How to Start Travel Blogging for Money
Three Parts to Get Your Blog Up and Running
|Building your first travel blog.
Getting paid to write a blog from your laptop while traveling the world may sound too good to be true, but it is possible. Few bloggers get rich, or even make a living, but many earn a reasonable side-income. If you hope to join the ever-growing ranks of globetrotting travel bloggers, also often called digital nomads, such as Nomadic Matt, Gary Ardnt, and Nora Dunn, this article is where you should start.
The first part of this article deals with issues that need to be considered before you set up your blog, the second part deals with the technical aspects of setting up a blog, and the third part deals with strategies for bringing visitors to your blog.
Part I: Before Setting Up Your Travel Blog
Why will people read your blog? Your blog will be competing with Facebook,Twitter, Youtube, Vine, Pinterest, email, television, kids, chores, sex, work, and sleep for people’s attention (hopefully not necessarily in that order). The best blogs employ several techniques to capture and hold peoples’ attention.
In order to be successful, blogs:
- Offer unique information
- Offer useful information (such as how-to articles)
- Offer a unique perspective
- Are entertaining
When deciding on the focus of your blog you should first ask yourself, “What can I offer that’s useful and unique?” Some travel bloggers simply write road stories, but such journals are a dime a dozen these days. If you try to do the same you are going to face some stiff competition. Others, however, focus very successfully on specific aspects of travel such as The Professional Hobo, who specializes in long-term budget travel advice, and Johnny Jet, who focuses on travel deals and tips. What specialized knowledge can you offer? Perhaps you are a bird-watcher. You could write about your bird watching experiences and special equipment suitable for the road. The key is to find your niche.
Part II: Setting Up Your Blog
Step 1: Choose a Domain Name
A domain name is a website’s address. For example, my website’s domain name is www.matt-gibson.org. Choose a name that reflects your blog, preferably with a .com or .net suffix. You can search available domain names at www.checkdomain.com.
Step 2: Buy Your Domain Name and Hosting Package
Choose a web host from which to purchase your domain name and hosting. There are thousands of web hosts; three of the largest are GoDaddy, HostGator, and Network Solutions, while NameCheap and DreamName are just some of the great inexpensive alternatives. It is sometimes convenient to purchase both the name and hosting package together so that the company will automatically point the domain name to the hosting package (otherwise you may have to do this manually), but not necessary in this era of Cloud computing where Amazon itself offers excellent hosting services with tech support on an as-needed basis. For a clear and concise explanation on selecting a hosting package, see this article for newbies on Web Hosting Services Explained.
Step 3: Install Wordpress
Wordpress is a free open-source blog software package. It is probably the most popular blog software in the world. There are other blogging software packages with great capabilities, but Wordpress is the most commonly used and supported. When installing Wordpress, try to relax and remember that working with computers can be frustrating and things do not always work properly at first. Installing the software, however easy, requires several precise steps. Set aside a couple of hours for this step and follow the instructions carefully.
Most web host control panels offer a button that will automatically install Wordpress for you. For manual, and other, installation instructions look at the Installing Wordpress page. Most prefer to use their own Wordpress install on their server or at a host server recommended by Wordpress. Wordpress does offer the option to host your blog for you for free.
For more information about getting started with Wordpress, check out New to Wordpress — Where to Start.
If you are having trouble installing your blog do not worry, Wordpress has comprehensive instructions for everything in the Wordpress Codex as well as support forums.
Step 4: Customize Your Blog
It is easy to customize the appearance of your blog using a theme. Themes are like clothes for your blog, they change the surface appearance without changing the substance. Wordpress offers thousands of free themes. They can be browsed and tested in the Wordpress Themes Directory. Now, more than ever, it is important that your theme work on all devices equally well, from smartphones to tablets to PC workstations. Be very stringent about choosing a theme that offers the right visual metaphors for the brand you are building, and represents it well in an increasingly mobile world where visual design is so often key. Travel represents a type of blogging that tends to be inherently visual, as their are many armchair travelers as well as actual ones.
