful Travel Blog”

  1. This is great! My first insightful comment will be here. My husband and I have been traveling and teaching for the last two years. We are struggling with the suffocating life iof Los Angeles. We are considering the plunge again, this time for a longer commitment. And to document our experience. We had so much to share when we got home, I think there is an opportunity to share while we are experiencing it. With those who want to know about our experience and those who want it for themselves. Thank You!

  2. This is great! My first insightful comment will be here. My husband and I have been traveling and teaching for the last two years. We are struggling with the suffocating like in Los Angeles. We are considering the plunge again, this time for a longer commitment. And to document our experience. We had so much to share when we got home, I think there is an opportunity to share while we are experiencing it. With those who want to know about our experience and those who want it for themselves. Thank You!

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