Starting a travel blog was one of the best decisions we ever made. Because of that decision, we have been able to travel the world, collaborate with dozens of incredible companies, make an income online and pursue the life of our dreams. Now let`s get real… it didn`t happen overnight. It took (and still takes) a TON of hard work and dedication every single day. But the truth is; all of the work, the trial and error, and the frustrations are 100% worth it when you start to see it pay off. Keep reading for our step by step guide on how to start a successful travel blog in 2020.
Before getting into the blogging game we were an ordinary Canadian couple with a deep-rooted passion for seeing the world. And to be honest… that`s all you need going in. So if you`ve thought about doing this in the past but held yourself back because “You don`t have any prior writing experience”, “You`re not a very good photographer” or “You`re not savvy enough to figure out how to start a travel blog” , I am here to tell you
You don`t need to be! Especially at the beginning…
When we first started we didn`t even have a camera, we had no idea how to make a website, and I always hated language arts and boycotted any form of “essay writing” (ironic, isn`t it?)
We watched hundreds of YouTube tutorials and had many ups and downs along the way, but we figured it out as we went. The key is just to start. Because even if you fumble your way through at the beginning; it will get better and easier every step of the way.
There are approximately 4 million resources out there on “how to start a travel blog”; which is why it`s taken so long for me to write this article. I use to think that there was enough information out there and that our take on it wouldn`t make a difference. But after actually taking the time to read several of these vague or generic articles, I knew that you needed this information. A guide that will steer you away from what everyone else is doing and give you everything you need to start a successful travel blog in 2020!
Ready to get started? Good! Here`s what you need to do…
Step 1: Name Your Blog
When choosing a website name, it`s honestly incredibly easy to get stuck before you even begin! There are so many possibilities out there… how do you choose the perfect one? At the end of the day, it`s less about your name and way more about the content that you have on your website & social media accounts. So don`t stress yourself out about it being perfect, and instead try to choose one that makes sense in your field.
For example: if you name your travel blog “Ken`s African Adventure”, it may make sense while you`re actually in Africa, but what happens when you want to branch out and explore some different countries? It will be far less relevant if you ever decide to switch things up. You want to choose a name that is specific to your niche, but doesn`t box you in.
Here is my advice:
- Spend a day or two brainstorming as many different ideas as possible. Grab a pen and a piece of paper and write down any words that come to mind that you think resonate with you. This doesn`t have to be perfect or full of brilliant ideas, you just want to get the creative juices flowing and get it all out on paper.
- Start to narrow down these different words and play with different combinations that you gravitate to the most. Compile a list of 5-10 combinations that you like.
- Walk away for a few hours and get your mind off of it! It becomes hard to look at these names objectively when you`ve just spent two hours staring at them. Go for a walk, make some dinner, or go to the gym and take your mind elsewhere for a while.
- Come back and take a look at your list again, narrowing it down to 3-5 names that you especially like. It`s important that you keep a few options just in case the name you have decided on isn’t available as a domain name (we will get into that next!)
Step 2: Set Up a Domain Name
This is essentially the “.com” or “.ca” name that you choose for your website. We used GoDaddy to register our domain (madetotravel.ca) and it only costs about $10 per year to keep.
This process is super easy to do, so head over to godaddy.com with your list of potential names! Once there, you`ll want to type in one of the domain names that you have in mind to the search bar.
If it`s available, GoDaddy (or any other domain website) will give you the cost to purchase this domain name, based on the demand. For the most part, you should be able to get a domain name for between $5-$15 USD per year. If this name isn’t available, they will give you a list of similar available domain names, or you can move on to the next name on your list.
Once you have decided on a domain name that you love and that`s available, you just click “Add to Cart” and you are on your way! GoDaddy will also give you the option of getting an email address attached to your domain (e.g. [email protected]) for a small fee. In my opinion, this is a great idea as it is excellent for branding and makes you look a lot more professional than an email address ending in something like “@hotmail.com”.
Step 3: Choose a Web Host
Web hosting essentially gives your website a place to “live” on a server somewhere online. When it comes to choosing a hosting site, there are multiple factors to consider including support, usability, customization, backups, price, and more. For more detailed information on this decision, check out How to Choose The Best Host for your Website.
There are several companies out there that offer web hosting from $5 to $200+ per month. While I don’t recommend paying $100 per month when you`re just starting out, I do want you to keep in mind that you get what you pay for.
We started with a super-cheap host (a site called Hostgator) and it worked okay for about 6 months. After that period passed, we noticed that we were having issues with our website speed and that our server had actually gone down multiple times. We decided to make the switch to a mid-priced hosting company called Siteground, and it was the best decision we ever made!
