How to start a successful travel blog
Do you have what it takes to become a travel blogger? Trying to learn how to start a travel blog and get paid? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Starting a travel blog was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made (well, after marrying my wife of course). I’ve been blogging since 2017, and it’s given me more opportunities than I could ever imagine. Back then, I never thought I’d travel to 40 countries by age 26 and quit my corporate job to pursue my lifetime passion. It’s truly a privilege.
For me, travel writing began as a hobby. I had no idea that you could make money by starting one. I didn’t follow any travel bloggers, nor did I even know they existed. Starting out, I just wanted to document my travel adventures and share them with my family and friends. And thankfully, over time, my content was interesting enough to attract other travelers, and later, brands and tourist destinations. Turns out, professional travel bloggers do exist and there are lots of them making a living from it.
After sacrificing countless nights and weekends creating content and building a travel community, I too was able to quit my “day job” and make this into a living.
Getting paid to travel the world or getting paid to work?
I’m not here to tell you that you’ll make six figures a year in passive income by travel blogging. Nor am I here to tell you that travel blogging will allow you to work a ten-hour work week. For 99.9% of travel bloggers, that simply isn’t true.
I’ve seen many gimmicks out there saying things like “Want to get paid to travel the world? Take my course…” These types of ads are often accompanied with an image of someone lounging on a beach, sipping a cocktail, and portraying a lifestyle of all play and no work. While this lifestyle may be true for a handful of bloggers and influencers, it’s certainly far from the norm.
On the contrary, the most successful travel bloggers I’ve met work harder than anyone; documenting all their travel adventures — through long articles, pictures, and videos — all while managing their website SEO, affiliate partnerships, and collaborations with brands and destinations. It’s not exactly your typical vacation. It’s a balancing act, really, and it’s the farthest thing from “passive.” Though, you can make a lot of money with the right tips and strategies that I’m going to share with you here.
The guide to becoming a successful travel blogger
As someone who is still on the journey to becoming a successful travel blogger, I’ve partnered with more than 25 destinations and 15 brands across my blog and social channels. Some of my relevant experiences can be found on my About and Work With Me pages. I also make money on ads and affiliate links like this, which are a reliable form of income. But it’s not passive. If I don’t produce blog content regularly, Google mercilessly punishes me, and I won’t make as much. What you put in is what you get out, but there’s no instant gratification with this job, trust me.
Travel blogging in 2020
In this article, I’ll give you the low-down on what you need to do to become a successful travel blogger. The purpose of this post is to give you the tools, techniques, and encouragement to start a successful travel blog in 2020. I’ve seen other bloggers write articles on this topic (who have been doing this for much longer than me). However, I’ve found that many of their tips are out of touch, unrealistic, and not as relevant to people just starting out today. The game has changed, and I want to give you the most comprehensive, up-to-date, and actionable tips to become a successful travel writer.
For example, though terms like travel blogger, travel influencer, and Instagram influencer used to mean totally separate things, they are more intertwined than ever before. You really have to be both if you want to get ahead. Having a strong social media presence will make you a more effective blogger, and vice versa. Social media account traffic to your blog is also an important part of search engine optimization (SEO), as it sends Google a “social signal” that your site is popular and useful. Travel blogging isn’t just about the words you write, but about your ability to connect with your audience via photos and videos. This is much more the case today for up and coming travel bloggers than it was for folks who started doing this a decade ago.
It’s quite possible to become wildly successful at travel blogging, but you need to work hard to get there. If your goal is to get rich quick and get paid to leisurely travel the world, then it won’t work out. But if you love traveling, writing, photography, and you’re willing to stick it out for a while, you’ll be rewarded.
If you love this stuff, read on!
Steps on how to start a travel blog
Note: If you’ve already started a travel blog and are looking to monetize it, skip to the sections you’re interested in below!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, where I earn commission from qualifying purchases at no cost to you. I only recommend products and companies I use and trust, and the income goes towards maintaining my travel website and social channels.
First key step to starting a travel blog
If your goal is to create a travel blog and make money, you’ll need to get a domain name and hosting provider. I recommend BlueHost, as it’s one of the cheapest and most reliable hosts on out there. I’ve personally been using them for over two years.
Save 50% off a hosting plan and get a FREE domain name with BlueHost.
Read below to learn how to start a travel blog website and make money in 2020.
Pick a travel blog name that fits your passions and personality
Choosing a name is the first step to starting a travel blog. It should be catchy, clever, and fit your personality. It should also be unique. Whatever you do, make sure you choose a name that you think you’ll still like years from now, because changing a website name isn’t really an option.
The first few names I thought of were already taken by other people, so I settled. Just kidding – I think Global Viewpoint was the perfect name for my blog. I created this travel blog with the hope that by sharing the stories, history, and culture behind destinations, I’d be able to foster a community of global-minded citizens (more on my About page here). My goal today, as it was in 2017, is to share knowledge of the world with the world. And to inspire others to live a life of passion, adventure, and continuous learning. Global Viewpoint, I think, makes sense for the content I create.
Here’s some advice that will help you when choosing a travel blog name.
Make sure the .com domain name is not taken
Don’t get too excited about your new travel blog name until you’ve checked that the domain is available. You don’t have to use a .com domain, but I recommend it because people may have trouble remembering other ones. I wanted to register globalviewpoint.com, but the owner of that domain said it would cost six figures to buy. No thanks!
