How to Start a Travel Blog in 2021
from an Actual Travel Blogger

“It doesn’t matter where or how far you go – the farther commonly the worse – the important thing is how alive you are. Writing of every kind is a way to wake oneself up and keep as alive as when one has just fallen in love.”
― Pico Iyer


How to start a travel blog summary:

6 Things to Know Before You Start
9 Ways you know if Starting a Travel blog is right for you

The Process of Starting a Travel Blog
Travel Blogger Beginner’s Checklist
SEO 101: 10 Things Every Post should have
How to Build Your Following
Tips for Launching Your Travel Blog
Travel Blogging FAQs

6 Things to know before even starting your travel blog


Blogging is hard

When you think of a ‘travel blogger’ you probably think about being well known, getting stuff for free, or traveling around the world to incredible locations while living like a king (or queen). But for 99.99% of travel bloggers that’s not reality. I’m not going to lie to you, blogging is fucking hard, and it’s hard for multiple reasons,

You have to enjoy writing and storytelling. You have to be driven, self motivated, and hold yourself accountable. You have to put out regular content (that people can find and WANT to read) and that’s not even getting into the marketing side of things (SEO, backlinks, guest posts etc). If you’re hoping to create a profitable travel blog and/or use your blog to support your travels, you’re going to have to dedicate a lot of time and effort to it. You’re going to spend a lot of time in front of your computer and there are going to be days when it’s not fun.

Like most things, the reality is much different (and harder) than what you see on the internet and honestly it’s not for everyone.

Your first stuff will suck

Years from now, you’ll look back at your first articles and go, “Who the hell wanted to read this? This is horrible!” Or you’ll look at the first version of your website and go “What the f*ck was I thinking!?” It’s only natural. It means you’ve grown as a writer (and a blogger).

Travel blogging is about progress, not perfection. In the beginning, don’t obsess about your work. Why? You’ll only get better by doing. Never wait for perfection. If you wait for perfection, you’ll never start your blog. It took me until version three of Of Whiskey and Words before I really felt like I had any idea what I was doing, but that’s just part of the ride.

Creating products is key

If you want to make money from your travel blog, it’s helpful to approach your blog as a platform to sell something else. Sure, there are people who will create a profitable website through ads, sponsored posts, links, and other passive streams. But the most reliable way to make money off a blog is through products like books, ebooks, courses, consulting services, design work, photography, art, etc. It might seem like a lot of work to create a product but once it’s available, you can rely on it to continuously make you money while you relax on a beach (which is most all of our goal).

You will fail- and that’s normal

I’ve wrote articles no one read.  Reached out to brands that ignored me. Hosted webinars and no one showed up. Redesigned parts of my website that caused conversions to crash. Spent money on classes and trainings that didn’t do anything but lower my bank balance.

I’ve failed constantly — but it’s never stopped me. Failure is a teacher. Sure, it sucked wasting time and money on all these projects that didn’t work out but those failures taught me what not to do. If you believe in your mission, just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn, and move forward.

People can be really mean

The Internet brings out the best — and the worst — in people. They can get really mean. So mean that you’ll want to curl up into a ball and cry. So mean you’ll ask yourself ‘why am I doing this?’ and think about quitting. You have to learn to develop a thick skin. It takes time to learn to do this, but don’t take it personally. It’s never about you. It’s about their problems and their lives. People like to troll to make themselves feel better. You’re just their current target and you can’t stop the show for haters- they paid to hate.

Collect emails from day one

It’s easy to get caught up in the page views/sessions/users per month game. It can also be REALLY exciting when a post gets a lot of love and suddenly your numbers soar. But to develop a sustainable, dedicated audience, you’ve got to capture those emails.

When a reader gives you their email address, they’re telling you that they want more. They want to know when you post new content, or when you release a new product. They don’t want to forget about you. It might feel fruitless to start an email list in the beginning, when your numbers are low and the growth of your list is slow. But every single reader counts.

Okay, so really, who should start a travel blog?

Now that we’ve gotten those things out of the way (and before learning how to start a travel blog), it’s important to ask who should start a travel blog. I’ve already detailed what it takes to be considered one of the best travel blogs in 2021. If your goal is to be among these ranks, you have to possess a few unique qualities.

Here are some telltale signs you should become a travel blogger this year.

It’s your thing. 

While travel blogging doesn’t have to consume your entire life, it does need to be something you feel pulled to do. I started my travel blog because it was simply the easiest way for me to update all of my friends and family on my whereabouts and answer FAQs about working on a cruise ship.

It has since evolved to a platform for a collection of bloggers and writers to share stories, anecdotes, tips, and life hacks. If you find yourself constantly planning, speaking about, or researching travel, it might be about time to get started.

You use Pinterest (and other travel resources) religiously. 

