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10 tips for starting a kickass travel blog

how to start a blog

It’s been almost five years since I started this blog. I can barely believe it. When have I ever committed to anything that long?

I could have never imagined when I created “Memoirs of a Young Adventuress” on Blogspot that it would take me around the world, help me follow my dreams and get me paid to travel.

Which goes to show you, anything is possible, guys.

how to start a blog

I get a lot of messages over the years asking anything and everything (seriously the range is astonishing) something that has popped up over and over again is “so, um, how do I do what you do?”

While that could mean a million plus things, I assume it’s how to start a blog AND make money. Hey, I do both of those! And while I am not sure I’m the best person to ask since I’m terrible at anything technical, I have definitely learned how NOT to start a blog from 5 years of trial and error.

So without further ado, here are my 10 best tips for starting a successful, kickass travel blog!

how to start a blog

1. Pick a really good name

It’s all in a name. Seriously, it really is. In today’s world, more or less everyone has the attention span of a toddler. You have about 2 seconds to make it count – pick a damn good memorable name the defines what your blog is all about.

If you want my advice, and you are looking to break into the travel blogger community, avoid the following words if possible:

  • Global
  • Nomad
  • Adventurous
  • Wander
  • Journey
  • Backpacker
  • Travel/traveler/traveling
  • Vagabond

how to start a blog

How do I phrase this? They are taken. They are oversaturated. They’re unoriginal and boring. They’ve been claimed by top serious bloggers already who have been established for years and years. When I am introduced to a new blogger with one of these words in their blog name, I usually forget what they are called before the conversation is even over.

I know I am sounding really harsh here and obviously there are exceptions, but the reality is there are thousands of people trying to “make it” as a travel blogger. You have got to stand out.

You also have to remember that your name is your brand, so if you include words like “backpacker” or “budget” you’ve just pigeonholed yourself into traveling cheap for a long time! No 5 star free hotels for you my friend. Travel styles change and evolve, so be very cautious and remember that.

Pick an interesting blog name, pick one that defines your goals and aspirations as a travel blogger. Pick something different and unique, and definitely memorable. And make sure you pick something that can travel with you over the years because once you’re in the game, it’s really really hard and expensive to do a rebranding and renaming of your blog.

So for example if you start a blog while you’re an expat in New Zealand or Spain, but you plan on moving around later on, don’t put the countries in the title of your blog.

And for god’s sake please pick a name that reads well, especially squashed together into a website URL.

how to start a blog

When in doubt, don’t be afraid to invent a name

 

2. Host your blog

Hosting whaaaaaat? If you are technically challenged like me, here is where you start to get confused. Don’t worry though, if you set up through Bluehost, which I recommend you do, as it’s cheap and easy and painless, you can’t mess it up. And they let you do your domain name and everything, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Everyone has to host – hosting your blog means you’re paying for your own slice of internet real estate, everyone has to do it. Enjoy it while it’s cheap – I shouldn’t complain but once you get up there in traffic, it gets a hell of a lot more expensive to host. Grumble. Grrr. Sob.

And I can tell you from personal experience that Hostgator SUCKS and who would ever use GoDaddy after those scarring Superbowl commercials?

First you will go through step by step to set up your hosting with Bluehost.

Step 1 – click on that green button that says “get started now.”

how to start a blog

Step 2 – pick a plan

how to start a blog

Step 3 – check to see if your kickass blog name (domain name) that you thought up is free and available. If not, go back to step 1 and rebrainstorm a better name. Remember, you probably want a .com name and you really want it to be something that people will remember.

If you’ve already bought a domain name on another site, you can switch it over.

Easy peasy.

how to start a blog

Step 4 – chose your package info.

I’d register your blog for at least a year – I’m on year 5. Domain privacy protection will keep nosy people from seeing your personal information about hosting your blog. Obviously, you will want to back up your blog, but you can do that with plugins.

I don’t know what Google Apps for work means but Google doesn’t need anymore money, so I would skip that.

Aaaaand done! How easy was that? So much less painless than when I did it.

how to start a blog

3. WordPress all the way

Why was my blogging start so painful? Because I made a colossal fuck up by choosing to use Blogspot over WordPress in 2010.

Why Liz WHY?!

