Travel blogging has given me the freedom and the financial help I needed to make travelling a full time career!
Before I start, let me warn you that travel blogging isn’t as easy as it looks. Bloggers like me rarely share the huge amount of behind-the-scenes fuckups that go into making this lifestyle possible. My journey, too, has been a rollercoaster ride – but to tell you the truth, all the efforts were totally worth it.
Travelling is already an interesting profession, and blogging makes it a little more exiting, and motivating. Moreover when you want to make travelling a full time career, you need to look for ways to make money out of it. To me, there seemed no better option other than blogging. It has taken me more than one year to become a professional blogger – professional in the sense that I’ve now started making money out of it.
So today I want to share a useful guide about how to get started with blogging, including a few important tips I didn’t know when I’d originally initiated the journey myself:
7 Steps to Start Your Travel Blog
- Pick A Blog Name As Per Your Personality
- Choose Hosting
- Install WordPress Software
- Install Plugins
- Install A WordPress Theme
- Your First Blogging Steps
- Making Money With Your Blog
How To Start A Travel Blog
Some people get confused between the word ‘blog’ and ‘website’. So before we start, let’s understand that having a blog is no different than having a website. Though I’d call Footloosedev a blog, only because it looks like a magazine and helps people understand — before they even check it for themselves — that it might contain articles and stories about a topic. But even if I called Footloosedev a website, I won’t be wrong. All self-hosted blogs are apparently websites.
Now, starting your very first travel blog is actually pretty easy. If you follow this guide, and reciprocate everything what was told, you can establish your own professional travel blog in less than next couple of hours.
A lot of people plan on starting a travel blog just to keep their family and friends updated. If that’s all you want, go create a free WordPress.com blog. BUT if you want more people than just your friends and family to read about your journeys, and if you want the possibility of making money with your travel, like I did, then keep reading.
What Defines Your Blog?
I accept that I ended up being lucky about choosing FootlooseDev as my blog name. It represents my personality; it is short, memorable and long-term; and it perfectly syncs with the kind of travelling I am into — that is freestyle backpacking!
But I’ve seen people making a complete disaster choosing something like A20SomethingNomad or HimalayanTraveller. Now both the blog names sound interesting, but they’ve their limitations. What when you turn 30? And you decided to travel beyond just Himalayas?
Make a name that lasts. Be flexible with it, so that if you decide to shift gears or change your focus, you can keep the same domain name.
Secondly, avoid popular worlds like Nomad, or Wanderlust, or Wanderer – for two reasons. One, because you don’t want to confuse your future readers with an established blogger having a similar name. And two, because you don’t want to come in the last position in search engines, as other blogs (with a similar name) would might otherwise appear on top, due to their better SEO.
Thirdly, keep the name simple and memorable. Your travel blog domain name should be relatively short, and easy to remember. Do some brainstorming, write everything down and start playing with different combinations of words. Try using a thesaurus, to find better synonyms.
Avoid Hyphens, number and abbreviations. I never understood the fascination behind using abbreviations or numbers etc in the blog name. When you use numbers like ‘2’ or ‘4’ instead of ‘to’ and ‘for’; or use abbreviations to long words, you only make it risky for your business. A blog called “Footloose hyphen Dev the number 100 dot com” can never be effective for word-of-mouth marketing, which, in fact is the best kind of promotion – particularly during the early days of blogging. So avoid hypens. And avoid numbers.
Your Blog Is Hosted On Servers
I remember that setting up Hosting was the scariest part for me, because when I started out I had no idea what it even was. So if you too are confused about what I mean by hosting, understand it this way… by choosing a hosting, you “rent” a space on the internet. Almost like having a space for your email account.
If you want to create a free Wordress.com website, you don’t need to buy hosting, but then again, with a free WordPress account you’d only get something like ABC.wordpress.com as your domain name. However, if you choose a domain name and buy hosting you can have whatever blog name you like and an impressive ‘.com’, ‘.in’, or ‘.co.in’ etc.
There are a lot of basic hosting companies out there, with Godaddy and Bluehost being the two biggest and popular ones. I personally prefer Bluehost for their cheaper deals and better customer service. I am currently using Bluehost.
Moreover if you are just starting out, BlueHost is always of a better value. So if I were to suggest anything, let’s start with Bluehost, and here’s how to buy their hosting…
Part 1 – Click on the green button that says “get started now.”
Part 2 – Pick a plan.
Part 3 – Check to see if your blog name (domain name) is available.
Part 4 – Add Extra Features
To tell you the truth, you don’t need any add on features (except for Domain Privacy Protection), at least not during the first year of your blogging stint. So skip them.
Domain Privacy Protection, however, is something you SHOULD consider opting for. Why? Because if you don’t pay for Domain Privacy Protection, anyone can see your name and mailing address on your site. So it’s worth the extra few bucks to stop that from happening.
Though there are a few other softwares to establish your website, I particularly recommend WordPress for its ease of use. Unlike other softwares, like Druppal etc. anyone can work on WordPress, without having any prior computer knowledge. Just invest a few hours to understand its basic functionalities, and you’re good to go. It’s as simple as understanding Microsoft Word, or is perhaps even simpler.
WordPress is the king of blogging, and probably always will be. Most professionals use WordPress, even major newspaper websites like BBC & TimesOfIndia are WordPress hosted. Installing WordPress with your BlueHost Account is super easy, and allows you to start your website, without having a need to hire a developer.
Click through the simple installation process on your BlueHost cPanel. When it asks you where you’d like to install it, choose your new domain (ex: http://YourTravelBlogName.com).
