Congrats—you want to start a travel blog! But now what?
If you're looking for a blog post to show you how to start a blog in 5 easy steps, this blog post is not for you.
This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and/or make a purchase, I get small percentage of the sale. This does not cost you anything, and helps me maintain my site.
I won't sugarcoat it and tell you that starting a travel blog is as easy as 1, 2, 3. It's not at all. It takes time, dedication, patience, and the ability to keep learning and trying new things. What this post will tell you is how to build a strong foundation to treat your travel blog as a business and eventually monetize.
Before starting Venture & Eat, I had been blogging very casually from personal blogging on LiveJournal and Xanga (the gold ol' days, right?) to food blogging on wordpress.com. I honestly had no idea what I was doing since I wasn't taking it seriously, let alone knew how to get traffic to my blog.
When I started Venture & Eat, I knew right off the bat that I wanted to learn everything there was to blogging and eventually monetize my blog. I've gone through a few different hosting sites, email providers, site themes, and more.
Every day is a new learning experience in blogging, and I'm constantly testing out new ideas to better improve—I love the challenge of constantly having to learn.
Since taking blogging seriously, I've noticed there's quite a lot of blogging advice out there—some great and some not so great advice. It can definitely be scary and overwhelming to jump into the world of blogging. Where do you even start?
I've outlined core steps below to help you start blogging on the right foot to grow and monetize your travel blog.
Decide on a niche or focus
If you didn't realize by now, there are so many different types of travel blogs! You'll quickly learn that you need to differentiate yourself from other travel bloggers so people understand what kind of value you're providing.
When your readers know exactly the type of content that is on your blog and they like it then they'll continuously come back to read your blog.
For example, if someone finds your travel blog on Pinterest and finds one of your blog posts about solo female travel and loves it, they'll be confused as to why your blog has mainly couples travel content. The person will end up leaving and forgetting about your blog.
Initially, I focused on foodie travel inspiration, city guides, and budget travel tips. As Venture & Eat evolved, I started finding my true audience. I ended up pivoting my focus and started writing about travel blogging with a 9-5 angle and also about working with brands with the help of my work experience.
Here are some examples of niche travel blogs:
- Helene In Between: focuses on expat living and Instagram and blogging tips
- CKANANI: focuses on travel photography and inspiration
- Along Dusty Roads: focuses on long-term couples slow travel
- My Life's A Movie: focuses on adventure female solo travel
Related reading: 5 Tips for Working With Brands
Pick a Blog Name + Purchase a Domain Name
Now that you've figured out your niche, it's time to pick your travel blog name. This part can be both fun and frustrating at the same time. Trust me, Venture & Eat was not the first name I came up with.
My method I used to name my blog was based off of whether or not I could purchase the actual domain name associated with it. I knew I wanted a .com domain since it's the most commonly used, and I also wanted to make sure I could get all of my social handles in the same name (@ventureandeat).
You'll want to pick a name that isn't too difficult or too long to remember. Also make sure that your blog name somehow relates to travel. This will help you rank better in both Google and Pinterest search.
I ended up using Dreamhost to search and purchase my domain name. You can use a multitude of sites to do this. I've used Google Domains for other sites too. Some hosting sites like Wordpress or Squarespace include an optional domain name in the hosting price.
If you don't want to tie your domain name to your hosting site, you can keep it separate. There are ways to transfer ownership, which doesn't take very long at all.
Choose a Platform (Self-Hosting vs. Hosted)
When I first started Venture & Eat, I was self-hosted on Dreamhost, using WordPress.org. I chose self-hosting because I wanted complete control over my blog design. I also wanted to keep my HTML/CSS knowledge sharp as well as teach myself PHP (#failwhale).
I ended up fighting with my blog layout a lot.
I'm not sure if that's because my plugins were slowing my site down or if my layout just had certain limitations that my skills couldn't fix. I was just spending so much time fighting with layouts than actually writing.
So I switched.
I had experience using Squarespace for my personal site, and I knew how easy it is to manipulate layouts and customize to what I wanted. And if my site ever went down, I never had to really worry about dealing with the backend work.
Choosing self-hosting or hosted is entirely up to you and your preferences. There are a ton of wonderful WordPress themes and add-ons that I wish Squarespace had, but I ultimately just felt that Squarespace was right for me and my travel blog.
Choose Your Design + Customize
This is my favorite part!