The best travel bloggers are organized travel bloggers. While I have no doubt that a talented writer could create a successful blog based on musings and poetry alone, most people visit travel blogs for helpful guides, resources, and information. Isn’t that why you’re here now? 😉

You love to read.

Stephen King’s famous quote “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write” comes to mind. Simply put, the best writers are readers. People don’t want to read something written by someone else who doesn’t inherently understand what it’s like to be in their position. They are looking for help- in an easy to read (and understand) way.

You love to write – even if you’re not good at it. 

While I am not even close to the best writer I know, I have one thing that many others don’t.

I love telling stories.

I have the ability to put words down, publish them, and live with any imperfections because a good story is a bit messy sometimes- just like life. I understand getting the story, tip, or recommendation out to the world is the most important part.

If you are a writer who struggles to write without overthinking; who nitpicks to no end; and who is constantly second-guessing themselves… Travel blogging (or blogging in general) may not be for you. (Maybe you would be better served writing a novel or being part of a creative team on a project.) After all, the things people want and expect most out of reading a travel blog is a real person writing real content – not being sold a shiny, polished travel package. Real recognizes real- right?

You are – or want to be – more open to the world around you.

To write is to be vulnerable. Some “writers” go their whole lives without showing anyone their work. When you start a travel blog, there is a public source of your own thoughts and opinions out in the world for anyone to read, especially (if you want to be successful) your friends and family.

You have a unique perspective.

Maybe you’re always the one pointing out the environmental impacts of travel with your friends. Maybe your race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability has provided you with a unique experience while traveling. Perhaps you have a unique opinion on politics, economics, psychology, culture, or history. Your perspective is what people will love about your writing and will keep them coming back for more.

You love to be asked for advice and are always willing to share.

If people trust you to provide recommendations, tips, or advice on a daily basis, a travel blog is a great place to put it all. Before I started my own travel blog, I was finding myself answering the same questions over and over. Once I started putting all of those “answers” together, I was able to send everyone who asked the same link where I could flesh out more specifics, include additional resources, and be a way more helpful advisor in the long run.

You already journal, vlog, or scrapbook.

These habits and hobbies will help not only provide documentation and inspiration for future travel blogs, but they also give you a taste of what it’s like to take on a project, get it done, and enjoy the process along the way.

You have thick skin. 

I want to reiterate this again. People can be mean (especially on the internet). It’s not easy to put yourself out there. As a travel blogger, the more you share, the more you’re going to get comments upon comments on your work… And not all of them will be good.

Good travel bloggers enjoy the positive feedback (not too long of course) and accept the bad as a way to grow and get better—or as an opportunity to defend your work—without internalizing the negativity.

"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect."
― Anaïs Nin

The Process for Starting a Travel Blog

1. Identify your goals.

Is it to make money? If so, how much? Express yourself? Share your experiences? Find new opportunities to travel? Or maybe inspiration has struck and you simply feel drawn to create a new project.

2. Start writing. 

Write what you know. Write what you love. 

In 2021, most articles you find by searching “how to start a travel blog” will give you all the details you need to design and build out your blog; however, they almost never mention anything about writing, or at least don’t talk about it until they have ensured your logo, branding, and website are done and ready to go.

Here’s probably the most important advice you’ll find in this entire article:
B
efore you pick your platform, your “vibe,” or even your area(s) of specialty, just start writing. 

I started on a free WordPress website in 2013. No logo, no branding, and no clue what I was doing. But content is king, and a website with all the bells and whistles won’t matter if the content isn’t good.

I cannot stress this enough. You don’t have a travel blog if you don’t have blogs. A blog can be a list, a series of photos with captions; a 10,000 word highly researched article; a poem… It’s a moment in time that you help capture for your audience.

It’s the substance; it’s why people will come back time and time again to consume it.

Working at one of the best web design companies, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen spend months or even years working to craft the perfect, most aesthetic personal blog, only to let it sit and collect dust once it’s live. It becomes a waste of time, money, and talent.

For a travel blog to truly begin, you need content. By starting to write and save up content for your future travel blog, you will have a better idea of not only what to write about and how you want to write about it, but also the importance of things like self-discipline, consistency, and pre-planning content.

Find your niche. 

Every travel blogger should have a strong sense of their own identity and personal interests. You can’t be everything to everyone, so knowing where to hone your travel blogging skills will not only be helpful for creating great blog content; it’s also helpful for your readers. It’s why I don’t just write about travel, but also about whiskey, reading, writing, my personal life, and other things that I find interesting.

Types of Travel Blog “Niche” Examples:

  • Adventure
  • Backpacking
  • Budget
  • Luxury
  • Nomadic
  • Parents & Family-Friendly

There are also different “angles” you can take for your travel blog depending on your own experience and expertise.

