Dreaming of starting your own travel blog but don’t know where to begin? It’s not as daunting as it may seem! To save you the headache of trying to figure it all out on your own, I’ve created this simplified, step-by-step guide to starting your very own travel blog…
1. Picking a name
Picking a name can be one of the most frustrating yet most important steps to starting your blog. Your name sets the tone for your whole brand and is not something you are going to want to change down the track… So invest the time to get the name of your travel blog right!
Here are a few suggestions to help you:
Brainstorm like crazy- Write down every single world that you can think of relating to travel/ the niche of your blog. Try out different combinations of words to figure out what sounds and looks catchy
Think outside the box- This means avoiding cliches like “Wanderlust” and “Explore”- these words have been done to death. Experiment with words that are quirky and unique!
Don’t pick anything TOO obscure- The key is having a name that people will remember, so make sure it isn’t too long or difficult to spell.
Get help from others- It is always very useful getting a second, third or even eighth opinion! Write down your top 5 names and then ask your friends and family to pick their favourites.
Check the name is available- Before you get too excited about a name, check that the URL and social handles are all (or mostly) available!
2. Sign up for a blogging platform
Your next step is signing up for a blogging platform. For starting a travel blog, I would highly recommend using a self-hosted WordPress.org account. This is the platform that I personally use and what 90% of the professional bloggers I know are using. Choosing this option will require you to investing time and money in your blog, but if you ever plan to get serious about blogging, I promise that it will be worth the investment!
If you are just starting a blog for fun, there are many free and easy-to-use blogging platforms available, such as WordPress.com and Blogger. I personally started off using Blogger but it didn’t take long before I felt restricted by it’s lack of features. Even if you’ve already started a blog on another platform, you can switch over to WordPress.org is fairly easily without losing any of your data. There are lots of tutorials that will show you exactly how to do so.
Here are a few reasons why I recommend using WordPress.org:
- You OWN the site and all its data
- You can have a custom URL eg. polkadotpassport.com as oppose to polkadotpassport.wordpress.com
- You have full control to install custom themes and plugins
- You can sell advertising on your site and use tools such as google analytics
3. Get web hosting
If you are sitting here thinking “What the heck is web hosting?”, don’t fret. When I first started my blog, I had NO CLUE either. Just think of web hosting like renting a house. Instead of renting physical space, you are renting virtual space on the internet which stores all the files that make up your blog!
Hosting can either be very cheap or very expensive. If you are just starting up your blog or not receiving huge numbers in traffic, you will be fine to go for a cheaper option. The most budget-friendly hosting that I have come across is HostGator.com, which costs as little as $3.99USD per month (even less when you use my special discount code POLKADOT30 to score yourself 30%). HostGator’s interface is easy to use; they have a 99.9% uptime (meaning your blog won’t crash all the time) and also offer a full 24/7 customer support. And trust me, for technology-illiterate people like me, you’ll be using the customer support all the time!
Now that my blog is more established, I’ve personally started to use SiteGround. Prices are more expensive as it is a more powerful hosting site, so I would consider this option if you are getting higher levels of traffic or you are actually making a profit from your site.
Getting started with hosting can be a little complication, so here are a few quick steps to help. For the sake of this exercise, I’ll take you through HostGator’s process:
STEP 1: Choose your plan
Head to HostGator’s homepage. Scroll down to the hosting options and select your hosting plan. The option which I would recommend starting with is the WordPress Hosting plan, which has been designed specifically for blogs.
STEP 2: Select your domain
Now, you’ll need to select a domain name for your site. You can do this directly through HostGator and it will cost you about $12.99 for the first year. Or, if you already own one, you’ll have to contact your domain provider to get your DNS pointed to HostGator.
STEP 3: Fill out the information
Next, select the hosting package you want and fill out all your personal and billing information. The longer term you purchase, the cheaper the price will be. As I mentioned before, if you’d like a sneaky 30% off your order, be sure to use the promo code POLKADOT30 at the checkout to score the discount.
STEP 4: Install WordPress
Now that you’ve got your account set up it’s time to make the magic happen and get your WordPress site up and running! Head to your C-Panel and click ‘Get Started with WordPress Today’. Follow the instructions and in minutes, you’ll have your site set up and ready to rumble. Once WordPress has installed, you’ll be given information for where to access your WordPress login, your username and password. Now, you can sign in to your WordPress at http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin.
4. Get a theme and make your blog pretty!
Okay, now we’ve got the boring technical part of blog setup out of the way, it’s time for the fun part! WordPress had a plethora of fantastic, easy-to-customize themes on offer, meaning you can get your blog looking professional in no time.
