5 steps to a successful travel blog

A lot of people want to be a travel blogger but in reality, they don’t. They just want to be have the concept of what they think being a travel blogger is. It is not just resorts, beaches, waterfalls, and coconuts. Between those are sleeping on the floor on a train in Thailand, staying awake on a ferry in the Philippines and being on a plane when an engine quits in American Samoa.

While different people have different idea of success, it is important to define what that would be for your venture. Are you looking to just tell friends about being in Hawaii to make them jealous? Are you making it as a dairy to tell your future children? Are you just trying to use it to fund your next vacation? Are you considering turning it into a legit business? None of these are the wrong answer but knowing your expectation is critical.

As someone who has traveled the world, let me tell you out the gate that being a traveler is not easy. It is hard. It means going to a village where few speak English and trying to communicate. It means dealing with jerks who work in Border Control around the world. There is a million things that can go wrong as a travel blogger. I know. I have the t-shirts.


How to start a travel blog

These steps are not “do this and you will be the world’s best travel blog.” These are the steps that I took (and many take) to get the traffic that Travel the Fire!

If you try to follow these, I believe that you will see much successful in your journey though!

Step 1: Find your niche in the travel industry

Being a Jack of all trades will get you NOWHERE in the travel blogger world. You need to be the master of one or two things to make it. It is better to be the authority on traveling on trains in Sri Lanka than a little bit of everything across Asia. Be the one person everyone goes to for help when taking a train from Colombo to Kandy!

I have traveled all over America, Europe, India, South east Asia and the Pacific Islands. I could be that “jack of all trades” guy very easily. However, I wanted a blog to focus on the Pacific Islands. It is not that I can’t write about taking the Amtrak in America or write about traveling through the jungles of Thailand. I can but my focus is Oceania.

There is really two reasons that I focus so much of the blog on the Pacific Islands. One is really simple: I love Oceania and I am an island boy. The other reason is technical. There is less information out there about the islands than there is about Thailand or India. Less competition means better traffic quicker. It is partly a business model! (More on that later)

The more focused your niche is, the better you can do being the expert in that given area. I have a friend who blog about Kansas City barbecue (my hometown) and he gets crap loads of traffic because of it. He does not even write about Memphis barbecue or St. Louis barbecue. He is only focused on Kansas City style. It has really paid off for him too.

Step 2: Build a website!

While I am tempted here to get very technical (my bachelor’s is in Computer Science), I want to give you the basics of how to set up a website and who to use (and one not to use!)

The first step is writing down 4-5 names you would like. I wanted to name this website Backpack Pacific. The domain was taken so I could not use it. In the end, I played around with domains until I found Travel the Fire.

The next to do is go over Namecheap (highly recommended) and pick up a domain from there for $10.99. They are easy to work with and you can easy move the name servers to another hosting provider.

The next thing is to get a premium hosting provider. I highly recommend staying away from cheap hosting companies such as Host gator that will take you offline for too much traffic, nichel and dime you for everything and just do not have qualified support.

I highly recommend using Pressable Managed WordPress Hosting because they have all the things you will need (and things you don’t know you need but do). There you get cloud hosting, SSL certificate, nightly backups and cache systems. Again, this is all stuff you need (but don’t realize it yet).

If you are hell bent on trying a cheap hosting provider, the recommendation would be A2 Hosting out of Michigan. I have personally used them.

The next thing I would do is find a theme that you like and can use. I would start with a free one build into WordPress because they are very easy to change. The more simple the better in the beginning. In fact, this theme is one of the free ones out there.

Step 3: Write some articles

Remembering your niche, get out some paper and map out articles. I would recommend trying to blog every third day for the first year. At that point, you will know more if this is something you can be successful at or not.

My model for most articles is very simple

  • 200 word open statement
  • 300 word main feature
  • 250 word supporting feature
  • 250 closing statement

I am not saying that you have to use that but it has worked for me so far. It might work for you and it might not. it is a model, not a rule as well. I do not always follow it but I do more times than not.

