Welcome to Travel Blog Monday. Every fortnight on a Monday we will focus on how to blog, some tips + tricks, a few hacks and a few how-tos. It’ll be grand.
To kick it off, let’s start with the basics.
How to start a Travel Blog.
This post contains affiliate links, if you purchase through these I may make a small commision (at no extra cost to you). You don’t have to click the links and I only recommend products I can 100% standby or use myself.
Why do you want to start a Travel Blog?
Ok, first things first. Why do you want to start a blog? Is it to share your passions? Do you want to have a creative outlet? Maybe make a wee bit o’ extra side money? Or is it to inspire people?
There is no right or wrong answer here. Everybody has different reasons for starting a blog, and everyone’s reasons are valid. But you need your why so you can figure out your how.
Action Steps: Write down your why. Try to be as specific as possible, that way you will gain clarity and be 100% certain. This will be your Travel Blog Base.
What do you want to blog about?
There are numerous things to blog about, in fact, the list is endless. But here we are specifically talkin’ bout a Travel Blog. Even throughout travel blogging, the list is fairly endless.
Do you want to blog about outdoor adventures? Budget travelling? Day trips? Off the beaten track? 5 star travelling? Travelling with kids? Solo travelling? Couple travelling? City travelling? Travelling tips?
All the experts will tell you to narrow down your niche (idea), but I am not an expert. I am just a girl with a passion that has figured out some stuff along the way. Plus I love passing on the Baton of Knowledge. I used to be a teacher so it is a hard habit to break. But in saying that, not a habit I want to break. Anywho, I have digressed.
If you are just finding your feet, you can experiment a little. That’s ok. That’s how you find out what really interests you, what your passions are. You will soon find out if you are writing about something that doesn’t really grab you. It will feel like a chore to write multiple posts about that particular topic. You don’t have to stick with it. Push it to the side and try something else. When you are excited about your writing, when you have more post ideas than days of the week, that’s when you have found your Thing.
Eventually, you will need to niche down if you want a cohesive Travel Blog that your customers know exactly what you are about. But don’t rush it. You want to be 100% sold on your passions and what makes you tick.
- When choosing your blog name, try and make it a wee bit generic if you aren’t sure about your niche. that way you can keep your domain without the hassle of having to change names ect-cetera if you change niche slightly.
- Brainstorm and see if you can come up with a whole page of Things. Once you have had a good ole brainstorm, pick your top 3-5 Things and come up with a few ideas for posts for each. Think about how excited you get with each new post idea, the feelings they give you. They are gut indicators of your passion. Take heed little one. Your gut is wise.
- If you think you have found your Thing, brainstorm at least 50 post ideas to see if it is a viable idea. You don’t want to run out of ideas after a while and then find tumbleweeds blowing through your site.
- Imagine writing about your Thing every day for weeks. If it makes you cringe, it ain’t your Thing.
Action Steps: Brainstorm your what and ideas for posts.
Who are you blogging for?
This will impact how you go about setting up your Travel Blog. If you are just writing for yourself or friends and family then a free blogging platform should do the trick. I used a free Blogger website for years when I was just blogging for myself, friends and family. And it worked just fine.
If you are blogging to a wider audience then you will need summat a bit more substantial. This is where it gets a bit more technical. But if I can do it, you certainly can too!
But first, you need to figure out your who. Who is your ideal reader?
Think about your ideal reader:
- What are their passions
- What do they want to read about
- How can you help them
- What knowledge can you impart?
- Give them a name (my readers’ name is Sam), an age, an occupation, a problem you can solve, why they would be on your site. Make up a little story about your Sam (your reader). Without Sam, you won’t have a blog.
Action Steps: Write down who you are blogging for and be specific as possible.
Right, now what?
Ok, you have figured out your why, what and who. Now what?