Here are a few examples:

  • Adrenaline & Amusement Parks
  • Art & Theater
  • Beauty
  • Destination- Specific
  • Education
  • Food & Cooking
  • History
  • Literature
  • Media, Music, & Pop Culture
  • Outdoor
  • Photography
  • Religion
  • Sports
  • Sustainability
  • Fitness

Find your voice.

It shouldn’t surprise you that you can find your voice through writing. (Cliches exist for a reason.) Putting your words down, maybe for the first time ever for a non-work- or school-related assignment, can help you hone in on your own personality, tone, and perspective—all of which will be key to connecting with your audience.

Find your audience.

Speaking of audience, you should make a list of the general personality traits or identity markers of your target audience. While some people write for themselves, bloggers are specifically writing for some kind of user. Are they young, middle-aged, older? Do they have families or are they single? Do they have a lot of money or will they be on a shoestring budget? Having a sense of your target audience will help guide your writing by helping you better understand what problems they may be facing that your content can potentially solve.

Find an editor.

Having an editor with an eye for detail is helpful in any job, but especially for a future travel blogger. Pick someone you trust (ideally, someone who falls within the range of your target audience, if possible) to start reading your content. After they provide edits for grammar, syntax, readability, and logic, you should ask them a few follow-up questions, like:

  • What questions do you have?
  • Was this enjoyable for you to read?
  • Does this sound like me?
  • Does this make you want to read more?
  • Would you subscribe to a newsletter based on this piece alone?
  • What gaps can I fill in?
  • How can this post be more helpful?

These questions will spark conversations about your content you probably didn’t even realize were possible at first. This is a good thing. It means you’re putting thought into your writing, and this will ultimately come through to your readers when it comes time to share with the world.

Pick a name.

Naturally, the name of your travel blog should come to you from one of these things. It can reflect your name, your interests, your niche, your personality… Simply put, the name of your travel blog is important, and it will stick with you for potentially years to come. #NoPressure

Regardless of what you pick, be dedicated to building around it. At first, no one is going to see the name you come up with and immediately understand the scope of what it is. Regardless of the name you pick, use it to build trust with your reader. Put it on your social media. Reiterate it on every post. Nike and McDonalds weren’t household names overnight, and no matter how good your name is (or your branding) you won’t be either.

Write what you know well

There are two types of people in the world: those who make excuses and those who see opportunity. Whether it’s a global pandemic, money, or fear there will always be an excuse to not put out content.  It’s not a secret that over the last year that for most people traveling has slowed pretty much to a stop. That can make running a travel blog harder and less glamorous which is why it is even more important to get creative and write what you know well.

I live in Kansas City which most wouldn’t think of as a ‘travel hot spot’ but it’s still a metro of over 2 million people where plenty of locals and visitors are still searching for things to do, the best places to eat, or the best dive bars for a drink. I also have lists of past places I’ve been that I haven’t gotten a chance to write about yet. Even if there’s something stopping you from traveling you can still create good helpful content about where you live or past places you’ve been. After all, your ‘backyard’ may be someone else’s dream vacation!

3. Organize your thoughts.

Start a spreadsheet, iPhone Note, or small journal for any ideas, prompts, and other thoughts that come to you in times of inspiration. (Sorry shower-thoughts, none of those work in the water). Keep a running list and seek new ideas often, whether it’s in finding inspirational travel quotes, reading travel literature, watching a documentary, or even just asking your friends and family what they want to read from you.

In addition to your own notes, you can (and should) also be compiling resources and references. Download essential Travel Apps. Follow SEO/blogging authorities like Yoast, Moz, and Content Marketing Institute. Research what other travel blogs are doing well and what they’re missing. Start subscribing to their newsletters and following them on social media.

4. Plan ahead. 

How often are you planning on posting blogs? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Sporadically? If you are starting a travel blog for any other reason than simply for fun or because you’re bored, you’ll want to make sure you have some kind of general plan for consistently publishing content.

Then, work backwards from there to figure out how much content you need to stockpile before your future launch to give yourself 2 to 3 months’ worth of content ready to go. If you want to post monthly, write 2 to 3. Weekly, write 8 to 12. Daily? You’ve got your work cut out for you, which is where stockpiling content will be especially helpful.

So how often DO I need to post on my travel blog?

This is one of the common questions I get about how to start a travel blog. Which is fair, right? People want to know how much work/commitment it’s going to be.

Notice the word I used above – consistent. You can start and run a successful travel blog by posting once a month or once a day, but the key is consistency. People want to know how often to expect to hear from you, and in order to build your audience over time, it’s important to deliver on that expectation. Nothing is more disappointing as a reader than finding a great voice in a new travel blogger, only to never hear from them.

That said, if you think you can only crank out 1 blog every few months, and you don’t have a backup plan for having other writers contribute, your blog can easily become static or stale. Sure, people may not notice, but search engines will. And nothing turns off a search engine crawler more than old, un-updated content.

