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Starting a travel blog, how not to start a travel blog
How Not to Start a Travel Blog

Blogging is a viable career option for many people, but whether you want to earn a living off your travel blog or not, I’ve learned a lot over the last year in terms of how to start a travel blog.

When I first started my travel blog one year ago, I was pretty new to blogging. A couple years ago, I kept a personal blog on the road that I updated occasionally just for my family and friends to read when I traveled, but it was basically an online diary. I could care less about web design, analytics, promotion, or sponsorships, or any of the thrills millions of bloggers chase today. In fact, I had no clue about any of this business.

Flash forward a couple of years, I’m settled down now and no longer traveling at an exhausting pace. I’m finally travel blogging for the first time.  Kinda ironic?

This past year has been one of the biggest learning experiences ever. Blogging has taken me into terrain I never even knew existed. And let me tell you, I had NO idea what was in store. Starting your own travel blog is not difficult, but creating a successful travel blog is no piece of cake.

After a year of travel blogging and throwing myself full throttle into this crazy world, here’s a list of things I’ve learned on how NOT to start a travel blog.

How Not to Start a Travel Blog

1. Not Having a Focus

You hear it all the time but it’s true. With over a million travel blogs out there, it’s important to have a niche or a purpose behind your blog and hopefully a passion. It’s so hard to stand out today but if you can, you have that more going for you! If you’re lucky to find a narrow enough niche, this may even appeal to less people but at least there’s a targeted audience. Building a targeted audience is key. This isn’t always possible, but it’s helpful when starting a travel blog.

     Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.
— Albert Schweitzer

2. Expecting too Much too Soon

Blogging or creating a successful travel blog is definitely one of those things where you work really really REALLY hard at it and then HOPEFULLY one day it pays off. Most people have no clue just how hard website owners work. I sure didn’t. For the vast majority, success doesn’t come over night. There are so many different hats you have to wear and you’ll find yourself a workaholic before too long.

Slapping a PR or Media section on your site can make it look more “professional” but it’s kinda like asking for a promotion on your first day at work.  It takes a lot of work to earn sponsorships and money, and most bloggers don’t see a penny (not counting the pennies made from ads) until at least 1 year at the minimum.

     Be yourself, everyone else is taken.

3. Copying Other People’s Websites

With all the blogs out there on the internet today, you’re bound to come across shared templates, but copying another person’s blog design is just wrong. I kid you not, there is one very popular female blogger today and I’ve seen a ton of sites that look exactly like hers. The first thing I think of when I see these sites is “not another clone….goodbye.”

I’ve actually seen one site recently where a blogger copied this successful blogger’s entire web template, right down to the font color, the domain name, and even the exact same category names listed on the home page. I couldn’t believe it.

This is an extreme case, but your blog design should reflect you.

4. Confusing Writing with Travel Blogging

One thing I’ve had to learn is that travel blogging is its own thing. Simply writing about your travels or taking nice pictures is nice, but there are a million travel stories out there. It needs to provide some kind of value to the reader in a way that’s easier to read.

5. Spam Commenting

When I first started travel blogging, I was told that bloggers should comment on as many blogs as possible because it will increase traffic and get your name out there. Some were advocating 50 + comments a day! Well, that’s impossible if you have a life. Anything helps to get your site out there, but the traffic you receive from this tactic is VERY marginal. It can definitely help you build an audience but those tit-for-tat comments won’t get you very far in terms of general traffic.

Popular blogs today are a wasteland of spam comments. The worst advice I got about blogging told me to comment on as many blogs as possible. Well, it didn’t really work and it’s a waste of time.

Writing comments should be thoughtful and purposeful, and the same goes for approving comments on your blog. I flat out refuse to approve thoughtless comments now  like “great post!” or “love your pictures!” There’s so much self-promotion out there, it’s best to focus on other ways to promote your site more efficiently.

6. Blogging for Other Bloggers

This all comes down to your motivation for blogging. If you don’t care to turn your blog into a profit and simply enjoy the act of blogging and following other blogs, then this point doesn’t really apply so much. But if you want your blog to be mainstream successful, other bloggers are NOT going to be your main readers.  I like connecting with other bloggers, but at the end of the day, where does that go? How productive is it? Time is limited.

