You asked for it.
Well, first we asked you.
“Have you considered starting your own travel blog? Would you be interested in a startup guide?”
And dozens of you responded with a clear yes, ya and yup. This is not surprising. It's a pretty special way to make a living or supplement your travel budget. Now, to be clear, this does not happen overnight. You need to be committed and it will take time to get readers but once you have them a travel blog can help you travel farther, longer and more often – which is the purpose of all our Travel Money Tuesday posts.
Do you already have a blog?
Jump down to How to Grow Your Travel Blog
How to Set Up Your New Travel Blog
- Know your niche. How do you travel? What fascinates you about the world? What stories do you tell your friends that they say “Wow” to? To start a travel blog that's going to go somewhere it's important to find your unique travel niche and voice. Perhaps solo travel is your thing but maybe it's solo travel to concerts or sporting events, or to run marathons or to fish… There are a lot of travel blogs out there but there's also a huge number of people searching for their particular brand of travel on the Internet. And people are specific. When I started Solo Traveler it seemed like a very small niche, now it seems huge. Drill down and feed your soul by traveling the way that is true to you and writing about it from your personal perspective.
- Get your domain. I really recommend getting a .com domain. I know! They are few and far between but you're creative. Come up with a name that will work for your niche. Solotravelerblog.com was not my first choice but it's worked out okay. Go to Hostgator to find and buy a domain. A .com domain costs about $13/year.
- Set up your blog. You need to choose your blogging platform (I recommend WordPress which is free) and decide which company will host your blog. I recommend Hostgator with prices starting at less than $3/month. Hostgator's support is excellent. Sign up and if their instructions are not clear to you, call them and they'll walk you through setting up your blog. In my experience, they are patient people. (Last year the traffic on Solo Traveler reached a point where I had to get a dedicated hosting service but Hostgator was perfect for me for years. Before that I had two other hosting services that did not perform well at all.)
- Choose your template. Now this is cool. Once you have your domain and hosting you can then go into the back end of your blog where all the magic happens. When you choose your template you're choosing your design. Many are free. Some have a cost associated with them. I suggest that you write a post or two and then try a few templates – you'll see how your actual content looks in the template. Your blog is a living entity. It will change over time. Try to get what you love but don't worry too much if it's not perfect. You'll have new ideas about how you want it to look in the near future anyway. If you want help with this, here's a video that walks you through all aspects of your new WordPress site. Don't worry. WordPress is very intuitive and you'll find your way around quite easily. If you'd like someone to do all this for you, I work with Chris from RTW Labs.
- Start producing. Whether your thing is writing, video, photography or podcasting it's now time to start adding content. BTW, every travel blogger I know who specializes in photography uses Smugmug for managing their photos.
Above are the mechanics of setting up a blog. Here are my tips for publishing a successful blog.
How to Grow a Travel Blog
I can't tell you everything I know in a post but I'll tell you what I think are the most important steps in creating a successful travel blog.
- To thy own self be true. Unless you love it you won't do it. Write your way. Produce video if that's you. If you love being in front of the camera, great. If not, find a style that puts you behind the camera. Whatever type of content you plan to produce make sure you love it so that you can stick with it in the long run.
- Educate yourself. Travel Blog Success is a community and a program and webinars and more. It's run by travel bloggers I've known since 2010 and respect greatly. Of course, there there is much free information online as well but the challenge is deciding which is credible. The information in this course is.
- Go social with your brand. You may have noticed that the blog name, Solo Traveler, is also our handle on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. The only exception is Facebook where we wanted to have more of a community so we called it the Solo Travel Society. Carry your blog name through to all the social platforms you want to participate on – and even some you don't want at the moment. Secure your name on these platforms as soon as you can to protect your brand.
- Start a mailing list. I believe in mailing lists. You can't own your Facebook fans or your Instagram followers or any fans from any social platform. But you can own your email list. It's a great way to drive traffic and down the road it may be a way to make money – as long as you always consider your readers needs first. I use Aweber because it's considered to have the best delivery rates. Another option is Mailchimp which is free. I also use Optinmonster which is a really great service that let's you create email sign up forms that, yes, pop up. I know, I hate these too. But what I like about Optinmonster is that you can set the forms so that they only pop up only once every 30 days. I found their system very easy to use and their email support has been excellent. As always, I did a comparison of services out there for optin forms and found this to have the most features for the best price.
- Learn the basics of SEO. You want Google to know you exist and send you traffic. SEO or Search Engine Optimization refers to how you organize and write your blog so that this happens. Check out this free Beginners Guide to SEO and use the free Yoast SEO plugin. Plugins are add-ons to your WordPress blog to improve functionality. With Yoast SEO you'll quickly learn whether the post you're writing has met good SEO standards.
- Produce quality content. Regardless of the type of content you produce, always produce the best quality you can. Written posts should be no less than 300 words though most of our posts bottom out at 750 words and go up to 2000 words. We include photos and sometimes public domain videos as well. And we think about what we call the texture of Solo Traveler – meaning that we don't deliver the same thing all the time. We have different categories of content and try to vary what we write to keep readers interested. On Solo Traveler, Mondays and Wednesdays are either tips or travel stories. Tuesday is about the money side of travel. Thursday is a solo travel destination by one of our readers, edited by Tracey. Friday is a Pic of the Week, again by a reader. In terms of our blogposts, we’ll riff off poems or song lyrics, articles in the news or our most recent trip. As long as it relates to solo travel, our niche, and is consistent with our brand values we'll write about it.
- Deliver fresh content often. While we publish five times a week it's not necessary to publish that often. I think publishing once a week should be the minimum. Keep in mind, the more you publish the more pages Google has to index and the more likely you'll be found. Solo Traveler is not found by Google only for the key words “solo travel.” In fact that’s a small amount of our traffic. With more than 1,200 posts on the blog, we are found by people for a wide variety of “long tail” searches.
- Be predictable. Publish on a regular basis. Every Monday or Wednesday or whenever you want. Just be predictable so that those who do follow you know when you'll have something new coming out. That way it's easy for them to spread the word. “Oh you just have to read ______. They have something new every Monday.”
- Find your readers. All of the above is important but it would all be for nought if you didn't have readers. Here are tips on what I think are the fastest ways to find readers in 2016.
- Start with friends and family. Get them to sign up for your newsletter. Send them the newsletter once a month and ask them to please, PLEASE, send it on to anyone they know who loves travel and ask them to sign up as well. Slowly this will take hold.
- Go social. Start working your social networks in order of priority. Start with the platform where your readers are and that you enjoy.
- Pinterest is of interest. I love Facebook. Other than Google organic search it delivers the most readers to Solo Traveler. But Pinterest is probably easier to get results from at the moment. Study how it works. Get involved and gain followers. Promote it through your newsletter. Produce content that will gain traction on Pinterest. People there like problem-solving, how-to content more than inspirational content. Produce pins related to your content in designs that get attention. (I use Canva.com for creatiing pins.)
- Leverage SEO. Google is happy to introduce new people to your site if they know what your site and posts are about. Try to make all posts SEO friendly to grow your readership.
Bottom line, once you've set up your blog it's about showing up, repeatedly, predictably, being true to yourself and sharing quality content with your readers in mind. Always do everything with your readers in mind.