10 Steps to Create a Successful Travel Blog
“Oh, don’t bother starting a blog now. The market is wayyyy too saturated and it’s impossible to be successful at this stage in the game. The only people who are successful are the ones who started way back when.”
“Blogs are so over. They had their moment; but now, nobody pays attention to blogs anymore.”
“Why would you even bother blogging? It’s so time consuming and unrewarding.”
Have you heard any of these things before?
I sure have.
In fact, these are all things people have said to me at some point along my blogging career. And one of the statements above is actually an exact quote from an ex when I told him I was starting this blog. HA!
Unfortunately, we live in a society where some people tend to belittle, discourage, or undermine the success of others. There are just some people who can’t stand to see other people happy or excited for wanting to pursue their dreams or passions. They try to impose their own self-limiting behaviors and beliefs on you so that you won’t reach your full potential. They’ll do anything they can to make sure that you stay on the path of mediocrity.
But like DJ Khaled always says, we should never listen to “THEY.” We can learn to turn that noise down, stick to our guns, and pursue those passions anyway! I kinda think that’s the beauty in success after all—when someone tells you, “You can’t,” and you just say, “WATCH ME,” and make it happen. I love it!
I remember reading somewhere that 90-some percent of blogs created don’t make it to their 1-year anniversary. It’s been almost 3 years of blogging for me as I’m writing this (which I can’t even believe) and I’ve learned so much over the course of that time. I’ve made a ton of mistakes, dealt with personal anxieties and fears, and have ultimately come out the other end stronger.
Since many readers ask me how I’ve done it, I want to share some of those strategies with you today. If you’re a blogger—aspiring, new, or even veteran—and you’re wondering how you can create a successful travel blog (or maybe you’re just feeling stuck and need some inspiration), this article is for you. *Scroll to the bottom to find all the resources used in this post!
1. Start Your Blog
Well, this one is pretty obvious. But you can’t really have a successful travel blog if you don’t have a blog to begin with. If you need help on starting your travel or lifestyle blog, just follow these 5 simple steps that I’ve outlined here. For less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks, you can get your blog started in under an hour (and get a free website domain) with Bluehost, which I go over in my tutorial, or HostGator.
There are tons of blogging platforms available these days (WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, etc.), but I would suggest either WordPress or Squarespace. I’ve personally used both, and you can even see my comparison of the two right below.
2. Write: Be vulnerable, Develop your voice, and provide a new perspective
The best way to become a successful blogger is to actually use your blog. WRITE! But don’t just write fluff for the sake of hitting “PUBLISH.” Write about something you’re passionate about. There’s a huge difference in writing about something you're passionate about versus something that you feel meh about.
Proof? When I was growing up, I LOATHED English and writing class. For real. If you went back in time and told my 16-year old self that I was going to grow up and make a living from writing, I would laugh in your face. I NEVER thought this would be where my life would end up. But as it turns out, it’s pretty effortless for me to pump out an article about traveling to some destination that I swoon over, or to be vulnerable and give advice in article about my fear of flying.
Which brings me to my next point...
When you’re writing, try to be vulnerable. Be yourself. Let your readers get to know the real you. This is how you’re going to get people to connect with you and how you will start to develop your voice as a writer. If you can find a way to write how you talk or inject your personality into your posts someway, I promise you that it will make a massive difference.
Also, try to find ways that you can provide your readers with a new perspective. Tell or show them something that other people haven’t or aren’t already doing. That’s going to be your secret sauce to success, my friend. (PS—this doesn’t have to be rocket science. YOUR perspective as YOU is sometimes something different enough. Use that!)
*BONUS: Research a little before you write your articles. See the information that people are actually searching for so you can provide the answers. Tools like Google Keyword Planner are great for bloggers because you can see the absolute best ways to name your blog posts based on what people are searching for.
3. Run Your Blog Like a Business
Want to know the difference between regular bloggers and successful bloggers? The successful bloggers actually treat their blog(s) like a business. They have plans with actionable steps, deadlines, and goals. They know that every post has to have meaning or substance behind it and they aren’t just posting to shout out into the void.
If you want to seriously take your blog to the next level, you need to start treating it like a business—business plan and all! Sure, you can skip this step if you want to take the easy route; but I guarantee that you’ll be a lot better suited if you go through the steps of actually sitting down and writing a plan instead of winging it. If you’re not sure how to create a blog business plan, just head to my Free Resource Library to download your own PDF copy.