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.
― Beverly Sills

Starting Your Travel Blog:
A 13-Point Beginner’s Checklist.

Once you have a bank of content, then you should start the process of building your blog. There are a few important steps you will need to take to get your travel blog up and running.

1. Hosting.

If your website is your cell phone, your host is Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile. It’s what allows people to reach your travel blog. Purchasing a hosting plan is the first step to getting your travel blog started. This can run you anywhere from $4 to $50 monthly, though most travel blogs are fairly reasonable to host due to server capacity needs and monthly traffic. Here is a list of a few trustworthy hosting services).

There are three things to look for when choosing a hosting provider.

Site Uptime & Server Status

You need a host that guarantees 99.99% uptime throughout the year. Shit happens and sites do go down but 99.99% uptime means your site is down roughly 24 hours total each year, which is about the best you can do without paying for hosting on two separate servers (not something a starting travel blogger needs to do).

Another thing to consider is if the server is shared or not. If you are on a shared server at your host, you might have issues with other sites pulling using up the bandwidth which will cause your site to load slowly or even take it down. A shared server is like living in an apartment complex and sharing a wall with someone else. It may be fine or your neighbors may be an angry and loud family of 6 who like to fight.  Having your site on a dedicated server is more expensive, but as you and your traffic grow definitely something you may want to consider.

 Automated daily backups

Which can be easily restored, in case the site ever breaks or even worse is hacked. Ideally, your host/server takes a daily backup of your website so you are always able to revert the site back to the most recent working version (without losing too many updates). At some point you will need to ‘restore a previous version’ and it’s the absolute worst when that version is from 6 months ago.

A staging environment 

Think of this as your ‘practice field’. At some point, you will need to make changes or code updates to your website.You’ll want to view any new features on a staging environment so you can go through thorough testing before going live.

One of the worst things you can do is edit live code (aka ‘code commando’), make changes, and push them live without testing. Websites are complicated things- sometimes adding a line of code can unintentionally break something else. Testing on the staging environment helps ensure your new features function and each user visiting your site has a positive experience.

2. WordPress (or other CMS).

Sign up for a WordPress account. Yes, there are other CMSs (Content Management Systems) out there, but frankly none of them are as robust, expandable, search engine friendly, or customizable as WordPress- especially for bloggers.

💡 Be sure you are signing up for a WordPress.org account, NOT WordPress.com. They are two completely different platforms and are not interchangeable- something I learned the hard way.

Once you sign up, follow all of the instructions provided, and reach out to support or use WordPress support center to find the answers you need.

There are plenty of resources available online to learn the ins and outs of the backend (dashboard you see when logged in as an admin) of WordPress for beginners. If you stay focused on “pages” and “posts” to start, it should be fairly self-explanatory.

3. Template / Theme.

Unless you’re paying someone for a custom-designed website (which I don’t recommend if you are just starting out), you’ll want to choose a theme. WordPress offers a vast library. You can also find themes on etsy, ThemeForest, and other online listing sites. My advice on your travel blog theme? Don’t get too picky… or you can pay a one-time fee if you find one you love. I’ve gone through three ‘versions’ of Of Whiskey and Words and the first one was far from perfect. But it was serviceable and got me started.

4. Customization.

Think through your color palette, fonts, and other important pieces that will give your blog the aesthetic you want. Keep in mind, these can evolve over time, so don’t spend months laboring over customizing every last button. This is a starting point and how it looks matters less than if it’s easy to navigate and has great content.

5. Page Build Out.

Once you have your basics down, you should build out a few static pages to help complement and promote your travel blog. Most travel blogs have some version of these basic pages:

You can also think about pages like “Places I’ve Been,” “Favorite Bookmarks/Resources,” “Frequently Asked Questions,” and any other subpages or forms you think could be helpful or relevant to your audience, especially if you think you’ll reference it often throughout your blog content.

That said, your goal is to build a travel blog, not a website. Your blog content can get lost really fast if you don’t stay focused. You can always add more pages later!

6. Photos / Videos.

If you’re anything like me, you have hard drives full of footage and photos of your past travels—or you will 😉 Be sure to integrate your own media content into your travel blog to help show who you are – people will take your content more seriously if they know who’s writing it. Using your own photo or video assets gives you instant credibility with a reader. It’s one thing for me to show you my bucket list ideas– it’s another when you see how many items are already crossed off.

7. Analytics.

An important aspect of your new travel blog will be measuring its success. You can track almost an infinite amount of data about the performance of your blog using Google Analytics. It may take some research, but once you implement the proper code snippet on your website, you’ll be able to use the Google Analytics program to track things like number of sessions, time on site, time on page, and more. These data points will become more and more important as you continue to publish content, especially if you plan on monetizing your travel blog.