If you know zero things about how blogging works technically, I suggest you make some blog tech savvy friends immediately who can save your ass over and over and over the years (cough cough Michael Tieso cough cough).

I don’t want to go into the details, but if you trust me (which you shouldn’t) avoid Blogspot like the plague. Pretty much everyone uses WordPress so it’s a really valuable platform to know how to use for website stuff, and if you manage to screw things up a lot like me, everyone id familiar with the platform and you don’t need a specialist. Plus you can do pretty much anything with WordPress, which you can’t on Blogspot. And also, Blogspot is for 16 year old beauty and fashion bloggers from the UK. It looks unprofessional. Avoid.

how to start a blog

Once you’ve registered with Bluehost, you can login to your control panel under “Website Builders” and install WordPress with just one click. Follow the steps to set it up, install it to your domain (your new website URL) and you’re good to go.

From there you will login to your blog from www.myoriginaltravelblog.com/wp-admin

Again, so much less painful than trying to switch a blog from Blogspot to WordPress.

how to start a blog

4. Pick a theme and collect some plugins

Finally, the fun part, making your blog look awesome – pick a theme! WordPress has heaps of free themes you can use here. Otherwise once you get going, my advice is spend a little to get a really good theme.

I really like Woo Themes – and I use Woo Canvas, which I’ve been really happy with.

how to start a blog

A wise friend of mine once told me when I shifted my site to WordPress that “plugins aren’t Pokemon cards, you don’t have to collect them all.”

Remember that folks.

Too many plugins cause too many problems. Here are a few of my basic recommendations:

  • Askimet – protects you from spam
  • Digg Digg – floating sidebar for social shares
  • Jetpack
  • WP smush.it – shrinks file sizes
  • FB social widget
  • Yoast – the BEST SEO plugin out there
  • W3 Total Cache – will help your site run faster

how to start a blog

5. Install Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the industry measure for traffic on your blog. How many people visit your site a month, where they are from, where they are coming from, it’s all in there. It’s the standard tracker for website analytics worldwide.

You need to set up a Google Analytics account for your blog.

From there you can track your stats month to month and eventually this numbers are what you will use when you are pitching brands and tourism boards.

how to start a blog

And don’t worry, 2.5 years ago when I attended my first travel blogging conference ever, TBEX Girona in Spain, I remember sitting at the buffet lunch with someone talking about Google Analytics and I had zero idea what that was. I was just using the counter that came with my Blogspot blog.

And look where I am now. It’s proof that if I can do it, you can do it.

how to start a blog

6. Nab your social media handles

Publishing on WordPress is only one part of travel blogging, the other part is social media. You can’t avoid it. We live in a digital world where information is being shared online in realtime. Anyone who doesn’t get this is not living in the real world.

So once you have your name sorted, you’ll want to grab up the corresponding social media accounts for them.

  • Facebook Page (not personal profile)
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • Pinterest
  • Google +
  • Youtube/Vimeo
  • Tumblr

how to start a blog

What you chose to focus on is up to you. That depends on the kind of content you will be producing, what you’re interested in, ect. But it’s a good idea to nab up all the names just in case your focus changes over the years. You can just sit on it in the meantime.

My advice is play around with them all, download the apps on your phone, and then just naturally see where you are drawn and where you are interested in sharing content, and focus on that. Also, if you really want my opinion, I would focus on Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. Those three are the biggest, fastest growing social media channels at the moment. If you want to get ahead of the game, join them and be active on them.

how to start a blog

Image source here

7. Join Travel Blog Success

I’ve written about blogging in the past here and there when I felt like I had relevant ideas and thoughts to contribute to the community, but in general, that is not the point of my blog. However, one of my most popular posts this year was how I make money as a travel blogger (my second most popular question of all time) where I touched on this a bit.

However, if you are really serious about building a travel blog that will lead to work and getting paid to travel the world, I really suggest joining Travel Blog Success.

TBS is a community of very experienced and up and coming bloggers who are positive, helpful people looking out for travel blogging as whole. We all help each other.

how to start a blog

It’s the only travel blogging group that I am active in, so if you ever want my advice on anything, you will find it here. There are amazing forums and a secret FB group where you can ask anything you want without fear of judgement or hostility, and a series of courses that you can work through to help build you blog from the ground up to pitching your first press trips. There are webinars on so many different topics from experts in their fields to help you – I’ve given an hour long webinar with all my Instagram secrets in it.

