In the recent Q&A we did I received tons of questions about how to become a travel blogger and how to start a blog.
I have been blogging for almost a year now and while I am not a six-figure entrepreneur, it has opened up a lot of opportunities for me and I make enough to survive while on the road. My aim was always to be able to fund continual travel. After 10 months my blog is viewed more than 75,000 times a month and is on track to be viewed 100,000 times per month by the end of my first year of blogging. More importantly, I get emails each day from people thanking me for helping them plan a trip to the Philippines, Oahu or other locations around the world. I get to explore the world, improve my photography and challenge myself in so many different areas.
In this article, I will cover the basics of setting up a blog. I will also talk about some strategies for growing traffic and have traffic to your site from day 1. The day my blog launched it received 1200 page views and it averaged 12000 page views in the first month. It continually grew from there. This wasn’t a fluke as I had been preparing for the launch for months. The notion that you can set up a blog, post an article and have thousands of people view it because it is a great piece of writing its a bit naive. You need to figure out how to promote your content no matter how good it is!
So let’s get started with the basics of how to become a travel blogger
#1 Picking a name
- Choose an evergreen name! If you want your blog to last a number of years don’t call it ‘teenswhotravel.com’ or it will be quite awkward when you are 20. When I was deciding my blog name with my partner at the time we discussed some names that incorporated couples into the title. We parted ways in September and it would have been a bit an issue for the blog if it was called ‘thetravelingcouple.com’
- Go for something unique! Nothing against them but I think there are enough blogs with the word nomad, travel, backpacker, and wanderlust. This is your first chance to let your personality and creativity shine through. Journey Era represents the journey I am on. After graduating I felt that this next era or period of time would be a huge journey and I had no idea where it would take me.
- Make it short and memorable. The shorter the better. Correct spelling and no hyphens, dots or dashes are perfect. Imagine having to tell people my website ‘journey dash era’.
- You only get to pick it once so go big and go bold.
#2 Register the name on all social media profiles
Before even worrying about getting the hosting for the domain and registering your name make sure it is available on social media. Although it isn’t imperative it is definitely important to be able to grab your name on Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter. You are creating a brand that needs to be cohesive.
#3 Sign up with Bluehost and buy your hosting.
Now that you have secured the name on all social media platforms go ahead and purchase your domain name and your hosting. You can do both of these at the same time at Bluehost.com, which is the best value I have found.
#3 Make sure your domain name is available (do this before step 2)
#3 Install WordPress
Installing WordPress with Bluehost is perfect as they have all the instructions on their site for a 1-click installation process. Don’t get disheartened as it is a bit of a steep learning curve. I had many frustrating moments and still do. I can use a computer but have no idea when it comes to coding despite taking a basic class at college. Stick with it.
#4 Learn how to use WordPress
While you will learn most things as you go it is good to familiarize yourself with the dashboard. Learn how to create a draft and publish a post and edit pages, add categories and menu items.
If you do have trouble with anything you can always reach out to experts on Fiverr to help you solve a problem for $5.
Here are a few of my favorite WordPress training resources:
#5 Choose a theme
Head on over to Themeforest and choose a theme for your blog. Simplicity is key because unless you are a coding genius you will have to pay someone to make significant changes for you. I will admit I got caught up in a lot of the fine details about lines being too thick or other trivial things. Don’t spend a month choosing a theme and wasting a month worth of time you could be up and running with readers starting to view your blog.
Themes range from $25-$80 and all have different functions and styles. I chose a magazine style theme called FALIVE. It was an okay choice but I could’ve chosen a more functional theme. I wanted a stylish theme with a considerable amount of white space.
Head to Themeforest and find a theme you think suits your style but is also practical.
#6 Download some plugins
Plugins, Plugins, Plugins. These little guys are great. A plugin is essentially a minor customization to your blog. Some of them make your blog look prettier, some are social media sharing tools and others will help you with SEO. There are thousands to choose from to help you do all kinds of tasks.
- Yoast SEO
#7 Create your pages
Get creative. Everyone has the same pages if you look at travel blogs. Destinations, about, media kit, lifestyle, food, health. I decided I needed the about page and I liked the destinations page but I also added a gallery and a weekly page. On THE WEEKLY page, you can see my weekly reviews from my time on the road!
#8 Get Social
This is an entire blog post in itself, actually, it is an entire blog post for each platform at the least.
Let me just say that each platform is its own beast. If you learn how to tame one it doesn’t mean you know a thing about the other. Here is my breakdown of how to use each social media platform.
Instagram: Share your best photos here but also share yourself and your personality. This is my favorite platform and a very personable one. I chat to people each day show real-time happenings on my story and get to interact with lots of other like-minded people. I’ve met so many people lately through Instagram.
Pinterest: This is a platform that has the potential to drive great traffic to your site. Create beautiful pins directing traffic back to your articles and watch a few of them go viral. Join group boards and post to them to increase your exposure. Several of my pins have been repinned over 10,000 times and they still drive traffic to those blog articles daily.
