So you’ve just set up your brand new travel blog and you’re feeling a bit nonplussed about what to do next. How do you get from where you are now, to being a superstar blogger with a massive following? It’s all about taking it one step at a time. This guide is for beginners, but even if you have a more established travel blog, you may find something new for you here too.
Setting up your blog:
First thing you want to do after creating your blog is to set up your social media accounts. This is a little tedious (writing profile blurbs do my head in) but it’s a pretty important first step. You want to get a Facebook page, Twitter handle, Instagram account and a Pinterest Profile. On top of the main four, you might also apply for a YouTube account (for videos), Bloglovin’ profile (an RSS reader) and a separate email account (such as [yourblogname]@gmail.com).
You might want to add extra pages to your blog. Your home page should have your blog feed, you'll have an About Me page and a Contact me page. In addition to the basics you might want to add a Destinations page, a Tips/Travel Resources page, or a Work with Me page. If you’re unsure, you can always put those in later.
Apps to add to your site:
Wix has plenty of apps you can add to your site, but less is more because they can slow down your page loading time. You should start with an Email subscriber signup app, social share buttons on your posts, disqus comments, related posts, and google analytics. I also use a secondary traffic analytic, Webstat for a more detailed analysis.
Creating a brand:
Your brand is basically the feel of your blog. It’s not just your font, colour scheme and style of your blog, it’s also your niche and the way you communicate through writing and photograph within your posts that can set you apart from your fellow bloggers. It takes time to develop, so your blog may look completely different in a year’s time than how it looks today.
What will your travel blog be about? Budget travel? Food and travel? Travel within [city/country]? Feel free to merge topics, perhaps you’re a couple’s travel blog with a specialty in weekends away, such as ‘how to spend a romantic weekend in Paris’, don’t limit yourself either. Sometimes blogs start as one topic and develop into something different. My blog is a budget travel blog with a specialty in New Zealand travel but when I first began blogging I had a food and travel blog.
Colour scheme of your blog can be very important to your blog because colours communicate subconsciously. They can make your readers feel calm, or invigorated, or focused if you’ve picked the colours corresponding to these feelings. Travel colours are typically blues (sky/ocean), greens (nature) and oranges/browns (earth), but that’s not to say that your colour scheme is limited to these colours. If you decide to focus on solo female travel you may choose more feminine colours like pastels, if you decide to focus on couples travel you might choose romantic colours like reds. Maybe you write about off-beat travel and you choose a kookier colour scheme like mustard yellow and grey.
Font is a tricky one. I suggest picking two or three fonts to use throughout your blog and ensuring they are all legible at a glance. There’s nothing worse than clicking on a travel blog and being unable to read the title clearly because the font is too ‘curly’. Check out Just Creative on finding the perfect font pair. Your blog title at this point can just be a font. When you’ve been blogging a little while and feel you wish to invest money into having a logo created, go for it. It can really add a professional feel to a blog.
Create a goal list:
The key to staying motivated in blogging is to write down a goals list with absolutely everything you hope to achieve with your blog, from big goals like ‘make a thousand dollars a month with my blog’, to little goals like ‘have someone comment on my blog’. Write them all down, stick it up in your room or have a word document on your desktop and cross them out as you go. It’ll help remind you that you are making progress each month even when it feels like the finish line is way out of sight.
Mine looks a little like this:
Instagram followers: 100, 500, 1000, 5000 etc.
First guest post
First dollar made
First comped trip
Each time I achieved one of my goals, no matter how small, I would cross it off and then work towards the next goal. Creating a goals list is really important for new bloggers because it can take a while for your blog to take off. It took me a whole year to reach 500 daily views, yet by the end of the second year I was at 5000 daily views.
Creating content for your blog:
There’s no right or wrong way to write a blog post and some bloggers have more success with certain writing styles over others. Although there are a few things you should try to do when writing a post such as aiming for a length of 1000 words per post, including both internal and external links on each post (I find 2 of each is ideal), and keyword tag your photos (metadata) for google images.
When you’ve just started blogging, aiming to write a new post every second day is great – it’s easy when you’re feeling really motivated about your new blog and it’ll help bulk out your content. When you’re more established and you’re finding it hard to keep churning out new content every second day drop back to once or twice a week.
As for what to write about, well that’s really up to you. Write about past travels, mix it up with personal travel stories and helpful, informative posts. Try not to riddle your posts with search engine targeted keywords, because at the end of the day, you’re writing for humans, not web crawlers.
SEO and Google:
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and it’s related to how well your blog does on search engines like google. You want to optimise your keyword search on most of the posts you write for your blog. So if you want to write about solo travel in Singapore, go to KWSearch (one of many keyword searching apps available, but this one’s free) and check out the difficulty in ranking for that keyword against your competitors. You’re looking for keywords that have a high search volume but low competition to see your post do well.
Don’t get too carried away with this because you won’t see the fruits of your labour until you grow your Domain Authority. Google also takes a while (up to six months) to index your site.