Check social media to see if the name is still available.
That would be a buzz kill if you went through all the hassle of purchasing a new domain, only to find out that the name is taken on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. If your dream name is taken, don’t fret! Some imbecile with 0 followers took my handle on Instagram. So instead of sending a passive aggressive message, I decided to add a dot to my name, and it all worked out.
Make the travel blog URL easy to remember
Don’t make your URL long and complex. The most successful blogs I know have names with two to three words.
Avoid using slang, hyphens, and numbers, as that may confuse readers. When someone asks you the name of your site, you want to be able to verbalize it quickly and without having to explain too much. Word-of-mouth marketing is huge, especially when you’re on the road and meeting people at hostels, etc. Keep your travel blog domain short and simple.
Additionally, you want your travel blog name to be relatable. When people see the name of your site, they should be able to associate it with something they know. For example, first-time visitors who land on Nomadic Matt’s website can probably discern that he’s a nomad and into budget travel. Quick associations are helpful when building any brand, so it’s no surprise that it’s also important when you’re starting a travel blog.
Avoid clichés and other people’s blog names
If I chose a name like Nomadic Jon, there’s no way I’d be able to differentiate myself from the hundreds of other “Nomadic X” accounts out there, let alone the big dog himself, Matthew Kepnes. Trying to imitate other bloggers isn’t advisable in the slightest bit. On the contrary, using clichéd words and similar branding to others will make it difficult to form your own blogging identity. Be creative when choosing a travel blog name.
Choosing an original name is the only way to truly stand out as a professional travel blogger.
Make sure the travel blog name is professional
The name doesn’t have to be super formal like “Global Viewpoint” (haha). But you should choose a travel blog name that you feel comfortable introducing to strangers and important people. One of the goals of becoming a travel blogger is to go on press trips and collaborate with brands— who would want to work with you if your name was “Travelgangster123?”
Pick a name that you can use long term
Think about how your name will represent you and your brand in the long term. While I can’t help you pick a travel blog name, here are some ideas of names that you should probably stay away from:
- Don’t choose a travel blog name like “Twenty Year Old Nomad,” because next year you’ll be 21.
- Don’t pick a name like “Jon’s Alaskan Adventure” even if you’re spending an extended period there (i.e. a couple of months). The travel bug is real, and there’s a good chance you’ll want to visit places outside of Alaska in the future.
- Avoid names like “Hostel Boy Traveler” unless you plan to stay in hostels the rest of your life. While finding a niche is important, don’t choose a name that may become irrelevant as you progress through different stages of your life. We all change, and what we enjoy changes.
Trying to change your travel blog name is a total hassle, so think long and hard about choosing the right name up front. Don’t pigeonhole yourself! This is among the most underrated tips in how to become a travel blogger.
Register a domain name for your travel blog
After coming up with a clever domain name, you’ll want to purchase and register it.
You can get your domain directly through Bluehost (it’s free for the first year!), a simple and easy way to set up a travel blog. Bluehost allows you to purchase your domain and hosting at the same time, rather than having to go through separate providers. I’ve been using Bluehost since I started my travel blog in 2017, which is why I recommend them. Click here to purchase a domain name and create a blog. The next section dives into hosting in more detail.
Note: if you purchase at least 12 months’ worth of hosting with my link, you’ll get a FREE domain for the first year (a $12 value). It’s worthwhile to purchase 12 months of hosting anyway, as it gives you a cheaper monthly price. The free domain is a bonus!
If you want to get an even better deal, consider purchasing a 36-month plan to bring down your monthly rate. As a travel blogger, you can save tons of money by planning for the long haul.
By using my special link, you’ll be getting a major discount on your hosting ($3.95/month versus $7.99/month)!
If you’re interested in getting the free domain, follow the steps below, as you’ll be able to purchase your hosting and get a free domain all at once.
Set up hosting for your travel blog
Choosing the right web host is one of the most important steps in starting a travel blog. Don’t worry, it’s super easy to set it up.
What is hosting?
Think of hosting as real estate for your website. Though instead of owning a plot of land somewhere, you’re connected to the internet. It’s a place where all your blog’s data is stored where people can access it as they’re surfing the web. Hosting companies take care of this process for you.
What is the best host for a travel blog?
When you’re looking for hosting providers, you have two options: paid or free hosting. If your goal is to become a serious travel blogger and make money doing this, then you need to choose good real estate. Free hosting won’t allow you to customize your own blog and run ads, so I wouldn’t recommend that option. As you’re learning how to start a travel blog and make money, you’ll find that investing in a website with good hosting goes a long way.
Instead, you’ll want to find a cheap and reliable paid hosting option. One that offers plenty of customization, fast page speeds, great customer service, and room to grow. As such, I recommend Bluehost, which I’ve been using since starting my travel blog in 2017. Here are a few key reasons why I recommend it:
For any new travel blogger, pricing is one of the most important considerations when choosing a host. Bluehost, the provider I’ve used since starting my travel blog, is consistently ranked as one of most affordable hosting companies. It doesn’t make sense to invest tons of money upfront, especially if you’re unsure about travel blogging in the long term. Plus, if you do make it big as a travel blogger, you can upgrade to a more premium plan later with no hassle.
I monetize my blog and get tens of thousands of website visitors a month, and I still use Bluehost. I’m a Bluehost affiliate partner, which means that I receive a commission for referring new customers. I was using Bluehost for over two years before joining their affiliate program, so I’d recommend it anyway.
