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.
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.
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.