And I can’t say too much yet, but there are some exciting things happening in the Travel Blog Success community in the next few months that I am deeply involved in, so it’s a good time to join!

Also I might as well mention here, if you really want help and to keep your blog running strong, I suggest getting your site managed by a professional. These are the guys who keep your blog updated and running smoothly, who fix things when you break them, back up your site, and save your life when your site goes down, etc. Right now I am using Performance Foundry which is run by a blogging friend of mine and couldn’t be happier – for me it’s worth every penny.

how to start a blog

8. Create a solid “About Me” page

I have been meaning to update my About Me page for 2 years. Don’t go look at it. For an awesome example, check out Jodi’s from Legal Nomads instead here.

I am mentally chiding myself as I write this BUT I am saying it for you guys – the About Me page is likely one of the first pages people will click on when they land on your site. Make it count.

how to start a blog

9. Don’t be a sell out

Once you start blogging and delving into this weird community of people who live out of backpacks around the world who you may or may not meet one day and who may or may not look like their Twitter profile pictures, you will realize there is a huge range of styles, passions, niches, genres, philosophies, business models, and well, ethics AS WELL AS a huge amount of people online looking to take advantage of you.

But don’t worry, it’s all part of the game.

If you want my advice, you need to remember one simple thing – your blog is your baby. Don’t give it away to strangers, don’t let just anyone play with it. It’s precious.

how to start a blog

You’re going to get heaps of emails from people asking you for the moon and back. Tell them all to fuck off. 

Unless it’s something that is super relevant to your blog or you see benefiting YOU somehow, ignore that shit. Or if you think they are decent, then tell them to kindly fuck off. People will be asking you for links on your blog, tell them no. Well, tell them $1000 then say no. You just link to the things you find relevant and important when and where you want. That’s what the gods at Google like.

Gaming the system doesn’t work guys.

Don’t give people things for free. It sets a terrible precedent for you and for the travel blogging community as a whole. We need to work together and not undermine each other.

One day you will get invited on cool trips. You will get offered “free” stuff. Say no to the things that don’t fit your blog and your niche. Don’t just take it because it’s free. The more selective you are, especially early on, the better your blog will be in the future.

Don’t sell out.

how to start a blog

You will find that people will want to pay you in “exposure,” and as a newbie blogger, that’s exactly what you are looking for which is understandable. I did the same thing. My advice is don’t be an exposure whore – be picky and chose things that will ACTUALLY bring you exposure, not some random spammy podunk travel site doing a blogger list based in Israel.

I’ve been featured on pretty much every major news and travel outlet in the world, and you know what actually brought me traffic and new readers? It wasn’t National Geographic. It wasn’t Forbes. It wasn’t the Travel Channel.

It was Buzzfeed. It was Reddit. And it was the BBC. So really focus on the things that will actually bring you readers who will stick around and become part of your community.

how to start a blog

10. Start creating and sharing amazing content 

Finally, my most important point – create things that you are passionate about.

If you’re a photographer, share your best photos. Create tutorials to help non-photographers take better pictures. If you like making videos, make Youtube your blogging platform. Experiment.

If you’re a writer, share your stories, tell your tales, don’t worry about being wordy. Find your voice and run with it. Don’t copy other bloggers or travel magazines, be yourself! Blogs are all about you – don’t take the “you” out of it.

At the end of the day, people usually say it takes at least a year for you to start making money travel blogging. I blogged for 2 years for fun. 1 year working towards being able to do it full-time, and I’ve been doing it full-time for two years since.

It is SO MUCH WORK, I can’t even begin to explain how much work goes into this. You have to love it. Passion is what is going to drive you and keep you going, especially in the beginning when you aren’t even being paid for it. So protect that passion and run with it.

Create the best content possible. Good luck!

Do you have a travel blog? Are you interested in blogging? Have any questions? 

how to start a blog

**Please note some of these links are affiliate links

333 Responses to 10 tips for starting a kickass travel blog

  1. Мастер July 29, 2016 at 9:26 am #

    This is actually an awesome service to provide to your readers, Matt! Really looking forward to see how you put these tips to use yourself for your own YouTube channel in the months to come.