Excellent customer service
I’ve found Bluehost to have an incredible customer service team. It’s US-based, which means you don’t have to deal with online chat robots or encounter any language barriers. You can simply call them whenever you have an issue, and someone will know how to help you become a successful travel blogger. The moment you purchase your hosting, you’ll have access to their customer service that will help you right away!
When you sign up for hosting, Bluehost gives you a free domain name for the first year. This lets you minimize your upfront costs, as opposed to purchasing a domain on your own.
Awesome introductory offer
Great news! As an affiliate partner, I’ve been able to secure you a 50% discount on Bluehost hosting. Instead of paying $7.99/month, you’ll pay just $3.95/month by following the link below!
Every hosting company has its occasional issues and downtime, but I’ve found Bluehost to be very reliable. It hosts more than 2 million websites worldwide and has minimum uptime of 99.99%. Plus, the loading times are very competitive (462 milliseconds average on speed tests). For the price you pay, it’s one of the most reliable hosting companies out there. Perfect for starting a travel blog.
In addition to Bluehost’s special introductory offer, they also provide a 30-day money-back guarantee. It’s nice to have some insurance in case starting a travel blog isn’t what you expected.
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How to set up your travel blog hosting using Bluehost
Setting up a travel blog on Bluehost is super easy. Here are four easy steps to get you there:
Step 1: Click the green button that says “Get Started.”
Step 2: Choose a hosting plan that best fits your needs. I use the basic plan. Unless you’re planning to manage multiple websites at once, you should choose this plan as well. You can always upgrade to another plan later.
Step 3: Check if your travel blog name (domain name) is available by entering the website you want. If you haven’t purchased your website name yet, enter it in the “Create a new domain” field on the left. If you purchased the domain from a third-party, you can instead select the “Use a domain name you own” option.
Step 4: Select any extra features that you want on your site. The Domain Privacy Protection is an absolute must, as it keeps your contact information safe. Website registry information is publicly available, so if you don’t get this protection, you’ll likely get lots of annoying calls from people trying to sell you stuff. The other features listed here aren’t necessary to buy at this point.
Plan for the long term
As you’re starting a travel blog, I recommend getting the 36-month plan. It will be $3.95 rather than $5.95 per month for the 12-month plan, so you’ll save $70 over those three years. If you’re serious about learning how to become a travel blogger (you’ve made it this far into the article…so you are!), then you should plan for the long haul.
The key to starting a successful blog in the travel niche is your mindset. If you go into this thinking it will be a long-term endeavor, then you’re more likely to make it happen. That’s why I recommend starting your travel blog with the 36-month package. Also, there’s research out there to suggest that choosing a longer hosting period signals to Google that you’re more “legit,” which may be favorable from an SEO standpoint.
How to connect your domain and your hosting
Please note: you can skip this section if you purchased your domain directly through Bluehost.
Some of you may have already decided to purchase your domain through a site like Go Daddy. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to connect your domain to your Bluehost hosting account. Go Daddy has a support page that tells you everything you need to do, but I’ll attach a screenshot for your reference below.
After completing these steps, you’ll need to add the domain you purchased through Go Daddy (or another domain registrar) as an add-on domain to your Bluehost web hosting. When you’re logged in your Bluehost account, click on “Domains” and follow the prompts to assign your new domain to this account. It should be a fairly quick and easy process!
Install WordPress on Bluehost
After completing your Bluehost purchase, the next step is to install WordPress. This is what I use. All the top travel bloggers use this as well (as it’s the top blogging platform). Even professional websites like the New York Times, BBC, TechCrunch, and Disney are on WordPress. In my opinion, it’s much better than Wix, Blogger.com, and Squarespace, which I also carefully vetted before making my decision. Thankfully, Bluehost makes it very easy to create a WordPress blog. And best of all? It’s free!
If you’re serious about travel blogging, you should get a self-hosted WordPress account rather than a free one. That way, you can have your own website URL rather than one ending in “.WordPress.com”. You’ll also have full control of your data, advertising, themes, and plugins; which is a must if you want to become a successful travel blogger.
Finally, having a self-hosted WordPress account allows you to use Google Analytics, which is super important for travel bloggers. If I wasn’t tracking my website data with this service, I wouldn’t be able to have partnerships with tourist boards and brands.
Now without further ado, here’s how to set up WordPress for your travel blog.
How to set up a WordPress for your travel blog
Installing WordPress with your Bluehost account is very quick and easy. Follow the steps below and you’ll have your travel blog up and running in no time. Voilà!
Step 1: Login into your Bluehost account and select “My Sites” on the left sidebar. Then, click the “Create Site” button on the top right corner of the screen.
Step 2: Choose your website name and come up with a tagline. You don’t need to write a tagline right now, so you can skip it if you’d like. Then, click next.
Step 3: You don’t need to set up a directory right now. What you should do, though, is keep each of these “Helpful Free Plugins” selected. After all, they are free. As you spend more time travel blogging, you’ll get a sense for which plugins you need and don’t need, so you can take further action later. Once you’re all set on this screen, select “Next.”
Step 4: Welcome to WordPress! You’ve now successfully started a travel blog! From here, you can click either “Business” or “Personal” to get a walkthrough of how the platforms works. If you’re already a website building pro, you can select “I don’t need help.”
