You’re on a mission to become a leading travel blogger. But do you know what are the key aspects you need to master in order to be successful? This article includes insights and practical tips on the following topics:
Travel blogging sounds like the dream job, but unless you can make some money from it, it can be expensive. What’s more, it’s so popular that it’s in danger of becoming an over-saturated market. In this article we look at some tips on how to stand out from the crowd, and travel the world while you’re at it.
Take it from the experts – competition is still welcome, but you need to be wary – today’s travel bloggers have raised the bar very high.
“The key is to follow your passion while also providing something of value to your readers”. – Matthew Karsten, Expert Vagabond
The main piece of advice comes in the form of “patience”; travel blogging is hard work, but not impossible, requiring persistence and dedication.
“People that run their own business in the real world work 18 hours a day to achieve success, and so do people who run successful travel blogs.” – Dave And Deb, The Planet D
The pros also advise that in order to turn your blog from passion to business, you must literally start treating it as such. First things first, clarify your long-term vision and set your objectives. Then, brainstorm to develop a brand, set up a mission and stick to it – clarify what you are passionate about and what makes you special in an endless pool of travel bloggers.
You are operating in a highly competitive market, where everyone has something to say. If you Google the destination you want to write about, it’s more than likely that someone has already covered it – probably more than once. The key to differentiating yourself is finding an angle that hasn’t been explored so far.
“Be different and unique. Just because you travelled the world doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean your advice is unique, your story is different, or you even are a good writer. If you really want to start a blog and make it, think of it as a business. If all you want to do is keep in touch with friends, then do whatever you want. Otherwise, find an angle no one is doing and do that angle. Be an expert.”- Matthew Kepnes, Nomadic Mat
Any blog, no matter the niche, is focused on exploring solutions to an issue – travel is no different.
People reading travel blogs can be separated into two major categories:
- Those that look for destination advice (what to do, where to go, what to eat, where to stay) – usually when preparing for a holiday
- Those that want to vicariously experience places around the world (learn about cultures, read stories)
So the first step in deciding about your brand and your content is to define your audience, understand their pain points and deliver targeted content. Write epic stories from the road. Immerse yourself in the local culture. Explore a unique perspective. Find that something in your storytelling that would spark interest. This will be your niche – that one thing that sets you apart.
And whatever decision you make, stay consistent with it.
How pleasant your site looks will have an impact on how long your audience wants to stick around. It will be a waste of great content if you don’t put some work into making it look nice. Think of it as your house; you don’t want to welcome strangers into a poorly decorated and disorganized mess – they’ll probably run for the hills.
Three things to pay attention to:
- Ease of navigation
- Style (typography, colors, logo)
- Loading time
“Low loading time for your site can kill your traffic numbers. We live in a want-it-now society. People don’t have time to waste waiting for pages to load. They will click away a lot faster.” – Caz Makepeace, yTravel Blog
As travel blogs go, pictures are a must. However, avoid uploading just for the sake of it; low-quality pictures are worse than no pictures. Here’s some further advice from Caz:
“Don’t just be a tourist photographer. Look for unusual photo opportunities and for simple photos like signs, transport, someone carrying a backpack or eating food. All of these photos can be used to fill all manner of posts.”
Another thing to consider is that we’re witnessing the video revolution – audiences are consuming increasingly more content in the form of video. Major media publications have switched their focus from creating text to producing video content, and smaller publications are following suit. These days, anyone who wants to retain users ca, and should, host video.
“The reason videos are so important is because they are incredibly engaging and offer a well-rounded sensory experience that includes visual motion, sound, story, and personality”. – Mark Wiens, Migrationology
The main issue here is the cost of creating high quality video, which can be substantially higher than the cost of taking high quality photographs. It also implies a lot more time spent on production and editing. Owning the video content, however, is not the only option. You can source videos related to the topics you are writing about, making your audience more engaged with your website.
You’re probably reading this article because you want your blog to be read by more people than just your mother. Driving traffic is one of the biggest issues facing travel bloggers. All experts state the importance of being realistic, and remembering that your audience will not multiply overnight… unless you pay for traffic or followers. If you do decide to go down the paid promotion route, pay attention to the difference between legitimate sources (PPC, display, social media) and fraudulent traffic. Taking shortcuts will not translate into great results.
Fraudulent traffic means bots, and these won’t click your links and explore your site, nor will they read what you have to say and engage with you. They can hurt your Google ranking results too – you might be referred thorough low-quality sites that Google deems as uncool, resulting in bad backlinks.
The easiest way to make your website more visible to potential audiences is through SEO. Here is some piece of advice from the pros:
– research and settle on the most relevant keywords that you want to rank for
– mention the term in the URL, title, meta description, and a couple of times throughout the content (five seems to be the magic number)
– don’t forget alt-tags for pictures
– keep track of what Google suggests under “related searches” and incorporate those into your content as well
– use backlinks (guest postings, media features, collaborations with other bloggers)
The next step to befriend mighty Google and to be shown in searches is to set up some PPC campaigns. AdWords can lead to great traffic if you are targeting the audience specifically with what they need.
One of the prerequisites of becoming a great blogger is getting the hang of social media. Whether you like it or not, you need to dig a bit into digital marketing and learn what the best practices are. With a multitude of free platforms at hand, it would be a pity not to use them to their full advantage.
“No matter which social network you use, the key to success is to post frequently, post high-quality content, share others’ content if it interests you, thank others for sharing and, most importantly, interact with your fans.” – Robert Schrader, Leave your Daily Hell
The experts state the importance of being active on social media, even though you don’t necessarily have to be present across all platforms. It is okay to cross a couple of networks off your list if they are not providing the expected results or you just can’t get a hang of how they work.