It’s important to connect with other bloggers out there and building relationships can help a ton, but spending all your time reading other blogs has a diminishing marginal return. Building relationships is VERY important in the blogging world, but it should be sincere.

7. Using Unlicensed Pictures

I see this all the time, but a lot of people think that just because you find a picture on Pinterest or the internet, then it’s up for grabs. Even if you link it to the photographer’s website, it’s still illegal if you don’t have permission.

Use creative commons images, or images that are licensed for these purposes.

Photographers use metadata to track their photographs on the internet and it’s not hard to find stolen images. I’ve found a few myself and confronted the bloggers.

If you find a picture you really like, you can shoot the photographer an email asking to use it on your blog.

Recently I stumbled upon a blogger who wrote a clickbait article on the most beautiful places in the world. At first I was impressed, thinking, “wow, he takes great photos!” Then I scrolled down a bit more and started to question where these images came from.

Sadly this article got him some attention. I asked him if he took these pictures himself and he said he didn’t! But he didn’t seem to even care. Later however, one of the actual photographers found this article and bashed this guy for stealing his images. But the sad thing is that NONE of the bloggers writing praiseworthy comments about “his pictures” even thought about the fact that these images were unethically taken from another photographer. Photographers fly around the world for these images so using them illegally to promote any kind of content is just wrong.

8. Not Leveraging Your Blog as a Marketing Platform

Entrepreneurs often build blogs as platforms to sell other goods. There are various ways to profit off your blog, but these all require selling other people’s products. You only make a cut that way.

Sponsorships will often pay for your travels or part of your travels, but they rarely generate income. You can make the most money if you have something yourself to sell such as ebooks, courses, consulting, ad space, fashion line, etc. Use your blog as a platform to sell your own products. This is how many travel bloggers end up earning a living off their blog and earning sponsorships!

9. Not Self-Educating When Starting a Travel Blog

Take any successful blogger today, and I promise you, they’ve got a shelf of books and have spent hours upon hours reading everything under the sun. It’s honestly a non-stop learning experience and non. stop. work. I rarely watch TV. I’m always working. But I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it.

To be honest, although I started The Passport Lifestyle for blogging about travel and photography tips, the marketing and business side of blogging has really lured me in. In fact, I think I enjoy this more than actually writing about my travels now! Ick, I didn’t just say that!!

Creating a travel blog isn’t very difficult – maintaining one is.

So you want to blog? Starting a travel blog or a successful travel blog is an uphill battle, but it’s important to keep creating content and sharing things you love. It’s a lot of fun actually so just enjoy the journey and share what you love.

Once you’ve learned how to set up a travel blog (this can take several weeks or months depending on how busy you are), you’re good to go. Reach out to influencers, make relationships with other bloggers who’s content you enjoy, and focus on creating good QUALITY content. And when you’ve got that content, then you should focus on all the crazy ways out there to market it. Only once you have these foundations, then you can worry about travel blogging for money.

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  1. May 23, 2017 at 10:21 am — Reply

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m trying to figure out this blogging world and what I should prioritize with my time, so this post is really helpful. I totally agree about content copying/stealing – it’s easy to get inspired by someone else’s work and want to recreate it, but that’s just not the way to go. Thanks so much!

  2. January 19, 2017 at 1:21 pm — Reply

    Hello Stephanie,

    Thank you very much for this post!
    I am new at blogging and sometimes (many times) trying to find out what to do next can be pretty overwhelming. So, thank you for sharing your experience and advices. Besides, you did it in a fun way. I am a fan now!
    Mina recently posted…Rio de Janeiro – a bitter sweet mix – from helicopter views to biggest “favela” in Latin America | Part 1My Profile

  3. July 16, 2016 at 3:43 am — Reply

    This kind of posts are so interesting and I totally agree with you. Still, there is something I didn’t know. For my blog posts named ‘Wanderlust Bucket List’ I use pictures from Pinterest, since I’ve never been even near these places. You can enter an URL and upload a picture on WordPress, which I actually thought was legal. Apparently it is not? That’s a pity because I never wanted to steal anyone’s photos and I certainly wasn’t planning on doing illegal things. Anyway, now I know. Thanks for sharing this!
    Jolien recently posted…Wanderlust Bucket List part twoMy Profile

  4. June 28, 2016 at 7:01 pm — Reply

    I am interested in starting a lifestyle & travel blog- I like your statement about finding your niche. Any suggestions on how to really nail down your target audience? I would say mine would be geared towards the “Busy-Lifestylers”. I have managed to visit 9 countries over the past 6 months and balance a family, full-time job and a successful part-time business. I think I have multi-tasking figured out! Could that be a niche?