Now that you’ve made it to the WordPress dashboard, you can create pages, posts, install plugins, and more.
Find a theme for your travel blog
As you’re learning how to become a travel blogger, put a lot of emphasis on your theme.
Though the content on your travel blog is paramount, having a pretty design is also very important. When visitors first land on your page, you want to make a solid first impression. Visitors tend to make up their minds in a matter of seconds as to whether they can trust your site. Having a beautiful layout, or theme, will encourage them to stay and return for more.
As an aspiring travel blogger, you have two options for finding themes: free and premium.
As you’re learning how to start a travel blog and not yet making any money with your website, you may be inclined to get a free theme.
Your WordPress blog comes with some free default themes. If you’re looking for a simple design and not looking to pay anything, this is a decent option. I don’t find the free themes particularly appealing, but I did use one for the first month of running my travel blog.
If your goal is to become a travel blogger for the long term, then you should buy a premium WordPress theme for your travel blog. Premium themes offer more functionalities and generally look nicer than the free ones. They typically cost between $25-60, but you can easily spend much more on ultra-premium themes.
I’ve been using the Soledad theme, which is a part of Theme Forest. I like for its uniqueness and flexibility. There are minimal plugin conflicts, and there’s even a support forum that helps you learn how to customize your site. I’ve learned a great deal of coding through these forums, which is super important because I haven’t had to hire any outside help in building my website. For the reasons above, I recommend installing a paid theme.
To install your theme, click on “Appearance” on the left side bar, and then select “Themes.” On the subsequent page, click “Add New Theme.” You’ll then be able to upload the .zip file for your chosen theme and can activate it. Themes usually include installation instructions, so this task should be pretty easy and straightforward.
If you’re looking for something more customizable than what your theme provides, your best bet is to hire a cheap web developer. You can find resources using sites like Upwork, but be cautioned: having any design work performed on your travel blog can cost a pretty penny. This type of work typically isn’t a one-time ordeal, either, so be prepared for hefty maintenance costs.
Though themes are an important element of your travel blog, don’t worry too much about them! I’ve changed my theme a few times, and I would encourage you to do the same as your tastes and style change.
Install WordPress plugins
Installing plugins is a key step when learning how to start a travel blog and make money.
There are over 55,000 plugins in the WordPress depository that you can use on your site. You can also look into more premium options that are sold by developers outside the depository. If you’re a travel blogging beginner, this depository has everything you’ll need.
Here are some plugins that I recommend:
Yoast SEO: A vital WordPress plugin for Google search engine optimization (SEO). It gives you tips and tools for optimizing your articles – a must-have for travel bloggers!
WP Rocket: Caching plugin that helps your travel blog load faster.
Google Analytics: Lets you track your website traffic. As you’re creating content, you should regularly check your analytics to see who your readers are, where they come from, and what content performs the best on your travel blog.
Social Media Share Buttons: Allows you to insert sharing buttons in your articles that lead users to your social media platform.
JetPack: Handles site stats, search engine optimization, security, and backups. You can add tons of different features and widgets— including contact forms and spell-checkers— with JetPack.
Akismet: Filters out spam comments on your site. It comes with your WordPress, so you’ll just need to activate it and follow the prompts.
There are many other great plugins out there, but this is a good start.
As you’ll learn by taking the WordPress tutorial, having too many plugins isn’t a good thing. Sometimes there can be conflicts with your theme and other WordPress files, which can result in compatibility issues, slower page speed, and may even take down your site. I recommend installing a plugin called “Health Check & Troubleshooting” to identify and troubleshoot such issues when they inevitably occur.
Build your travel blogger reputation
To become a successful travel blogger, you need to shape your digital persona.
Who are you and what’s your mission?
Are you a budget backpacker or a luxury one?
Do you have a regional specialty? What’s your niche?
What value/insight do you bring to the global travel community?
How are you different than your travel blogger peers?
These are the types of questions you’ll want to ask yourself when you’re crafting your online image and reputation. When a visitor accesses your website, they should have a clear idea right away what you’re all about. Here are some ways to help with that.
Create key pages for your travel blog
This section is particularly important if you’ve never blogged before.
A travel blog contains pages and posts. Each of your travel articles are called “blog posts,” which can include travel guides, itineraries, and other unique topics. The main pages on your site, which often appear at the top, may include an “About” and “Contact” page.
This is where you tell people about yourself, your story, what your blog is all about, and how your content helps others. This is one of the most important and highly trafficked pages on your travel blog, so make it interesting and personal!
I recommend creating an About page before you even publish your first post. And as your content, style, and personality evolves over time, you should update this page to reflect the travel blogger you’ve become.
The ultimate goal for your About page is to tell readers why they should follow your journey and stick around for the long haul.
Before publishing your first post, you’ll want to create a Contact page. This lays out how people—both fans and potential work partners—can reach you. Be sure to include an email address, contact form, and/or your social media handles!
Before writing your first blog posts, you should have these key pages filled out. The goal is to keep these pages fun, interesting, and professional.
Kickstart your social media pages
As you’re learning how to become a successful travel blogger, you need to build a strong social media presence. To start, you should create accounts on the world’s most popular platforms, keeping your name and branding fairly consistent.
Though each platform is different, you’ll want to tailor your content accordingly. Here’s what you should do:
Step 1: Make an account on each relevant channel. Don’t forget TikTok! This is a viral platform right now, and you need to get on there to ride the wave.