How to set up Analytics for your travel blog (WordPress)

Adding Google Analytics to your website doesn’t take a professional developer, but it does take minute attention to detail. If improperly installed, GA can give you false or skewed data, which could ultimately cause you to make misguided decisions in the future.

Sign up for Google Analytics. You’ll need a gmail account to do so.

Then, create up your account. Your GA account will include 3 levels of settings (and user access). As the owner of the account, you will automatically have access to ALL levels, and in the future you can grant access to another gmail account if needed.

Account level – where you can add users and manage the overall account settings.

Property level – A GA “Property” should be your website. So if you were to, say, start ANOTHER travel blog (because your first one goes so well 🙃) you could use the same GA account but add a new “property” for the new website. This level should also be used for subdomains in order to separately track data for that specific subset.

View level – When you start your GA account you will probably only have one view. Over time, you can create new views that help you filter and track your website’s data in different ways. You can also set up different “goals” for each view if needed.

It will also ask you to provide a few pieces of information in order to help “optimize your experience.” If you’re doing this to start a travel blog with content only (i.e., you’re not trying to sell anything off the bat) here’s how I would answer those questions:

Once you submit this, you should be taken to a screen that displays a tracking code. Be sure to copy that ENTIRE code, including the entirety of the start and end < script > tags. Depending on how you decide to take the next step, you may need it.

Finally, install GA on your website. There are three different primary methods for installing this code. Depending on how tech-savvy you are / familiar with HTML code (hello Web Design 101 in High School…), the most comprehensive option is to install GA into your WordPress theme. It’s important to note that in order for Google Analytics to work, this specific code that needs to be added to every page and post of your website (within the < header > tag, specifically). However, if you aren’t comfortable doing this, there are a few plugins that can help as well. These plugins can essentially place that code for you so you don’t ever have to type a single bracket.

Take some classes to learn more. Google has a lot of free courses on how to read the (many, many) reports you can generate in GA. You can even become “certified” which is great to add to your LinkedIn profile 😉

8. Plugins.

There is definitely such a thing as too many plugins. That said, there are a few plugins that can massively improve the overall quality of your travel blog.

The top 5 WordPress plugins for travel bloggers

Yoast

If you install nothing else on your site, make sure you use Yoast SEO Plugin. This plugin:

-Allows you to manually set your meta titles & descriptions
-Scans your content for readability
-Grades your content on SEO value
-Tracks your keyphrases

Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms is one of the most popular plugins for building forms into your site. Without this, you won’t be able to create any sort of “Contact ME:- or even more important for a travel blogger- a newsletter sign- up form. Gravity Forms comes with :

-30+ available from fields (such as multi-select, line text, paragraph text, radio buttongs, etc)
-A visual form editor
-The ability to implement “conditional logic” which can help you configure your form to dynamically change/update depending on what the user selects

Akismet Anti-Spam

Akismet Anti-Spam is the most powerful anti-spam plugin for WordPress out there. It checks your comments against an ever-growing global database of known spammers to help keep your travel blog looking clean and professional.

Gravity Forms MailChimp Add-On

The Gravity Forms MailChimp Add-On is a must. This plugin will connect your website newsletter sign up directly with your MailChimp account so when someone signs up, they are instantly added to your newsletter list. This eliminates having to export a list from your site and then upload it into MailChimp on a regular basis.

Note: If you use Constant Contact instead of MailChimp, there is a plugin to integrate it with your site that does the same thing.

OptinMonster Exit Intent Popup

Having pop-ups on your site is a dangerous line to walk. Done wrong, you know the story… They’re straight up annoying. But done right, they can be extremely effective in converting a user into a newsletter subscriber. OptinMonster is the most popular pop-up plugins (try saying that five times fast). It has a TON of different options to build and customize your pop-up to encourage sign-ups. It even plays well with Gravity Forms.

9. Stockpile.

Remember me mentioning the importance of having your content stockpiled? Well, it’s one thing to get it all written out and saved into word documents (or Google Drive), but it’s another to prepare that content to be posted.

The mechanics of your post are extremely important if you plan on trying to rank organically—and get traffic to your website not just via your social and other marketing channels, but also via Google, Yahoo, Bing, and even DuckDuckGo.

There’s a LOT of SEO advice across the web, a lot of it conflicting or wrought with opinion. But at the end of it all, there IS truth in the middle, and there ARE some key best practices you should know about to get your travel blog started.

SEO 101 for New Travel Bloggers:
10 Things You Should Have On Every Post for Your Travel Blog

In order for your blog to do well in organic search, you should have the following items implemented into each and every one of your posts. (Hint: Most of the below information will be checked automatically by your Yoast plugin 😉 )

An Intentional Keyphrase

A “keyphrase” is the string of words that someone types into a search engine to find what they’re looking for. For example, if I did my job right with this post, you found me by searching “how to start a travel blog” (or something very similar). Not to get too meta here, but if you look through this one blog, you’ll find that string of words repeated exactly about 7 times. And you’ll find even more instances of “how to,” “start/begin,” “travel,” and “blog,” a ton more. That’s because search engines only read words, but they don’t understand them.

