The biggest obstacle when it comes to blogging is actually getting started. Once you get going the fun starts. It can be difficult to navigate the tech and blogging world, especially if you do not have a background in it. As a 19 year old medical student getting in blogging was like going to another planet. There was so much to learn. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing at the start (and a lot of the time still feel like I don’t). I had never dabbled in web design, travel photography, travel writing, media/communications, or anything like that.
You will probably have noticed that it seems as though most successful travel bloggers do have this background in communication/photography/media/advertising/etc. This would definitely give you an upper hand in this business. Most of the questions I get about starting a blog are from readers who do not have this background and are a bit spooked by the tech-talk of blogging.
So I have decided to write this guide. The guide is aimed at novices like me. People who have stories, tips and goals they want to share with the world, but need the information to get these ideas out there. Although it is aimed at new-to-tech people, hopefully there are tips here which are useful to anyone. And it also isn’t exclusively useful for travel blogs, but can be applied to all types.
It is very important to lay yourself a strong foundation. A good foundation will make your future in blogging as stress-free as possible. When you get going blogging the last thing you want to worry about the basics you *wish* you had done before.
So here we go — your crash course to starting a travel blog.
Should I start a travel blog?
Unfortunately, the glory days of blogging may be behind us. The internet is absolutely saturated with blogs now and it is harder to crack into the business and make money than it was before. Although that is the reality nowadays it should not discourage you. With this influx of blogs has also been an influx of platforms for sharing, tools to set you up, and brands open to working with bloggers.
Before you get started it is worth sitting down and figuring out your goals. Even though it looks like it, blogging is not easy money and it takes a long time to get off the ground, build a reputation, and turn it into a job.
Important questions and goals to define before you get going are:
Am I going to be doing this as a hobby or a business?
What are my motivations? Money? Fun? To share my stories? To raise awareness for something?
How many hours am I willing to put into this?
How much money am I willing to invest in my blog?
Where do I see this blog in a month/a year/five years?
These are just some examples of the types of things to think about before throwing yourself into blogging. If you have clear and concise goals before getting into the business it will make things a lot easier.This clarity helps focus your efforts in a pretty nebulous industry.
Blogging is a fantastic way to be creative and be in charge of your career. You have the opportunity to present your own creative space to the world and it is genuinely so much fun. It is hard work but commitment, creativity and motivation pay off big time. Blogging gives you opportunities to collaborate with brands you love, learn about the world of marketing, and enable you to have a job which takes you around the globe. Basically, if you can do it, it’s plain awesssooommme and totally the best job ever.
Passion + Hard Work = Pay Off
Finding a travel blog niche
The next part is all about figuring out who your target market is and working out a niche. With so many blogs out there it is really important to know who you’re targeting and what you want your readers to get out of your blog. Although the earlier the better, it can take a while to figure out your niche exactly and tailor your blog accordingly.
If you just blog about travel in general it’ll be too wide. You’ll be competing for search engine rankings and readers with big fish like Lonely Planet and Nat Geo Travel. That is some tough competition. The more niche you go, the more likely you are to rank highly for your area and attract genuine readers who will stick around.
It is helpful to establish a niche but don’t stress if you don’t have one quite yet. Stick to a more generic/personal domain name rather than a niche domain name and test the waters for a while.
A little bit of personal experience I started out exclusively blogging about *super* budget travel as my niche. Although it brought in a lot of readers, it wasn’t the best for collaborating with brands so I broadened out to student travel. This means that there is a bit more room to move. I still blog about super budget options but also share information for students wishing to travel in different styles.
Below are *some* examples of different niches. Do some research on some of the successful niches and see where you might fit in.
- Solo female travel
- Budget travel
- Student travel
- Eco-friendly travel
- Family travel
- Couple travel
- Travel with chronic disease
- Expat and living abroad
- Travel hacking
- Food-related travel
You get the idea — there are plenty of niches and plenty of room to move! So think of what you’re most passionate about regarding travel and find your space on the Internet from there.
SEE SOME EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL NICHE BLOGS: Best Travel Blogs To Be Following in 2017
What should I call my travel blog?
This is such an exciting part of the process and I loved it so much. It is really awesome to sit down and brainstorm ideas which represent you and your mission. Unless you have your heart absolutely set on a name I would sit down, write a list of several and then sit on them for a bit. A good blog name needs to be catchy, represent you/your theme, and not already taken by somebody else.
