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 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.
How to Create a Wildly Successful Travel Blog
The travel-blogging industry is continually growing, with more and more people wanting to make traveling the world their full-time job. Travel blogging requires passion, hard work and determination. Do you have what it takes? Use this guide to get your started on making your dream a reality.
Pick a Niche
The first step is choosing a niche that will make you stand out from all of the other travel blogs. It’s important to choose a specific niche that allows you to focus on one thing. For example, writing a blog about traveling in Latin America would be more difficult to do than a blog about backpacking in the Andes Mountains.
Ask yourself the following questions when choosing a niche:
Do you enjoy the niche?
Do you know what you are talking about?
Are others interested in this topic?
Is interest in this niche growing?
Do other blogs cover the same niche? If so, how many?
What are you competitors missing with their blog?
Will there be enough for you to write about?
Instead of a general travel blog, consider focusing on:
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Get Started with WordPress
More than 50% of Technorati’s top 100 blogs use WordPress, and for a good reason. WordPress is fast, easy to use and offers customizations for a unique site. The following will help you get your WordPress blog started.
If you are using a host, you will need to install WordPress on your computer. Some host providers offer tools that install WordPress for you.
Whether you use a host or not, WordPress provides tutorials to help get you up and running.
Once you have your account set up, choose a theme: The theme controls the design and presentation of the content on your blog. You can download a theme from WordPress, or download one from another site, such as Themeforest.
Plugins are tools meant to make WordPress more functional for both you and your readers. Here are some plugins that will help you with your travel blog.
Social Media Plugins
Being active on social media sites is integral to a successful blog.
addthis.com Share Buttons
This plugin allows you to add social media icons to your blog so your readers will share your posts.
You pick the style of share buttons.
This plugin won’t slow your site down and is optimized for mobile sites.
addthis.com Follow Buttons
Make sure your readers have easy access to your social media accounts.
Use this plugin to customize your follow buttons for your blog.
You can even see which social media networks your readers are using most and which content is getting the most attention.
This is for the times you cannot tweet, like when you are sleeping or without Internet access during your travels.
Promote your blog and drive traffic to your site by automatically posting tweets about your blog.
You set the frequency and choose posts you don’t want to include.
MapPress Easy Google Maps
This plugin is great for when you need to show your readers a certain area you visited or are discussing.
Use the interactive map in your editing screen by typing in an address.
Readers can get directions to the destination straight from your post.
Nomad World Map
A different type of map plugin that lets you map your trip.
Each location can link to a blog post, have a short description or display your travel dates.
WP World Travel
Show your readers your current location and travel details.
Your readers can propose meetups if you will be in the same location.
When you don’t have your own photo to use, this Flickr plugin allows you to search and view photos from WordPress.
It drops the photo in your post and includes photo credit.
Keep in mind that it may slow you down if Flickr servers are having a slow day.
This plugin creates a modern photo gallery for all of your travel photos.
You can organize and customize your galleries.
Photos can be displayed in a slideshow or as thumbnails, and in a post or on your sidebar.
This plugin allows you to add a watermark to uploaded photos.
This will prevent people from using your travel photos without giving you credit.
You choose the font, color, opacity and placement of the watermark.
This plugin creates a mobile-friendly site for your blog.
This is a great option for your on-tho-go readers.
Diqus Comment System
This plugin will help increase your blog exposure by making commenting more interactive.
It is SEO-friendly, allowing your comments to be indexable by search engines.
Provides notifications and the option to reply by email and spam filtering.
Once you are all set up on WordPress, you can start to focus on what the readers want, content!
Spend time on your title! It appears in search engine results, RSS feeds and social media, so it needs to be highly clickable.
Start a debate or create controversy.
Ask a question.
Personalize your title by using the world “you” in it.
Keep it short and irresistible.
Don’t use periods.
Identify a need and communicate to your readers that their need will be solved in your post.
Engage your readers! Write about your experiences, not just general info they can find elsewhere.
Let your personality shine in your posts, and make them personal.
Don’t give them a post full of general info they can find anywhere.
Write about YOUR experiences.
Give them advice based on your experiences.
Readers don’t have a very long attention span, so keep it brief.
Focus on giving your readers as much as they will need on the subject, without going overboard.
Some of your posts will be longer than others, but for the quick and simple ones, shoot for between 250 and 1000 words.
Add depth to your post and make it useful to your readers by:
Suggesting further reading
Using a metaphor or anecdote
Involving your readers (including a poll, ask them to respond)
Make your post scannable! Since only 16% of people want to read a website word for word, you will want to make it easy for them to scan.
Use bold, italics, CAPITALS, underlining and other formatting options.
Invite guest bloggers, but maintain the editorial integrity of the site by ensuring the articles they contribute are up to the same standard you hold yourself to.
Be consistent! Consistency in your publishing is important when building an audience. Create a publishing schedule and stick to it so your readers will know when to expect your next post.
Great photos are a staple for any travel blog. People want to see what you are experiencing.
Invest in a camera! When traveling the world you will need a reliable camera to capture your adventures.
When choosing you camera you will need to consider the following:
DSLR or Point and Shoot?
DSLRs are more expensive, larger and heavier, but have better photo quality.