You have to be cognizant of how you write your content in order to show up in search results, because Google (and other search engines) match what a user is searching to the words on your page. That said, the most important thing you should walk away with from this is the understanding that at the end of the day, you have to write your content for your READER, not search engines. Don’t hide text to try to rank. Don’t do any other “tricks” or “hacks” you may have read about on a forum, because Google WILL figure you out, and it WILL dock you for it.

H1

Your h1 should contain your keyphrase, or at least a very close version of it, to help the user, and search engines, understand what that page is about.

URL / Permalink

Another element of your page that you may not have thought twice about before is the URL you give it. The words in the permalink of a page DOES get indexed and is an important factor in understanding the content on that page. If you’ll notice, this post URL is “/how-to-start-a-travel-blog.” Use your keyphrase word for word in your permalink and you’ll be one step closer to ranking for it.

At Least 1 Photo & Image Alt Text

Images help complement your content and make it more exciting for a reader. It also helps search engines understand that you’re not just serving its users a blank page. Even better, make sure you add “alt text” to each image (WordPress makes this easy) which both (a) describes the picture content and (b) uses the keyphrase. An image within a post about your recent trip to the Maldives? The alt text should read something like “guide to maldives vacation – man swimming in crystal clear water.”

User-Focused Content

Be aware of your reader, their perspective, and their level of knowledge about your subject matter. When starting a travel blog, it’s important to know how to incorporate your keyphrase and its variations throughout the content without sounding like a robot.

Word Count

Sometimes, you’re going to have a lot to say. Other times, not so much. Generally, in order to compete for a keyphrase, you should have at least 300 words on any given post. That said, don’t go crazy. I know, this post has about 7,200 words, but that’s because there’s a lot that needs to be mentioned. I also searched “how to start a travel blog” and found that the best posts that are already ranking hit at least 6,000 words or more. In general, the more competitive they keyphrase you’re going after, the higher your word count should be.

Post Structure

Just as your H1 is important, so too is your ability to show that you can properly outline your content. A post on a travel blog with 1,000 words and zero line breaks, images, or subtitles is going to be pretty hard to read. So every page and post you create should have a series of header tags, numbered lists, bullet point lists, etc. to help break up the content into digestible chunks. Use information hierarchy to outline your post – most WordPress themes have specific header styles up to a fourth or fifth level.

Internal Links

One of the most common mistakes I see with new travel bloggers just starting out is that they forget to implement internal links, aka hyperlinks within your posts that send the user to another page or post on your website. Ideally, these links contain anchor text that reads something other than “click here.” Instead, it should tell the user what they’re actually clicking on. My most recent post about How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship does a pretty good job of this!

Call to Action

Don’t simply let the user get to the end of your post and leave. Encourage them to do something. Whether it’s following you on social media, reaching out to you for some opportunity, or signing up for a newsletter, it’s amazing how much users will do when you simply encourage them to do it with a short-but-sweet call to action.

Author Tag & Publish Date

People want to read content that’s relevant, and they want to know who’s writing it. If nothing else, they want to trust that you know what you’re talking about. Every post should have an “about the author” section, along with a publicly visible post date.

10. Build your following.

While you’re in the process of building your travel blog, you should work on creating your social platforms and teasing your new website. But don’t try to do it all. Choose 1 to 3 platforms to start, and focus on doing them really, really well. Research the hell out of them: best practices, best times of day to post, best image aspect ratios, and which will suit your target audience(s) the best.

At the risk of sounding redundant… Devise a plan, and stick to it, consistently. If you can get people hyped about your blog, they will feel invested from the beginning, become a loyal follower for years to come, and will share your content with others.

Best Social Media Platforms for Travel Bloggers

While you can make any social media platform successful with the right amount of dedication, time, and research, there are a few specific social media platforms in 2021 that favor travel bloggers.

Pinterest

If you’re interested in starting a travel blog, you probably already know the value of your presence on Pinterest. Some people exclusively research their trips/vacations on this platform, and your content being there ready to read can drive a LOT of traffic to your website if you do it right. The entire platform is based around providing external links to its users, making it perfect for you to link every last page and post of your website individually and repeatedly.

Instagram

Instagram is crowded with influencers. But you don’t have to be an “influencer” to start a travel blog, and you certainly don’t have to turn into one. Just publish your content and use it as another way to engage with your audience—especially if your content will be driven by attractive photography. That said, you’ll have to get creative in encouraging your audience to visit your website, as Instagram isn’t very “URL friendly” in general.