    • chetan savani October 27, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

      Thank you for this awesome post. I’m starting my journey in the blog world. I

  2. Nestor Paul N Demoni August 5, 2016 at 6:56 pm #

    Great post! Very useful for people who wanted to make a travel, you really explain things into detail, this will help other traveler to encourage them to make their blog. Great job!

  3. Jennie Swenson August 9, 2016 at 7:24 am #

    I love this and I really enjoy your blog. I am just getting started as a travel blogger and aspiring photographer — at 37 years old I think I finally found my path and I couldn’t be more excited! Thank you for all the great info and inspiration! Much love and gratitude – Jennie

  4. Amy August 15, 2016 at 6:12 pm #

    Thanks for sharing those resources. I have just converted my site over to a “real blog” and I am trying to really do it properly after nearly 2 years of “just for fun” blogging. I am loving it but am also suuuuper frustrated with the business aspect and just getting that exposure or more followers.
    I really appreciate it when people share concrete action steps, rather than wishy-washy crap that doesn’t really help.
    I’m keepin up with you, keep up the good stuff!

  5. commerce August 17, 2016 at 7:42 am #

    It easy to start a blog but difficult to manage it. you need to work properly and consistently, and do proper keyword research for choosing blog topic. if you thing you can write well you can start but atleast give 4 hr on daily basis to you blog. it will grow you visitor and also your online income

  6. schengen traveller August 18, 2016 at 10:59 pm #

    Your how to start a travel guide is on point

  7. Yasmina August 19, 2016 at 12:44 am #

    Thank you for all your tips. I will all consider them while starting the thing called blogging 😉

  8. Magic Lamp Tours August 23, 2016 at 7:07 pm #

    really like your blog and images are also beautiful. Keep sharing more post like this.

  9. Becky August 25, 2016 at 6:10 am #

    Hello! I really enjoyed this post! It is very helpful, as I am just starting out as a travel blogger. I have one question and it might seem stupid, but I want to learn so I’m going to ask it anyway. What is the difference between signing up on Bluehost and installing WordPress versus just creating a blog on WordPress alone? I have a blog on WordPress. I want to make it better and I am just trying to understand what part Bluehost plays in the grand scheme of things?
    Thanks!

  10. Adriane September 5, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

    Thanks for this informative post. I just reached my one year anniversary for my travel blog. It is definitely a lot of hard work but like you said you have to love it. Through trial and error with the blog I’ve started to experiment with different hobbies I didn’t even know I liked and learned many new skills without even thinking about it. I really enjoy the work and developing different interests as a result of it.

  11. reanna September 13, 2016 at 3:36 pm #

    I think this is great! I want to get into this, and I really enjoy writing. I JUST convinced my husband to get on a plane, though, and that trip is 1-1/2 away! I think I’m going to start getting used to blogging regularly with my trip planning and then branch out when we go away in between. I am going to Alaska in July so I’ll start there!

    Thank you for the tips!

  12. Alex Jacob September 14, 2016 at 12:54 am #

    This is really insightful and inspiring. I too faced so many challenges when i started my blog now gradually learning things one by one.At the beginning nothing came into the cash bucket but still i am running the blog with a passion. Hope it will get recognized at one point of time. Really enjoyed your post.

  13. shan September 16, 2016 at 9:37 pm #

    Hi….. Everyday has good day This is great list, I really appreciate the blog you have shared with us. and to your photos are very good with quality.

  14. Loni September 19, 2016 at 7:17 am #

    This was really helpful! Even if I as a part-time blogger won’t be able to put all advice into action it gives an idea of what can be improved. Thanks!

  15. Brenda Sears September 23, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

    Thank you for this post, you provide a ton of information for the up and coming blogger. I found your tips extremely useful, especially the information in regards to WordPress. I will look into this immediately. I also appreciate you mentioning Google Analytics, that will be very helpful to be able to check the traffic on my blog and watch the growth overtime.I feel you picked a witty name and I agree, there is a lot to be said about a name and you definitely need to pick a good one. Thanks for the insight.

  16. Tia October 3, 2016 at 10:01 am #

    Thanks for this post – as an aspiring travel blogger it is always encouraging to hear about the leg work needed to be done for the dreams to become reality. It’s not just eating macarons on 1st class, people!