DA stands for domain authority and it’s a ranking system set up by MOZ to grade website quality. You can check your DA by going to MOZ’s link builder and typing in your URL. If your blog is completely new, it either won’t show up at all (because it hasn’t been indexed yet) or it will still be quite low.
Improving your DA score will bring you more traffic from search engines like google. The higher your DA, the closer to the first page on google your posts will be. Ideally you want to be on the first page (because very few people click on the second page of google) and to do that you want a DA of 25+ (but it really depends on how popular the topic is). I had a DA of 10 when I started to see hits from begin to google roll in. I currently have a DA of 20 and see roughly 1000-2000 site visitors come in from google. So it’s worth keeping an eye on.
There are a few ways to improve your Domain Authority, such as updating regularly, being active for more than a year or two (being established) and getting backlinks from other sites. A backlink is a (dofollow) link from another site to yours and it’s like saying to Google, ‘I recommend this site’. Backlinks build up naturally over the years as other sites link to your content but in the beginning you can quickly build backlinks by contributing guest posts to other bloggers’ sites. It feels a bit backwards at first, spending time you could be using to work on your own blog, to write on someone else’s project, but they pay off in the long run. I write one guest post a month for other bloggers and 3-4 posts for my own blog.
Make friends with other travel bloggers:
One of the biggest mistakes I made as a new travel blogger was trying to be a lone island. When I got frustrated with my blog or had a problem, I was on my own. Chatting to other travel bloggers who are on the same page as you can be really helpful when things don’t go right.
The best thing I did was join travel blogging Facebook groups such as Female Travel Bloggers. They really support each other in promoting blog posts, following each other on social media and helping each other through problems, but it is female only, however. Other Facebook groups I’m a part of are We Travel We Blog which is a great little support group for anyone, The Travel Posse, for liking and sharing on Instagram, and Travel Bloggers Guide to Pinterest for sharing Pins. There are many others if you want to get searching.
Guest posting is another good way to get in touch with other bloggers and promoting each other through social media. Find your favourite travel bloggers and check out their contact pages to see if they are currently accepting guest posts, or go through Facebook groups like Female Travel Bloggers who have a thread dedicated to helping bloggers find new guest posters.
Commenting on other travel bloggers’ social medias is another great way to open up communication between bloggers. Try to ask a question or say something thought provoking to stand out when everyone else says ‘Great pic!’ Don’t put too much time into this however, as some blogs see comments in the hundreds and guest posting or joining Facebook Groups will see better results.
Promoting your posts:
Once you’ve written your post, you need to promote it. It is, frankly speaking, my least favourite aspect of blogging. I feel like human spam whenever it’s time to share my content on my channels. If there’s one thing you must do whenever you write a blog post is to create a custom pin for Pinterest, it’ll help big time with your traffic. With Facebook and Twitter, you can add a link and picture, talk a little about your post and click share. Super simple. When you’ve established more of a readership and know what time zone they’re in (most of my readers are in the US while I’m a day ahead in New Zealand) you can use social media schedulers like Buffer to schedule your promotions in advance to come out a few days apart – then you aren’t spamming your readers with the same content on every channel.
Getting traffic to your blog:
There are several ways to gain visitors to your site. One is through search engines like google when people search for information that you’ve written about on your blog. The second is when another website has linked to yours and readers follow that to your site, such as in a guest post. The third is through promoting your site through social media. Sound simple but there’s a few handy tricks involved, so let’s break it down.
Search engines: Not your friend when your site is young. You should still write your posts with google searches in mind because when your blog ranks higher on MOZ, you’ll start seeing hits on all your old posts as your blog gains authority on certain topics with google.
Links: When I guest post,) I do it for the link juice (positive effect on my DA) rather than the click through rate. The only time I’ve guest posted and got a decent amount of traffic out of was for a major New Zealand travel site which sees visitors in the 100,000s. So if you want to guest post for traffic, you should approach the bigger names in blogging, although many are extremely picky about who they let write on their blogs.
Social media: This is where you want to be. Your Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, Twitter feeds and Pinterest boards are where your readers are. All do decently well in sending traffic to your site, but the one that does the best in terms of traffic is Pinterest. Pinterest sends me thousands of readers a month and makes up for more than half my traffic, even though I only spend 15 minutes on it a week. I’ve written a really detailed guide to Pinterest here and a guide on creating pins for Pinterest here, if you want to learn how I did it. This is where you want to focus your time and effort as a new blogger, because it will pay off big time.
The learning curve is steep when it comes to travel blogging, it took me two years to learn everything I’ve written above, occasionally through tips from other bloggers, but mostly through trial and error. The important thing to remember is that travel blogging is about playing a long game, it takes time to create quality content and it’s going to be extremely frustrating to spend a few hours writing, editing and promoting a blog post for only five people to read it (and two of them are mum and dad). I promise it won’t stay like that if you stick with it.
Click to pin it to your blogging board: