How to Start a Travel Blog
Starting a travel blog doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, you can do it in under an hour with some basic knowledge. This article is for anyone who wants to learn how to start a travel blog from scratch. It only takes about 10 minutes to get your travel blog up and running. From creating a blog name, to setting up a hosting package, install WordPress and customizing the look of your blog. Some of your might be starting a travel blog so you can share your travels with your family and friends or because you want to live a life of travel and create a business around it. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be able to make money and travel the world, or simply just share your travel stories with others.
I began Davidsbeenhere.com in 2007 when “travel blogging” wasn’t an everyday term. What began as my passion for filming fun and informative travel episodes naturally evolved into wanting to share my experiences on my travel blog. Nearly 10 years later, I’ve traveled to 66 countries across 6 continents and I’ve been named as one of the Top 10 Best Travel Videographers by USA Today and Top 10 Travel Video Sites by OOAworld.
Most of my travel opportunities come through my website, which is why it’s important to set up your travel blog correctly. Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I will earn a small commission from your purchase at no extra cost to you. It would help me in reducing the cost of running this website. I genuinely recommend these products from my personal experience.
Basic Steps on How to Start a Travel Blog
- Pick the perfect name
- Set up hosting for your blog
- Install WordPress and Plugins
- Become social
- Build a MASSIVE email list!
- Allow guest posts
- Attend conferences
- Travel A LOT!
- How to make money with your blog
Step 1: Pick the perfect name
Here’s where you’ll need to get creative. Write down a list of possible names. Before I started my travel company I was very fortunate to have come up with Davidsbeenhere.com because people remember it easily. I would first think about what your focus is. Are you a food blogger? Adventurer? Solo traveler? You first need to define this before finding the perfect name. I would make a list and share it with a few friends to see which one gets the best response. Your name needs to define what your blog is about. Mine is about destinations, and I have been here, there and trying to go everywhere!
Step 2: Set up hosting for your blog
So first off what is hosting? Basically hosting is real estate on the internet that you rent. It’s a place that holds all of your stories, images, and allows people to access it online. Head to Bluehost to see if your domain name is available. Davidsbeenhere.com is obviously taken, but you get the idea.
As you can see, Bluehost is inexpensive and gives you your domain name for FREE is you decide to sign up to one of their hosting plans. The Basic plan is perfect for starting out.
Afterwards, you’ll choose how long you would like your plan to be. I recommend 36 months because it’s the best value. You’ll pay it up front but you’ll save money and won’t have to worry about it for 3 years! Remember to check the box for Domain Privacy Protection to protect your personal information from the public (i.e. phone number). You don’t want strangers calling you on your personal number, I think all of us have enough of that already.
There’s only one thing left to do before the next step and that is to create an account and register with Bluehost.
Step 3: Install WordPress and Plugins
To start your travel blog you’ll need to install WordPress – the most commonly used blogging software because of how simple it is to use. It’s what I’ve used for Davidsbeenhere.com since day one. I highly recommend it over other ones because it is completely free and lets you customize your travel blog exactly as you like.
Once you sign into your Bluehost account, you’ll see the Install WordPress icon. Follow the steps to install WordPress, which could take a few minutes. Once your download is complete, you’ll receive your Username and Password login information. Congrats! This means your travel blog is LIVE!
Type your Admin URL into your web browser (example: http://www.davidsbeenhere.com/wp-admin). You’ll see a login screen like the one below. Enter your Username and Password you copied down from the previous step.
If you think WordPress is confusing, it’s actually pretty user-friendly. Just like any new program, there’s a learning curve – you just need to do your homework to understand it better. Here is a WorldPress training guide and a video tutorial.
When you login to WordPress you’ll be taken to the back-end, or dashboard, of your website. This is the administrative center of your travel blog from which you’ll be able to customize its appearance, add your blog articles, and pretty much do everything. Your readers will never see the back-end of your site.
The first thing you’ll want to do is pick your WordPress Theme. There are hundreds of free themes to choose from. You can take a look at the options here. For davidsbeenhere.com, I had my friend Craig at Performance Foundry custom-build me a design that worked for me. But I also think Radiate ($59) or Adventure ($69) could work for a travel blog. It’s up to you whether you are looking for a highly visual theme to display your photos or if you will want your writing to be the main focus with a few photos here and there. Below is a sample of what the Adventure theme looks like.
Once you decide which theme is best for you it’s time to install it on your site. Themes include installation instructions, with each step so it’s fast and easy. Choose a theme and click Activate
Now the only thing left to do is get some content up on your new travel blog! Below is a screenshot of how to get started publishing your blog posts. Click on ‘Posts’ and select ‘Add New.’ As a precaution I write all m blog posts on a word document and then copy/paste the text into WordPress. This way, I have all my content backed up. But you could just as easily write your blog posts directly on WordPress.
WordPress also lets you install Plug-ins. I have quite a few installed, but here are a few essential ones:
Akismet: to protect your blog from spam.
Digg Digg: Displays social media icons on a floating sidebar, making it easy for people to share your posts. This is crucial for every travel blogger.
Social Share Buttons: so readers can share your content on social medias. I have Floating Social Bar, which has share buttons always visible on every post without slowing down my site.
Google Analytics: Installs Google Analytics, the industry standard of measuring your site’s visitors and traffic.
nRelate: Puts thumbnail images of related posts at the bottom of each post, showing people more content they might like. Another crucial feature for your blog.