It`s only a few dollars more per month, they offer excellent support 24/7, and our website speed has increased immensely since switching to them! I would highly recommend using this hosting company and they offer some fantastic deals for your first year! Click here to get started with a discounted hosting plan today!
Step 4: Choose a Platform for Your Website
The number one question from all new bloggers or website owners seems to be: Which platform should I go with? There are soooo many options out there and it can be a super confusing process.
I am a HUGE fan of self-hosted WordPress, and here`s why:
- You own your content. On many other websites, you don`t actually own the website platform that your site is on. But since WordPress is just a software that you install onto your website, YOU own all of your content.
- It allows the most room for customization and it`s super easy to use!
- It gives you access to a TON of awesome themes and plugins
- 34% of all websites use WordPress (it`s popular for a reason!)
(NOTE: There are actually two different WordPress hosting sites; wordpress.com and wordpress.org. The one you are after is wordpress.org – this is the Self-Hosted WordPress)
The WordPress website walks you through exactly what you need to do to get set up, just click on “Get WordPress” in the top right-hand corner to get started!
Step 5: Choose a Theme/Layout
There are plenty of free and paid themes available with WordPress, so take a look and choose your favorite! Remember that they are all HIGHLY customizable so you`re just looking for good bones. You can turn it into the exact masterpiece you have in mind later.
Make sure to choose a theme that has a mobile-friendly version and the basic design elements that you are looking for.
TIP: Do not spend over a day choosing a theme. You will be constantly changing and updating your website as your skills grow, so don`t waste your time on it in the beginning.
Step 6: Download Your Plugins
A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your site. While I don`t recommend installing too many plugins because it can slow down your website, there are a few that will make your life a lot easier!
Some of the top Plugins you`ll want to have are:
- All 404 Redirect to Homepage: This plugin will redirect any error pages to your homepage, saving you lost traffic from broken links.
- Yoast SEO: An all-in-one SEO solution for WordPress (we will go over SEO later in Traffic Accelerator, just know that this plugin will help you out!)
- Custom Sidebars: Allows you to customize your sidebars on all pages of your website.
- WPBakery Visual Composer: A drag and drop page builder for WordPress, no coding knowledge required!
- Updraft Plus: Allows you to backup and restore your site on automatic schedules to ensure you don’t lose any data!
- Smash Balloon Instagram Feed: This is a great idea since social media is such a big part of marketing these days. This plugin allows you to link your Instagram account right to your website easily and efficiently!
Step 6: Decide How YOU are Going to Stand Out
There are literally hundreds of thousands of travel blogs out there nowadays. And although this doesn`t mean that you can`t be successful; it does mean that you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd. The best way to do this is to choose a specific niche and target people with similar beliefs and values as you.
Let me explain… David and I enjoy a very specific type of travel. We like to avoid tourists, find the authentic culture of a country and do as many adventurous and adrenaline-pumping activities as possible. We are huge advocates for responsible travel and try to make a positive impact on the places we visit (or at the very least avoid making a negative one.)
This means that we write posts on things like “Why We Will Never Ride Elephants in Asia”, “Our 12 Day Trek Through the Himalayan Mountains”, and “Which Tourist Traps to Avoid in New York City”. While these posts may not be for everyone, they really hit home and connect us with our target audience and that is what sets us apart.
You want to find what sets you apart by writing about what YOU believe in and what YOU find the most valuable. What made you want to start a travel blog in the first place? Trying your best to put a unique spin on your travel blog will help you to stand out above the noise. For some more tips and tricks, check out 5 Tips For Starting a Travel Blog That Stands Out.
Step 7: Start Writing!
Set Up Your Homepage
Your homepage is likely the first stop your audience will make when visiting your website. The purpose of your website needs to be clear immediately, and it needs to be organized in a way that is easy to follow. In my experience, a clean and clear homepage will perform much better than a cluttered and unorganized one.
Create an “About Me” Page
This is a place to let your personality shine! An about me page tells your readers who you are, what makes you stand out and why they should follow along with your journey.
Set Up Your “Menu”
Organize all of your posts in a way that is easy for your audience to sort through. You have multiple different options here, so I suggest looking at some travel bloggers that you admire to see how they set up their posts and pages. Some common organization methods include:
- Destination (a drop-down menu, a map, etc)
- Date published
- Price per day
Write Your First Post
After you’ve got your pages sorted out, get started with your first blog post! It won`t be perfect, but that`s okay. The fear of putting your first article out there is REAL, and it`s also incredibly normal. Your writing will continually improve over time, but you can`t get better if you`re too scared to hit “publish” in the first place.
That`s it! Happy blogging! 🙂