    Much love.

  17. Katy Hope October 11, 2016 at 9:41 am #

    Thanks for all these tips. Really inspiring and intimidating at the same time. It’s great to hear what has worked so well for you. I was also particularly surprised to hear the rising influence of Google+, I will have to take a second look at that. Congrats on all your success!

  18. Vinita October 13, 2016 at 9:16 am #

    Hello Liz,:-)

    I am vinita a newbie travel blogger here…your valuable tips are very informative thanks for the blog.

    I have a question do we write about multiple subjects in a blog…like if we passionate about many little things so can it be included in a blog ?

  19. Robbie October 21, 2016 at 8:09 am #

    Great tips that i will definitely have to remember as i grow my own blog and social media accounts. Do you find readers are more interested in “How To” type articles or your personal travel stories on your blog?

    thenimblenomad.com

  20. Muhammad amjad October 27, 2016 at 5:23 am #

    I am really impress with your experience about write a travel blog. Your tips are very useful and informative for anyone so we will use your blog for writing a blog.

  21. Abby October 27, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

    Suggestion! Please caption the photos that are yours in your posts. People see your awesome photos and immediately want to know where and when they were taken!

  22. chetan savani October 27, 2016 at 6:52 pm #

    Thanks to share with us. Great post i love it! I am really impress with your experience about write a travel blog. this will help other traveler to encourage them to make their blog. Great job!

  23. Laura Kelly November 7, 2016 at 9:23 am #

    I’ve just started my blog & I found this very informative. Thank you!

  24. Kimberley Zellers November 8, 2016 at 4:54 am #

    Thank you for blogging and sharing your experience! My husband and I want to start a blog for our friends and family per their requests. We will be retiring soon and want to keep in touch while we travel around the world.

  25. Hilde November 9, 2016 at 3:23 am #

    Thanks for the article Liz! I am happy to read these tips and also happy that I am doing some things right haha. Your photo’s are amazing too! X

  26. Maartje November 21, 2016 at 10:21 pm #

    Thanks for your tips! Really helpful. I just started a travel blog but find it a lot harder than I expected it to be.

    Travel blog success is a great initiative, never heard of it.

  27. Sofia December 12, 2016 at 7:14 am #

    Thanks for sharing this useful informative article. It’s really helpful for all of us. Keep on sharing.

  28. Sara Maria December 17, 2016 at 7:45 am #

    Thank you for the article Liz! I a new travel blogger and you’re definitely an inspiration. IT is true when you say it IS A LOT OF WORK., so I am happy I joined TBS where I can get advice from the pros. Good luck on your adventures and keep rockin’!

  29. Rachel December 24, 2016 at 3:48 am #

    Great advice here. Thanks so much for sharing!

  30. Antia January 2, 2017 at 8:29 pm #

    Thanks for sharing. will keep it with me.

  31. travel agent in gorakhpur January 2, 2017 at 8:32 pm #

    Will be informative to start with. Thanks!

  32. buy automatic likes January 3, 2017 at 2:50 pm #

    Thanks a lot for the tips. I discovered the postive effect of hashtags and it has helped me so much lately.

  33. Ally January 4, 2017 at 6:37 pm #

    Thank you so much for this! I am moving to The Caribbean this year and this is my dream:)

  34. Pankaz January 6, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this great tips! Its really very helpful Good job Liz !!!

  35. Joe January 15, 2017 at 12:20 pm #

    It lokks like your photoshoped into all of your pictures

    • Jennifer January 20, 2017 at 2:43 am #

      No. Just no.

  36. Deepan January 19, 2017 at 10:58 pm #

    Wow its such a great article. I learned a lot from this article. it was really awesome to start a blog. Thanks for sharing this article

  37. Jennifer January 20, 2017 at 2:45 am #

    I signed up for your emails this last year and I’m totally loving them. I certainly relate with your most recent email about simply starting. I hear ya on that one, sista! I’ve been considering starting a blog for seriously 10 years….. what in the world have I been doing??

    Glad I stumbled across you.

    PS your photoshop skills are on point 😉 just kiddin!

  38. Shinyvisa January 22, 2017 at 2:23 am #

    Great tips.. help me a lot when I just got started.. thanks Liz!

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