The good thing about using it is that you have broken down writing a 1,000 word article into some easy to do on a regular basis. That is what matters at the end of the day.

Here is where I would be amissed to not tell you to consider who you are writing for. Some people write for people and just hope the search engines like it. I am different. I write with Google in mind. My focus is to be found by the Google gods. Travel the Fire! is designed to come get the information you need and move on.

One free plugin that I would tell everyone to get is SEO by Yoast. It is that important. If you master that plugin on every post, you will be well on your way to be loved by the search engines.

Step 4: Monetize your website

If you are going to make some money, you need to monetize your work. This is easier said than done but it is very possible to do. I have made thousands from my other website, Azusa Report just using Google Adsense.

Partnering with Google to serve up ads is the easiest option for most. As I just said, I have made thousands from it. In order to do that, you need the traffic and the right people coming from the right places. If you have people searching for hotels in Fiji and click through from Travel the Fire!, we will get 55% of what they pay Google. The thing is making sure you have a lot of American (or European) traffic that are searching for subjects that attract high paying advertisers.

An example of this could be the article from Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort.  If they click an ad from a resort to check out; it could pay very well for the website.

Affiliate Marketing is another option. This is where if people click from your website to another company and buy services from them; the company sends you a little money as a thank you for promoting them.
Travel the Fire! is an affiliate of Agoda for example. If you book from our website, we will make a nice commission in the process.

It is not much money but a little bit of a commission completely a thousand times a month is a a lot of loose change.

You could also be asked to do a featured post as well. This is something to be very careful with. You are basically a blogger for hire. They are offering you a small amount of cash in exchange for an article on your website. This is important to disclose and to be honest in your article…..

Contractual work is another way to do it. This is like when Peyton Manning is the spokesperson for DirecTV. However, in this case, you are paid to often promote their company and can not promote any competitor during the contractual time.

The final way to monetize is free trips! This has been the best part for me. I have had free flights, free hotels, free tours, etc because of my Youtube channel and blog. While this does not pay directly, it is worth hundreds on the front end and could be would thousands on the back end.

I have did a review for a resort in Samoa once and it was a great time and the relationship worked well for Travel the Fire! Fast forward a few years, they offered me to stay in their hotels for a week while in Hong Kong for two blogs. (One about their restaurant and one about the hotel) To be my best guest, that “gift” was worth about $2,500!

Step 5: Network like crazy

This is the hardest part for me because I have a strong personality and I tend to not mix well with people that are not sure of themselves. People say I can be over bearing. However, this is just as important as SEO to success in having a travel blog.

Meet up with other bloggers that are on the road with you. I have taken time out just to meet people. One time I went to Cebu, Philippines just to meet another blogger that was just starting. I have taken time to be social with many bloggers when I am in the same general area.

It is smart to surface at travel shows and blogger events from time to time. I have made a point to be at launch of things related to my niche or a place I can network. I try and make it to a Word Camp every year somewhere for example.

If you are like me, you hate to do it but it truly is a necessary evil to be successful! Just the nature of the beast when you run a travel blog.

Final Thoughts

The best advice that I can give you is to really think long and hard before making any wild decisions like moving across the world with no income. (Yes, I did just that) Slowly build up your website and see how it is working.

If I was to start this wild adventure today, I would start with weekend trips that are within 500 miles of Kansas City and build the following up until the money made here replaces the money I am making at work.

Until that happens, just up and board a plane for the Fiji Islands should be out of the question for the logical mind.

The other thing that I would leave you with is to read as much on your niche as possible but also learn as much about how the search engines work. You will live and die by how your website ranks on Google. Yes, you are subjects of the Google gods.

If you need any help with your website and getting started, don’t be a stranger to Travel the Fire!. I would love to connect with you and if there is anything you need that I know, I would love to help someone come up.

In the end, just have fun doing a travel blog and do not take it too seriously. When it not fun and just become work, that is when it is time to give it up. I never want to get to that point.

A word about links in this article. Any link such as to Pressable or A2 Hosting is an affiliate link. If you click them and order from them. you are sending a little money our way to keep everything free here. This is to no cost to you. 

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