So you have a passion for travel and would like to learn how to start a travel blog? Great! Travel blogging is a fun way to keep logs of your adventures, make friends, and trade tips with the larger internet voyager community. But let’s get one misconception out of the way: if you’re expecting to immediately become internet famous, have a huge following, and get paid to travel the world solely through blogging, there is a long, tough road ahead of you.
Still, if you’re serious about wanting to blog professionally — or even just for fun — a little challenge can be encouraging! Like travel, you’ll find starting your travel blog gives you ample opportunities to try new things, develop new skills, and live new experiences. Follow these 8 easy steps to learn everything you need to know to begin blogging like a pro.
How To Start A Travel Blog
Step 1: Brainstorm Your Blog Niche & Name
Before you learn to monetize your blog, though, you have to have a blog. Before you have a blog, you’ll have to know what you want to blog about and how to distinguish yourself from the many other amazing travel blogs out there. Luckily, none of those other bloggers are you, so even if you are writing about the same thing — travel — the way you approach your travels will be different.
Take some time to think about what makes you and your perspective on travel unique. Are you a backpacker or a jetsetter? Young or old? An experienced expatriate or just ready to take your first airplane flight? Often travel bloggers find that the appeal of a traveling lifestyle intersects with other interests such as photography, cooking, architecture, climate-specific sports, or something else. If you have a particular profession or hobby that traveling lets you indulge, why not make your blog about that?
Once you’ve pinned down what makes you unique, spend some real time thinking about your eventual domain name. You want to make sure the name of your future website is something easy to remember and straightforward, and that it isn’t too close to an already existing blog’s name. Make sure it gets the point across: if you’re an experienced traveler with an interest in astronomy, a name like AstroTourist will be much clearer than Jim’s Travel Blog.
Step 2: Get Hosted
Once your name has been chosen, you need to register it. We recommend Bluehost as not only are they inexpensive (get a discount and only pay $3.95 per month by signing up through our link), but they’re also built for WordPress, have one-click install, offer a number of other handy website management tools, and have a fabulous 24-hour support team in case you have questions or run into any issues.
WordPress itself also offers cheap domain hosting and free subdomain hosting, but the customization limits and inability to use widgets make these less than ideal if you’re planning to run your travel blog as more than a hobby.
To setup hosting with Bluehost, head over to Bluehost’s homepage, and click on the green “Get Started Now” Button.
From here, you’ll be taken to a screen that will present three plan options to choose from. Which plan you choose depends on your needs, but as a beginner, it’s a safe bet to choose the most basic plan. You can always upgrade as you dive deeper into blogging and grow your audience!
Once you choose your plan, you’ll be taken to a screen where you can insert your chosen domain name (meaning a URL such as ordinarytraveler.com). If you have yet to register a domain, type your preferred name into the left box and click next.
You’ll then be taken to a screen where you can see whether or not your domain is available.
If your domain is available, you will be prompted to create a Bluehost account, select your package, insert your payment information, and submit. Remember, the longer amount of time you commit to hosting (36 months vs. 12 months) upon signing up, the more money you’ll save in the long run!
Voila! You have just set up hosting for your website!
Step 3: Download WordPress
Over 74 million sites use WordPress as their content management software of choice; basically, there are other CMS choices, but WordPress has the most reach and resources. If you chose to host your blog using Bluehost, the option to install WordPress will be available on your onsite control panel once you log in.
If you chose a different hosting option, you should consult with your host company. Worst case scenario, WordPress has detailed installation instructions for a number of unique cases on its wiki.
Step 4: Choose a Theme
A professional or custom theme can help your blog stand out from the others by virtue of simply looking a step above the rest. However, themes are about much more than just the look of your blog: they’re also about its functionality.
The right theme will also take into account the kind of layout that will be most intuitive to you and your readers. Will you be a heavily image-focused blogger? Are you more comfortable writing lots of articles or in creating video content? The right theme will let you customize your site to fit your blogging style.
Keep in mind that some themes might not look as nice when viewed from a different device. Check that your theme is responsive before installing/purchasing. We recommend looking through both the WordPress available themes and custom sites like themeforest to find the best option for you. We personally use the Braxton theme (which is already a mobile-responsive theme) and have been extremely happy with it.
Step 5: Install Plugins
Plugins are what make WordPress so fantastic — consider them mini apps for your website. WordPress offers its own plugin and widget marketplace, so search thoroughly. Make sure you get:
- Akismet: A spam blocker that will keep bot commenters from bothering you and your readers.
- EWWW Image Optimizer: A must-have for photo-heavy blogs, this lets images load faster and use less bandwidth.
- Easy Social Share Buttons: Allows your users to like, share, and subscribe to your content from 20+ social media sites as well as lets you track relevant analytics.
- WordPress SEO: Helps you analyze your site’s SEO and suggests improvements to help readers find your site more easily.
- SumoMe: A collection of tools to help boost your site’s subscriber count.
- W3 Total Cache: Improves site performance & loading time.
- Wordfence Security: Helps protect your site from virus and phishing attacks — absolutely necessary if you plan on handling monetary transactions through your site.
- Google Analytics by Yoast: Collaborates with Google Analytics to demystify traffic stats and help you improve your strategy for attracting readers.
Step 6: Connect to Social Media & Start an Email List
Now that you’ve got your blog set up, time to let the world know! Make sure to lock down your new username on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and any other social media sites you plan on using to get the word out. Remember to always try to use the same username so there’s no confusion for your readers.
Starting an email list is possibly the most important thing to do in the beginning of your blogging career. Social media sites will come and go and you never really have control over them (ahem, Facebook).
You basically have two options for your email list — Mailchimp and AWeber. You can start with Mailchimp for free and deal with switching to AWeber later — and possibly lose some or all of your email addresses in the process — or sign up with AWeber from the beginning and pay as low as $15/month. With better email tracking and lower prices for lists with more than 2,000 subscribers, AWeber turns out to be the most economical choice in the long run.
Step 7: Join Travel Blog Success
One of the best decisions we made early on in our blogging journey was signing up for Travel Blog Success. This course teaches you everything you need to know in order to build a successful travel blog — and it’s written by travel bloggers. The course is inexpensive, it provides 27 comprehensive lessons, and you’ll have access to a private forum and Facebook group where some of the world’s most successful travel bloggers share ideas and learn from each other.
Step 8: Start Writing
Now that you have your travel blog, it’s time to start growing an audience — unfortunately that’s easier said than done, and discussing all the techniques and tricks for doing so could easily fill another article. (Hint: learning how to use the plugins from Step 6 is a good start.)
The best way to start growing an audience is to simply start producing content. Many beginning bloggers find posting something new 2-3 times a week is a good way to attract their first readers. If you stick to a regular posting schedule, tag your posts with appropriate search keywords, and share them via social media with your friends and family, over time you’ll begin to develop a following. Most of all, remember to keep doing what you love — it takes time, but it’s worth the adventure.