This was my TikTok account a few months ago:
And this is my TikTok account now (June 2020):
As you can see, I’ve gained hundreds of thousands of followers on the app in just a few short months. And more importantly, for the sake of this article on how to become a travel blogger, there’s a link-in-bio feature now that allows you to receive traffic to your website/blog. I get well over a thousand pageviews per month just from TikTok alone!
Step 2: Link to your blog and other social channels whenever possible. Put the link to your travel blog in your bio. Otherwise, consider using something like Link Tree, so you can link to many channels at once.
Step 3: Before publishing any content on these channels, gain an understanding of the platform by consuming content from your niche. For example, type in relevant hashtags (i.e. #TravelBlogger and #TravelPhotography) to find out what similar accounts are posting and talking about.
Step 4: Create informative and engaging travel content. What separates us (travel bloggers) from travel influencers is that we provide lots of unique stories and tidbits. Sure, we want to inspire people with our beautiful photos and videos, but we should also be pairing them with interesting captions and lots of depth.
Step 5: Don’t go crazy about your post analytics. Yes, it’s important, but don’t get bogged down when your posts don’t do well. Eventually, you’ll find your tribe. Just be persistent!
Once you begin publishing articles, you should start sharing them on your Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages. Each of these platforms are great for pushing viral content on blogs, especially Pinterest. LinkedIn is also a valuable resource for sharing articles, particularly when it comes to sharing travel tips and more professional-style writing. With Instagram, I recommend putting your blog link in the bio, and even updating it occasionally with specific articles that you think would be valuable for your audience. Once you reach 10,000 followers, you’ll even be able to do a “swipe-up” story. I use this feature frequently on my Instagram page.
Again, I know this is an article about how to start a travel blog from scratch (and how to become a travel blogger), but I just want to reiterate the power of social media. You won’t be able to succeed as a travel blogger without an active community on your social media channels. So be sure to give this area proper focus, too!
Write your first travel blog posts
Now that you’ve created the main pages of your site and established a social media presence, you should begin writing blog posts. Lots of them.
The goal of your travel blog articles
The overarching goal of travel blogging is to “impact” the reader. Whether it be inspiring future adventures, providing actionable travel tips, or both, you should focus on ways to impact the reader in a positive and helpful way.
To do this, you’ll want to write posts that cover a variety of topics you feel comfortable sharing and know a lot about.
These may include sharing your favorite destinations, most insightful tips, or travel hacks that help you travel smarter. They can also be your funniest and craziest travel stories, photo essays, and travel lifestyle recommendations. When selecting subjects like travel tips, be sure you’re answering important questions that are helpful and otherwise add value to the reader. This is what keeps people returning for more.
Be personal with your posts and let your personality shine
As you’re starting out as a travel blogger, the game is tough. It’s hard to build up an audience and get your content shown to lots of people. The top travel bloggers and travel publications monopolize all the top trending keywords and destinations (i.e. 20 Things to Do in London). Moreover, given that your website is new, it takes time for Google to rank you.
To effectively compete as a new travel blogger, you should try keeping your content personal. This means being open and honest. In other words, keeping it real. For example, give updates on where you’ve traveled and things you’ve learned on the road. Perhaps delve into some of your travel failures, as it shows your humanity. Relating with your audience is a huge way to retain users on your travel blog, showing people that there’s a real person behind the articles. Showing your true colors will help you stand out, and allow you to become a successful travel blogger and make money.
Focus on SEO sooner rather than later
This is a must if you want to become a successful travel blogger. I wish I focused on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) early on. During my first couple of articles, I tried ranking for keywords like “Barcelona” and “Travel.” I didn’t stand a chance (and I still don’t haha).
To boost your traffic coming from search engines such as Google and Bing, you’ll want to work on implementing a careful and well-thought-out SEO strategy. Thankfully, there are a lot of FREE resources online that touch on this topic. I recommend doing simple google searches and watching YouTube videos to learn the basics.
Here’s a great diagram that explains the needs of SEO at a high level, courtesy of Moz.com:
It takes time to see the results of your travel writing
As you begin implementing your travel blog’s SEO strategy, be warned: it will take time to see the results. Like travel blogging in general, SEO is not an overnight, get-rich-quick, type of ordeal. It may take weeks and sometimes months before you start seeing your content indexed on Google. But wait until it does happen. It’s a beautiful sight!
To help your travel articles rank high on Google, I recommend using Moz Keyword Research Tool and/or Keysearch. These search tools allow you to research keywords for your articles. They also show you how many people are searching for certain terms, how difficult they are to rank for, and any synonyms that people also search for. Here’s what Moz’s free tool looks like for the popular keyphrase: “Things to do in Boston.”
If you stick with it and keep up on SEO trends, you’ll eventually see hundreds to even thousands of organic hits a day on your website. This, in turn, will translate into a substantial amount of money in advertising. That’s part of the goal, my friends! But of course, if you want to learn how to become a successful travel blogger and make money, you have to be patient.
The challenge and opportunities of writing travel blog articles
At the beginning, writing articles will be daunting. Not necessarily because of the content, but because of all the add-ons and features you’ll want to incorporate into it. Everything from headers and formatting to photos and videos will take time to customize in your blog posts. These things are time-intensive and require a learning curve. I promise you that soon enough, these tasks will become easy and second nature, so you can fully focus on your craft: writing travel blog articles.