Action Steps: Put it all together. Write down a sentence or paragraph with your why, what and who combined. For example, I am starting a Travel Blog because I want to inspire people to explore their own backyards and to get outside (my why). I blog about the Great Outdoors (my what) for nature lovers and wannabe nature lovers (my who).
If you are serious about this blogging thing, you will need to:
- Choose a domain name (your blog name and website address)
- Find some web hosting
- Find a platform
- Customise your site.
Action Steps: continue reading
Choosing a Domain Name
This is the part that I hate. Most people love this part because it is a chance to be creative and showcase your brand. But I am too indecisive then get frustrated with being indecisive so just pick any ole name. Don’t do this. You will be stuck with this name for as long as you don’t get sick of it and you don’t want to get sick of it too quickly. Then you’ll have to rebrand and all sorts of malarky.
Try to think of something that captures who you are and what you are about. If you make it clear through your domain name what your niche is you get bonus points.
You can purchase your domain name on its own or as part of your web hosting. Mine is part of my web hosting because it was easier but there are loads of websites you can purchase domain names from. Just go visit Uncle Google.
- Brainstorm words that encapsulate you and put a few together with your what to see what you can come up with. For example, The Quirky Globetrotter is one blogger I follow, no guesses as to what this blogger blogs about.
- Check your spelling!
- Make it memorable, you want to stick out and stick in someone’s mind.
- Keep it short and sweet, about 2 to 5 words should do the trick.
- Research other Travel Blogs for inspo, don’t copy (no one likes a copycat) but you can take inspiration
- Ask your friends and family for input.
- Try it out, try saying, “I am run a travel blog at…” Does it get you excited? Are you proud to say it?
- Don’t overthink it or you will never commit to one.
- Check to see if your name has been taken. Use the search box below to see, don’t worry, you don’t have to buy it straight away.
Action Steps: Brainstorm some ideas for a domain name. Try it out on your friends and family to see what they think. Commit to one and buy your domain.
Finding a Web Host
I have used two different web hosts (SiteGround and BlueHost), but there are hundreds you can choose from. Web hosting can start as little as $3 per month and is worth the investment if you are serious about your Travel Blog. Hosting also enables you to be flexible with customising, personalising and monetizing your Travel Blog (phew that was a lot of ‘ing’ words).
The down low on SiteGround
My Travel Blog started off as a free wordpress.com website but I quickly outgrew it when I realised I had very little control over the look, personalisation and flexibility of my site. So I signed up for SiteGround on their $3.95 per month plan, got me a domain name and bam! done like a done thing.
They made migrating my site easy peasy with step by step instructions and everything was the same as when I left it. But different. Now I had control over my site (insert evil laugh here).
I have never had to use their customer service, or contact them in any way because my site has always run as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
The low down on BlueHost
My other blog (jembakker.com) is hosted by BlueHost. I started that one from scratch through them. I got my hosting for $2.95 per month and my domain name through them as well. BlueHost has integrated WordPress.org so starting a blog is easy. There are even step by step instructions on how to set up your WordPress Site.
I am going to be completely honest and say that I have had a couple of problems. One was my free SSL Certificate not working properly but the customer service team were onto it, fixed the problem quickly and were super easy to deal with. The other was so minor I can’t even remember what it was.
- Research web hosting providers there are some better ones than others so make sure you find one that is going to give you what you need.
- Most hosts will have different plans from basic to advanced. I would start with the basic and you can always upgrade later as you need it. You don’t want to be shelling out loads of money only to find out you don’t really need all the bells and whistles after all.
- If you are going to be using WordPress, make sure your host integrates it. You will save a whole lotta time and frustration. And your computer won’t end up out the window which is always nice.
- Check out your hosts customer service. You may end up needing them at some point along the way. A host with an excellent customer service track record is essential.
Action Steps: Choose your web hosting. I recommend either of the above but it is entirely up to you.
Setting up your platform
There are two major platforms to choose from, WordPress.org and Squarespace. Both of these are great platforms to use. I personally like WordPress.org, it does take a little bit of know-how but once you master the basics, you are off and running.