Write down a couple of names you like and think about how they would work in a variety of elements:
- As a domain name: is it too long or confusing when written as a URL?
- Branding and logos: how will this name work for online logos, headings, and in physical promotional material?
- Representation: does this name show to a reader who doesn’t know me, what my blog stands for?
- Availability: is the name available as a domain and on social media?
- Unique: is this name too similar to another blog or actually belong to another blogger? Am I having to add an underscore, a number, or .net instead of .com to get this domain?
- Timelessness: is this a travel style I am going to change in the future? Is this a reference to something which will go out of date?
+ avoid using terms which might cause offence to people. For example, a lot of bloggers go under names involving the word ‘gypsea’. Although they probably did not mean this to be offensive when creating the blog it has caused a lot of hurt in the blogging world. So please, please, please make sure your name is not inflammatory or derogatory.
I would totally recommend doing some scribbles on a piece of paper for potential logos and headers. This can sometimes really crystalise your decision.
But the most important thing to do? Get a second opinion! First start by asking people you know which one sounds best and then ask strangers. Seriously. Because most of the time it’ll be strangers reading your blog so you want to do some market research. You want to make sure the name is catchy, people like it, and it actually makes sense (especially if the name is not in your native language). For me, I love to use travel Facebook groups to get opinions on blog stuff. Just search for travel blogging or blogging groups on Facebook and you’ll find plenty of lovely people able to offer their opinions.
Personal experience again When I started blogging it was under the name Frugal Backpacker, which then quickly changed to Backpacker’s Guide To The Galaxy. I really liked it and it stayed as the blog name for about a year. But there started being problems with this name: the URL was too long, the social media handles were too long so had to be shortened to acronyms, people didn’t know where to put the apostrophe, etc. etc. etc. So eventually I decided it was time to move to something short and sharp. So I moved to Travel Textbook. A name with a much shorter URL and social media handles which were all available. So far, so good.
Choosing a platform
Without meaning to sound too dramatic your platform will seriously change your blog’s life haha. The platform determines which themes you use, whether you have to buy a domain name, which plugins you can have, the level of support you receive, and how much you pay for it all. I have dabbled in creating sites using a few platforms and will detail them a bit below.
This is the platform most bloggers use and is the platform I have Travel Textbook on. WordPress.org is the paid version of WordPress. It is trusted by thousands of websites and is highly customisable. There are hundreds of different themes, you can have your own domain name, and you receive fantastic support. Of all the platforms I have tried, WordPress.org is the one I decided to stick with, but be prepared to familiarise yourself with a bit of tech-speak. Before you install WordPress however you will need to do the step below this (registering with a host).
This is the free version of WordPress and is good for people who don’t want to invest monetarily in blogging. It still comes with a range of themes, plugins and support. Unfortunately, WordPress.com does not enable you to have your own domain name so it will come up looking something like example.wordpress.com. This is the platform I first used for this blog but quickly switched to the paid version.
Wix has been around for a while and has really lifted its game. There are loads of themes and you can choose whether to have your own domain name or not. IMO the pre-made themes on Wix look a lot better than the pre-made themes on WordPress but they are less customisable.
You have probably heard of squarespace because they have been advertising prolifically in the last few months but that is because they have massively improved. Squarespace has loads of ready-to-go, responsive web designs which really do look gorgeous. Again, as with Wix, it does not have all the customisations that WordPress has, but it’s pretty darn close. With Squarespace you can choose to register your domain through them as well so it’s all done under the same company.
Get your blog domain name and register with a host (WordPress users)
You will need to register your domain name using a third party host. The host essentially reserves your space online and they’re the ones which hold your data so when someone clicks on your blog, the request is processed by their servers.
There are plenty of hosts out there including GoDaddy, HostGator, Bluehost, and Siteground. Each varies in quality and price.
My choice? Siteground.
They have very affordable hosting plans and the best 24 hour support service. Seriously, whenever I’ve had a problem they have been so helpful in resolving it around the clock. I’ll detail the information for signing up with Siteground below.
1. Go to Siteground using this link
Begin the sign up process from here.
2. Choose a plan
There are three plan options with Siteground which vary in price and features. I would recommend starting with the smallest one because it is fine for starting out with small traffic. You can upgrade to the bigger plans at any time.
3. Registering the domain
You will be taken to an order page where you are required to enter the domain name. It will also give you a list of extensions to add to the domain, choose .com.