When you’re just starting out, you should aim to publish 1-2 articles a week. When I first began travel blogging, my first several articles were just 500-700 words. Now, I average about 4,000 words a post, but it took a long time to get there.
To get better at your writing craft, you should read other bloggers and online publications.
What are they writing about?
What experiences do you have that will make you a good writer on a particular topic?
Over time, you’ll be able to incorporate your voice and writing style to similar topics of interest.
Lastly, my best advice is to publish quality over quantity. If you only have the bandwidth to publish one, comprehensive article a week, do that instead of publishing multiple short ones. It won’t be long until you’ve established your style and voice and writing long travel articles will be a breeze!
If you want to learn how to become a successful travel blogger and make money, you have to spend time actively honing your skills. Make it your craft.
Network with travel brands and fellow travel bloggers
When you’re first starting out as a travel blogger, it’s important to network with people in the industry. I didn’t do this for a long time, and I think my progress was much slower because of it.
Go to networking events in your nearest city or attend annual conferences like TravelCon. Start following other travel bloggers, photographers, and influencers, and reach out to them and ask to go shooting with them. Or get a coffee. Building those relationships early on will pay dividends down the road. It will also keep you sane, as the world of travel blogging is tough when you’re on your own. You’ll need to find a travel blogger buddy to share tips, vent about website problems and SEO, and otherwise shoot the breeze with.
By becoming an active member of the travel blogging community, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
Take a travel blogging course relating to your niche
When you’re starting a travel blog, consider taking courses on a range of topics. This is another one of my biggest regrets as a new travel blogger. I never took a single blogging course, nor did I do any formal trainings because of the upfront costs, etc. I think my path to becoming a successful travel blogger would’ve been much shorter if I had.
I’m only going to recommend one travel blogging course here, which happens to be run by the world’s most famous and successful travel blogger, Nomadic Matt. The course is called Superstar Blogging, and it touches on all the best tips for people just starting out in the blogging world. I met Matt at TravelCon last year, and I’m super impressed by the blogging empire he’s created. He’s the real deal.
Given that he’s literally the top dog in the industry, I think his courses gives you a great bang for your buck!
In addition to courses, you may want to buy other digital tools to best showcase your blog and social media pages. My good friends Bree and Stephen are wedding photographers who know a thing or two about taking amazing photos! They offer an assortment of digital tools relating to photography that are incredibly creative and at a great price! Be sure to use my code JONMIKSIS10 to save 10%!
One of the most important lessons about blogging, and self-enhancement in general, is that you have to invest in yourself if you want to be among the best. Particularly if you want to become a successful travel blogger and make money, investing in yourself must be a top priority.
Make money with your travel blog
To keep your travel blogging lifestyle sustainable, you’ll want to find ways to make money.
Just keep in mind, there’s no way to get rich quick by travel blogging. It all takes time and requires some late nights sitting in front of your computer screen. To get there, you need to build a large and authentic audience. This should be your main focus over the first several months of travel blogging.
How do you build a large and authentic audience on your travel blog?
Learning how to start a travel blog website from scratch is no easy task.
As stated above, your priority as you’re starting a travel blog should be to create high quality, comprehensive, and thought-provoking content. In essence, you want to add value to your readers.
As you’re starting out, most of your audience will be your close family and friends. But ultimately to make money, you’ll want to branch out much further than that. Creating insightful content on a consistent basis, which hits on unique topics in the travel industry, will help you grow your “base” and create a large and authentic travel community.
Once you get this step down, you can look towards these strategies for making money and monetizing your travel blog.
Some ways to make money as a travel blogger
There are many, many ways to make money as a travel blogger. It’s all about being creative and finding ways to do it that don’t comprise your values and go off-brand.
I reject most paid partnership inquiries because either A.) the products or services are not useful for me, and B.) I don’t want to come across as one giant ad. Gaining trust and credibility in this industry is hard to gain, and easy to lose.
The most full-proof methods of making money as a travel blogger are by using affiliate programs and website ads. Every reader understands that you need to make money to survive, and it’s okay to sacrifice some of the user experience to make your blog sustainable.
As you’re starting a travel blog, one of the best ways to make money immediately is through affiliate marketing programs.
Even if you only have a few readers, you can begin making affiliate income on day 1. Affiliate programs allow you to recommend things like travel gear, photography equipment, apps, hotels, flights, and pretty much everything else.
With affiliate programs, you’re given special tracking codes that you embed in your articles and make money whenever people make purchases through them. The commission percentages are typically small (i.e. 5%), but some can be upwards of 40%. Even if the amounts are small, the cash piles up over time. To be successful at this, you should only be recommending products and services that you use anyway. The last thing you’ll want to do is promote products that are off brand or otherwise don’t add any value to your audience.
I recommend getting started with affiliate programs like Amazon.com, Booking.com, and CJ Affiliate. Other popular affiliate programs include Awin and Get Your Guide. When you’re using affiliate links, make sure they fit naturally into the article. You want them to flow nicely with your content and not be too obtrusive.
Display ads on your travel blog
Another option to make money as a travel blogger is through ads.
When you’re starting out, the only viable option for your travel blog is Google Adsense. When you gain more traffic, consider going with a company like Mediavine, but it’s quite a rigorous application process ( > 25,000 monthly sessions). I didn’t run any ads on my website for a long time because of page speed and user experience considerations. I ultimately decided to do it when my traffic hit 30,000 monthly pageviews and met Mediavine’s requirements.