    • June 28, 2016 at 8:11 pm — Reply

      Wow, you are super busy! I definitely think that’s a market or a niche because basically, you’re ability to juggle so much is inherently inspirational. Inspiration is a major reason why people read blogs. If you can blog inspiring things about how you do it, or can help others achieve what you do, then definitely that would be great too! There’s a lot of pressure to hone down a niche, but being able to produce quality content regularly that is also helpful to people is most important too I think.
      Stephanie recently posted…5 Must See Tokyo Photography Travel LocationsMy Profile

  5. June 21, 2016 at 2:44 am — Reply

    Nice and very inspiring for me. I’am still new in blogging and still not deciding what i should focus on yet. So i just write randomly every time. Haha. Btw, nice sharing.

  6. November 24, 2015 at 11:59 pm — Reply

    I’m new to blogging and didn’t consider it until some friends suggested I write on my experiences backpacking Europe.I have a few thousand pictures.How would you suggest registering ownership of my photos?Is a watermark sufficient or just an added level of protection?

  7. September 16, 2015 at 11:32 am — Reply

    Unfortunately blogs get copied all the time online. Big or small blogs. It doesn’t matter. The material gets stolen and published 1:1 on all kind of sites by people that want and manage to do a quick buck from your hard work. Sometimes the rightful owners don’t even know it.

    • September 17, 2015 at 3:01 pm — Reply

      Yea, definitely so. I see it so much, it’s just a part of blogging. But taking a person’s site design and copying it detail for detail is kinda nuts. But photographs are definitely a big no-no for me as a photographer. Material can be re-phrased but using a photograph that’s not yours is just wrong! But at least photographers can track their metadata.
      Stephanie recently posted…Staying in Trendy Grunerløkka OsloMy Profile

  8. August 19, 2015 at 8:35 pm — Reply

    Stephanie, super insight! I learned each of these lessons over the past 4 years of traveling the world, while blogging. You gotta be genuine, authentic, transparent and helpful, and also willing to write for hours a day to get your blogging game down pat. I vibe with each point because….I’ve lived ’em 😉

    Thanks for the inspiring share!

    Ryan Biddulph recently posted…How to Land the Best House Sits EasilyMy Profile

  9. August 17, 2015 at 3:48 pm — Reply

    Very good post!
    I heard once about a travel blogger whose website was copied 1:1 for the purpose to make money from advertising and affiliate networks… this is pretty shocking for me
    Ola recently posted…5 Things I learned in Hong KongMy Profile

  10. August 15, 2015 at 6:29 am — Reply

    Great article. I always feel like I should have more creative posts like this when I read your blog. I especially like the part about unlicensed photos. I am amazed how many people steal photos. I find mine being used all the time. This week I found a rather large company using my images and was really upset. I sent them my Licensing page from my site but they didn’t think they were breaking it. Pretty amazing. Thankfully I finally got them to pay for their use of my image.

    • August 15, 2015 at 10:18 pm — Reply

      Thanks Dave! I really am amazed at how prevalent it is for bloggers and companies to steal pictures and few people really grasp how wrong it is. Photographs are the language of the internet, so it’s no different than plagiarism. I see it all the time on so many lifestyle and travel blogger sites, but they never think anything of it. I don’t search for mine as often as I should, but I really hate the thought of some blogger promoting their content with my photos. It’s really fortunate that you were able to get them to pay for a license actually, although I’m shocked it was a large company using your photos. You’d think they’d know better. I know photographers can sue, but I was also told that unless you officially register your photographs, it’s hard to show proof in a lawsuit. I’m still not quite sure how that works. But I think I’ll go ahead and register my favorite images at least.
      Stephanie recently posted…How NOT to Start a Travel BlogMy Profile

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