WordPress SEO by Yoast: Helps you create content that shows up better in search engines.
Disqus Comment System: to allow comments on your blog posts – a great way to engage your readers.
You’ll also want to install a few Widgets, which are buttons on your site. Mine run along the right side of my website, but different themes will have widgets in other places too. The widget I use to have people subscribe with their email address is the Newsletter Widget. Here’s a good guide on how to add and use widgets in WordPress.
Step 4: Become social
These days it isn’t enough just to have a social media account, you have to actually be using them consistently.
- Start a Facebook Page
- Set up an Instagram Account
- You can also create accounts on YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, and SnapChat.
- Don’t forget to create a good ‘About’ page on your site. You can check mine out here.
Step 5: Build a MASSIVE email list!
If you want to turn your travel passion into a travel business this is a crucial step that a lot of people forget about. Having an email subscriber base is a great way to stay in contact with your fans/readers/audience. You can share your newest articles, exciting news, and so on… Think about the emails you get daily from blogs, coupon, or online retailers. You get them because you signed up or were a customer at some point. If someone subscribes to your site it’s probably because they want to receive more updates from you without having to go to your website to get them.
For years I didn’t have a way for people to subscribe to me. I was a little shocked when I learned that this is the biggest way to create revenue and drive traffic back to your website. Whenever I share my newest episodes I get a spike in views because my subscribers clicked on the link I shared.
First, I would recommend signing up to MailChimp. It’s free (until you get to 2,000 people) and easy! Offer something for free like an e-book or discount code to a product you love (you’ll have to get it from the retailer) to give people an incentive to subscribe.
Now here’s an important question: How many times a year to do you send out an email? I have learned that the best practice is to send out 36 emails a year if you’re trying to drive sales. But, of course, if you’re just getting started and want to share your content, once a month is probably the easiest to manage. Here are a few extra tips on how to drive traffic to your travel blog!
Step 6. Allow guest posts
This is a fantastic way to network with other travel bloggers and to get great content on your site. Whether you choose to reach out to other bloggers directly, or have a “Guest Bloggers Welcome” button on your site to help them reach you, it’s up to you. You can also help build backlinks to your blog by submitting guest posts of your own.
Note: By guest posts I mean original content created by a real writer on whatever topic you agree on. Beware of advertisers contacting you as bloggers. In those cases you’ll know because they want to include their clients’ links into the article.
There’s nothing wrong in accepting ads (sponsored articles) on your blog. See Step 10 below about sponsored posts.
Step 7: Attend conferences
This is really the best way to meet people in the industry, and also to present yourself to brands and tourism organizations. I used to do this all the time before I got an agent, but I still think it’s a great way to network.
I recommend WTM in London and ITB in Berlin for business. Here most tourism boards and big travel agencies attend to promote their destinations and meet people willing to market their destinations in exchange for free trips. There are also many hotel companies (boutique and large chains) that attend these conferences so if your looking to barter (most won’t pay) then you should attend.
Meeting up with friends at World Travel Market in London 2012
If you want to connect with hundreds of travel bloggers then I recommend TBEX. TBEX is the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, new media content creators, and social media savvy travel industry professionals. They host three conferences a year between the Americas, Europe and Asia.
Step 8: Travel A LOT!
In the beginning you need to travel as much as you can especially if you want to create amazing content and develop a travel blog that people trust. It has taken me almost 10 years to make a name for myself, but I had to start somewhere. In the beginning I traveled in exchange for video content and blog articles (barter system) and it gave my site a huge boost of content.
Step 9: How to make money with your travel blog
For most travel bloggers, this is the dream – to make money and travel the world. Once you’ve got your site populated with some quality content you’re ready to create revenue. Here I am going to quickly cover the most common methods of making money with your travel blog. You can also read an article I wrote a coupe years ago where different travel bloggers explain how to the make money and travel the world.
Sponsored Post: This is when an advertiser pays you to publish an article with links to their product or service. Sometimes they send you the written article and other times you will be asked to write it. The rates you charge depend on your traffic, but you can get anywhere from $25 to $500 for a sponsored post. If you’re looking for a professional to manage this for you, contact me directly email@example.com for the contact information of a trusted ad partner specializing in selling sponsored content on blogs.
Affiliate Links: Another great way to make money with your travel blog is to add affiliate links throughout the content. These are links to products you like and when one of your readers buys a product via the link you make a percentage of the sale at no extra cost to your reader. You’ll have to contact the company directly to get affiliate links.
Sponsorships: So a tourism board just invited you on an all expense paid trip in exchange for articles. Have you considered getting a sponsor for your trip? In cases like these I like to have sponsors, whether it’s apparel, technology, or accessories. You would have to reach out to each brand and pitch them why they should sponsor you with money, products, or both during your trip. Sponsors want their products to be seen, which means backlinks, photos, social media shares, etc.
E-books – Have a great idea for an e-book? A few travel bloggers like Nomadic Matt have created e-books that make them a good amount of revenue per month.
Paid Trips: This is the holy grail of making money with your travel blog – for someone to pay you for your work. The best advice I can give you is work hard to make your travel blog an asset by building your traffic, social media following, and email subscriber list. If you can guarantee a certain amount of views you have something of value to offer brand.
Congrats on starting your travel blog! I hope you found these steps helpful in starting your travel blog. If you have any questions please contact me directly firstname.lastname@example.org