The amount of money you can earn on ads really depends on several factors. This includes your niche, the topics of your articles, and the countries where your traffic comes from. For example, luxury travel bloggers typically make more money on ads than budget backpacker bloggers. Advertisers in the US and UK tend to pay more for ad space than those in countries in Asia, for instance.
Sponsored blog posts
Sponsored blog posts are another way to make money with a travel blog. Some bloggers can do quite well with this type of arrangement, but there are some important caveats and downsides you should be aware of.
I rarely partake in sponsored blog posts because I find most inquiries to be spammy. I get countless emails a week from people supposedly representing companies in the industry; yet often their punctuation and grammar are atrocious. The senders are usually looking for backlinks to boost their own sites and don’t have any value to add to mine. Plus, most inquiries aren’t personal at all. Many even spell my name wrong or don’t use a name when addressing me at all. In such cases, I don’t take their inquiries seriously, and you shouldn’t waste your time too. Trust me, as you progress in your journey on how to become a travel blogger, you’ll get tons of these emails.
However, sponsored posts can be great when the brand or organization aligns well with your travel blogging content. In those circumstances, you should have a rate card set up that you can give it to the brand. Most bloggers I know charge between $200-1,000 per sponsored post, but it really depends on how much traffic you get and how much effort (i.e. how many words) are required.
Most of my sponsored blog posts are with destinations, and I package these with my social media coverage. So instead of just using a rate for a sponsored blog post, I pair it with a certain number of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook posts to go with it. In most cases, the brands want you to share the sponsored blog post on your social channels, anyway, so it helps to bundle everything together up front.
Freelance writing—writing for publications in return for payment— can be a great side hustle. It also gives you some excellent practice for your own site. This gig is especially worthwhile in the early stages of when you’re learning how to start a travel blog from scratch and become a travel blogger.
I’ve done this for a few online publications, including Matador Network. I’ve found that some publications have stringent requirements about the writing style, article length, and subject matters altogether. If you’re new to blogging, freelance writing can be a valuable learning opportunity. For more experienced writers, your decision to do this will likely come down to the money offered and value of the backlinks.
Though freelance writing can be a decent source of income if you’re efficient at pumping out articles, it typically doesn’t pay that well. Typically, the top-notch travel publications pay well, but they’re often very competitive and difficult to get the gigs.
Freelance writing can be a decent way to make money as a travel blogger, but I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. I’m mostly of the belief that you’re better off working for yourself than for someone else.
Starting a travel blog requires a lot of work, but over time, opportunities will arise for brand ambassadorships. These are typically annual contracts where you serve as an ambassador for a brand in return for payment and/or free products. For example, many travel bloggers are brand ambassadors for travel gear companies, tour companies, and even destinations. Some travel bloggers who are also good photographers can land brand ambassadorships with camera companies like Canon and Nikon.
Brand ambassadorships are ideal, as they tend to pay really well, and they are long term. As such, it’s a reliable source of income in the travel blogging world.
Selling your skills and knowledge
If you’re a popular content creator and have specialized knowledge of the industry, then you can make quite a bit of money selling your skills and knowledge.
The reality is that travel blogging is a tough industry to crack, and there’s no instant gratification to it. To help speed up the process of becoming a successful travel blogger, it’s important for new bloggers to invest in themselves to learn insider tips and tricks.
I also provide mentorship and guidance for people trying to enter the travel blogging space. If you’re interested in mentorship or specific expertise relating to anything in this article, feel free to check out my Work With Me page for more details!
Selling your photos and videos
Starting a travel blog isn’t just about writing, photos are another great way to document your adventures.
This is not a super common way of making money for travel bloggers, but if you’re into travel photography and videography, you should consider it.
There are lots of websites out there where you can sell stock photos and videos, including Adobe Stock, Shutterstock, and Alamy. This is a form of passive income, where you don’t really have to do anything other than upload your photos onto different sites, and you’ll receive payment when people download them.
Additionally, travel brands and destinations sometimes pay for this type of content. For example, tourist boards have used my photos in tourist brochures in return for payment.
Another way of making money as a travel blogger is by selling prints on your own website using image galleries and plugins like WooCommerce. Making this a priority really depends on how confident you are with your photography skills.
You can also sell your photography-related products on sites like Etsy, like my friends Bree and Stephen!
Paid press trips, social media posts, and more
Starting a travel blog requires patience, but eventually the opportunities present themselves.
As a travel blogger, you can partake in press trips and other collaboration opportunities with destinations, hotels, and tour companies.
Starting out, most of these opportunities are unpaid (i.e. a couple of free nights at a hotel). However, the bigger you get, the more paid press trips and familiarization tours you’ll be invited to.
As you’re starting out your journey on how to become a travel blogger, expect to do unpaid gigs. This will help cement your reputation and build connections and a portfolio. Once you establish yourself, you’ll realize that your time and work is super valuable, and you should be compensated appropriately for it.
Other things to know before you start your travel blog
Even if you follow all the key steps for setting up a travel blog, there’s one last thing needed to ensure you’ll become a successful travel blogger. You’ll want to make sure that your expectations align with reality. Most bloggers quit after a short time because they underestimate the amount of effort required to succeed. Here are some things to know before you start your travel blog and become a travel blogger.