To install a theme, first log into your blog’s dashboard at www.yourdomainname.com/wp-login.php using the settings specified during installation. Next, navigate to the Appearance link of the vertical navigation bar on the left side of the dashboard and click Themes in the Appearance section. Then, search for the theme that you wish to use and click install. Last, click on the Themes link the Appearance section of the navigation bar and activate the theme that you installed. If you feel adventurous, you have other options under the Appearance link to customize the theme, add menus, widgets, etc.
Voila! You have a whole new look for your blog.
Wordpress offers more than ten thousand plugins that add different functions to your blog. They are easy to install. Find the plugin section in the vertical navigation bar on the left side of the dashboard and click add new. Then search for the plugin you want. When you find it, click install.
I suggest that you search for, and install, these Wordpress plugins:
Google XML Sitemaps: This plugin will automatically create an XML map of your blog, making it easier for google to index all of your pages, so that people can find your pages via Google quickly and easily.
All in One SEO Pack: This plugin creates a form on your dashboard below the new post form. Fill out the form each time you write a post and the plugin will automatically submit the information to all the major search engines so that they will index it immediately.
Part III: Generating Traffic
Step 1: Get Some Links
Now that you have got your blog setup, you need to get links—of related content--to it on the web so that people can find you. You should also link back to them to improve your search engine rankings. One way to do this is by listing your blog on bloglists. You will have to sign up for each list, and put a snippet of code in your site to link back to them. It is a little time consuming, but worth it. Here is a short list of bloglists that any blog can join for free. This list is not exhaustive. You should always be looking for new places to exchange links to blogs with related content, especially busy blogs, else they will do nothing for your search ranking and may even hurt it:
Ideally, and it cannot be overstressed, it is very important to link to blogs that discuss related content, otherwise the links are useless to you.
Step 2: Get Your Social Networking On
Social networking is good way to bring visitors to your blog. There are tools that will automatically send your blog posts, or links to them, to both Facebook and Twitter. The easiest way to do this is as follows:
First, create a Facebook fan page for your blog. Then use a tool to link it to your blog such that all of your blog posts will automatically appear on your Facebook fan page.
Next, you might wish add your blog post feeds to a variety of social media websites automatically, as you can also do with the currently popular tool Hootsuite. You may wish to display your running Twitter or Facebook comments on your blog pages. The options, the tools and widgets, are now endless for interaction with your audience. The key is to not make your blog pages too busy and your feeds too frequent. You want to find a proper balance for an enjoyable user experience as well as a consistent presence on the web. Design to use a minimal amount of precious time needed for developing or editing great content.
Finally, you may wish to use a tool like the addthis plugin to provide an interface to social media via sharing buttons. The tool also provides ways of automatically displaying related posts, and other features in the free version.
Congratulations! You have finished.
Just kidding. You are just getting started. Now, in order to create a loyal readership, you need to write and post frequently, a least once a day with content of substance, if possible. You also need to network with other blogs and exchange links from related sites to increase traffic and increase your search engine rankings. If you continue to post and promote diligently, over time you’ll build up a loyal audience that will attract advertisers. If you combine your posts with a strong presence in social media, where you can point to your posts, that can help with incoming traffic. You never know when a post may "go viral." You can even guest post on collaborative blogs (blogs with more than one author) or write articles with a link back to your blog to increase your exposure.
Many bloggers use Google Adsense on their websites, which is a snap. Obviously income varies with traffic and requires experimentation in terms of integration. There are many other affiliates bloggers use as appropriate to their content—such as Amazon or other travel-specific commercial sites with affiliate programs—to monetize their blog. If you browse the blogs of competitors in your own space, you will likely find the most appropriate affiliates and potential advertising clients or partners, such as those selling eBooks and willing to offer a commission for advertising. Many bloggers write posts in exchange for free services provided to them or are paid to do so by commercial entities. Doing so is obviously your choice in terms of your editorial bent, and we make no recommendations in this regard. There are really no end to advertising options as your blog visibility grows, and you have to be smart but realistic about the time it will take to reach your goals.