4. Information and Details
The next window shows you the billing. It will ask for billing details as well as how often you wish to be billed. It’s cheaper the more months you subscribe for. The extras of Domain Privacy and HackAlert are also available to purchase if you wish.
Installing WordPress on Siteground
Go to Siteground and login to your account. There should be a Website Setup Wizard available when you login. Select ‘Start a New Website’ and choose WordPress. Then fill in the required details and you will have confirmation of your account. And that’s it!
Woo! Congratulations! You now have a travel blog live on the web with your own domain!
Choosing a theme and creating a look
There are loads of free themes on WordPress available on your dashboard under Appearance. These are easily installed for your blog. If you want the more advanced themes for WordPress you can purchase premium themes. These might be more customisable and have better support.
Themes on WordPress are *very* adjustable so just choose a basic one you like and you can make it unique without too much trouble. Have a look at some of your favourite bloggers and see what themes they use for some inspiration.
Make sure whatever theme you choose is mobile and tablet friendly because that will save you *a lot* of trouble.
It’s useful to decide upon a colour scheme so things don’t look too messy on your blog. I started off with yellow which I had for years and recently changed to blue/purple. You can change your colours whenever you want, but consistent colours is great for branding and creating recognisable promotional material.
Plugins are something that you kind of pick up along the way. They are the added extra bits you can put into your theme and can be found under Plugins on your WordPress dashboard. There are some good ones to have initially though, including: Yoast SEO, Google Analytics, Akismet, and Jetpack.
Key initial content for a travel blog
Now you’ve got your domain and theme set up, it’s time to get started on making some content. It’s important to have some content on the site before you begin promoting it or sharing it with friends. These are the pages I would recommend you get set up (and the examples from Travel Textbook if you need inspo):
- HOME: get a home page set up which reflects what your blog is about. Include your header, some colour, a logo (if you want one), and links to the other areas of your blog
- ABOUT: where you write a bit about yourself and your blog so people can better understand your message (see Travel Textbook’s)
- CONTACT: a simple page directing readers to the ways to reach out to you for questions, comments, and collaborations (see Travel Textbook’s)
- DESTINATIONS: as a travel blog it’s good to have a centralised Destinations page to act as an umbrella for all your destination-centric posts (see Travel Textbook’s)
- BLOG: have a page where all your blog posts end up, you can subcategorise your blog posts too if you wish (see Travel Textbook’s)
There are some other aspects which you should consider fixing up as well before you start promoting:
- Make sure you have an accessible menu
- Ensure there is an easy-to-see search bar
- Use the footer space for some widgets and navigation
- Update your sidebar to include some information about the blog, your social media accounts, and a latest/popular post reel
- Add sharing buttons to your posts
Starting Social Media Accounts
It is important to get onto social media ASAP and set up your accounts because this is how you will get your content out there. To really take your blog to the next level it requires more than sharing on your personal page, it will need its own platforms. Here are the platforms I would recommend getting up and running first:
- Facebook: Facebook still is the most important place to share articles and reach readers. Make a Facebook page for your blog and invite your friends (don’t be afraid of shameless plugs!)
- Pinterest: Pinterest is the *best* social media platform for bloggers IMO. It sends traffic straight to your website in a way that other platforms don’t seem to.
- Instagram: Instagram isn’t the greatest driver of traffic but it is great for getting noticed by brands and other travel enthusiasts.
- Twitter: Twitter is a great way to reach readers and share your thoughts! It’s definitely worth setting up an account. Once you get enough followers it can become a real driver of blog traffic.
Getting Connected With Search Engines
If you want to get noticed by search engines you need to be in the game. You need to register your website on Google, Bing and Yahoo. This is done through the Webmaster sections of each respective search engine.
Once your site is indexed by these search engines you will begin to come up in people’s searches which is so exciting.
While you’re there, sign up for Analytics. Google Analytics is the most comprehensive way to know how many people are looking at your site, where the traffic is coming from, and where you need to make improvements.
CONGRATULATIONS! You now have a travel blog and are free to conquer the Internet world. I sincerely hope this helped you to make your creative space happen!
Have any questions or tips for starting a travel blog? Let me know in the comments below because I would love to hear from you
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Need more information?
Want to take your blog to the next level? I am currently writing an in-depth guide to building a blog audience which I will post the link to here when the product is live.