If you are strapped for cash, there are plenty of free themes that look great and are very simple to set up. The first theme I used for my blog was called Virtue, and for a free theme, it was fantastic. It offers the feature of having a photo slider on your homepage, which I think works really nicely for a travel blog.
On the other hand, if you do have a little more money to spare, it is definitely worth the investment of buying a premium theme. You can get some fantastic themes for less than $50, and these themes will generally allow you way more flexibility when it comes to customizing your blog to exactly how you want it.
5. Customize your blog with plug-ins
Plug-ins are the keys to customizing your new blog. They are pieces of software you can install to add extra functionality to your blog to take it to the next level! Here are a few I would definitely recommend installing when starting your blog:
- Wordfence– adds an extra level of security to your site to protect it against spam and hackers
- Yoast– the best plug-in for SEO Optimization (read this intro to SEO if you have no idea what that is- it’s a whole new ball park!)
- WP Optimize– Keeps your site running smoother and faster by deleting unused data
- Google Analytics Dashboard– Keeps track of your traffic and gives you deleted analytics on who is visiting your site
- Social Media Sharing– Connecting your social media accounts to your blog is a must!
6. Start blogging!
Now it’s time to create content! Remember, starting a blog doesn’t mean you are going to attract thousands of readers overnight. It took me at least six months before anyone other than my family and friends actually started to read my blog. The trick is to focus on creating as MUCH quality content as you can from the very beginning rather than investing ALL of your time in getting your name out there. You need to give people a reason read your travel blog over the millions of others that already exist on the interwebs!
Here are a few key tips when starting the blogging journey:
Be authentic- Write about what you are genuinely passionate about.
Be unique- Instead of re-writing content that already exists online, find your own voice in the travel industry. Why should people take the time to read you article? People generally read travel blogs as they want REAL travel advice and recommendations so don’t be shy of injecting your personality into your writing!
Stay consistent- create a posting schedule, whether it’s daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly! I personally go for quality over quantity but everyone has their own strategy so come up with a posting schedule that is manageable and try stick to it as best you can.
Stay ethical- don’t be a sell-out. Once you reach the point of monetizing your blog, don’t say yes to everything because it will earn you a quick dollar. In the long run, staying true to yourself and your brand will see a far better return than bombard your readers with blantant advertising.
Don’t do it for the money- If you are starting a travel blog just to earn some easy cash, good luck. It took me over a year of working on my blog every day until I saw of cent of income come through! Blog because you love blogging or you’ll find yourself burnt out very quickly. Earning a living off blogging alone is extremely difficult and it requires a whole lot of devotion!
Don’t get discouraged- Like everything, good things come to those who wait. Don’t lose hope if you aren’t attracted thousands of readers to begin with… These things take time. Don’t get caught in a trap of comparing yourself to other bloggers- everyone is at a different stage and if you want to succeed you need to focus on your own journey.
7. Getting your blog out there
Now you’ve started your awesome blog, it’s time to find some people to read it! There are a few key ways of getting your blog out there. Remember, patience is key, and although it may take some time before you see traffic flooding through, it will be worth it in the long run!
Be active on social media- It’s not rocket science to see that social media is taking over the world. As soon as you start your blog, make sure you get the social handles every channel you can including Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Youtube and Bloglovin’. Even if you don’t use all of these channels straight away, it’s important to have them. I would suggest focusing on just a couple of social media avenues to begin with- figure out what works best for you. I’ve personally found Facebook and Pinterest work best in directing traffic to my blog so I generally invest the most time in these two things.
Get SEO Savvy- If you aren’t familiar with SEO (Search Engine Optimization), it is basically an algorithm that determines how highly your site and its pages rank in search engine results. It is VERY powerful tool that you can use to drive a lot of traffic to your blog if you use it correctly. Learning basic SEO may be one of the most beneficial things you can do when starting a blog- I wish I had learnt these skills from the beginning!
Use Pinterest- Don’t underestimate the power of Pinterest for getting traffic to your blog! The majority of my blog traffic comes directly from my pinterest just through creating and pinning graphics that link back to articles in my blog.
Create community- Community and connection is everything when it comes to the travel blogging world. Join blogging groups on Facebook (Ultimate Travel Group, We Travel We Blog, We See The World Bloggers are a few good ones), connect with other bloggers, comment on other blogs and engage with people on social media. Not only will this build up your blog’s community, you will also learn so much by connecting with other more experienced bloggers!
I do hope this guide has helped you realize starting a travel blog isn’t as daunting as it seems. If you’ve recently started a travel blog or this post has inspired you to do so, I would love to hear from you! Comment below with your blog’s URL so I can check it out :)