4. Invest in Your Business: Equipment, E-courses, and Mentoring
If you’re actually serious about treating your blog like a business, you’re going to have to make some investments. But trust me—the investments will reap plenty of rewards down the line.
I’m not only talking about the cost of your hosting service or mail provider. I’m talking about learning investments, photography equipment, and even mentorships or masterminds with other bloggers/entrepreneurs.
If you’re a travel blogger, your blog’s success will tend to rely heavily on your photography skills. It’s your JOB to promote destinations and the things to do there, so you have to have beautiful photos that resonate with that message. I mean, when was the last time you saw a shitty photo of a destination on Instagram and thought, “I can’t wait to go there”? Never. It will turn you off. So don’t do that to your readers.
Invest in quality camera equipment. The cameras that I recommend most for travel blogging are the Sony RX100 MIII ($698, great for on-the-go and vlogging) and the Sony a6000 ($698, perfect substitute/replacement for the clunky DSLRs). There are tons of other accessories and gear that I recommend right here in the TCS Travel Shop. And whatever you do, DON’T FORGET TO GET YOURSELF AN EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE TO BACK EVERYTHING UP!
In terms of photography editing equipment, I highly recommend upgrading your editing software to something more professional like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. I use Adobe’s Creative Cloud Lightroom Photography Plan, which has been a game changer, and it’s only $9.99/month. To really kick things up a notch (and to make them a helluva lot easier), I purchased and installed these 'Dreamy Presets' Lightroom Presets so that I can beautifully and effortlessly edit all of my photos with the click of a button. If you want to try them out—which I wholly suggest—you can even use my discount code “THECITYSIDEWALKS10” for 10% off your order! I personally love the New York, Los Angeles, and Santorini presets.
In the last 3 years of blogging, I’ve invested at least $1000 into e-Courses. The benefits? I’ve learned way more in the few hours, days, or weeks it took me to complete those courses than I could have in years. It sped up the learning time and grew my business like no other. It even inspired me to create my own e-Course (with another one coming soon!).
My 3 favorite e-Courses for travel bloggers are Travel Blog Success, Melyssa Griffin’s Pinfinite Growth, and Melyssa Griffin’s List Surge. I back them up 100% and recommend them to everyone. You can even watch Melyssa's Pinterest Webinar for FREE to see if it's a good fit for you.
MENTORSHIPS OR MASTERMINDS
My wise father has always said to me, “I’m not smart; I’m just old and I know a lot of shit because I’ve experienced a lot of shit.” Duly noted, pops.
But he has a point... People who have been around and experienced things tend to know more about them. And who better to learn from than someone who has already gone through what you’re about to go through?
This is one reason why I put so much emphasis on the value of mentoring and/or mastermind groups. There’s something so great about learning something without having to go through the hardships and mistakes yourself. It’s like another version of time travel if you think about it.
If you have the opportunity to work with a mentor or join a mastermind, do it! Chances are that you will make back your investment 10 times over and walk away with a different, fresh perspective on your business. I even offer 1-on-1 mentorships for my readers, which is one of my favorite parts of this job! I truly love helping others and working together to get those creative, successful juices flowing. (PS—if you want to sign up to work with me, just head right here!)
5. Connect with Others: Your readers, fellow bloggers, and potential readers
The best way to grow your blog is to get out of your comfort zone and connect with others. Thanks to social media, you can easily do this while lounging on your couch in your sweatpants. Use social media to read and respond to comments from your followers/readers, engage with other bloggers or travel enthusiasts by liking/commenting on their content, and even discover new potential readers by finding users who are using similar hashtags or posting similar content.
Obviously, there are ways to really kick it up a notch and get face-to-face with your readers or other bloggers. You could host meet-ups with your readers (a popular tactic used by many travel bloggers), or you could even collaborate with other bloggers in a variety of ways and agree to promote each other’s content. Just get creative and think outside the box!
6. Ignore the Haters
You’ll know you’ve made it when you start to get some haters coming through. It’s inevitable. Remember what I said at the beginning of this post, though? Don’t let “THEY” bring you down!
If you happen to get an off-putting comment or some negativity thrown your way, just ignore it. Don’t invest your time or energy into people who sit behind a computer screen and try to ruin your positive vibes.
The more positive energy you put out into the world, the more you will get back. So brush it off, delete it, have a laugh, and move on. You’re better than them anyways ;)
7. Always be Growing and Test New Strategies
As a business owner, you should always be looking for ways to expand your reach and continue growing. HINT: This is where having a business plan really comes into play. You should always have a vision of where you are and where you want to go so you can create a plan of attack for how you’re going to get there.