Facebook: Create a page and share your blog posts, pictures and anything else you think people will enjoy. Facebook is a platform centered around liking and sharing. Can you create content that is highly shareable and makes people want to tag their friends in? I have never gone viral as such on Facebook but several of my articles have had over 100 shares after I posted them on my own page and into specific groups. For example, if you post an article about backpacking in the Philippines into a Philippines Backpacking Facebook group it is going to get much more attention than on your own feed.
Snapchat/Instagram Story: I don’t use Snapchat anymore but will share fun and crazy moments of travel while on the road. People love to see the behind the scenes and the real you, not just the Instagram moments.
Twitter: I can’t talk too much about Twitter, to be honest, I am hopeless and hardly use this platform but I know a lot of bloggers have huge success on the App.
#9 Create your content
You will want to launch with at least 4-5 articles so that your blog layout looks full. I launched with five articles at once and promoted each one on social media throughout the week. The question is what content will you create. In my opinion, it is all about a niche. I am not the best living proof of that. However, I was trying to find my way and find my niche and am evolving into it now.
The more specific your niche the more likely you can stand out. If you are a travel blogger who has a goal of inspiring others to travel join the already over the saturated crowd of generic blogs. If you are a solo backpacker who specializes in scuba-diving all of a sudden you have separated yourself from the pack. You will still have immense competition in the blogging world but people who are interested in scuba diving and travel are likely to show an interest in your blog rather than hoping your generic travel blog stands out.
How can you stand out?
I try and stand out by the quality of my photographs. However, I don’t classify myself as a great photographer by any means but I do spend a lot of time making sure that my photos are great content in themselves for a blogger. I also like to keep it real as much as possible and I think people enjoy relating to my travels.
I could pitch to hotels and probably by now have the majority of my accommodation compensated for in turn for sponsored posts. Sometimes I do this if it is a good fit and with good people. However, for the most part, I backpack on the cheap and try and travel as raw as possible. I ride on the top of buses, walk an hour from the airport with my luggage to save $4 and eat $1 noodles from street carts. These are things I do because I enjoy it and I spend my money wisely so it lasts. I hope my readers respect this and can relate to my experiences and I like to think I am portraying authentic experiences to my audience.
#10 Making Money
Worry about it later. In three months you will have networked and met enough bloggers if you did take it seriously that you can worry about it then. Most bloggers don’t make money from their blog straight away. You can put advertisements on your site from day one and receive a few cents per day but it’s not advisable. You will likely make your first dollars as a result of your blog but not directly from it. The blog is now your portfolio. If you are making a travel blog to make money you haven’t researched enough. This is not the best tool to make a profit. Try drop-shipping, site-flipping, amazon stores, Upwork, selling digital goods. Start a travel blog because it is a fun thing to do and you think you might love it. People will see straight through it if you make a blog to get rich and travel the world. That is my opinion and I’m not rich but I am traveling the world. Once you start generating some traffic you can start to look into affiliate marketing, sponsorships, ads and so forth. Still to this day I make all of my income outside of my blog except for a few deals here and there. I know others do things differently.
Strategies for growing traffic from Day 1
Now it’s time to be different. Why did I have over 12000 page views in my first month without any google searches? My site hadn’t even been indexed yet! It’s because I built a social media web first. I spent 6 months prior to launching the blog growing what I like to call the web. Consider yourself the spider attaching your web to different points. Each point is a social media platform. Once the blog launched I already had a few thousand followers on each platform who I could then direct to the blog. Don’t wait until you publish your first article to post on Twitter or to share something on your Facebook page. You have the opportunity now to start growing these platforms. Put time and research into current trends and strategies for growing each platform.
I highly recommend not overlooking Flipboard and Pinterest. Both generate more than double the amount of traffic for me than Facebook, twitter and Instagram combined.
Every time a new app comes out jump on it. Find the quickest way to expand yourself on that app. I remember an app called GhostCodes came out for Snapchat and it was a way to grow your following by following others and being featured in certain categories, helping you find other people snapping about travel. A bit of an odd app but it allowed you to gain hundreds of followers a day. Spend two hours on that app per day for a month and you will have yourself 10,000 snap chat followers, which you can translate into paid sponsorships, hotel stays and more. At the time I thought GhostCodes looked terrible. It is now the largest online database of snap chat users. Unfortunately with this attitude sometimes you waste a lot of time on apps or platforms that don’t take off but at least when it does you can capitalize on it to bring traffic to your blog.
By engaging with others on every platform, following as many like-minded people as you can find and collaborating, you will quickly grow your web. Your web will continue to grow and your website is the spider in the middle with all the readers getting caught in your web. Except they aren’t getting caught and eaten they are finding your awesome content and loving it.
Have content in the bank!
I had almost 20 articles in what I like to call the bank. That meant after the first successful week I would be able to keep the ball rolling with at least one post every two days. People would begin to know me as a blogger, the guy who is producing article after article. Your audience will start to take you seriously as you are putting a lot of time into creating all of this content. Consistency is key in the beginning.
I hope you have an awesome experience blogging and get off to a great start. Email me any questions you have to email@example.com or hit me up on instagram @jackson.groves
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.