Facebook’s potential is undeniable – with over 2 billion active users, the leader network is an easy way to create some buzz around your blog.
Instagram is a perfectly shaped tool for a travel blogger. Its power relies on the visual impact and being highly relevant by using proper tags.
According to research, using 11 or more hashtags will lead to higher engagement. But beware to keep it under 30, otherwise the description disappears entirely. Avoid using hashtags that are used loosely (like4like, follow4follow); you might have the impression that these lead to results, however your audience won’t be the one you are expecting: those highly interested, curious travel aficionados that will go to your blog.
Use handles: influencers, places, publications, these will increase your chances to be featured by a much more popular account and making your engagement spike.
- Pay attention to best times to post – look into when you audience is more active and more likely to engage with your posts
- Create engaging visuals – be it photos or videos, you need to capture attention
- Engage your audience with a longer description – tease your audience and make them curious enough to click and read the entire story on your blog
- Reach out and communicate with your audience
Another easy way to get some traction on your traffic is to promote your content on forums. However, you need to be cautious about their terms and conditions and do not spam the same link all over – that will, most likely, result in a ban.
Besides building your “fanbase”, forums and online communities are also a great avenue for meeting likeminded people and create engaging conversations, share experiences and gain insights.
There are plenty of Facebook Groups, forums (reddit, Quora, TripAdvisor, LonelyPlanet, Nomadic Matt) where you can engage with people that have the same interests, while learning new things. You can also use these platforms if you’re out of ideas on what to write. Scrolling through people’s questions might give you the next winning idea for your blog to go viral.
StumbleUpon is another “tool” that is often overlooked. Described as a “discovery engine”, the stumblers are offered customized content based on the interests picked. So if you’re using it, those who have selected travel have a chance to stumble across your blog.
StumbleUpon can be further used as an outreach and community building tool. When finding pages that you like, you can see a list of all those that have liked the page.
Experts also state the importance of offline networking – attending conferences where professionals share their tips and tricks. Try searching for events, we’re pretty sure you’ll find at least one local meeting around you that will probably be free to attend as well.
“I allow businesses and organizations to advertise in the form of sponsored guest posts and sidebar widgets. I also sell contextual links. I earn about 50% of my monthly income from my blog, with the rest coming from freelance writing for commercial clients.” – Robert Schrader, Leave your Daily Hell
Advice from Leave Your Daily Hell is gold dust – they have made it big, they reached the point where blogging turned from a hobby into a real business. Even if you are at the early stage, a travel blog lends itself to multiple ways of monetizing it.
The best thing is that you don’t have to limit yourself to one option. Nor do you have to stick with something you are uncomfortable doing, or that doesn’t provide the expected results.
Don’t be afraid to mix things up and drive your money from multiple income streams.
The earned revenue can be divided into two categories:
– The “active” income stream
This implies earning money from actively doing something:
– brand partnerships – sponsored blog posts, social media posts, newsletter mentions
– brand ambassadorship (a longer-term relationship) – multiple and regular promotion of a brand
– location ambassadorship – promoting a specific location in exchange for payment (this can also come in the form of travel expenses paid)
– freelance writing for other travel sites
– creating and selling a digital product (licensed photographs, e-books, how-to guides)
– The “passive” income stream
This is the money you earn continuously without having to move a finger (besides the initial stage that requires a little bit of work). Affiliate marketing and ad placement fall into this category.
Affiliate links are customized URLs included throughout the blogpost, promoting services or products. The passivity of these is quite debatable, since in order for you to earn, people are required to take an action (pay per click, pay per sale). However, you as a blogger don’t have to do any additional effort, that’s why we decided to consider it passive.
Advertising placement, on the other hand, can bring you a constant income, whether or not the audience takes an action. There are different types of advertising campaigns:
- CPC (cost-per-click)
- CPCV (cost-per-completed-view)
- CPI (cost per install)
- CPA (cost per acquisition) Wouldn’t this be an affiliate metric?
- CPM (cost per thousand views)
each of these acronyms dictate how you get paid. The most advantageous passive way (especially if you have quite a large audience) would be CPM – you earn a certain amount for every 1000 impressions.
Neither affiliate links nor advertising placement require pitching effort, any subsequent action after setting up, and provide a steady income.
“Many big time bloggers scoff at ads, and dismiss them as a waste of time. Their logic is that they’re spammy, distracting and encourage readers to leave your site. While I don’t disagree, I feel like advertising is still a nice way to get a bit of income from your blog, especially since it’s 100% passive.” – Christina, Happytowander
Video is a fast-growing ad type that delivers high earnings for bloggers, because advertisers are keener to put their money on video than on display (banner) advertising. They are also perceived as “less spammy” than traditional display advertising.
In-stream video is advertising that comes within an existing stream of video content (Such as YouTube adverts, or a TV commercial break). It is popular on major sites, but if you worry about not having video content to place them on, then consider vi stories. This is a native player that easily gets incorporated into your blog and delivers both relevant video content and targeted advertising for your audience.
This makes it a win-win situation – your readers will be more engaged, instead of annoyed by banners placed all over, and you reap the financial benefits from in-stream ads.
When monetizing with ads, you need to be aware of certain technicalities, so we’ve compiled a beginner’s guide to the industry, to make it easier for you.
With people blogging more than ever, it might be overwhelming to think about the competition. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but further incentive for you to write great content and apply the advice throughout this post. It also means more time is required in deciding on an interesting topic, that will differentiate you from the rest.
Travel blogging is no easy journey, but if you are truly passionate and have found your edge, persistence and patience are keys to making it big.