Choosing your blog layout or theme is vital. Like everything else in life, first impressions matter. You want people to visit your blog for the first time and be drawn in by how professional it looks. This is one of the reasons why I love Squarespace so much.
Picking the right design is so important if you're looking to partner with brands on sponsored collaborations.
Related reading: How Brands Select Influencers
Opt for a clean theme that is fitted for blog content. You can opt for a sidebar, but remember that on mobile, users won't be able to see it unless they scroll all the way down.
Sumo: great desktop and mobile share buttons—there are a ton of other features too.
Disqus: comment system that users can login with their social handles
Yoast SEO (WordPress): helps you SEO optimize your posts
Having a homepage is a no-brainer. This is the page where your visitors will see the most often and get their first impression of you and your travel blog.
If you write about a few different topics, make sure that it's clearly shown here. New visitors will be less confused this way and have an easier time understanding what type of travel you write about.
Also make sure your graphics are on point too. This means you can't have grainy photos. The quality of your images can also influence visitors in their decision to keep reading your travel blog and land sponsored posts.
Your About page tells your visitors exactly who you are and more about your travel blog. You'll build credibility for yourself here, so it's important to really think about how you're describing yourself.
Work With Me
If you're looking to work with brands or work with clients, a Work With Me page is also vital. This is where you can list out the types of services you can provide. Depending on your preference and whether you're open to negotiating, you can list your prices for your services.
If you've worked with brands or clients before, it's great to see a snapshot with different logos and testimonials. From a brand's perspective, this is really helpful and helps you build credibility. You can also list your site and social media stats for quick reference.
Whether you're writing about multiple topics or one niche, add category pages so that your visitors can easily search your blog.
For travel bloggers, here are some example categories:
- Budget Travel
- Luxury Travel
- Adventure Travel
- Photography Tools
A Contact page is where visitors and potential brands and clients can get in touch with you. You can opt for a contact form or list your email. I recommend a contact form as this cuts down on spam.
Even though you'll have Category pages on your blog, having an Archives page will let your visitors see every post on your blog easier. You can even add a search bar here.
Write, write, write! I can't stress this enough. To continuously get readers to your travel blog, you need to consistently write new blog posts.
That being said, I don't think you should write just for the sake of writing. A poorly written blog post will stick out like a sore thumb. Try to commit to a schedule, whether it's 1-2 blog posts a week or 2 blog posts a month.
You also want to consistently write, so that your audience knows your voice. This sets you apart from other travel bloggers too. It might sound harsh, but if someone doesn't resonate with you and feel a connection to your writing, you're not going to have loyal readers.
Promote Your Travel Blog
Okay, so you've written a few blog posts. Now what?
Well, you can't just think, "If I build it, they will come."
Blogging doesn't work like that. You have to promote, promote, promote. A lot of bloggers will say they spend 80% of their time promoting their blog posts and only 20% actually writing. I'd say that's a fair ratio.
My favorite ways to promote my blog posts are on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.
If you don't already have a Pinterest business account set up for your blog, do it now! Pinterest is currently my highest source of traffic, and my favorite way to promote my blog posts.
After you create your blog posts, you'll need to create a pinnable images for them. You can use Canva as a free option. What's great about Canva is that you can save your templates for future pins too.
You've pinned your blog post pin. Now what? Find and join Pinterest Group Boards. Use PinGroupie to find relevant boards to your niche or search boards on Pinterest.
Once you've joined a couple of Group Boards, you can decide if you want to automate your pins. It's best to continuously pin your pins so that more people see them. I use Boardbooster (free trial), but you can also use TailWind ($15 credit).
Another way to promote your blog posts is in Facebook Groups. There are a TON of blogging groups available out there. Each of them typically have their own set of rules for when to post your content, so you'll have to double-check before you post. These groups are amazing for getting answers to pretty much everything about blogging too.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Blogging Boost
- Boost Your Blog
- Blogging Newbs
- In Search of Blog Squad
- Reroute Lifestyle
- Female Travel Bloggers
Another way I really like to promote my blog posts is on Twitter. You'll need to build up your community on Twitter before you start to see more results. However, you can use hashtags and tag accounts to get retweets.
So there you have it! I'd say these are the bare minimum steps to start a travel blog and build a foundation to grow it and monetize. Now it's your turn to build your own travel blog!