Once you install WordPress, it will tell you where to log in (usually http://YourTravelBlogName.com/wp-admin). Use your username and password. From that page, you’ll be able to log in to your WordPress dashboard.
And that’s it! Welcome to the club! You now own your personal travel blog! Only a few steps more, and you’d be able to share your first blogpost and flaunt about it with friends.
Download Plugins That Best Cater Your Needs
After you’ve installed WordPress, go to ‘http://YourTravelBlogName.com/wp-admin/’ and use the username and password you’ve created to login.
From there, the first thing you want to do is install some useful plugins. Plugins are a great way to add additional functionality to your WordPress-powered site. There are thousands of premium options to choose from, but initially, choose only a few important, and free ones. Don’t get excited and pay unnecessary money in the start. You can always buy paid plugins later if you want.
A few important plugins to get basic functionalities and improve SEO are:
- Jetpack: My personal favorite – It offers you a spell-checker, contact forms, extra widgets, and a whole slew of more features
- Google Analytics For WordPress – To allow Google to track on your website traffic and use Google Analytics.
- Akismet– To protect your blog from spammers leaving comments on your posts. Totally recommended from the first day.
- Yoast SEO – For optimizing your articles for Google search, plus integrating Google Sitemaps and Analytics.
- Easy Social Share Buttons – To add social media sharing buttons for your articles.
Design Your Website With An Elegant Theme
A Theme is how you want your website to look like. And your new WordPress blog comes with a few standard themes.
While this is ok for playing around and using free themes in the beginning, if you want to take blogging seriously and eventually make money from it, you should consider buying a premium design – unless of course you’ve it custom made, from a developer.
I’ve changed my theme a few times, but after a few months of endless confusion, I’ve finally found something that fits my need better. The theme I am using at the moment is called Zuki, by Elmastudios. It costs 20 Euros and gives you much flexibility to customize your Home Page. What’s good about this theme is that it is very light – allowing visitors a fast browsing.
You moreover, just like other professional paid themes, get a support forum with Elmastudios where you can ask questions about customization, and someone will help you with any CSS/HTML coding. This moreover saves money in hiring a developer to get small things done.
Getting Started With Blogging
Create An ‘About Me’ Page, to help readers know who you are, and what you’re doing. An About me page is the most important page for you as a travel blogger, particularly if you’ve just started blogging, as 90% of the readers, who become your regular follower are going to read it, to know a little more about you. But make sure it lets your personality shine through. I remember, when I’d initially started blogging, I was so concerned with being professional that I ended up writing a bland introductory post that read no different than a Wikipedia page. Do not do that. Let people know who you actually are.
Create Accounts On Different Social Media Networks, because it is by social networking only that you can engage with your followers on a day to day basis. Social medias are engaging, and let you connect with your readers. Learning how to master Social Media is however another thing, and you’d only learn that with time. But for a start, and as a blogger, you must have your profile on different social media networks, particularly on Facebook (have a Facebook Page, not a profile), Twitter, Instagram, Google+ (very important for SEO), Pinterest and Youtube.
Start An Emailing List, and build your base. Why? Because people are far more likely to see your content via email than any other network, and while social networks come and go, emails are here to stay. Having a rich emailing list moreover helps bloggers, at a later stage, to get sponsors.
My biggest mistake so far was not starting an email list at first. And when I finally did, 6 months had already gone past. I regret ever moment of not working on an email list during the initial days. At the moment, I use Mailchimp as my emailing newsletter service, as it offers upto 2000 free emails per month, which is a pretty sweet gig for your initial blogging days. Once your subscribers reach a certain figure, you can always buy their premium plans and send more than 2000 emails in a month.
Network With Other Travel Bloggers, and read their blogs for more inspiration and ideas. Do not forget to leave thoughtful comments on their articles for some link building. Moreover link to other people’s blog posts from your site whenever appropriate, and try to become an active member in the blogging community.
Blogging As A Full Time Career
Different bloggers have different ways to monetize. Some make money by getting sponsors for their travel, while others, by placing ads on their blog and/or writing blogging tips only to later sell them as books. Some even use a mix of all, and you can count me among them.
Affiliate Programs: Affiliate marketing is when a customer buys a product online after getting redirected from your website. And you get a commission of the total sale, in the process. Affiliate marketing is an amazing source of your passive income. And as long as you don’t crowd your every page with a ton of affiliate links, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t join affiliate programs. Some popular affiliate programs that I currently use are Amazon, for the travel products I use; Agoda and Booking.com, for linking back to the places I stay; and MakeMyTrip for whenever I talk about transportation, or flight deals.
Sponsored Posts: Though a good source of income, sponsorships initially takes some time. But once you’ve gained a certain traction, and people in the industry start noticing you, getting sponsors is no tough job. Read How to Get Your First Few Sponsors In Detail Here
Adsense: The easiest way to start making money with advertising is through Adsense. Sign up for an account approved by Google, enter the ad settings you want, and you’re good to go.
Skimlinks: Though another form of affiliate marketing, Skimlinks offer easy money. The only problem is you do not have much control over making money from them. Skimlinks is when another service provider places some Do-follow backlinks to your website/blog and pays you money in return. This type of monetization is great if you’re lazy and forgetful like I am, as you don’t have to spend your time actively hunting down and joining different money-making programs.
Now that your blog is ready, and you’ve also learnt how to make money out of it, What Next?
Well, nothing much really. But as I said earlier, blogging is not easy. It will take a long time and a tremendous amount of effort before you gain a valuable audience interested in what you have to say. But once you start getting the exposure, the perks in this field are OVERWHELMING.
So Good luck, welcome aboard, and let’s shine through your amazing travel stories!
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