The best time to start to expanding and growing your business is when you feel like you’ve plateaued. It’s perfectly fine to reach a place where you feel comfortable and live in that for a moment, but if you really want to continue growing and building your empire, you have to keep moving forward.
Try to be on the lookout for new strategies on how you can improve and grow. Maybe it’s revamping old content to give it a fresh perspective. Maybe it’s adding in an additional stream of revenue, like an e-Course or e-Book. Maybe it’s implementing a new tool to streamline your business or simplify things (like Tailwind or BoardBooster for Pinterest—hello life savers! BTW those links will give you a free month of each service!).
The key here is to pick one thing, tool, or project at a time and dive into that one thing until you see it to completion.
I once worked with someone who was obsessed with finding new tools and systems to use to improve their business, which, in theory, seems like a good thing. However, the 2 biggest mistakes that caused them to be unsuccessful were that they were looking for tools to fix problems that didn’t exist (or weren’t a big impact on the business) and that they never focused on one thing/project at a time. So what happened? Absolutely nothing got done. There was no impact on the business and they were always struggling to prioritize the profitable projects that would actually move their business in a positive direction. Don’t be like this.
*TIP: Use the 3 P's ---> PRIORITIZE PROFITABLE PROJECTS and see them to completion. Organize one thing at a time!
8. Know Your Analytics = Know Your Value
I’ll admit, when I first started blogging, I paid zero attention to my stats. I never looked at Google Analytics. I never looked at my month-over-month growth. I never even bothered to look at where I was receiving the biggest return on my investments. Like Julia Roberts once said, “Big mistake—HUGE!”
If your goal is to start working with brands at some point, knowing your analytics is the only way that you’re going to know your value. If you want to start pitching the big brands, they are going to want to know how you stand out from the crowd. How are you going to know this if you don’t even know who your audience is, where they are coming from, or what their favorite content on your blog is?
If you haven’t already signed up for Google Analytics, do it now. It’s free, easy, and absolutely crucial to your success as a blogger. Take time every day, week, or month to look at your stats and understand them. Look to see your demographic information, where your readers are coming from, and their behavior while visiting your blog.
The single best tool on this platform is the data about which of your blog posts/pages are viewed most. If you’re logged into Google Analytics, you can find this under Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. This page is basically your golden map to the kind of content you should be creating more of. For me, my most popular posts are my City Guides. They each receive thousands of hits a month and this clues me into the fact that I need to be making more City Guides!
The more you get to know your analytics, the better chance you have at negotiating partnerships with brands. Know your engagement, your monthly UV’s + page views, and the demographics of your readers. It will give you a huge leg up if you understand these facts and can properly convey them to your potential partners.
*BONUS: If you want an idea of how much you should be charging for partnerships based on your stats, there’s a guide for that in my Free Resource Library!
9. Start Monetizing from the Beginning
I get an email in my inbox at least once a week from readers asking me how long they need to wait before they start monetizing their blog. My answer? Do it now.
Seriously! There is no secret sauce or rule to when or how long you should be waiting until you can begin to monetize your blog. I know this is soooo contradictory to what tons of other “veteran” bloggers might say, but I’m not them. Start now because the sooner you do it, the sooner you’ll be making money.
There is no reason why you can't begin to try and monetize from the beginning. The easiest and quickest way to do this is to join an affiliate program that pays you a commission for recommending a company’s products or services.
The first affiliate program I ever joined was the Amazon Affiliate Program, which I’m still part of today. But, I’ll be honest here: I didn’t see my first commission check from Amazon (which required you to have $100 threshold before they paid you) until maybe almost a year after I joined. However, once I hit that threshold, my traffic was also simultaneously growing, so it was easier for me to reach that $100 mark much quicker. Now, I receive a check from Amazon at least every other month or so. It might not be a lot, but it’s passive income that I’m making without doing anything, which is AWESOME.
You can also start to monetize by joining other affiliate programs (like ShareASale or CJ), or by creating your own digital products, such as e-Books or e-Courses. You can use a service like GetDPD to sell them effortlessly and digitally. Plus, they have a built in affiliate program so you can even bring on affiliates of your own to help you sell more!
*Bonus: In addition to monetizing your blog from the beginning, I highly recommend starting an email list to grow from the beginning. This is where you have the potential to really hit it out of the park with monetizing. I learned all of my tricks from Melyssa Griffin’s List Surge, which I highly recommend.