TikTok

TikTok may be new, but it isn’t going anywhere. If you’re not shy on camera, TikTok is a great way to get people interested in your voice, engaged in your message, and funneled into your blog (eventually). As of right now, TikTok is about as link-friendly as Instagram, so make sure you use it appropriately.

Facebook

Facebook is a great way to build a community around your brand and consistently share content in the form of links. If you ever plan on running paid advertising to garner additional traffic to your blog, you’ll want to be sure that you create and manage (even at a minimum) a Facebook page.

Reddit

An honorable mention to Reddit, where you can find tons of inspiration and frequently asked questions for you to cover on your blog. You can also share your own content and potentially rack up some new users and potential future subscribers. (Hint: start with r/travelblogs).

Which of these social media platforms do you want to learn more about? Let me know in the comments below 👇

11. Plan, and celebrate, your launch.

Once you have your pre-written blogs posted / scheduled, it’s time to go live! Make a Big Deal of your announcement. Post it everywhere, both on your new travel blog’s social profiles and your personal ones. It’s time for all the hype you’ve been building in your audience to pay off.

One thing I personally struggled with for a long time (and still do) is the idea of “self promotion.” If you’re going to take the leap and start a travel blog, you HAVE to self-promote. Talk about what you’re doing…. to everyone. If you’re too scared to leverage your connections and social channels from the start, your blog simply won’t succeed. It may feel weird at first, but people are buying into you- your views, your expertise, and your life. If you’re not willing to talk about it, you won’t be able to write about it.

How to Launch Your Travel Blog

If you’re not excited about your blog, you can’t expect others to be either. So launch your blog like you mean it.

Here are a few tips to get started in brainstorming the launch of your travel blog.

Get vulnerable.

Ask people for feedback, suggestions, and ideas of what they want to see from you. Just like it’s important to have a good editor, it’s also great to crowdsource additional edits or feedback to help you keep getting better as a blogger.

Set a day and time.

Of course, your website should already be live by the time you announce it to the world. But giving people a concrete launch date can help build anticipation and excitement for your friends and family. It also helps you set your own first deadline – because otherwise, you’ll let your travel blog sit unfinished for who knows how long. Plus, finally getting to that date is pretty satisfying.

Start collecting newsletter sign-ups

As quickly as possible. If nothing else, send an email the day before launch to get people ready.

Post a countdown on all socials.

Starting 1 week prior to your launch date, start hyping up your content and your brand overall. Encourage people to like and share your news on their own networks, and even tag some of your inspirations to see if they’ll reshare on your behalf to their own network.

Host a launch party.

Get together with your friends to debut the website. Have a few drinks (I suggest whiskey). Ask them for ideas and inspiration, talk about what you’ve struggled with, and share your successes with them. And better yet, livestream it or post stories and pictures on your personal and your blog’s social media accounts.

Keep the energy going.

Don’t let your launch be the last people hear from you. Send out more newsletters and keep posting on social to let people know when to expect your next exciting update. Carry the “hype” through to each new post you publish.

12. Get the word out.

After your launch, you should continue promoting your blog whenever you can. In fact, for every 1 hour of writing content, you should spend 4 hours marketing it. 

So in addition to crossing your fingers that your blogs will individually compete organically online via search engines, you also should be promoting your content by:

Self Promoting

Do these things carefully and tastefully. 

-Post (consistently) to social media
-Actively seek new followers
-Post links in forums, comment sections, review websites
-Share with friends, family, and co-workers and ask them to share to their audience
-Create a weekly, monthly, or quarterly newsletter – and actually send it out (hint: try MailChimp or Constant Contact)

Outreach & Partnerships

Link share and cross promote your content with: 

-Other travel bloggers
-Hotels
-Tour Guide Companies
-Restaurants
-Distilleries, Bars
-Travel Websites
-Event Venues

13. Measure, measure, measure.

You should monitor your blog’s performance (you guessed it…) consistently. However, as interesting as it is to watch a live feed of traffic flowing through your website, you should give it some time to collect meaningful data.

Check Analytics after 30 days post-launch, and monthly after that and come up with your own system for tracking the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are important to you.

How to use Analytics to improve your travel blog

Here are some starting points of which metrics you need to measure the success of a travel blog.

  1. # of Users the number of people who visit your blog in a given time period.
  2. # of Sessions the number of total visits your blog gets (one user can have multiple sessions)
  3. Source / Medium – the place your users came from before landing on your website. This can include direct traffic (typing in your URL directly), organic, social media, paid traffic, newsletters, and referral traffic (links from other websites or blogs)
  4. Pageviews – the total number of pages that have been viewed in a given time period
  5. Top Pages – which are the most popular pages/posts on your website in a given time period
  6. Landing Pages – which pages users land on most frequently to enter your website
  7. Goal Conversions – if applicable, you can set up “goals” in Analytics to track specific events you would like to measure. The most common “goal” is a form submission. 