Both BlueHost and SiteGround automatically install WordPress for you, so all you need to do is pick a theme (how your layout is going to look) and start customising. I would recommend starting off with a free theme and after you have mastered the basics, go ahead and purchase one. This way you are not learning everything all at once.
Baby steps young grasshopper.
There are hundreds of themes to choose from with WordPress, you can chop and change them until you find one that you like without affecting the information in your site such as posts, pages, headers, logos etc. So have a play around until you find your fave. Or one that will do for now.
- I chopped and changed platforms for ages until I settled on WordPress. I used Blogger, then Wix, then Squarespace before finally settling on WordPress. Don’t be afraid to change if it doesn’t suit your needs. After all, you are the one that is going to be using it.
- Try a few out for size. Most platforms offer free trials or free versions. Make up a test website and see if you like the dashboard, the layout and the way you can edit. Some platforms are drag and drop and others require a bit more know-how.
- Make sure that your platform will last you in the long run. While it is ok to chop and change at the start until you find one that suits, you don’t want to be doing this down the line after you have had your website up and running for a long time.
- Make like a scientist and do some research, there are pros and cons for each platform. It will depend on what you are going to be using your blog for as to which platform will best suit your needs. If you are just blogging for yourself then your needs will differ from someone who wants to sell digital products.
Action Steps: Choose your platform and theme
Customising your Travel Blog
Now the fun really begins. Time to build your travel blog. Woot woot!
You have chosen your platform and theme. Now to make it yours.
I will be talking in WordPress here because that is what I am familiar with and use. If you have chosen a different platform you may have to visit Uncle Google for the specific how-tos. But the general customising steps will be fairly universal.
Header and Logo
The first thing you want to do after choosing your theme is changing your header and logo. These can be done by scrolling down your dashboard menu, clicking on ‘Appearance’ then clicking ‘Customize’. This will take you to the Customizing Place a place where you will be spending a lot of time on over the next wee while until you get your blog up and running. Have a play around with the different options to get familiar with them. Take your time and get to know your settings and options.
Now for some menus. These can be found in the Customizing Place where All the Things are. You don’t want to overwhelm your reader with everything (alllll your pages, allll your categories and allll your subscriptions) on your menu. Try to stick to under 6 options. You can always create drop down boxes on your menu if you have lots of categories and pages. Try to utilise the drop downs. Make sure that the options make sense and go together. For example, you don’t want travel under contact.
Next, you want an about page. This is going to be a little bit about you, but more about what you can offer your reader and how you can help them. ‘Coz let’s face it, we are self-centred beings and want to know what’s in it for us. As a rule of thumb, write a paragraph about you, a paragraph about what you can offer, a paragraph on what’s on the website and how it can help your reader. Try to be a bit creative here. Use pictures, let your personality shine through and be different. You can check out mine here.
After your about page you want your sidebar. Again, as with menus, don’t try to overwhelm your readers. Try to only stick the Important Stuff on here. Your social media buttons, search bar, a pic and mini bio of you, maybe your top posts. Things you want your readers to click on. If you don’t want them to click on it, don’t put it in your sidebar, mmmkay?
Action Steps: Now that you have the basics down, it’s time to play and have fun. Follow the above steps, write a few posts, play with your theme and layout. Experiment a little.
Press that publish button
The best thing to do is learn as you go, you can’t possibly learn everything all at once. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t get it all up and running and perfect straight away. That isn’t likely to happen. Trial and error is the way to learn. If it doesn’t look right straight away, have another go. No one is perfect.
Action Steps: Press that publish button and be proud!
Starting a travel blog is fun. It is a big learning curve and can take a lot of work. If you are afraid of hard work, then a blog probably isn’t for you. In saying that, it is satisfying and a whole lotta fun.
Keep tuned for next fortnights Travel Blog Tip Monday and we will navigate this blogging thing. It’s not as scary as you think. Promise.
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