The Nikon D5200, Canon EOS Rebel (any version) and Sony Alpha SLT-A37 are all popular cameras for first-time DSLR users.
Point and Shoot cameras are less expensive, more lightweight and smaller, but most don’t have the quality of a DSLR.
The Fujifilm FinePix, Sony Cyber-shot, and Canon PowerShot are all popular point and shoot cameras.
Will you be taking professional photos or simply documenting your trip for your memory and your readers?
Since space is tight when traveling, you will want something compact and lightweight.
Digital Photography School
A resource for everything photography, suggests the following for taking photos of your adventures:
Research photos of the places you want to visit and take note of the lighting, color and angles.
Take your time, try to get 5-10 great photos instead of 200 snapshots.
BE patient once you have found your spot.
Take advantage of the early morning light.
Give yourself options: Once you have found your perfect spot and angle, take horizontal and vertical images.
If you have a random person in your photo, try the photo with a man, woman, child, couple…
Don’t shoot too tight, you can always zoom in while editing.
Double check that your photo is what you want and not over or underexposed before moving on to your next destination.
Keep your lens and camera clean, you don’t want to ruin the perfect shot with dirt on your lens.
Take notes as you go of the names of the landmarks you photography, this will help when you get home and begin writing.
When you can’t find the right photos in your own library, don’t forget about the plugin mentioned above, Photo Dropper and other similar plugins.
If you’ve got the camera, and checked out some online tips and still don’t feel comfortable with your camera, take a class to improve your skills.
Check with the local photography stores to see if they offer any classes. Sign up for an online photography class or workshop. Some, like Matadoru.com, offer travel photography courses.
Get Your Name out There
You will need to become part of the travel blog community if you want to be successful. Using social media to your advantage will drive traffic to your blog.
Join the community:
Promote the work of others in the community.
Leave insightful comments on other travel blogs and share their posts/tweets.
Share other bloggers’ posts and tweets.
If someone retweets you, thank them and return the favor.
Join a travel blog community, like Travel Blog Exchange, Travel Writers Exchange and Bootsnall.
Join discussions and networks with other bloggers.
Social Media: Promote your blog on your social media networks.
Make sure your profile is professional and updated.
Post your blog link and a description on your profile.
Join groups surrounding your niche and share it there too.
Don’t just post your link, write a description to go with it.
Join Facebook groups where you can share your blog posts.
If you have a separate account for your blog, make sure to post on both accounts.
To get people to pin your post you will need an image that stands out.
Infographics and funny images are a great way to drive traffic back to your blog.
Include your blog URL on your Twitter handle.
Tweet about your post once it’s published.
Since you only have 140 characters, try to sum up your post or use a quote from it.
Start a Tweet Chat about your blog topic.
Update your status a few times a day.
Post about your new posts when they are published.
Boost the Authority of Your Blog
Getting new readers daily and building your links is extremely important.
Develop relationships with fellow bloggers.
Comment on other blogs and forums.
Write guest posts for other travel sites.
RSS Feeds: Give your readers the option to subscribe to you and receive updates via email.
Before you even consider this step, you need to make sure that you have done everything above, successfully established yourself as a trusted travel blogger and build a substantial audience.
Ways to Make Money Advertising
Only the largest blogs can rely solely on advertising to make a profit.
Contextual Advertising – Google Adsense is one of the most popular contextual advertising programs.
Ads are displayed based on the content of your blog.
Your blog is scanned by the programs, then ads are displayed based on the content of your blog.
You receive a certain amount each time someone clicks on one of the ads.
Yahoo Published Network
CPC Ads – These are similar to contextual ads, but they do not scan your blog’s content.
You can set them up to display ads about your keywords.
Average revenue for 1,00 clicks = $35.
To maximize profit, you can combine this type of ad with Google Adsense.
Impression-based Ads – You earn a small amount each time an ad is viewed on your blog.
Fastclick and Tribal Fusion are two impression-based ad programs.
Advertorial content that includes reviews or a topic that fits the brand’s niche.
Only do this if it benefits your reader and always disclose that it is a sponsored post.
This involves recommending a product to your readers with an affiliate link.
If your reader buys the product or takes action, you receive a percentage of the sale or an agreed performance fee.
Affiliate income is nice and relatively easy to get into, but if you want to make some serious money you might consider selling things related to your blog: apps, books or ebooks.
Be a speaker at travel conferences or anything else relating to what you do.
You may not get paid to do this in the beginning, but once your name is out there and you are established there can be profit.
Be a consultant in your area of expertise. Help people book their dream trip.
How Do They Do It?
Here is a look at how two top travel bloggers make money with their blog.
y Travel Blog
Advertising: Banner ads on the sidebar.
Create content for other sites (like Kidspot and Aussie Express).
Affiliate links: They use these, but not often.
eBooks: He has written two so far.
Wandering Earl Tours: Affordable trips to different countries, small profit.
Advertising, sponsorship and affiliate links.
Hang in There
If your goal is to make a living with your blog, you have to be patient and work hard.
Stick with it! It does not happen overnight.
According to a survey by FHR, more than 20% of travel bloggers say it took them 6-12 months to begin making money from their blog.
You may be working 60+ hours a week, but once you are established your work time will balance out.