“A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander.”
Roman Payne

Frequently asked questions about how to start a travel blog

“I don’t want to do all of the work – I just want to write.”

Look, setting up a travel blog is a lot of work. If you are interested in writing about travel (or any other interest for that matter) but you don’t want to go through, in essence, branding yourself and spending money on the expenses that come with a blog, you still have options. Write longer snippets for your Instagram posts. Write Op Eds for local magazines or papers. Contribute short stories and send them into creative magazines. Join Fiverr. Or if the blog format really does it for you, become a guest contributor for an already established blogger.

“How long did it take for your blog to start getting traction on the web?”

I’ve been blogging for eight years, and I average tens of thousands of sessions per month. This traffic comes from a variety of sources, including my email newsletter, social media, paid advertising, and organic search. Increasing traffic to that level takes time, patience, strategy, and a little luck. Some of the posts you least expect may blow up and go viral and ones you work hard on and research may get hardly any views- that’s just how it goes in the blogging universe.

“Once I start my travel blog, can I start traveling for free?”

One of my favorite phrases is, “It never hurts to ask.” Reach out to your hotel/hostel, tour guide company, etc. and ask them to “trade” or discount your bill in exchange for free content (for their website, for yours, or both). Offer video content too, if that’s your thing. You may be surprised how many people say yes, especially once you have a decent volume of monthly traffic to your travel blog. More businesses in the tourism industry than ever actually understand the value of “word of mouth” marketing and utilizing travel bloggers to help their own image/brand.

“How many hours a day/week/month should I work on my travel blog?”

Ten is better than five, and five is better than one. One is better than none. The key is understanding how much time you can dedicate to your travel blog, on average, in any given month, and to stay consistent with it. If you’re really meant to be a travel blogger most days it won’t feel like work.

“How long do my posts have to be?”

Your blogs can be anywhere from 300 to 20,000 words depending on the content. If it’s relevant and high quality, the right audience will want to read it no matter the length. That said, if you want to compete in organic search for highly competitive keyphrases, more is more and more is better.

“What do I write about in my travel blog?”

Places, experiences, food, your love life… The list goes on and on. If I gave you all the answers, I may as well write your blogs for you 😜 Write what you know, write what you love, and people will eat it up.

“Can I make money as a travel blogger?”

In short—yes. How much you make will depend on your website traffic (why Analytics is so important), your business skills, and the quality of the content on your travel blog. I know some travel bloggers who barely make anything and others who make over six figures. Like any other business idea, it takes time, talent, and grit to turn a passion into a profitable career.

There are a few different paths to making money as a travel blogger. Some of the most popular are:

-Affiliate marketing
-Amazon Product Links
-Trip planning for others
-Website Ads
-Paid & Sponsored Posts

A good travel blog will use a combination of these different revenue models to turn a profit.

IS IT TOO LATE TO START A TRAVEL BLOG IN 2021?

I receive a lot of emails and comments from readers who are concerned it’s too late to start travel blogging.

Is it? Nope! Hell no. Seriously — it’s not too late at all.

While it is true, travel blogging is more crowded space than it was several years ago, there are also far more opportunities for income than there used to be.

When I started out, there were only a handful of travel bloggers who made $1,000 a month, and they were the people who had been blogging for several years. These days, there are well over a hundred travel bloggers who are pulling in six figures each and every year.

In Facebook groups, I see new bloggers sharing how they managed to reach 100,000 page views in just a year or two of blogging — something that used to take the original travel bloggers three or four years to manage.

I believe that if I were to start my travel blog today, I’d be able to reach a comfortable income in less time than it took me back in 2013. So don’t be dissuaded by the sheer number of travel bloggers on the internet today — focus on generating traffic then monetizing your audience, and you’ll be doing well in no time at all!

Now Get Writing!

And most of all, good luck! You can do it!

Stay Gold.

Todd

About Todd Smidt

Todd is a man of simple tastes: traveling, words, whiskey, & dad jokes. He enjoys first-rate banter, long walks along the coast, High West, and Vonnegut. He spends his free time traveling the world, drinking whiskey, and writing about it.

20 responses to “How to Start a Travel Blog in 2021

  1. I’m interested travel in all ways and explore each and every word i will share you please give me chance

    1. Jose,

      That’s definitely the first step in becoming a travel blogger! The next is figuring out what you want to say and why! Once you do that you just need to start writing!

  2. […] Before we get started, it’s important to understand that HOWEVER you decide to make money while traveling will cost you something- whether it be your time, flexibility in your schedule, or missing an activity you really wanted to do . No different than being at home, when you’re abroad, no one will just give you money to sit around and do nothing. The first thing I tell everyone who wants to start a travel blog is how much work it is, […]

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    1. Hi, how do you structure your content?
      Is there some sort of format you follow yourself or have created?
      I have the content, I’m just not sure where to start on how to structure it.
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