Travel blogging is a lot of work
If your goal is to make a lot of money doing this, and even be able to fund your travel adventures, then you should know that travel blogging requires a lot of time and effort. I spend more time in front of a computer screen now than I did in my desk job.
Diversify your content
Early on, you should begin testing the waters to see what content sticks and what doesn’t. Instead of just writing travel guides or listicles, it’s a good idea to diversify your content and touch upon lots of different subjects and geographies. I also recommend using keyword research tools like Moz to see what queries people use when they research certain subjects.
Your first posts will not be your best
It’s funny to look at my first blog articles now to see how bad I was at it. “Omg why did I write that?!”
Starting a travel blog is tricky, and I simply didn’t know how to write like a true blogger. I wrote very long-winded sentences and didn’t really know how to capture the reader’s attention. But I kept writing anyway, and didn’t get obsessed about the quality of my work nor trying to achieve perfection. Trust me, it gets much easier the more you do it. Practice makes perfect as you’re learning how to become a travel blogger.
Sometimes you will fail. But that’s normal!
I’ve accidently taken down my website. I’ve wrote long evergreen articles that were total duds. Redesigned my website layout, only to find out that it didn’t improve the user experience. Failure happens, and you should embrace it. It stinks to waste time and money on these types of projects, but failure is a great learning opportunity. These things have taught me what not to do, which is invaluable. Through failure, I’ve learned to understand and prioritize the things that matter most. If you believe in yourself and your mission as a travel blogger, you’ll be able to move on from failures unscathed.
Create value for your readers
Travel blogging isn’t just about sharing your personal experiences, it’s also about helping others. In my articles, I always strive to add value to help others travel cheaper and smarter. Whether it’s providing travel inspiration and interesting information about destinations or giving insightful tips to make traveling more efficient and hassle-free, providing value for your readers goes a long way as a travel blogger. Before writing an article, ask yourself these questions:
Is the topic relevant to my target audience?
Am I answering questions that help people achieve something?
If the answer is yes, then keep going. You’re well on your way to becoming a successful travel blogger. If no, add some juicy details with lessons and takeaways that will benefit your reader in some way. The last thing you want to do is just make it about yourself; leaving no room for the readers to put themselves in your shoes and gain valuable insights from your content. Add value to your readers, and you’ll be rewarded.
Love what you do
If you love traveling, and you want to share your experiences and tidbits with the world, you’ll thrive as a travel blogger. Passion is contagious, and I think it’s the biggest driver for building an authentic travel community. This is absolutely crucial while you’re learning how to become a travel blogger.
FAQs about how to become a travel blogger
Q: Should I start a travel Instagram page or a travel blog?
A: Both. Social media is very powerful, and it’s a place where travel bloggers should be spending much of their energy and focus. However, you shouldn’t solely rely on social platforms. Since you don’t “own” sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, you don’t have any control over them. If they disappear tomorrow, you’ll be left with nothing. That’s why I always recommend starting a travel blog. It’s a business you own and have control over.
In the world of travel blogging, social media, while super important, is not king. You should use it to your advantage and keep your brand consistent across all platforms.
Q: Is it too late to start a travel blog in 2020?
A: Of course not! This is a very transient industry, and people are coming and going all the time. There will always be a place for quality content creators, including travel bloggers, so get started today and be prepared for the long haul!
Q: I don’t enjoy writing, but I’m a decent photographer and love the thought of being a travel blogger. Is there a place for me in all this?
A: Yes, but it really depends on your passion for travel and how much you’re willing to invest in your website (and business). You can hire guest writers to help you with the writing piece, but to some extent, you’ll want to proofread and make sure you’re able to incorporate your voice and style into the content on your website. There are some big travel blogs out there where the owners aren’t writers, and they outsource these functions to freelance folks. It can work out well, but make sure it’s financial sustainable, which it may not be when you’re first starting out as a travel blogger. (PS: writing a guest post on other travel blogs is a great way for you to gain exposure, so you should work on your writing skills even if it isn’t your main focus).
Q: Why did you start a travel blog and become a travel blogger?
A: I love traveling, meeting new people, learning about destinations, and writing about it all. This is such a rewarding industry, and you encounter new things every day! More details on my About page.
Q: How to start a travel blog website with no money?
A: You don’t have to travel far and wide to start a travel blog. On the contrary, you can start a travel blog by spending very little money and staying local. In fact, there is a very high demand right now for local travel bloggers to showcase their own communities. Local tourism boards tend to gravitate towards “local guides” to highlight the lesser known hidden gems in a destination. However, if you do want to blog about international destinations, you can leverage research online and keep your travels (and budget) to a minimum. Reach out to a tourism board of a destination you’d like to visit, and hopefully they will help you subsidize the cost of your trip.
How to start a travel blog website from scratch and make money in 2020
I hope you enjoyed reading my article on how to start a travel blog from scratch and get paid in 2020! At over 10,000 words, this is the longest blog post I’ve ever written as a travel blogger (by far!). I just couldn’t put the pencil down, as this is a topic that I’m very passionate about and I want to help YOU become a successful travel blogger. This is truly a dream job, and I want you to experience this too.
If you have any questions on items I may have left out, please leave a comment below and I’ll continue to update this post with more information to help you on this journey.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, where I earn commission from qualifying purchases at no cost to you. I only recommend products and companies I use and trust, and the income goes towards maintaining my travel website and social channels.
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