10. GET OUT & TRAVEL!
I hope this one is a no-brainer. If you want to be a successful travel blogger, you’re going to have to travel! Get out there, have adventures, get into predicaments, and make unforgettable memories. Do and experience things that are out of your comfort zone! These are the beautiful moments that you’re going to be able to share with your audience.
But don’t get caught up in the idea that you have to be on the road 24/7 to travel, unless that’s what you want. You can just as easily write a travel blog by experiencing things that happen around your community, city, state, or province.
The point is you should do what makes you happy and whatever ignites your soul. All of that energy will come through in your content and make your readers happy.
BONUS 1: Be Patient
Having a successful travel blog takes time. It never happens overnight. It takes a lot of work, time, and dedication. Be patient with it.
I’ll also throw in that no two blogs are the same. Don’t get caught up in the moment of comparing yourself to another blogger who is on a totally different journey than you. Don’t compare your success to their success or it will throw you into a downward spiral. Trust me, I’ve been there/done that. Be patient. There is room at the top for everybody and your time will come!
BONUS 2: Take Time for YOU
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt burned out before? *AGGRESSIVELY RAISES BOTH HANDS*
November 2016 was the beginning of a really tough time for me. I had just moved to a new city and away from a life and people that I loved. I moved in with my boyfriend and I had a whole bunch of other life changing things take over. On top of that, I never properly dealt with the emotions of all these things happening at once.
For months, I felt stuck. I had all these emotions bottled up inside of me and I didn’t know what to do with them or who to turn to for guidance. I realized that I was forgetting to do one major thing that could pull me out of this: I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t working out like I used to. I wasn’t eating properly. I was depressed and couldn’t get out of bed some days. I wasn’t even doing my nails!
It’s times like these that we really need to learn to take a step back sometimes and take care of ourselves. If you ever find yourself in a moment where you feel overwhelmed or like there's too much going on, take a step back and breathe. Take time for you. Pamper yourself. Love yourself. Take yourself out to the movies. Take care of your body, mind, and soul. Make sure to do this every once in awhile, or blogging will start to feel like a burden.
BONUS 3: Don’t Stress About Perfection
One thing that I hear over and over from my clients is that they are waiting to publish their blog or blog posts until it’s perfect. NO!!! DO. NOT. DO. THIS.
Waiting to hit “Publish” until something is perfect is only going to throw you into a spiral of analysis paralysis and overanalyzing. You need to remember that “done” or “good” is always better than “perfect.” Nothing will ever be perfect, so just get comfortable with the idea that you can always go back and change something that you don’t like. Hell, I’ve changed my blog layout 5 or 6 times since I hit the publish button 3 years ago.
One last thing to note about perfection: The blogger to-do list is literally endless. There are ALWAYS things that you can work on, improve, or create. If you don’t get to everything on the list or all the things you “should be” doing (like being on social media constantly every day), don’t stress about it. Just do what you can to make things work.
The best advice is to end each day being able to say, “I did ONE thing today that is going to move my business forward.” Whether that’s posting a blog post, starting your email list, or outlining that new e-Course you want to create. Just know that everything will work out in the end as long as you do one thing each day.
Resources in this post:
- My Travel + Blogging Resources Page (tons of FREE offers and deals!)
- How to Start a Travel Blog
- WordPress vs. Squarespace
- Start Your Blog with Hosting through Bluehost or HostGator
- Google Keyword Planner
- 10 Common Blogging Mistakes You Should Avoid if You Want to Turn Your Blog into a Business
- Sony RX100 MIII, $698
- Sony a6000, $698
- External Hard Drive, $70
- Adobe’s Creative Cloud Lightroom Photography Plan, $9.99/month
- 'Dreamy Presets' Lightroom Presets (10% off with code THECITYSIDEWALKS10)
- Travel Blog Success
- Melyssa Griffin's Pinfinite Growth eCourse + Free Webinar
- Melyssa Griffin's List Surge eCourse
- Tailwind (Free 30-Day Trial with my link + $15 off!)
- BoardBooster (Free 30-Day Trial with my link)
- Google Analytics
- Amazon Affiliate Program
- GetDPD (Free 30-Day Trial with my link)
What are other tips you have for your fellow bloggers? If you have any questions about blogging, feel free to comment below!
This page may include affiliate links, which comes at absolutely no cost to you. All proceeds go directly back into maintaining this website and making it better for you. All opinions are my own.